Praia, Cape Verde Report of what it's like to live there - 02/25/24

Personal Experiences from Praia, Cape Verde

Praia, Cape Verde 02/25/24


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we've lived in multiple cities in Europe and Asia.

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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, USA. Four hours to Lisbon and then another eight to DC. Layovers in Lisbon are long. You can also fly through the Azores (Ponta Delgada) or Casablanca. Domestic travel within CV is actually the real challenge, as there's only one domestic airline and the flights are unreliable.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What years did you live here?


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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We have a three-bedroom modern house with a swimming pool, car park, and large rooftop. Most diplomats live in either large houses or modern apartments near the ocean. Commute times average 10-15 minutes. Everything in Praia is within a 20 minute drive.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We were surprised by the availability of international foods. There's a good variety of local fruits and vegetables. That said, items will suddenly disappear, so it's good to stock up. At one point, the island was out of onions for a week. There's a frozen food store that most expats go to for meat and fish.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We planned ahead and shipped everything we need. Mexican, Indian, and Asian ingredients are hard-to-find or non-existent here. You should ship cleaning supplies and toiletries.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The restaurant scene in Praia is severely lacking. Not surprisingly, most of the restaurants are Cabo Verdean, Portuguese, or West African. There's one restaurant that serves Mexican-style tacos and one sushi place. No Indian, Korean or Thai. I am not aware of any food delivery services.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

YES - I was shocked by how many insects and pests there are here, given that it's a desert island. Ants and cockroaches are a huge problem. The flies are relentless in the short rainy season. There are also mice and rats.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use diplomatic pouch. Items take 2-4 weeks to arrive from the US. I'm not aware of anyone using local post.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is affordable and easy to find. We pay our housekeeper $160 USD per month for three days a week. Some people employ pool cleaners, gardeners, and drivers. Most people do not speak English, so having at least survival Portuguese or Kriolu is essential.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Our mission has a recreation center with a decent gym. There are several reasonably priced gyms in the neighborhood that have adequate equipment, and many offers spin classes. There's also a walking/running path along the coast in the Palmarejo Baixo neighborhood.

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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?

Local bank cards are accepted everywhere. International cards are only accepted at hotels and touristy restaurants. Otherwise, cash is king. ATMs are widely available and safe.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I'm not aware of any.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need at least survival Portuguese. Although many younger people speak basic English, it's uncommon among the older generations. Many people actually speak French. It's also helpful to know at least basic greetings in Kriolu - the locals appreciate it.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Most buildings do not have elevators, and sidewalks are infrequent and not well designed.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is a network of local buses, but I don't know any expats who use it. Taxis are plentiful and safe.

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

You need a vehicle in Praia if you value your independence and not relying on taxis. Given the poor road conditions, a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Many people have Toyotas, Fords, and Hyundais. Carjackings do happen. I would not recommend bringing a sports car or an electric vehicle.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it's usually already installed and active upon arrival.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We use our Google Fi plan from the States. You can also buy a local top-up SIM card.

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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?

We don't have pets, but many people do.

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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?

Our embassy has a limited number of job opportunities for spouses. Most spouses telework. Working on the local economy would be impossible without Portuguese, and wages are very low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some expats volunteer with women's groups and animal rescue centers.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual most of the time, suits for government meetings.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Praia is rated critical for crime. Expats are regularly targeted on the street. There are also house break-ins. I would not walk around alone after dark.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The "Harmattan Haze" in winter can be problematic for people with asthma and other breathing conditions. Gastrointestinal illnesses are common. Medical care here is very poor. Anything requiring an invasive procedure will require a medevac to Europe or the US. Dental care is sufficient.

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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?

Most of the year it's fine, but winter can be bad because of the sandstorms that blow in from the Sahara.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I've had fewer issues with allergies here than in my previous posts. Most food products are from Europe so they're well-labeled. Many local dishes contain gluten, fish, and/or nuts.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not really, though some people have problems with the isolation. It's good to get off the islands every couple of months.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm all year (low to mid- 80s), hot in the summer. It only rains from July to September; otherwise dry and sunny.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

One downside of this post is the lack of quality schools. Most diplomats send their children to the French international school, but all instruction is in French. The reality is people with children older than five don't come here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and mainly Portuguese and French. Morale is good.

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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?

House parties, hanging at the beach, live music at restaurants. Cabo Verdeans love dressing up and going out!

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for couples and families with small children. It's hit-or-miss for singles; some people get bored quickly.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes, the Cabo Verdean people love Americans. There exists tension between people with European roots and those with African roots. There is also suspicion of Chinese people.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's one of the safest cities in Africa for LGBT expats. It's harder if you are a Cabo Verdean LGBT person, though in my experience, the vast majority of locals are at least tolerant. Public displays of affection are discouraged, and violence does occasionally happen.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Gender inequality is a problem here, and domestic violence is common.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Getting to visit the other islands as each one is unique. Hiking, fishing, going to the beach, drinking caipirinhas. Enjoying all the sunshine. Friendly locals.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Santiago for Cidade Velha, Sal for nightlife and resorts, Boa Vista for beaches, Maio for peace and quiet, Sao Nicolau for stunning geological vistas, Sao Vicente for music and culture, Santo Antao for hiking, Fogo for wine and coffee, and Brava for lush landscapes.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. There's some local artwork, but a lot of what you find in the touristy areas is made in China.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Cabo Verdeans love to tell expats that their motto in life is "no stress". If you like a slower pace of life, music, no traffic, and beaches, you will love Praia.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How hot it is here and how much of a pest problem there is.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?


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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

coats, umbrella and stress.

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4. But don't forget your:

sunscreen, specialty foods, and car.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

No, unfortunately there's not much in the way of literature or movies about CV. I would recommend learning about the independence movement.

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