Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso Report of what it's like to live there - 08/06/10
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?
Conakry, Freetown, Kabul, Amman, Baghdad.
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, about 20 hours of travel total -- which includes a 4-5 hour layover in Paris. Air France is the fastest trip, but Air Brussels via JFK in New York is another good route.
3. How long have you lived here?
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?
US Embassy housing is all single-family homes. All have pools, and most have some sort of yard. Housing is split between Ouaga-2000 and Zone du Boise. Ouaga-2000 is close to the embassy, and du Bois is close to the International School. If you have school-aged kids, Zone du Bois may be best, but the housing there is older.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Things are much more expensive here, due to it being a land-locked country. Expect to pay much more for food at the western grocery stores.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Baking supplies and more cleaning supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of mosquitoes in the rainy season (July-Sept).
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?
Very easy to find and wages are fairly low. Housekeeper: $50-150 per month; Gardener/Pool: 50-100; cook 100-200; Nanny 100-200; Driver 50-200 depending.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
A small gym is located at the embassy, and the American Rec Center has a nice gym and a nice pool.
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?
Don't even think of using them.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
French is essential to do anything
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
You can't use local taxis/buses if you are with the embassy. Most are unsafe and they overcharge westerners.
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?
4x4. Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes and Ford all have dealers here. Parts are fairly easy to find.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but it is expensive. Internet up to 2gb/sec is available, but it runs about $300 per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Easy to get and fairly cheap. The embassy issues all employees a 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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Some is 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?
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.
Terrorism is on the rise in the northern part of the country, but it has not affected Ouaga yet.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The embassy has a nurse and a doctor, but neither is US-trained. The Japanese embassy has a doctor, and there is a military doctor here from time to time.
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?
Not too ba.d
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's generally very hot and dry here.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ISO is very good from what I hear.
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. A French school has programs starting at age 2, and nannies are readily availible and relativly inexpensive ($150-200 per month).
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Several through ISO and some through the American Rec Center.
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?
Nightclubs, bars, dinners at friends' houses, restaurants.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is very good for families. Singles find it a bit rough, but there are lots of things to do. The international community is large.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
In Ouaga: no. Muslims and Christians live together without any issues.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Nezinga Park in Po, to see the elephants
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Leather products, Tuareg swords, masks, carvings, art.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money and see the Sahel as well as a number of animal parks.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, without a doubt.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
cold weather clothing.
3. But don't forget your:
sun screen and bug spray.