Khartoum, Sudan Report of what it's like to live there - 04/11/10
Personal Experiences from Khartoum, Sudan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I've lived in Abuja, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya.
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?
From Washington DC it is one connection, either Amsterdam or Frankfurt...but you can get here through a number of other countries.
3. How long have you lived here?
2008 - 2010.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Diplomat posted to the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We just moved into a new embassy. You can usually get to work in about 15 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get almost everything here. The imported goods are expensive, but the local stuff is perfectly fine and not expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Any condiments that you like...you can get that stuff here but it is expensive. Pickles. Spices for cooking.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can get really good Middle Eastern food here, like shwarma. You can get a large and filling shwarma for about $5.There is good food here and it's not too expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes and flies are the biggest irritants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very available. Not too expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym. It's not great but not horrible.
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 credit cards are allowed because of the sanctions. No ATMs.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. You can find English language Catholic services, Presbyterian, Non Denominational, and Pentecostal.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
You can get satellite TV for about $100 a month.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by without Arabic, but you will have a much richer experience if you have it.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I think it would be very difficult for a person with a disability.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes and yes.
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?
You can't bring your car because of our ridiculous security policies. But if that ever changes you could bring a car. An SUV would be best.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. The DSL is good. I pay about $90 a month for it.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The GSM network here is very good. You can bring any unlocked quad band phone you want and it will work. There is 3G. iPhones work fine. You just need an unlocked version so you can put a local SIM card in it.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes...there are a number of vets here, but I don't know of any kennels.
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Women need to dress conservatively with dresses and skirts that go past the knees, and shoulders should be covered in public. A foreign woman would not need to cover her head here.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
They tell us that there is a terrorism threat here...but then...there is a terrorism threat everywhere if you think about it. There is virtually no crime here. We have a lot of security restrictions here that most of us think are unnecessary; like we are not allowed to drive and have to take motor pool everywhere. That will probably change within the next year or so.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No special health concerns. The quality of medical care is pretty good.
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?
I would say unhealthy...there is always dust in the air and we are always coughing.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot. Hot. Hot. Almost no rain ,ever.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is an American school here but you can't bring kids. That may change in the coming year.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
No kids allowed.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
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?
People mostly have parties at their houses.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's good for singles and couples with no kids. There are a lot of UN and NGO people here, so there is a vibrant dating scene. You have to be careful about dating locals, though, because the security service frowns on it and might throw you out of the country if they catch you.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There are a number of gays at the embassy, but this is a Muslim country with Sharia law, so they have to be really careful in public. Gay couples who come here together seem fine, but singles probably have a less enjoyable time.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not really....as a foreigner here we get along pretty well. Once in a while you'll run into a more conservative Sudanese who will give you a dirty look. Most of the Sudanese, though, are great.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The Sudanese people are wonderful. Most of them are very welcoming, hospitable and sweet in person...on the road in their cars they are the most horrible drivers on the planet.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are a lot of historical and cultural things to see and do here. The Nile is beautiful certain times of the year and you can rent a boat and go out on it.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Local food is fabulous. They don't do much in the way of crafts, but you can find some local hand-made things.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
If you are with the Government, you get danger pay and post differential here which comes to a pretty hefty sum each month. Khartoum is probably the safest city in Africa. The Sudanese take Islam very seriously and crime is very, very low.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
sexy club clothes.
3. But don't forget your:
Off Mosquito Wipes.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Brandt guide.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
It's nicer here than people say.