Bamako, Mali Report of what it's like to live there - 04/22/09

Personal Experiences from Bamako, Mali

Bamako, Mali 04/22/09

Background:

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

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

U.S. to Bamako via Paris, France, approximately 14 hrs.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Single family housing and apartments. One compound with apartments (mostly singles). Houses closer to the school are older than those closer to the Embassy.

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

Expensive - COLA of appx 20% is needed and utilized. Cereal, deodorant, etc. many items expensive, especially imported items (mostly from France).

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

Tissue paper, deodorant, cereal, pampers and/or baby food, washing powder(yes!), soap, toothpaste, hair products, and other HB items.

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

No recognizable fast food restaurant available. However, hamburgers and sandwiches served at neighborhood restaurant, but not of the same quality. So, I would leave fast food for the U.S.

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

Mosquitos and small lizards (geckos).

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy pouch.

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

Available and cheap around US$125 to $175 a month.

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

Yes-Budo Club. Nice facility that has been renovated and has aerobic classess. Exercise equipment avail. Somewhat pricey but will allow you to try them for a few days for free.

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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?

It's mostly a cash society. Most places, except major hotels, don't accept them. There are ATMs available but not generally used by post employees.

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

Mostly Muslim country but churches are available.

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

Cable stations such as M-Net, CNN, and others available.

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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?

Having some French will allow you to get by without a problem.

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

Many - places are not handicap accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis and cheap and safe. There are lots of motos on the roads. One must exercise caution when driving.

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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?

4 Wheel Drive especially if you'll be traveling outside of Bamako. Toyota dealership in the city. Parts are available but expensive. I would bring tires, cleaning products you might like, etc.

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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.

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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?

No - SIM cards and credit readily available on every street corner.

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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?

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

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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?

No, unable to speak the language is generally an obstacle. Job opportunity at the Embassy.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy - All kinds of vehicles on the road.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Many- see CDC website.

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

Relatively safe city - you can walk around without worrying about safety concerns.

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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?

Malaria and not very good local medical facilities.

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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?

Hot and very hot. Hottest months, March, April, and May.

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Schools & Children:

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

Relatively good school. Principle responsive. Small class sizes. Academic program OK.

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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?

Many French daycares in Bamako. There's also a daycare at the International School. Local daycare not very expensive and good opportunity for child to learn french.

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

Yes in conjunction with school.

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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.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good....

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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 among the community. Encourage you to mingle with Malians. Wonderful place for exploring Malian music.

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

Yes, it's safe and many activities available within the american community. Not a whole lot to do in Bamako in terms of activities (i.e. movies, shops, bowling, etc.)

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

People seem tolerant but in terms of activities, don't know.

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

No.

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

Lots of opportunity to travel outside of Bamako to neighboring cities (Segou, Mopti, Dogon Country, and Timbuktu). Dakar, Senegal with its beaches is not too far away and accessible by road or airplane.

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

Dogon doors and other locally made 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?

Absolutely.

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

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and sunscreen.

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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?

People are very friendly.

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