Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Report of what it's like to live there - 07/27/19
Personal Experiences from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. This was my sixth expat experience.
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?
Kansas City, MO. It's approximately 22 hours with two stops.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Single family dwellings. Most expats lived in either the Zone du Bois/Koulouba or Ouaga 2000 areas. Commute times across town about 40-50 minutes.
Most all expat houses had small gardens with small pools. Quality of construction and maintenance is substandard compared to the US or Europe. Leaking roofs and walls during the rainy season. Mold, mildew and unsightly water stains throughout the house.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can probably find everything you need, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, but the place can be quite expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Favorite brands of specific items.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are no familiar chain brands of restaurants in Ouagadougou. There are a lot of restaurants with a diversity of fares including hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza, French, Korean, Chinese, as well as local.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants everywhere in the house. Mosquitos, flies and lizards.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic Pouch and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO).
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is very plentiful. Maids/cooks, amahs, and day guards/gardeners. US$100.00 - $200.00 per person/per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are a lot of gyms around Ouagadougou. I am not familiar with the cost. There is a small gym at the embassy free for use by embassy staff.
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?
We used credit cards at some of the larger stores occasionally and never had any trouble. There are ATMs available and the ones affiliated with major banks are considered safe. There is an EcoBank ATM in the embassy.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are some small, non-denominational congregations.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Basic French would be quite useful conducting day-to-day personal business.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. The infrastructure that someone with a disability might rely upon, e.g., sidewalks, ramps, etc., is nonexistent.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No. It is not recommended to utilize any form of public transportation in Burkina Faso.
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?
The infrastructure is quite poor with rough roads full of potholes, and many unpaved. There are also a lot of accidents with few reputable repair facilities. Something older with high ground clearance is best.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed internet is available, expensive and unreliable.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone and get a local SIM card.
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?
There are no quarantine requirements. There are vets who can assist with import/export paperwork, but I would be wary of the quality of medical care they can provide.
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?
Jobs within the embassy. Teaching. NGOs.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Suits, dresses, and/or business casual at work. Shorts and t-shirts are acceptable otherwise, but generally need to be somewhat conservative.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Read the Travel Warning on www.state.gov. The country is rife with violence of all natures: ethnic, Islamic extremist, and crime. Personal travel outside the city of Ouagadougou is not permitted for official personnel. Crime is common within the city. There were several instances of thieves breaking into occupied homes during the night while guards were on duty.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria and dengue fever. Use your insect repellant. A lot of complaints of stomach problems. The quality of care available locally is poor. The embassy medevacs for all but the most minor ailments. The medevac point is London.
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?
Bad just about year around.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Extremely hot most of the time. Three or four months each year are a little cooler. Sometimes too cool to comfortably use the pool.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several schools in the city. The International School of Ouagadougou is the only English language school. Most children affiliated with the US Embassy attend ISO. Parents and children appear pleased with the educational opportunities in general.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
It would be best to check with the individual schools. Capabilities will vary by school and the needs of the child.
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 preschools available.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
ISO sponsors a wide variety of after school activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is small and not always very cohesive. The sense of being isolated in your own little walled compound can be quite great at times. Morale was okay, but for a variety of factors deteriorated greatly over the last year.
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?
Gatherings at the embassy, school or private residences.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Ouagadougou is not really a pleasant environment for anybody. Families with young children appear to adapt the most easily.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Burkinabé are a very warm and friendly people.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Islamic terrorism. Ethnic strife between tribal groups.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Seeing elephants in the wild was a highlight but travel to the game preserve is no longer allowed for official personnel and not recommended for anybody.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Nazinga game preserve, Banfora, and the mask festival at Dédougou were all interesting trips, but now are off limits to embassy personnel. There is a travel advisory against anyone traveling outside Ouagadougou.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really. Some local crafts available at the Grande Marché or the Village Artisanal.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
It is hard to say, but probably not. Overall it was not an enjoyable experience.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Almost anything nice. The elements and harsh environment are detrimental to almost everything such as cars and clothes.
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor.