Honiara, Solomon Islands Report of what it's like to live there - 05/21/09

Personal Experiences from Honiara, Solomon Islands

Honiara, Solomon Islands 05/21/09

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 The Hague (the Netherlands, Pleiku (Vietnam), Mwanza and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 and a half years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From here to Europe will be around 20 hours. First you have to go to Fiji, PNG, or Australia and then take a connecting flight to Singapore, Dubai etc,, and then to the final destination. It is very far.

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

Spouse's job.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

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

It depends. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful at the market. Expatriate food has to be shipped from abroad, which makes it expensive. Sometimes when the ships are delayed you will have to wait for the potatoes and carrots.

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

Nothing. If you don't have it, you don't miss it. There are plenty of Chinese shops here selling about almost everything one needs.

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

Loads of Chinese. There is one Indian restaurant. Around 10 euros for a dinner for 2.

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

There are tropical insects and mosquitoes. No wild animals at all. I have never even seen a snake. But be aware of centipedes if you go on bush walks.

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Daily Life:

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

The post office works quite efficiently, but post can take a while to arrive. It is a long way from everywhere.

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

Around 1 euro per hour.

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

There is only one public gym, always full with people.

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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?

There are three foreign banks here. Credit cards are accepted in the main hotels and in one supermarket.

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

Plenty of churches.

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

The local TV has BBC and the Australian news channel. It is possible to buy a satellite dish, but I don't know the price.

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

The Solomons have many different languages that are spoken on different islands, but the main language is the Pigin, a broken English. It is quite understandable.

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

Quite a few, there are no traffic lights.

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Transportation:

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

Honiara is a small place, it is easy to walk, but there are plenty of taxis and local buses for an affordable fare.

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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?

A 4x4 is a good choice -- roads can be quite bad after the heavy rains.

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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?

Yes, it works just OK but it is very expensive.

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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?

Cell phones are used by almost the whole population -- in remote islands, though, there is no connection.

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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?

Yes, they do.

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

There is one vet here.

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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?

It is possible to do volunteer work, but it is not easy to get a work permit.

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

Just tropical. The population does not really care about dressing nicely. Shorts and sandals will do just fine.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very good, there are no factories in Honiara, so the air is just pure.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

I did not have any.

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

I feel safe in Honiara and in the other islands. After the tension of 5 years ago, the RAMSI( Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) is here helping the land to recover. Late at night there are some fights and stabbings now and then, but not more than in the place where you live.

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

Medical care is very bad. For any difficult problem, it is better to be evacuated to Brisbane, a three-hour flight from here.

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

There are 2 seasons, the wet and dry, but I have not yet found the difference between the 2. Honiara is green. If it is dry for a few days, the rain comes down to wash the dust away.

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Schools & Children:

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

I have a 10 year old. There is one school here that call itself Interntional. The school is good, especially the primary grades, and it is working very hard to upgrade its level.

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

I don't know. But I don't think that there are any special schools here in Honiara. Woodford International School is probably the best choice you can make for your children. It starts from ECE to Secondary (form 10).

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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?

There are daycares and the international school.

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

There is not much sports activity after school. Some expatriate spouses offer small clubs, like swimming, tennis, or diving.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Enjoy the paradise.

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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 a few disco places and restaurants.

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

Yes, it is great and also welcomes us to their cultures and experiences.

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

I think if you are not too open about your sexual behavior, you can easily live here.

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

No, not at all.

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

Plenty of things, sports, tennis, diving, snorkeling (the best in the world), and traveling to other islands.

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

Beautiful crafts, shell money, baskets... a lot.

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9. Can you save money?

It depends how much you travel between the islands.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Of course.

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

idea that where you are coming from is better than here.

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3. But don't forget your:

energy to explore.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

The Solomons Islands is a unique place in the world. The population is extremely friendly and communicative, the nature is stunning and the underwater scene is one of the wonders of the world.

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