Juba, South Sudan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/26/23

Personal Experiences from Juba, South Sudan

Juba, South Sudan 03/26/23


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

This was my tenth overseas posting as a diplomat. Previous postings across the globe, including Western Europe, war zones, and everything in between.

View All Answers

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?

Home base is Washington, DC. It's surprisingly easy to get to Juba, with a direct flight to Addis on Ethiopian Airlines and then a relatively short hop to Juba. The Juba airport is basically like an American Greyhound station. It is chaotic, with aggressive personnel who are always looking for a bribe. Don't try to navigate it without assistance from Embassy local staff.

View All Answers

3. How long have you lived here?

Six months.

View All Answers

4. What years did you live here?


View All Answers

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

U.S. Embassy

View All Answers

Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is on a residential compound in triple-wide shipping containers, stacked in twos, each with a screened porch. They are surprisingly nice, with a living room, small dining area, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Air conditioning and hot water are great. The compound is about a 10-minute walk from the Embassy, and there is also a shuttle service (which is nice during rainy or particularly hot days). The compound is infinitely more pleasant than the rest of the city and quite comfortable. It sort of feels like a summer camp.

There is a pretty good subsidized cafeteria on the compound where almost everyone eats. The menu is necessarily limited, but they try to mix it up with specials and themed nights. This is the social center of the compound, as everyone eats there and it is adjacent to the swimming pool and pool table.

View All Answers

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

There is a shockingly modern grocery store (run by Lebanese) just a short walk from the Embassy. Selection is limited and prices are high, but I was really surprised to find anything of that quality in South Sudan. There are three other decent (predominantly Asian) groceries in Juba, and the Embassy has a shopping shuttle on the weekend to all four. Between them, you can get an okay range of produce, canned goods, cheese, yogurt, etc. However, many people (myself included) shopped only for snacks and ate all meals at the cafeteria.

View All Answers

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

Shipments and storage are limited, so it's not wise to ship a great deal. I would say primarily toiletries if you are wedded to certain brands, although there are decent alternatives locally. Cleaning and laundry services are provided, so there's no need to include any of those items.

View All Answers

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

There is almost nothing. There is a decent Italian restaurant and a large spot on the Nile that is popular with expats. However, any trips to these places must be approved in advance by the RSO.

View All Answers

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

Mosquitoes are a major problem. Malaria prophylaxis is essential, and everyone sleeps with nets.

View All Answers

Daily Life:

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

There is an incoming pouch, but no outgoing mail service. Deliveries from the U.S. take 4-6 weeks and often get stuck somewhere along the way.

View All Answers

2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cleaning and laundry service are provided free of charge on the compound, which is a fantastic benefit.

View All Answers

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

There is a reasonably large and well-equipped gym. There is a huge cadre of military types in Juba, along with the Marines, so fitness facilities are a must.

View All Answers

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 to all. This is a cash society, although there is little to spend it on. Checks can be cashed at the Embassy.

View All Answers

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

Irrelevant, because they are off-limits to Embassy personnel.

View All Answers

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

Interactions are generally limited to local staff at the Embassy, all of whom speak good English, and other expats.

View All Answers

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

A person with disabilities should avoid this post completely.

View All Answers


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

I'm sure they are unsafe, but we are only allowed to travel in motor pool vehicles.

View All Answers

2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

Irrelevant. All travel is in motor pool vehicles and cars cannot be shipped to post.

View All Answers

Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Home internet is provided free of charge and is good enough for most purposes, although I don't think it could handle sophisticated games.

View All Answers

2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The only phones are those provided by the Embassy.

View All Answers

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?

There is currently only one EFM position in the Community Liaison Office (CLO), which was recently created. Otherwise, this is an unaccompanied post.

View All Answers

2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not volunteer opportunities per se, but a group of Embassy personnel visits a local orphanage every week.

View All Answers

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

Business casual. Tie and jacket are appropriate for meetings with government officials, but a suit would never be required.

View All Answers

Health & Safety:

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

Given the fact that we are so restricted in terms of movement, we really aren't exposed to crime or danger. However, the threat of civil unrest is ever-present and there is a sense that violence could erupt at any moment. There are frequent shootings in the city, but expats are not a target. It's more a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Movement is severely restricted due to the instability of the political situation and the resulting possibility of civil unrest. The police are corrupt and seem unable or unwilling to keep things under control.

View All Answers

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

There is a small health unit with a very good nurse. There is also a surprisingly good private clinic with which the Embassy has a good relationship, with an excellent expat doctor and nurse. However, anything serious would definitely require a medevac.

Juba has all of the typical tropical diseases and the usual precautions must be taken. Mosquitoes are a big problem and the compound is sprayed regularly to keep them under control.

View All Answers

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?

Since there is little manufacturing or industry, the air in Juba is quite clean.

View All Answers

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

The cafeteria is not able to cater to most food allergies or preferences, particularly gluten and lactose intolerance. Those with severe or numerous food allergies may want to avoid Juba altogether, since food choices are going to be very limited.

View All Answers

5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Compound living and life in a fishbowl is not for everyone. The workload in Juba is punishing, and supervisors tend to expect people to work a lot of overtime, since there is nothing else to do. It's not uncommon for supervisors to disturb employees at "home" on the compound, which means there is no delineation between on and off duty. It's essential to find ways for quiet downtime.

View All Answers

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

Hot and human or hot and rainy. There's nothing else.

View All Answers

Expat Life:

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

The expat community in Juba is enormous and very well-connected. The vast majority are with NGOs and various aid organizations, so the expat community feels different than at Embassies in more developed countries. They tend to be younger and party very hard. (That is of course a generalization, but I find it to be true.). The Embassy residential compound is the hottest ticket in town because we have the best facilities, so many Embassy personnel host other expats at the compound.

In my opinion, morale at the Embassy is low. The workload is crushing and there is a lack of leisure activities. The primary benefit is that friendships tend to be quickly made, given that we work, eat, live and play together--but that lack of personal space can also be overwhelming at times.

On major drain on morale in Juba is the tense relationship between agencies at post. There appears to be a lot of competition, and as a result, cliques have developed and there is snubbing.

View All Answers

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?

See above.

View All Answers

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

It's an unaccompanied post, so everyone is geographically single. That puts everyone on equal footing, which makes it relatively easy to meet people and socialize.

View All Answers

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

Impossible given our isolation. I've become friendly with some of my local staff, but the power imbalance makes it extremely difficult to develop a true friendship. However, I've learned a great deal about the country and its culture from them and really enjoy interacting with them.

View All Answers

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

There seem to be quite a few among the NGOs, but any socializing is strictly within the expat community.

View All Answers

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

Tribal divisions are very real, including within the Embassy, with constant accusations that certain tribes are preferred in the hiring process and others are discriminated against. I can't say whether it's true, but just the perception can make things quite tense.

View All Answers

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

Meeting the local staff members has been the highlight, followed by some close friendships made thanks to compound living. A boat trip on the Nile was definitely one of the best experiences of my time in Juba.

View All Answers

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

None; no

View All Answers

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

There are some interesting handicrafts and artwork. The Embassy organizes occasional craft fairs and art shows where local vendors bring their items to the compound, which is nice because we can't shop locally. I haven't found a great number of things I really want to buy, but I'll definitely leave with a few trinkets to remind me of Juba.

View All Answers

10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The money. Between hardship, danger and overtime differential, we make a fortune, and there is very little to spend it on. I have saved a bundle here.

View All Answers

Words of Wisdom:

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

Strategic priorities seem to be set by another agency at post, and this can cause divisions. Those with State end up feeling dismissed.

View All Answers

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

Yes. Not because it has been enjoyable in the traditional sense of an overseas posting. However, it has been very interesting and worthwhile to learn about South Sudan, the newest country in the world. I knew next to nothing about it before being posted here, and I'm very glad I had the opportunity. Make not mistake, however--this is a very tough gig, and you earn every penny you make here.

View All Answers

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

Nice clothes, family.

View All Answers

4. But don't forget your:

Books. I read a book a week during my time in Juba, since there was nothing else to do. That was wonderful, because I usually don't hve that kind of time. Also, bring anything that will make your dreary container feel a bit more like home.

View All Answers

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More