Malabo, Equatorial Guinea Report of what it's like to live there - 06/15/12

Personal Experiences from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 06/15/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

3rd time living overseas.

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

1-stop flights to Washington, D.C., connecting in Paris and Madrid with a couple of hours of layover (~$4000). Overall travel time is around 20 hours. Other U.S. flights connect through Nigeria or Ethiopia before continuing onto Europe (~$2500).

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. embassy employee.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing is far from perfect (housing will be part of the new embassy scheduled for completion in summer 2013). With some patience and a sense of adventure, the housing is passable. Based on the European style, rooms don’t have closets.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The three “major” grocery stores have mostly everything you need, but hardly anything you want. Sending consumables makes living here much more comfortable.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Tennis balls, guitar stings.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No Western fast food. Grilled chicken and plantains is the local version of fast food. There are a couple of decent restaurants and a handful of low-end places. If you're open to going culinary native, you can always fine a tasty local joint for around US$5.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Good luck.

View All Answers


6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Malarial mosquitoes.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The local postal service does work, though even locals are skeptical about whether to trust it. Embassy staff use the pouch exclusively.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I understand a maid a couple of times a week is pretty affordable, but you may have a hard time getting things as clean as you may expect.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Hilton hotel has a gym and pool for an annual fee of $3000. I believe there are local places, but can’t speak to the quality or services.

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

The three Western hotels accept credit cards (I think only Visa), and there is at least one ATM in town. Otherwise, EG is still almost exclusively a cash economy.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Satellite television costs around $100/month.

View All Answers


7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Of course, knowing Spanish helps. Strangely, though, many locals don’t speak Spanish well, as they rely more on their tribal language or pidgin English. Knowing some French also comes in handy.

View All Answers


8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I tried using a stroller once and that was hard enough. I’d think it nearly impossible to get around with even a slight handicap.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable, yes. Safe, no. Taxis are in disrepair and drivers are undisciplined and often drunk. Taxis are the only form of “public” transportation and are not recommended.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

To its credit, the EG government has invested heavily in roads. Almost any type of vehicle will work fine in town and around the island. However, for going more afield, a 4x4 is still the best bet. Most vehicles are Toyota, which makes repairs easier -- but not cheap. Driving here is an art, so be prepared to slip in and out of traffic, straddle center lines, and break a lot of rules that you find unsettling. Beware of drunk-driving. It's a big problem here. Fortunately, you don't need to worry about carjackings or similar violent crimes.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Wired internet can cost up to $400/month, though 3G options have started begun appearing on the market for a bit less.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are two options. Both have poor service.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I know of one veterinarian who has given shots to a colleague’s puppy.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Extremely limited opportunities for meaningful work.

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work; casual in public.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Just petty crime. One benefit of an overbearing government is fewer security concerns. Vehicle break-ins do occur, though not frequent.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Malaria is a serious problem for those who don’t use prophylaxis. Air quality could cause problems for asthmatics. Malabo recently opened an Israeli-staffed hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. Most services are available.

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Not good in Malabo. In the dry season the air is full of dust from the Sahara. Throughout the year there is burning trash, anti-mosquito fumigation, numerous vehicles with poor pollution standards, etc. It’s sometimes hard to walk outside. Air is better at the waterfront and very pleasant at altitude.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Thanks to its coastal and equatorial location, EG’s temperatures vary only a few degrees throughout the year. Daily highs range from 85 to 90 degrees F. The temperature itself is moderate if you don’t include the humidity, which makes it very sticky even in the evenings. In any event, it’s better than July/August in Washington, D.C. In the rainy season it can be in the high 70s and quite nice with an evening breeze.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

EG does not currently have schools appropriate for older children. There are three international schools: French, Spanish, and Nigerian. Think twice -- or more -- about bringing school-age children here.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Word has it that there are around 400-500 Americans working at the oil companies. There are also hundreds of Lebanese, hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese, and a small diplomatic community.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

It’s a mixed bag. Life mostly consists of work, as there’s plenty to do at the office and little else to do after hours. Some people have a hard time reconciling life here with the ideal. Those with a sense of adventure and a willingness to laugh at the hardships are happiest.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are social opportunities, but one must put forth effort. The oil companies regularly have activities and are pretty welcoming.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Malabo may be a difficult place for someone with high social needs or someone wanting ready-made recreational activities. There is a small movie theater that shows Spanish-dubbed American films, there are a couple of pretty good restaurants, and there’s the ocean. Because nothing’s handed to you here, you have to want to get out and explore what little there is. Life here with school-age children might be very challenging.

View All Answers


5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

View All Answers


6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I don’t know about problems with race or religion. Like many places in Africa, tribal loyalties do have influence. I believe immigrants from other African countries do face some degree of discrimination and hassling, though much of that is probably from the government and not from individuals.

View All Answers


7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Because there is not much to do in the way of organized recreation, I have enjoyed the chance to get out into the jungle and to hike (on the paved road; it’s the only way) up to Pico Basile, Bioko Island’s almost 10,000 ft volcanic peak.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Snorkeling, jungle walks.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Ironically, little to none, since almost everything is imported.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Equatorial Guinea is not a destination because its infrastructure is underdeveloped and its government’s authority is overreaching. Perhaps an advantage is that you’ll be seeing a part of the world where few others have ventured. That’s worth something. Though lack of infrastructure does not readily enable access, EG’s landscape and climate are beautiful and worth taking advantage of while here.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

If you’re bringing consumables, yes. Groceries and restaurants are pricey. And since there’s not much to spend money on in terms of entertainment, you can save if you want to. Getting to/from EG costs a pretty penny, so you'll spend a bit if you want to go anywhere, especially to other locations in Africa.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

This is not a destination, but I have been happy here. Despite the fact that I’ve found a number of positive aspects of living and working here, I would not return.

View All Answers


2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter, spring, or fall clothing. High expectations for almost any Western amenities.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Snorkel, Skype, home entertainment, sense of humor, love of adventure.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience With Development And Decadence In Deepest Africa, .

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Coming to Equatorial Guinea is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Stay positive, keep an open mind, and don’t compare it to anywhere you’ve lived or visited before.

View All Answers


Subscribe to our newsletter


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More