Banjul, The Gambia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/16/15
Personal Experiences from Banjul, The Gambia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I have lived in Caracas, Venezuela before.
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?
Washington, D.C. Brussels Airlines through Brussels to DC. About 1 day of travel.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most people live in Fajara, Bijilo or Brufut. Nobody lives in Banjul. Depending on where you live, commute times might be around 30 minutes as you try finding your way through the many taxis, donkey carts, etc. driving on the road.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fruits and veggies are cheap, but there is an increasing inflation. Regular groceries are about what they cost in the US. But milk, jogurt, cheese, and meat are pretty expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Oils, beer, mosquito spray, sunscreen.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are some great restaurants. My favorite ones are: Ngala Lodge, Sambas's Kitchen, Scala, Butchershop, Gida's Garden, Gaya Art CafÃ©, Seashells, Thai restuarant at Coco Ocean.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes carrying Malaria, spiders,...
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy pouch. There is also a DHL office.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Plenty are available but with very limited skills. Be prepared to teach them how you want things done. Very affordable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Elite gym has classes. Costs are moderate
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?
Never used them.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are several Christian services: Catholic, non-denominational, etc.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are a lot of people in wheelchairs, but I have no idea how they are doing it. There are few paved roads, no sidewalks, and plenty of sand roads.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Green taxis are okay. Watch your valuables in mini buses.
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?
An SUV makes sense. American models are difficult to sell.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We used Africell and it was good service. Prepaid cards and internet as you go.
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. There is a great German vet: Mischa Meyer.
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?
Not if you expect a decent salary.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty. Orphanages, school, hospitals, etc.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business at work. In public just use common sense. Cover up if you come from the beach.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
If you are careful, it is very safe. Common sense goes a long way. There are plenty of beach bumsters, but if you bring children with you or tell them you are not a tourist, they will usually leave you alone. I drove everywhere by myself and had never any problems. I felt safer there than in most other countries.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Many. Malaria is the biggest problem, so take your antimalarials. Most Europeans don't take them, but several of them died while we were there. There is a new Africmed clinic at Turntable which seems okay. The Sharab clinic is also good. Anything major needs a medevac to Dakar or UK.
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?
Good, unless it is Harmattan. The locals like to burn their trash on the road.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Most local cooking is done with peanut oil or peanuts.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Dry season from November to May. Rainy season with high humidity from June to October
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Banjul American Embassy School is a very small school, but there is currently a great director. Not a lot of resources, but it is fine for the younger grades.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not sure, but there were several children with special needs.
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?
Yes, there are. Costs are moderate.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Not many: Yoga, soccer, karate, Capoeira, Swimming...
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very small. Be prepared to see everyone all the time. Morale is good.
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?
Going out with friends to a nice restaurant. A day at the beach. A child's birthday party. Hanging out at the Fajara club.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a wonderful post for families or couples. The community is very small, so I think it would be hard for singles. There are several night clubs.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. The government is very hostile to this community.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
While this is a Muslim country, Christians don't have any problems, and it is mostly peaceful. Local women have it hard.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Beaches, beaches, beaches.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Monkeypark, Wassu stone circles, camel riding on the beach, chimpanzee island, World cultural heritage James Island, Juffurre,...
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are some craft markets and a couple of great painters.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beautiful weather from October to June, amazing beaches, the friendliest people in the world, barely any crime, great restaurants,
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How great of a time we would have there. How lovely the people are. How much I would miss the place.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a heartbeat. I love the place and the people!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Malarone and sunscreen.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Do you have any other comments?
I hope I can go back there one day.