Freetown, Sierra Leone Report of what it's like to live there - 08/12/13
Personal Experiences from Freetown, Sierra Leone
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, between work and holiday, we've been to every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
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?
It's seems so close on the map....yet so far. To get out of Freetown, you have to take a boat, to a bus, to the airplane, to one of 3 cities they fly to, connect in a first world country then fly to the States. It takes no less than 15 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
We have lived here over a year since 2012.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My family moved here as a tour within the Department of State's Foreign Service.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Well, for Western standards, you'll pay dearly. Running water and electricity are not standard amentities. Traffic to the "suburbs" is bad during rush hour. Probably because the roads are horrible and the pot holes are massive.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Western items are available at a premium price.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Bring your own generator, solar lights and uninterrupted power sources.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos kill! Malaria is a real danger of this tropical environment.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Negative. DHL only.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap..but watch out for mischief and thieves.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
AVOID AT ALL TIMES.
4. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This place is not built for people living with disabilities. Strangely enough, there are many disabled people here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
While local transport is cheap, it's dangerous.
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?
Only AWD or FWD high clearance vehicles.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High Speed? That's the overstatment of the century. Even though a high speed cable has been coming for years, it's still not active. 512KB is about the best you can do and it's extremely expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You can find cell phones everywhere. Everyone has one.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
This is a very tolerant Muslim society. I've seen modest dress to skanky outfits on the same block.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The roads and driving conditions are horrible. Drive with extreme caution. Crimes of opportunity happen all the time, just use good sense.
2. 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 unhealthy on the roads. Most cars emit smoke and fumes. Locals love to burn trees and trash. At the beaches, it's a coastal breeze that saves the day.
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's a nice temperature year-round and doesn't vary much. But the humidity and rainy season causes mold, mildew and can trigger respritory issues.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Fairly decent. Many embassies are present.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I wouldn't suggest it for the faint of heart. If you don't like camping "boy scout" style, don't come here. For children, plan on a tutor or online learning modules. For singles - one word - AIDS. For couples, prostitution is cheap so watch out for the wayward spouse.
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Highlights - the fruit and vegatables are fresh and generally cheap. Just make sure to clean/sanitize prior to eating.
4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Advantages...well, there aren't many. The dollar goes a little further than normal but that's always subject to bribery, fake tariffs and extortion. The beaches are beautiful and the mountain scenery is majestic.
5. Can you save money?
Of course. Even with a cook and domestic help, you can still save.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No. I hope to never return.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Fear, shyness and benefit of doubt.
3. But don't forget your:
Everything. Anything worth buying here is expensive.