Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire Report of what it's like to live there - 03/15/21
Personal Experiences from Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Mostly Western Europe.
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?
DC. 8ish hr flight to Brussels or Paris, 7 hr flight to Abidjan.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
Housing varies from small compounds with 6-8 homes to large single stand alone homes. We had a large stand-alone house with a large yard and garage. It is equidistant between the embassy and the "American" school. Our house is nice, but if I had a choice I would have preferred one of the compounds that are closer to the annex and have better access to other embassy families. We actually live nearby to several families, but due to the traffic, lack of sidewalks and petty crime concerns we don't feel comfortable walking to other houses or letting the kids ride bikes or visit friends.
There is a community pool that should be available to all the rented houses in and around us, but it's been closed since the beginning of the pandemic. We also didn't know that we had access to this pool or how to access it until after it closed. Be sure to ask about pool access when you are assigned housing, it is our understanding that all of the houses in the housing pool have at least one pool that they can use somewhere.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There are several western-style grocery stores, as well as Indian and Asian food markets. The prices vary wildly, as does the availability. Just because you saw a product last week does not mean it will be there next week, this is especially true with produce. I found that if I saw something, for instance, asparagus, that I thought I might enjoy, if I didn't buy it right then I likely wouldn't see it again for months or even weeks. The grocery stores import their produce from Europe so those are the seasons you want to keep up with. Because they are imported, they can be quite a bit more expensive. Buy local as much as possible to save money, just make sure you (or your house help) are cleaning properly.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
This is a DPO post so almost everything can be ordered. Things I would suggest to ship to get to post at the same time as you: paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, etc), laundry soap, personal hygiene products, coffee, any particular dietary need, anything you might consider "Mexican" "Tex-Mex" or "Latin American" cuisine. They are available but the quality is extremely poor.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Nearly anything is available, except the above mentioned latin american cuisine, at decent to excellent quality. Prices range from US cheap to very pricey. If you are looking to save money, don't dine out.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not really. It's hard to keep lizards out, but they are little and eat bugs, so we don't freak out. There are tons of ants, but it's not terrible.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Reasonably priced. Nearly everyone at post has some kind of house help at least part time. Live-in and live-out nannies are affordable. Many families also employ drivers.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a nice gym. The annex is a great workout space with a half mile track and there are some groups that do HITT and crossfit there. There are a few gyms in the city that offer a broad range of classes from kickboxing to yoga, but expect upscale western pricing.
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?
This is a cash economy.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
The Catholic churches have one service in English per week. I am not sure about any other religious group.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
French is NECESSARY. Enroll in the embassy-offered classes, which are free and available to employees and families. Do as much studying as possible before you arrive.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Some taxis are safe, but you have to negotiate ahead and insist that they don't pick anyone else up along the way. There are city buses that are fine, if you can figure out the schedule. Best to have your own vehicle.
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?
Any car will do, there are sketchy areas but people with sedans are able to get around the city and to the different beach areas just fine. Don't bring anything you care too much about, you are bound to get dinged or hit at some point. There do not seem to be any regularly followed or enforced traffic rules.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Used to be difficult to get installed, much better since COVID, so at least there are some silver linings....
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Google Fi works here. The local plans are affordable and fairly reliable as well.
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?
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?
There are some jobs available at the embassy. Look early, they move fast. The international school generally hires every year. For the 2021-22 school year I know they will have several openings in both upper and lower school. No idea about salaries.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
West Africa in general is pretty conservative. Professional attire at the embassy is standard. There are few formal events, mainly just the Marine Corps ball. Outside of work the climate is low 70s to high 80s year round, with a chance of rain at some point in the day.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crime, nothing too crazy.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The harmattan is an annual issue, especially for those with allergies or asthma related issues. Medical care is decent. Medevac is rare.
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?
Post recently got the AQI system. Moderate most of the year, terrible during the harmattan. There is frequent open burning of trash, which is a consideration.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Bring/ship foods for your allergy considerations. In the age of COVID, just keep wearing your mask.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
80s with a chance of rain. All the time.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The post-supported school is great for us. There have been some complaints from some people who have had experiences with very small schools with single digit student to teacher ratios, who are used to very individualized programs. For those of us who have been at larger and US schools longer, its fantastic. My middle schoolers have thrived here. The teachers are engaging and responsive, the student body is warm and inviting. They have a special education coordinator and gifted student services. You have to request these services and they expect parent involvement in order for the service and student to be successful, but that isn't anything that would not be expected anywhere.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There is a special needs coordinator. Request services when you apply. I don't know the full extent of the accommodations, but they are adding services all the time.
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. Our kids aren't small, so I am not sure of the pricing. People are pleased.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
The schools offer activities, and things can be found around town. Prices range from free and cheap to high end western prices.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are a lot of expats. Overall morale depends on attitude. Some people hate it here and are just biding their time. If you have a good attitude there is plenty of fun and beauty to be found. The food scene is good, people are friendly and helpful. There are plenty of things to do and see, if you don't mind a little bit of "roughing it". This is not a shiny, sparkly high level ecotourism kind of place. You need to explore, and be up for anything. And there are several nice beach front towns within a short drive.
2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Assinie and Grand Basam are great close to home getaways. You can go for a day trip or stay over, and there are several resorts in both places. Definitely check out the Banco while you are here as well.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
You are not going to save money here, the prices are on par with US/western prices. And you NEED French.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. This has been a fantastic experience for our family, and I would come back.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Cold weather clothes.
4. But don't forget your:
Bug spray, sunscreen, and sense of adventure!
5. Do you have any other comments?
Life here is what you make it. If you have any kind of western expectations you can very easily make yourself miserable. Let go and enjoy this city and the surrounding areas for what they are. There is plenty of sunshine, oceanfront and greenery to enjoy. Make friends, join in things that you might not normally. This is a beautiful country.