Dakar, Senegal Report of what it's like to live there - 12/12/18
Personal Experiences from Dakar, Senegal
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?
Dallas, TX. Flights leaving Dakar are always late at night, 13-16 hours, layover in NY or Paris.
3. How long have you lived here?
One and a half years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Expat due to husband's job (diplomat).
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The house is huge, each bedroom has its own , which makes it hard to rearrange furniture to make it comfortable. The houses have leaks, things are always happening that are very irritating. We have no yard, a huge generator thats an eyesore, so nothing to see outside. The house is surrounded by a wall and personal guards.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The food here is super expensive, think two to three as much as the States. For example, bread can cost about US$8-$10. Fruit, when out of season, seems ridiculous; I just purchased celery for $15. However, if you really want something bad enough you will pay. The tax is 18%. There is an American store here with the comforts of home, food-wise, however it is very expensive. A normal small box of cereal is about $10, meat, which is frozen and imported, is about $12 for two pounds. You will need to get used to paying high prices, don't know why anyone would say its comparable, it doesn't seem that way to me. Eating out is outrageous so I don't do it often.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I wish I had brought more ingredients for baked goods, e.g., flour, sugar, vanilla extract ($18) etc. You will find that a lot of ingredients aren't sold here, so you will definitely learn to cook from scratch if you don't already know how. Also, bring lots of toilet paper! The toilet paper sold here has a perfume smell to it, which is not good for women. I purchased 10 packages of a 20-roll sets (200 rolls). This has lasted me so far with a family of five. I should have just purchased 20 of them.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is actually a great Sushi restaurant here O Sushi Bar! There are a few pizza places. You can download the JUMIA app, which is a great resource. The restaurants here all seem amazingly bland and expensive; so you pretty much go for the beach view. Service is pretty good, but it's a laid-back mentality so get used to waiting.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
This seems to be the worst here to me. Its summer here 24/7 so you will have mice, roaches, flying huge roaches, water bugs, ants, and centipedes all year long. You do get Lizards and geckos, but let them be, they help to eat the bugs. Just clean and spray, it's kind of like you live with them. Don't have a lot of things on the floor to avoid hiding spaces for rodents and bugs, ants. Do invest in a Dynatrap in each of your rooms, mosquitoes will get in your house no matter how hard you try to keep them out. The Dynatrap has helped tremendously. Vapor Rub will help for the bites.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have DPO or pouch. Amazon is pretty quick and usually takes about two weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is easy to find, but quality in the person is another story. It's cheaper in the States. I pay a housekeeper US$270 for 3 full time days - 9-3:30. She does an okay job, but I feel like I need to pay attention to the work being done. I have heard there is some theft, so always get someone that has been referred.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym for a fee and other gyms in the area for fee. There is no A/C, so the odor can be strong in the summer.
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 more of a cash-carrying country, just be vigilant when using your card.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Alot of people speak English here, but always try and learn French. It's polite to always try, the locals appreciate it.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot of people speak English, but French is recommended. Tutoring for free at that Embassy or for a fee downtown at the Institute.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
They do not seem to accommodate.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Do not take local transportation, maybe a taxi but that's it. I feel like the taxis will try and take advantage of you if you let them. Always negotiate price before entering, and if you aren't happy, go on to the next. Taxis galore here. They smell, are dirty and falling apart; duct tape holding on doors, no brake lights. The do not seem to look where they are going, so always watch where you walk.
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?
Bring a four-wheel drive, but don't bring nice or new, as your car will likely get hit. It seems to be a matter of when, not if. My car was hit just sitting outside of my house. Getting insurance settled here for anything will take about a year, and it's a headache. If you are involved in an accident it could take three to five hours to finalize everything. Make sure you bring spare parts for you vehicle as well, such as tires, freon, windshield wipers... anything you can think to bring, bring it. Make sure to go to a recommended mechanic, luckily we have an expat at the embassy for now, but not always the case.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet here is touch and go. The embassy will help you set up service, but expect to be without service for a couple of weeks when you first arrive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use Orange, which is the best service out of all here. Just refill your card, as vendors are all over the streets.
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?
You can work at the embassy or home business.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I haven't really found any.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
You can dress pretty American here, shorts, dresses, tank tops, rompers; I brought tons of shoes and wear flip flops or bobs. The roads are pretty dirty and rocky, so don't wear shoes you don't want ruined in one day .
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Always be vigilante, there are always crimes of opportunity. Be aware of your surroundings, I've encountered a lot of nice people here, but you always have to be careful. Don't wear flashy jewelry and don't carry your life around in your bag. Just keep your small cash on you and thats about it.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria! Take your meds. The Embassy is available, but if it's a holiday or weekend make sure you have cash on hand for the med unit here, the cash up front before anything is done. Bring lots of immodium!
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?
The air is super dirty here, smog and dust, and poop particles in the air. I think you will get sick, as it just seems to happen.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Yes!! Try and leave every three to four months. Summer here is lonely, everyone seems leaves, and theres not a lot to do. It can be stressful at times, maybe due to communication, lack of supplies, groceries you can't find, just having a bad day; just always have trip planned and that usually helps. Lisbon is a four hour flight, and it's beautiful. .
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Summer is hot, but October - December is the worst, as it's the hottest time of the year. The temp is humid and can reach to over 100 degrees. Mid December - May is nice... kind of like a fall or cool summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
My children attend Dakar International School. This is an excellent school, with a wonderful support system. The ages are prek 3 - 12th grade. IB program is available. They have a website.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
I had my youngest in a preschool and to me, it was a terrible experience. It was a local school called Kindergarten Bilingual. I had an issue with the way one of the teachers treated my child. I would stick to having your child go to the ISD for preschool or one thats well recommended by a lot of parents. EAB is pretty good from what I hear. Just stay away from local schools with super cheap prices.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes for kids at the ISD.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is pretty big and you have to find a group that's right for you. Personally, I find it to be clique-ish, but face-to-face people are pretty nice.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for both.
3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
The locals are pretty friendly, but again be vigilant.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No, its illegal to be gay in this country. This is a Muslim country
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I have noticed, some people are Muslim, Catholic, Christian, etc.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I haven't really experienced any highlights.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Surfing is available, but you would be swimming in dirty water. Saly is a place to visit.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lots of local crafts to buy.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How expensive it is to live and leave. There's not a lot to do and I would have picked another post.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Take it all, you never know where you will visit and will end up purchasing what you already threw in storage.
4. But don't forget your:
Vapo rub!! Great for mosquito bites, takes away the itch!!
5. Do you have any other comments?
If you must live here, be sure to make friends and get out of the house. Plan trips outside of Senegal to escape Africa. Many kids begging for money, at first you want to give, but as I understand, they don't get to keep the money. I would never give money, just food. The kids are hungry and dirty. To me, it's a sad life for them.