Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 01/29/14
Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is not our first expat experience. We have lived in South Africa and a number of countries in the Middle East.
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. There are a number of options but the two most used are the Delta Flight from Washington to Amsterdam (8 hrs), with a 6 hour lay over before the flight from Amsterdam to Lusaka (9-10 hrs). This seems to be the preferred flight. You can also do Washington-Johannesburg-Lusaka which takes about 28 hours total time with layovers.
3. How long have you lived here?
We have lived in Lusaka for the past year and a half.
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?
Stand-alone housing is older but wonderful. Large yards with swimming pools and housekeeper quarters. The houses are quite nice and mostly spacious. We love our house and will be sorry to let it go. Some personnel are assigned to compounds which don't have as much privacy or yard size but are newer and very nice.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
A little pricey if you order everything from one store. If you're willing to shop around and know the different stores to go to you can save a little money.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Surge protectors, electricity surges a lot.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
One of the best Thai restaurants. Great steak houses and wonderful Indian food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Small ants, spiders and geckos. Very easy to manage.
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?
Less than US$200 a month. Don't be like other Americans and not train them, they become lazy (I once found mine asleep on the couch, she's no longer with us) and make comments about how their last employer didn't make them do that.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes - there is one very nice public gym out by the school. The Embassy has a small but nice gym.
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?
I've never had any problems but I keep my hand blocking when typing in my pin.
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?
None, most speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, would be very difficult. No real sidewalks, etc...
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No and we are not authorized to use them per RSO.
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?
SUV for city and outside city 4x4 is necessary for bush driving.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, very expensive up to US$200 a month and goes down frequently.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked, they are expensive here.
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. A few very good vets.
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?
Many in the Embassy. Unknown out in town.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many...rebuild schools, volunteer at SPCA, etc...
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
First place I've been to where everyone is in suits and tie all day. You go to one of our neighboring countries and no one has ties on unless they're going to an external meeting.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Lusaka is rated high for crime. Follow the RSO security directives and notices and you shouldn't have any problems. Worst cases are pick-pocket stories from the malls or not locking your car doors and someone stealing a purse at a traffic light.
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 not good. We are sent to South Africa for anything serious.
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?
Unhealthy to moderate. Locals are burning trash all the time...the Blue Taxi's are spitting crud out non-stop.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Best weather year round that I have ever experienced. It stays between 80-85F degrees almost year round. One of the biggest things I'm going to miss about Lusaka.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
American International School of Lusaka...I've heard good and bad things. About the same things we hear about other schools in the world. I know they upset a number of embassy families by getting rid of their two/three-year old preschool program without consulting parents; they just made a decision and that was it.
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?
Yes, but most just have a full-time nanny now that the American School doesnt offer it anymore. Most parents have come together to form play groups that meet at different homes two or three times a week.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Quite large (around 100) and morale has been improving since last summer's turn-over when a number of negative Nellies finally left. We had a really good front office that left last summer and many are worried about some of the new changes and perception that have been taking place. The new Ambassador has not arrived so that perception may get wiped when he arrives.
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?
Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, entertaining at home.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Very good for all. Families really enjoy to get out of town and seem to be hosting parties all the time. Couples seem to hang with the families. Single males seem to have a great time here. Zambian women are extremely aggressive and even the ugly duckling will leave here married. That being said, Zambia has an extremely high HIV positive rate and all need to be careful. I have heard that it is not as easy for single women to enjoy themselves.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
NOOOOOOO....It is against the law to be in a gay or lesbian relationship. There have been a number of arrests in the past 12 months. The government has left one couple who were accused of being gay in jail for months now.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
We havent experienced any.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Seeing Livingstone and the falls. Just realizing how "Africa light" this is has been a highlight.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Obviously going to Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia is a must. Safaris are great and there are plenty. Plenty of hunting and fishing opportunities. Many enjoy doing the bat migration. Others love doing trips to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mauritius and Mozambique.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Same African stuff you get all over the continent. There's good wood patio furniture (bush style) and nice wood/charcoal bbq's or braii's.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It is quite easy to save money but it might take going to a few grocery stores for different items. Restaurants are very good and about on par with Washington DC. Being able to go on safaris as residents of the country makes it so cheap. We have gone on a number of 3-day safaris that cost less than US1,000 total for all.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Should have sent more canned goods, brought fewer winter clothes and more surge protectors.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, in a heartbeat.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes and any winter sports items.
4. But don't forget your:
Swim trunks and bug spray. Mosquitoes are quite nasty here.