Malabo, Equatorial Guinea Report of what it's like to live there - 08/20/17

Personal Experiences from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 08/20/17

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Latin America and another city in Africa.

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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?

20-24 hours to the East Coast through Paris, Madrid, or Frankfurt

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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

Diplomatic mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing is very comfortable whether on compound or off. Every residence has three bedrooms. The closet space is a little small on compound but everything else is good. We live on compound in a 2-story townhouse with ample space. It takes less than 5 minutes to walk to work. The compound has a pool, gym, walking trail, and tennis/basketball court.

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

Most products are imported and are more expensive than in the U.S. but most everything we need can be purchased locally. The juice is not good here in our opinion and the milk is UHT. This is a consumables post so ship your brand specific favorites including liquids since they cannot be received in the pouch. We ship dry products we prefer via Amazon Prime.

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

Items that we shipped in our consumables included brand-specific hot sauce, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, Cranberry Juice, Grapefruit Juice, hair products, and brand-specific potato ships.

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

Malabo has several options for cuisine- Chinese, Japanese, Cuban, Dominican, Lebanese, U.S.-based Wing Zone, Cameroonian, and French, for example. Also, the Hilton and Sofitel offer expensive buffets for brunch and dinner. There are a few pizza places but they are just okay. The embassy employees get invited to one of the U.S. oil compounds for dinner often.

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

There are lizards all over the compound. I've never seen them inside our home but they seem to keep bugs away. Ants can occasionally be a problem and a couple of centipedes always make their way into the home.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch takes 2-3 weeks and is delivered once a week. Local postal facilities are not adequate to send mail but post cards can be purchased there.

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

Most expats pay 15,000 CFA or 20,000 CFA per day (about 30 or 35 USD). The people who live on compound currently use the same person because she is very good.

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

The embassy has a small gym on compound. The Hilton and Sofitel also have gyms. The Hilton gym membership is very expensive. It's free if you are staying there. You can find your specific sports interests if you make local friends. Golf, aerobics, and soccer are available.

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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?

No, this is a cash economy. I only use my credit card at Hilton or Magno Suites restaurant. ATMs are unreliable and not safe to use.

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

Catholic and Protestant.

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

You need to know basic words in Spanish. Yes, and post offers language classes in Spanish, English for local staff and EFMs who need it, as well as French, the second official language.

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

Yes, there are no handicapped parking spaces or ADA compliant side walks or entrances. It is also rare for a building to have an elevator. There are two embassy residences that are compliant though and there is one handicapped parking space at the embassy.

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Transportation:

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

No, public transportation doesn't exist beyond taxis which are off limits to expat mission personnel.

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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?

Most any car will be okay here as the roads are generally well-paved in the capital. Ship spare parts you may need as they will probably be expensive here.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The internet has gotten better in the last two years. I don't remember how long it took to set up. It works enough for me to download my shows through Amazon and sometimes stream them. You can also stream Netflix and YouTube off of it.

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

People use Getesa aka Orange or Muni for phone service and Whatsapp for texting and free international calls with/without video. We also use Skype and the IVG to make calls to the U.S.

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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?

There are two vets that I've heard of. Animals don't need to be quarantined upon entry but they'll need an e-chip to pass through Europe.

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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?

Most expat spouses at the embassy work at the embassy. Other expats work at the U.S. oil companies but none of the embassy spouses work there. The expats spouses at the oil companies usually don't work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are orphanages.

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

People tend to dress business casual at this post both in public and at work. Traditional African clothing is also acceptable. Formal dress is expected at official functions.

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Health & Safety:

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

Direct hires and their families are not allowed to take taxis due to safety issues.

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

Like many places, malaria is a concern. Prophylaxis is available at the Health Unit and the nurse can test for it and provide treatment on site. There is one hospital with Western standards but it's on the expensive side. People medevac to the U.S., London, or South Africa.

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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?

The air quality is moderate.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Wash fruits and vegetables well. Consider bringing your specific meds to post.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not really. Some people will need to leave every few months to get a change of scenery.

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

Hot but manageable. The rainy seasons last for several months.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is a Spanish school, French school, Nigerian school, Montessori school, a boarding school, and a school named Maria Cano with a U.S. citizen director. The kids at post in recent years attended Maria Cano or were homeschooled. I have not had any direct experience with any of

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

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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?

I have heard that day care is available.

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

I imagine so but you'll need to check with the local schools.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is relatively small. Most U.S. citizens either work at the embassy or for a U.S. oil company. Morale is good among expats.

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

Attend events at the Spanish, French, or Equatoguinean Cultural Centers. Attend Embassy events. Join a local church. There is some nightlife. You can go dancing or listen to music at one of the venues like the jazz lounge.

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

This post is better for couples and families as it can be hard to date or make friends locally.

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

No, LGBT is a social taboo here.

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

Equatoguineans seem to not like having Africans from neighboring countries around; they get harassed by the police and have a very hard time obtaining and renewing their residency. Women feel that they need their husband's permission to travel outside of the country and men often have children with multiple women.

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

The Spanish here is influenced by Spain. Also there are Latinos here from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay to name a few. Visiting the Playa Blanca Arena.

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

Karaoke is available at at least three restaurants. There is a Sofitel spa & resort beside the nearest beach (20-30 minutes away). There are also a couple of other beaches on the island and others on the mainland. There is also a big sea turtle nesting season that brings students from Drexel University in Philadelphia to do research at a beach with black sand and waterfalls called Ureca. Also, there's a volcano (Pico Basile) that you can hike. Both of these destinations require a free permit from the Ministry of Tourism that the CLO facilitates.

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

Not really. You can find some of these things but they have been imported from Cameroon or another African country in regio

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

You can get to experience the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa and one of the world's least visited countries. It's a service needs differential post if you stay for three years. You get to ship consumables. It's a direct six-hour flight to Madrid and can be taken on long weekends.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

There are no shopping malls; one was constructed but is not open yet and the one movie theater is subpar.

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

Yes.

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

Winter clothes

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4. But don't forget your:

Insect repellent
Umbrella
Sunglasses
Sunscreen

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

Tropical Gangsters book
Palmeras en la nieve movie

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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