Freetown, Sierra Leone Report of what it's like to live there - 01/25/22

Personal Experiences from Freetown, Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone 01/25/22

Background:

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

No. I have lived overseas as an FSO for over a decade, with previous postings in East Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

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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?

New York. It usually takes 24-30 hours to get home. One of the biggest obstacles is the journey to the airport in Freetown, which requires a water taxi and the taxi usually gets travelers to the airport 4-5 hours before the flight. Most international flights to Europe, also require a stop in Conakry or Monrovia, making it a long journey.

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3. What years did you live here?

Eritrea, DRC, South Sudan, South Africa, Colombia, and the United Kingdom.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Expatriate housing is very large, but the quality of the housing can vary. Weather takes a toll on all construction in Sierra Leone, with leaks a common problem during rainy season. Water and electricity are also problems, and many expats rely on generators and water being delivered to houses. Commute times are not bad, as most diplomats live near their missions, but traffic in general can be bad if you need to get through the city during rush hour.

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

Quality and variety can be pretty limited at times. Most people pack consumables or do orders through IDS or Mano River. Also most expats bring back additional groceries in their luggage after international travel. There are a number of supermarkets in town, but you can't depend on them always what you need at any given time. That said, fish and seafood are always available and comparatively cheap.

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

I shipped what I needed, but recommend bringing good coffee, tortilla chips, quinoa, and other western or ethnic food food you like. Although there are a number of Chinese grocery stores that are well stocked with Chinese ingredients. Also recommend bringing cleaning supplies and personal products.

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

There are a few good restaurants in town and some delivery services, but they are not always dependable. There is good pizza (Gigibonta) and decent Indian and Chinese. There is also great seafood, including at Franco's, Paul's, Lagoonda. And plenty of Lebanese food throughout the city, including YSC, Country Lodge and Olba.

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

Some people have had problems with ants and rodents, but thus far nothing major.

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Daily Life:

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

Through diplomatic 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?

About $100-200 a month.

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

There are a few gyms, but most of use the small facility at our mission. A number of hotels do have gyms that other expats use for a reasonable fee.

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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?

No. You can use them at major restaurants or hotels, but not everywhere. They are no ATMs I would recommend using.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very little. A few phrases is helpful. Yes there are tutors available.

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

Yes, most restaurants and homes are not very accessible and side walks are treacherous where they exist.

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Transportation:

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

Not really. Some expats use ocados (motorcycles) or kks, but neither are very safe.

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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?

Definitely an SUV as many roads including the main one to the beach are not paved.

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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?

There is high speed internet available, but service varies day to day.

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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?

Some telecommute and there are some jobs available at diplomatic missions.

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

Business or smart casual for work and evenings, casual on weekends

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is high along Lumley Beach where there are many restaurants. Most diplomatic residences and compounds give 24/7 security.

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

Yes. There are a number of health concerns, including malaria. There are a number of hospitals and clinics, and most serious accidents or illness would require a medical evacuation.

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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?

Not good in the dry season with the harmattan and burning garbage.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are nuts in most local dishes. Allergies can be very bad during the dry season with the harmattan dust.

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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 to Very hot. Rainy season lasts June-November.

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Expat Life:

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

There is a medium-size expat community. Overall morale is good among expatriates and there is generally always something social on weekends if you are interested.

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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?

Most expats spend time at one of the beaches over the weekends. There are also a number of expat sports groups, including running, hiking, football, hockey and water polo. Almost all have whatsapp groups for coordination. There is also one golf course that a few expats belong to. Tacugama also puts on a number of activities that many expats attend. There are yoga retreats and a number of day outings organized by IPC travel.

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

Overall, it is good for single people and families, but you have to make an effort to get out and meet people.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No. It is easy to make friends with expats, but harder to make real local friends. You have to make an effort.

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

It is okay. Probably not great.

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

There are some political tensions, that are connected to party affiliations and regional ties.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beach, seafood, and outdoor activities.

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

Visiting Banana Island, Tacugama, and spending time at one of the many amazing beaches.

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

Not really. You can buy a lot of great fabric and some crafts, but I would not say it is a shopping post.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I would have brought a car.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. I have really enjoyed it.

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

Winter coat.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock, tennis racket, golf clubs, and beach gear.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Anything by Aminatta Forna. The Heart of the Matter, Graham Green. Probably should rewwatch Blood Diamond.

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