Niamey, Niger Report of what it's like to live there - 10/29/17
Personal Experiences from Niamey, Niger
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
Midwest. It's about 14 hours total, including a layover in Paris. Sometimes Air France will surprise you with a stopover in Lome, Togo to pick up more passengers. This won't be listed on your tickets, so you're looking at a few more hours of travel time.
3. How long have you lived here?
We lived there for two years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We had a large house with a swimming pool, a 3-minute drive to the U.S. embassy. All of the houses are large, but the construction and finishes will look outdated. I recommend bringing shelving for storage in your kitchen and bathrooms.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are expensive compared to the US. The majority of items are imported. Prepare yourself and kids for UHT milk and yogurt. Excellent butter is always available, imported from France. The beef is surprisingly lean and good.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More liquids. Unscented laundry detergent, dish soap (house staff love to overuse cleaning supplies), hair conditioner, chocolate chips, pasta sauce, soups, more Mexican ingredients like salsa, beans, hot sauce, tortillas, taco shells. The CLO has a comprehensive list of things that are not available on the local economy.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
We found some decent restaurants, but I know a few have closed since we left. Turkish, Lebanese, Chinese, French, Italian, Indian. We ordered takeout pizzas a lot. There is no fast food available.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Termites, geckos, lizards.
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?
Lots of household help available. We employed a part time gardener, full time nanny, and part time housekeeper. You will need a housekeeper to clean the dust. You simply cannot do it on your own.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Very small embassy gym and a very small gym at the American school. There were fitness classes organized by EFMs.
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?
We never used our credit cards here. There is one ATM at the embassy that is safe to use. Be prepared to bring a lot of checks and withdraw money from the embassy cashier.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Basic French is helpful. Plenty of tutors are available and affordable.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We were not permitted to use local transportation.
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 amd high clearance, which are helpful on the unpaved dirt roads, especially during rainy season. Toyota or other Japanese manufacturer. I would not advise on bringing a luxury car or an American car, as parts can be hard to find and the locals will not know how to fix them.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
All internet is slow speed through a wifi dongle or box. Slower than I remember dial-up. Unless you pay for the very expensive satellite internet, which some neighbors did by partnering up and splitting the cost.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked GSM phone. Sim cards are cheap and easy to purchase. You can top up data/voice at any corner store, or any guy on the street by buying a scratch-off card.
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?
There are vets that make house calls. No quarantine. Your pet will need a stamped APHIS certificate and microchip to get through Paris. Schedule your titer test well in advance of departing post. It will need to be air-mailed to Paris.
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?
The majority worked at the embassy. There were a few with NGO positions. Telecommuting would be impossible based on the slow internet service.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty of volunteer opportunities
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual. The heat is sweltering, but women should cover their shoulders and knees. Formal dress is only needed for the Marine ball. I wouldn't recommend bringing designer clothing, or anything too nice. The weather and dust can be hard on your clothes and especially your shoes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, follow RSO guidance. Carry a radio with you at all times, cell phone service is unreliable.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is a real threat, so take your meds. Most people run into stomach issues the first few weeks at post; be prepared to throw all modesty out the window when you have to submit a sample to the health unit. Amoebic dysentery is real. You will be medically evacuated for anything serious.
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?
Air quality is moderate. It's very dusty. Garbage is burned there, usually at night, and the smoke/smell will permeate into your house. I wish I would have brought more candles and an air purifier.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is an American school and a French school.
2. 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?
Creches are available, but most people I knew with small children had nannies.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
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?
Entertaining at home, or going out to dinner. There's an American Women's club.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Being single, I think it would be hard to find someone to date outside of work. For couples and families, there really isn't much to do.
4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Giraffe trip. Drinking beers and eating brochettes on Cap Banga (an island in the Niger river). Check out the beer garden at least once. Drink touareg tea.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really. There are no shopping malls. There is some interesting local artwork though.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You will save a lot of money.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Regional travel is extremely limited. Flights out of the country are very expensive.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coats and Netflix subscription.
4. But don't forget your:
Massive DVD and book collections, sunscreen, and bug spray.