Dakar, Senegal Report of what it's like to live there - 01/06/10

Personal Experiences from Dakar, Senegal

Dakar, Senegal 01/06/10

Background:

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

Washington DC

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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?

From DC /New York: 8 to 9 hoursFrom Europe: 5 to 6 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

19 months so far

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

Diplomat

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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 poorly built. Need repairs & maintenance constantly.

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

All is available and all is very costly coming from the US with a weak dollar. Since the franc CFA is pegged to the Euro, coming from Europe, the prices are not as bad. All French brands are here displayed in several Casino supermarkets.

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

Liquids (not allowed in Embassy mail).

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

Food is never fast here but very good restaurants are everywhere for very good prices.$5 to 10 for lunch, $10-20 and above for dinner. Not strong in Mexican nor Indian restaurant. Lots of French, italian, Chinese, African restaurants.

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

Mosquitoes to avoid malaria. More present in Almadies than in Mermoz and depending on seasons.

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Daily Life:

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

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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 everywhere. Expats tend to pay at least 100-120,000 CFA a month ($250) for a qualified maid.

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

Yes, plenty.

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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?

I am not using any visa card.

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

Not much.

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

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?

Much better to know at least French and also some Wolof (10 sentences will make them very happy already) to enjoy your stay.

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

Dakar and the entire Senegal is not for disabled. Bad roads and broken or inexisting sidewalks. No ramps or bigger bathrooms.

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Transportation:

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

No safe train. Local buses are not practical except to go on a straight line. Taxis are everywhere, some look like a garbage, some are brand new (same price!). Airport to downtown is no more than $10.

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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?

4WD, even if you only stay in Dakar because the roads are bad here too (sometimes even nice expat houses are at the end of a stony dirt way).

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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?

Available. $20 and above/month depending on bandwith.

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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?

Very used here. Phone cards are sold at any time of the day/night everywhere. Not cheap. Better to get a subscription depending on your usage.

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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?

No.

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

Vets are good. I don't know about kennels, people use staff or friends.

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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?

None. Jobs exists for expats but few and very poorly paid.

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

Simple among expat. Senegalese women are very well dressed (feels over dressed sometimes).

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Health & Safety:

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

Seems good because we are near the ocean, otherwise cars are not well tuned.

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

Theft.

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

Avoid malaria mosquitos. Very good French & Lebanese doctors, or Senegalese doctors trained & certified in France.

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

Very good climate. Rainy season (July to Oct) means it MIGHT rain! It can take 7 days between each rain even in the rainy season. Strong wind (Harmattan) in January and February. October is the hottest month. December/January are the coldest (15 to 25 degree celsius depending on the years)

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Schools & Children:

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

Good experience with the Lycée Français (hard to get in if not previously in a French school or a French citizen). They will have brand new premises in September 2010.

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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?

Lots: French, bilingual or English.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fine.

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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?

Easy and common.

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

Very good city for all since there are lots of disco/restaurants and cheap nannies. But bad for the cultural minds: no cinema (some movies at French cultural center), one theater but programming is excessively weak.

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

Senegal does not want to recognize homosexuality. That said homo colleagues had no problems at all (as long as you don't kiss in the streets).

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

Very tolerant society for religion.

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

Bandia, Accrobaobab, buggies, horseback riding, swimming, tennis. Visit St Louis, Lac Rose, Bassari country, Casamance, Sine Saloum, etc.

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

Wood or leather items. Custom made clothing.

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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 but 2 years is enough to get the picture.

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

Taste for cleanliness and timely matters.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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