Malabo, Equatorial Guinea Report of what it's like to live there - 04/16/21

Personal Experiences from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 04/16/21

Background:

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

No, I've also lived in Paris, France.

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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?

Honolulu, HI. 30 - 50 hours, depending on route. Most flights are via Ethiopia, so it is difficult to get where you want to go directly

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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4. What years did you live here?

2018 to 2021.

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5. 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?

Awesome house/property from embassy housing pool. Ours is 3 bedrooms/ 2.5 baths.
Housing Board takes into consideration distance from embassy, so, under 20 minutes.

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

The same: expensive
We had the option to bring 2500 lbs of consumables, which we did.
Would not bring so much next time, because:
1. some cleaning products broke in transit;
2. with the pandemic and being on GAD, we didn't use as much as planned;
3. there is no recycling here to manage the extra waste we are producing;
4. unless you have a certain diet and must have particular items, the imported products are perfect; and
5. there is regular pouch delivery of Amazon and other orders.
However, the easy access to goods and services would change if there is political upheaval in the country...

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

Hair care.

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

Lebanese, Beninese, and Italian.

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

Only when the holes from construction haven't been plugged.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch. There is DHL, but fees are exorbitant! Local postal facilities are unreliable.

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

Don't know the process to find someone, as we inherited from the previous occupants.
We pay US $350/month for 12 hours of cleaning/cooking (one 8-hr day, one 4-hr day) per week, plus grocery shopping.
Usually cleaning, cooking, childcare.

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

The local ocean boardwalk area has stationary equipment for public use; sometimes instructors lead group exercises there.
The embassy hired contract fitness instructors to provide classes at the embassy and the ocean boardwalk (Paseo Maritimo), but since the pandemic we have something called Move Malabo, a brief 10 or 15-minute walk/stretch session.
Gyms and sports facilities are here, but we have no info.

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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?

Don't know. We use cash that we get from the Embassy cashier.

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

Only one church we know of: Ghanian.

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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?

If you plan to be outside the Embassy community, you need Spanish for everything. Unaware of local training.

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

The only ADA-compliant buildings are on the Embassy compound. There are two, but persons would need to walk up a flight of steps to access the two--of three--bedrooms and a full bath, and down four steps to leave via the back porch.

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Transportation:

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

No, COM prohibits taxi use. No reliable local transportation and there are no trains or trams.

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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?

Toyota for the parts/service. SUV (heavy-duty) for the terrain. Don't bring a compact or tiny car

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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?

Available, but slow. Sign up and installation is about two weeks and billing is a pain.

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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?

Local provider phone plan is expensive, but adequate; no voicemail. Data usage peaks right after work hours, so WiFi is tight then as well.

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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?

Our Diplopedia post report has pet info: no quarantine, but must have certificates from USDA.
One of our neighbors is a vet: we were gifted two dogs who adopted the house. His care of them has been great!

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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?

Only familiar with embassy opportunities.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of NGOs abound. Public Affairs section is familiar with the reliable organizations and a lot of them focus on mothers with children since this is a polygamous society.

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

Formal dress for large, diplomatic events (none for a year due to COVID-19)
Work attire: business formal for certain positions that require interactions with host government; business casual or African dress for others.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is an oil/gas economy, but the people are oppressed and poor.
Do not flaunt your belongings: I have heard that some local employees have been robbed at home.

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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?

The health system is poor in my opinion, but there are foreign doctors at La Paz hospital outside the main city
We have not had an evacuation for the three years we've been here, but anything requiring major surgery would need evacuation.
No Americans have delivered babies during our time here.

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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?

Moderate to bad. Seasonal harmattan winds that bring Saharan sand that covers the sky. Locals regularly burn trash and fields
Mosquito fumigation.

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

These are foreign terms to this country. Hyper-vigilance in restaurants to express needs; check labels in grocery stores.

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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)?

Currently, we are encouraged to take care of ourselves mentally and physically, especially during the pandemic.

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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?

Rainy season is WET. Dry season is hot, but there are many pleasant days. Early mornings/evenings can be very humid--about 1/4 of the year, non-consecutively. The Paseo Maritimo is a great place to go for winds near the water.

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Expat Life:

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

Except for diplomatic events, we did not interact with the expat community.

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

It's a great place for active homebodies who do not need nightlife, but want to enjoy nature and the cultural events available, and then relax in the comfort of home with friends, food, movies, games, etc.

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3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No, it seems most people are looking to get something. From conversations with local staff, it seems there are prejudices against Asians.

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

Long, scenic drive to Moka to hike the BBPP campus, then to Trocadero for lunch, seaside.

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

Lots of hiking, but permissions needed through the Community Liaison Office (CLO).
Cacao farm.
Turtle nesting camps.
Even the sunset on the boardwalk during a spring evening is amazing.

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

No.

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

Small, relatively quiet, not too much traffic.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's been wonderful to be here, but in my opinion people are not very friendly. Local embassy staff are pleasant, but no one is inviting anyone to get together: work is work, play is for the family alone.

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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:

Expectations of freedom, as the government seems is very intrusive into people's lives and wants their share of possible profits.

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4. But don't forget your:

Hat, sunscreen, bug spray, rain/hiking boots for the grand outdoor adventures!

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

Any searches for Equatorial Guinea or Malabo result in great blogs, videos, and photos
We especially enjoyed "Geography NOW"'s episode on EG (YouTube)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It's a simple life here, great to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and focus on body, mind, spirit development
We have taken up meditation, become healthier eaters, take regular bike rides and walks--even in the rainy season
Although the job responsibilities are intense, the opportunities to relax in-country are tremendous

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