Maseru, Lesotho Report of what it's like to live there - 05/17/16
Personal Experiences from Maseru, Lesotho
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in Asia and Africa.
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?
Washington, DC. The trip to post is 19 hours, but depending on connection to Maseru you often have to overnight in Johannesburg, which extends the trip even further.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Construction here is poor, even in the best expatriate houses. Landlords are not very responsive and windows are single-pane. Power can cut in and out and so can the water supply. A typical commute is 10 minutes or less from most expatriate neighborhoods to downtown.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
We find them cheap compared to the U.S., even with inflation this past year.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Black beans, baby/kid food (lots of extra sugar in foods here!), cereals, good coffee.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food: KFC, Barcelo's, Galito's.
Sit down: Kick 4 Life's Number 7, Piri Piri, Primi Piatti, Spur, Regal Indian.
Not a great number of options, but there is something...
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No malaria! Just the usual ants and household pests if you aren't careful. Some people have also seen scorpions in their houses.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through work or the South African postal service. FedEx if it is really important, although it is very expensive.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Super cheap, at US$200/month maximum. However, they are not the best...
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, there is one CrossFit gym, Lehakoe Club. You can seek out yoga and other classes. Facilities are dated or hours are limited, but there are options. No great pools, though.
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?
My credit card was "skimmed" the first month I arrived. We cash checks through work and use cash or ATMs in South Africa.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You don't need to know it, but greetings at least are nice to demonstrate respect and show you care.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, as there are no accommodations.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Nope. Not safe!
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?
An older SUV, with some clearance for bumpy roads. Toyotas and Nissans seem easy to service. Any Japanese import, really. If you travel a lot, you want a car that is reliable! Nothing too fancy to attract attention or carjacking. Lots of people here have had cars stolen on trips to Johannesburg.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We have uncapped, highest speed available at $200/month. It is still not very fast and cuts out fairly often.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Vodacom, pay as you go.
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?
No quarantine, but pets have to fly cargo to Johannesburg. It's expensive to bring them! Ladybrand, in South Africa, has a good vet.
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?
it is hard to get work permits, but some people have found cool jobs with Vodacom and such.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty, if you seek them out!
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work: suits and nice attire. In public, anything goes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Westerners are not usually targets for crime, but we are very aware of our surroundings and cautious just as you would be in South Africa. There do seem to be frequent robberies and we hear gun shots occasionally from our house. However, we have felt safe with our 24-hour guards, alarm system, and dogs.
Traffic accidents and the lack of nearby medical care are our biggest worries.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Many. Very poor local health care. High HIV/AIDS rate. High tuberculosis rate. This is our biggest concern with small children and no decent medical care except in Bloem, two hours away.
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?
Good, clean air!
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
It can get dusty here.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winter runs from about May-August. Mornings and nights get rather chilly and cold, but daytime temps are in the 60s or 70s F. Summer is hotter, but it's not unbearable or really humid like Asia or other African countries we've lived in! We had a horrible drought this past year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American International School here is tiny, but seems the best option. Nice administrators and teachers, but I wouldn't call it cutting edge and wouldn't want my children there for many years, especially as they get older. There is also Machebeng College but I don't know much about it.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
None that I am aware of.
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?
Not to Western standards, from our research.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Only soccer at Kick 4 Life.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small community. I think morale is better among the NGO crowd than among those at the embassy.
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?
Dinner out, travel, hikes, camping trips, dinner parties, wine tastings.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is a city where you have to make your own fun, but I think there is a nice expatriate and NGO community. People are welcoming. I think the singles have their group and the couples/families have their own groups, often meeting up somewhere in the middle. It might be hard here as a single person, though, as there are not places to meet people outside of work and the Hash.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don't think they are specifically targeted for violence or anything, but it is still Africa and homosexuality is not completely accepted or understood. I'm not gay, but have friends who are and they have said they just prefer to be in bigger cities. I think here, they feel like they stand out. And, as with anyone, social options are limited.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The outdoors. Great local Hash House Harriers group. Safaris. And lots of travel to Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban...
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The Hash, and lots of amazing hikes and camping spots nearby.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not much. Fabric and straw hats? Or TRAVEL!
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Great outdoor activities: hiking, camping, etc. Close to South Africa and all that it offers. Has seasons.
10. Can you save money?
Yes, especially if you don't travel. But you might go insane.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Poor local medical care, how hard it can be to cross the border at times.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sense of urgency.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor and defensive driving skills.