Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/09/10
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?
No, we were posted in Ghana before this.
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?
Takes approximately 36 hours to fly from Lusaka to the USA, either via South Africa or via Europe. Air travel from here is expensive - about $2000 round trip to get back to the USA.
3. How long have you lived here?
We've lived here 4 years and have one more to go.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Husband is with USAID.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
reasonable housing exists but it's surprisingly expensive - average rent on a reasonable property is $2500-$3000 per month. Commute times depend on which parts of town you live in and are commuting to - but on average we only spend about 10 minutes in the car going to and from work. Now, trying to get in and out of the Manda Hill Shopping Center - that's another story entirely! Partly because it's under construction, this traffic is ALWAYS bad.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Nearly everything you can think of is now available through the various South African grocery chains in Lusaka. Outside Lusaka it's a different story, although Shop-rite and Spar can be found in the other large towns. Groceries and supplies are about 1/3 more costly on average than in the USA and some things - like cheese - are very expensive. There's limited seafood as we're landlocked - basically talapia and ever smaller nile perch. Not much variety of fruits but not as bad as some places - if you want strawberries you can get them one month of the year and they'll cost $10/pint. No blueberries! But you can get great nectarines and bananas year-round and pinapple and mango part of the year.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Camping gear (which we did bring) is highly recommended! Most everything is available here though.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Subway is the only familiar American brand, but there are the South African chains of pizza, burgers and chicken that are all decent but a bit higher priced than American fast food, and it's not fast. No drive through - it can take about 15 minutes to get your take-away or even longer.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The mosquitos carry malaria - fortunately there aren't many of them in Lusaka itself. Outside the city, be prepared for this. There are tse-tse flies in parts of the country, particularly in Kafue National Park - even 100% deet won't repel these so wear long clothes - just don't wear white or blue, as these seem especially yummy to tse-tse!
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use a diplomatic pouch. Without that you can't count on things being delivered at all, much stealing and long delays. FedEx and DHL available but very expensive.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available, though of variable abilities and english skills. Check around first and have a probationary period with a signed contract to prevent unhappy recriminations if termination needed. About $100 - $150/month for housekeepers, gardeners and nannies.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes - decent ones recently opened.
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?
ATM's are sprouting up all over the country to the point where even small towns might have one. REASONABLY safe compared to South Africa - especially during the day. We rarely use credit cards - not accepted outside the grocery and major hotels - but lots of people use them for the weekly shopping.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes - all.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes - about $1/day.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but it's so appreciated. English is the official language.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It's a difficult city to get around in for people with disabilities. Buses are not enabled, there are few sidewalks.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses in town are probably ok, but not comfy - as they usually squeeze 18 people into one minibus designed for 8-10. They are very affordable, but often take a long time to depart from the stop if they aren't full, and all go through a local downtown hub system. Taxis are generally ok, if you stick with official blue ones but they're $10 minimum from anywhere to anywhere and can go up from there. no trains, except from Lusaka to Daar Es Salaam.
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?
Good to have a 4-wheel, so that you can go exploring - but not needed in town for going to work. No need to bring one, there are decent values on the local market and it's drive from the right seat on the left side. Nissan and Toyota are the easiest to get parts for and to repair. American car parts are unavailable locally. If you have access to a newsletter prior to your arrival, you should consider buying an inexpensive mode of transport prior to your arrival if you're planning to get a vehicle shipped from Japan, because this can take 6 months. That said, there are good deals to be had going that route. Car jackings don't seem to be based on the type of car, although toyota camry style cars do seem to be popular - car jackings just aren't THAT common.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes and no - not what you'd call high-speed, but better than dial-up. Price varies with service - ranges from $40/month to $135/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Buy local. Phones brought from the US that are supposed to work rarely get as good reception as the cheap local ones. There's both pre and post pay available and it's reasonably priced.
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, but an import permit is required. Showgrounds Vet Clinic can make it all happen. firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There are two AMAZING vets in town - both locals. Ask around and you'll find them easily (i don't know if i can promote one here - Dr. Liza Oparaocha at Showgrounds Vet is world class). There is very good help available for pet transport as well. Very good kennels at Showgrounds Vet Clinic
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?
I'd say yes - some. Particularly in development.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual and business casual. Minimal "modesty" issues.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
we hear about the occassional car jacking and they do happen, but not with the regularity or violence of South Africa (at least right now). There are common snatch-purses downtown, and home burgerlies are a common concern, but most reasonable housing comes with security walls.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria and HIV are common. Good health care for basic stuff - surgery is sending you to South Africa.
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?
It varies with the season. Sometimes it's fine, but during the burning season (June, July) it can be really smoky in places. Also, many cars and apparently all buses are completely without proper exhaust systems so there's alot of car exhaust in the air downtown.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Beautiful weather. Can't say enough great things about it. Winter months (May-Sept) are cool at night (mid-50's) and mostly sunny during the day (high's in the 70's). The hottest it gets in Lusaka is in October, when it may hit the high 80's and an occassional 90's day. Rains start in November and keep the place a bit cooler, and it rains through April. Outside the city it tends to be warmer in most places, as Lusaka is about 1000 feet higher in altitude than most other destinations.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
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?
Yes - particularly, but not exclusively, through the school. Great horseback riding lessons. Good swimming.
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
As always, it seems that singles often have a hard time socially, but here that really shouldn't happen. There's lots of expats, and the locals community is also very welcoming. As for raising kids here, can't really say.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I get mixed signals. This part of Africa is in the midst of an anti-homosexual agenda, with Malawi actually jailing a male couple, and our local politicians are speaking out against it fairly routinely. That said, there are several "known" couples in the expat community who seem happy, and my gay single friends seem to be enjoying the stay. It's definately on the down-low, though, not an open culture for being gay.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes and no. There is an overtly Christian mentality in the sense that even the government refers to this as a Christian nation, however there doesn't seem to be any tension at all between Christians and Muslims or Hindus. There are some Buddhists as well. Atheism is NOT understood, and there are TONS of missionaries all here with the goal of saving your soul from Satan.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Seeing baby lions playing in a tree, riding my local horse at sunset with monkeys in the trees, walking through tall grass to see elephants and getting to know local Zambians.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Great horseback riding - polo and polocrosse. Great off-road bicycling and motorcycling off-road club is very active. Of cousre, tons of camping, fishing, safari at locals prices. There's a good, first run movie theatre, some moderately decent restaurants and sports clubs. There's an active Hash Chapter. There are lots of clubs like bridge, salsa dancing, yoga
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nothing really jumps out - but you can get nice congolese fabrics.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather in Lusaka is spectacular, its like a sweet June day most of the year with lots of sunshine. Never to hot, rarely too chilly. The outdoor activities are many - with world class safari opportunities, great hiking and camping, superb fishing. Touring other neighboring nations is also great, with Namibia's dunes and Botswana's Okavango delta within driving distance, as are the beaches of Mozambique. And of course, Victoria Falls!
11. Can you save money?
Depends on how frugal you are - maybe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yep - in a heartbeat.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
heavy winter coat.
3. But don't forget your:
sense of humor, sunscreen and bug dope, and good hiking shoes.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
"Don't let's go to the dogs tonight." "When a crocodile eats the sun."