Bamako, Mali Report of what it's like to live there - 02/16/09

Personal Experiences from Bamako, Mali

Bamako, Mali 02/16/09

Background:

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

No: Lived in Thailand, Mongolia, China, and Korea.

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2. How long have you lived here?

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

Government job.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Route is through Paris on Air France. Paris has direct flights to most major cities. Total time is 5 hours from Bamako to Paris, then about 8-10 hours to major U.S. cities.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most houses are large, airy adobe styled homes with yards and swimming pools. Many are five minutes from the Embassy...the furthest are about 15 minutes away (longer if there is an accident on the bridge).

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

Expensive. Limited availability. BRING ALL YOUR CONSUMABLE ALLOWANCE. Especially paper products, cleaners, tolietries and canned goods.

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

A bread maker (I ordered mine online after I arrived).Ice cream maker. Put your tupperware food storage containers in your UAB, you'll need them. SHIP CONSUMABLES. I cannot say this enough.

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

Very good restaurants-Italian, Thai, Senegalese, Malian, Chinese. Average meal at any of them runs about US$15 to 20.

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

Minor, all things considered. Ants can be a problem so definitely bring food storage containers.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. Has some restrictions on liquids, so bring them with you.

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

US$200 a month for a full time nanny. Anywhere from US$100-200 a month for a housekeeper (depending on how often).About US$100 a month for a part time gardener (necessary to take care of the pool).

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

This is a major problem. Why WHY WHY is there no gym at this brand new Embassy? The gyms here are expensive and small. Bring your own treadmill.

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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?

No no no.

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

Yes-most are available here.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes-AFN provides free cable to Embassy personnel. Has about 8 channels of various programs.

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

You'll need to dust off that high school French, mes amis.

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

Don't even try it. There are absolutely NO handicapped facilities here.

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Transportation:

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

Not very safe and not recommended.

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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?

SUV. Jeep, Toyota, whatever. Something with clearance and 4 wheel drive.

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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-about US$60 a month. Pretty good except when downloading movies and YouTube stuff. Otherwise, it's fine for Skype and email.

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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?

Work provides mine and there is reception in most parts of the country.

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Pets:

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?

Not sure.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a vet in town that people use and he seems completely reliable.

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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?

Very few--some teaching opportunities probably.

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

Very casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It can be dusty during the dry season, but it is not heavily polluted by industrial pollution.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Everything-including Yellow Fever.

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

Hardly any. Use common sense. Mali is a very safe country.

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

There is an RMO at post and a health unit that can handle most minor needs. There is very little reliable health care on the economy. Get your stuff done at home. Most people see their doctor while on R&R or home leave. This is also a malaria post, so malaria meds are necessary.

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

June-October is the rainy and hot season. The rest of the year is dry and hot, but it's a dry heat and not any worse than, say, Arizona.

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Schools & Children:

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

American School and French School-I've heard good things about both.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Fabulous! Nannies and housekeepers are everywhere. A full time nanny is about US$200 a month (plus some bonuses and misc expenses). A housekeeper part time would be less than that, of course.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not sure-probably several.

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Expat Life:

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

Smallish.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good except for a few people who obviously didn't even consult a map when bidding and are shocked to discover they are in Africa. This is a hardship post people-get used to it.

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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?

Mostly done at home-dinner parties, sports, hikes, day trips-or lunch out at restaurants.

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

Yes, it's good for everyone if you're creative and adventurous.

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

Probably not so much if you were single.

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

No-Mali is extremely tolerant. Women don't have many problems here with harrassment or safety. Malians are extremely tolerant religiously.

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

Tons-be creative and adventurous. Good travel opportunities, hiking, exploring, you name it.

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

African crafts, carvings, furniture.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I love it here. The weather is great, the housing is nice, kids are showered with affection by their nannies, and morale is high.

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

expectation that you're headed to a place equal to Paris. This is AFRICA. Many roads are NOT PAVED. The living conditions of most Malians are MODEST and POOR. You might get sick. It is hot. There is dust. There are bugs. Stop your complaining. If you wanted Berlin, you should have bid on Berlin.

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3. But don't forget your:

CONSUMABLES, DVDs, bathing suit, and postage stamps.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Mali is a great hardship post. Safe, exotic, interesting, affordable. But it is a hardship post and it's in the middle of no where. Do not come here if you expect some kind of urban utopia. Mali is one of the world's poorest countries, but that said, the people are fantastic and there are so many interesting things to see and experience here. Come with patience, tolerance and an adventurous spirit and you will be well rewarded.

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