Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Report of what it's like to live there - 10/08/19
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. I have lived in four other cities overseas
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?
Atlanta: 17-20 hours by way of Paris.
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 homes. Most people live in one of two neighborhood zones. All embassy housing, and most all houses occupied by expats, have pools. Quality is fair. Roofs and walls leak creating problems with mold and mildew.
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, but not necessarily everything you want. Probably not favorite brands, or even a familiar brand. Availability is not consistent. It is recommended to buy items when you see them on the shelf and keep a supply of staples on hand. Groceries are expensive. Government employees receive a cost of living allowance (COLA).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Some of our favorite snacks and convenience foods as well as quality cleaning supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are a lot of restaurants in Ouaga. Everybody seems to have their favorite. Fried chicken was very popular with people we knew.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Houses are infested with ants and lizards. Mosquitos, too, as this is a malaria and dengue zone.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic Pouch and Diplomatic Post Office.
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, nannies, gardeners, drivers and day guards. Fewer than US$200 a month per person.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a small gym at the embassy free to use for embassy employees. There are numerous gyms in the city but I don’t know much about them.
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?
The bigger stores generally frequented by expats accept credit cards. We had no problems. Major banks such as Ecobank have ATMs throughout the city.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are a few, but I am not familiar with most of them.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Some French is useful when dealing with the many local vendors and street merchants.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. No sidewalks. Few if any ramps. Few elevators.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No public transportation in Burkina Faso is considered safe or secure.
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?
Be careful about bringing anything new that you want to keep in good condition. The roads are poor and the traffic is chaotic.
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 but can be quite expensive and there are a lot of outages.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Recommended to get a local SIM card for your unlocked phone.
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 ae no quarantine requirements. There are vets available.
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?
Some work at the embassy. Some telecommute. Some teach at ISO.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. There is travel warning on State.gov. Personal travel outside Ouagadougou is prohibited for official embassy personnel due to the violence in the country. Crime is common. During our tenure we knew of more than one person whose house was broken into during the night, while they were home asleep, with guards on duty. I've heard it one break-in happened within our embassy community. Embassy personnel currently receive danger pay.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Burkina Faso is a malaria and dengue fever zone. Zika has also become a concern. Many people complained of gastrointestinal issues, to inclue nausea, diarrhea, etc. Quality medical care is almost non-existent in the country. Embassy personnel are medevaced quite frequently even for items such as routine dental care.
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?
Poor. It is the Sahel and there is a lot of dust and smoke.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and unpleasant most of the year. Not as bad in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
About the only English language school in Ouagadougou is the International School of Ouagadougou. Most parents and kids seemed happy with the school.
2. 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?
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
ISO offers some extra curricula activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is small. There was a mix of some of the finest people I have ever met, and some of the most reprehensible. Both qualities are highly magnified in a place like Ouagadougou.
Morale was always an issue and seemed to be going downhill.
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?
Make your own fun. Attend functions at the school or the embassy.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families with children seemed the happiest.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It is possible, but there is a large cultural divide that must be overcome.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. There is Islamic extremism and inter-tribal conflicts, but these may not affect expats on a day-to-day basis.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Seeing elephants in the wild, the Dedegou Mask Festival, and the trip to Banfora – all of which are now off limits to embassy personnel. There is also a travel warning against anyone traveling to these places.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
See question 7 above.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No. The embassy was a very difficult environment in which to work and the harsh conditions in the country provided no respite. With the deteriorating security situation it is probably only going to get worse.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your: