Banjul, The Gambia Report of what it's like to live there - 09/23/16

Personal Experiences from Banjul, The Gambia

Banjul, The Gambia 09/23/16


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

Panama City,Panama; Kathmandu, Nepal; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Dili, East Timor

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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?

Alabama, USA- 24 hours with 5 hour connection lay over in Brussels

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

Diplomatic Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large houses, commute 5-25 minutes maximum

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

90% of groceries are available, but cost varies and quality varies.

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

Asian food items

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

Mediterranean foods, and pizzas.

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Daily Life:

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

Local postal facilities not good especially with packages. We receive through diplomatic pouch.

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

Help is readily available, but quality varies. Most household help is around US$100- $125 per month.

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

Limited, but available. Most do not have air conditioning. Cost is around US$30 a month.

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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, credit cards are NOT accepted widely. This is a cash economy. ATMs are available.

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

English is the official language and used in the Christian churches. Arabic is spoken in the Muslim Mosques.

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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 can get by with English although it is useful to know some of the local tribal dialects.

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

Limited wheelchair accessibility, but can move around in crutches. No elevators in the country.

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

Safe, but not necessarily in good working order. Affordable.

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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?

4 X 4 is recommended as most roads not paved off of the main highway.

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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, Installation in 2-3 days. Quality varies on where you live and how the wind blows.

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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. Africell, Q cell, Comium

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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 needed. Vets are available.

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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?

Telecommuting. Pay scales low in comparison to US pay.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of volunteer opportunities available.

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

Very casual. Recommend no shorts for women as this is still a Muslim country.

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Health & Safety:

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

No- Other than the pick pockets and typically petty street crime. Houses do need to have a guard because there are break-ins when houses are left empty.

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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?

Medical care is sub normal, but there are some doctors trained abroad that are technically proficient. Resources are limited. Any serious medical condition will certainly almost require medical evacuation.

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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?

Good, but dusty during the dry season.

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

Very infrequently.

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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)?

The only mental health issues are the ones related to the work environment at the US Embassy. Current embassy morale is poor due to leadership.

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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 all year with a windy and chilly dry season between January and April. Very humid during rainy season from June-October.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several international schools available, but as a diplomat, Banjul American Embassy School is the only one that is accredited and meets US Standards. It is a small school, but has a strong supportive community.

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

Very limited accommodations available in country.

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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?

Yes, International quality pre-schools and Montessori schools are available. Cost range between US$3500-5,500 per year.

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

Limited to swimming, football and tennis. Not at the highest level of teaching though.

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Expat Life:

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

At least 200+ expat community plus a very large Lebanese community. Morale is good except among U.S.Embassy diplomats where the current leadership has fostered negativity and hostility.

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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?

Fajara Club, Elite Fitness

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

For families of young children because school is not up to US Standards for High School

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

Absolutely not LGBT friendly.

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

The local people are the friendliest people you will ever meet.

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

People are kind, kids are happy and everyone is relaxed except US Embassy employees.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That would attract the lowest bidder in regards to diplomatic missions.

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

Yes, only because the city is great for a family and living, but terrible for working.

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

Winter coats and boots

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and mosquito repellant

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

Roots by Alex Haley

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