Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 09/18/18
Personal Experiences from Kampala, Uganda
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
West Coast, US. I think 25 hours is the shortest but it is usually longer. You usually fly through Brussels and then have one or two stops in the US.
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?
Many of the houses are pretty large and look nice at first glance, but seem to have a host of issues. Depending on the random housing assignment that is thrown your way you can live anywhere from 10-30 minutes from the embassy without traffic (pro-tip there is always traffic and 20 minute drives can turn into 2+ hour drives). We have had a host of plumbing and power issues that are made worse by a housing and maintenance department who are often need multiple trips to your home to repair things. The houses just aren't built well so there always seem to be problems. We've had people shocked in their showers from electrical issues, people with constant mold in their cupboards and closets and most people have had at least one pipe burst in their home. Again, the houses and some of the yards are very big which is cool.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
A lot of things are available in Kampala but you pay the price for having good food. Items can be available for a few weeks and then gone for months or forever. Most people stock up on things and freeze them when they're available and then order a lot through DPO. Quality of many foods like meat and dairy is questionable. The quality of meat and dairy has caused me to cut them out almost entirely.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Toilet paper, laundry detergents, and lots of food items. You can order a lot through Amazon or smilier places but I think it's more expensive than if you had shipped it. We also lost our consumables for this post.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a variety of food-Indian, Chinese, Italian, American ish, KFC, and Pizza Hut. The Indian food here is good and the others are ok.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
You have to have maintenance do a semi-routine treatment for ants and cockroaches. Lizards and little jumping spiders are common but most people allow them to stay to help with mosquitoes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO or pouch. We only use the embassy mailing services.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A lot of people have gardeners, housekeepers and drivers. Average daily rate for housekeepers was US$10.50/day in 2016 and about $10.00/day for gardeners and drivers.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are some gyms available but most are very expensive. For those living in the apartment there is a small gym. The warehouse has a gym but I've heard it is really dirty. Many people have trainers come to their homes or go to group classes. Group classes are usually US$6.55/class and personal training is usually around US$7.85/session.
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?
We use cash for everything and only use certain ATMs. The ATM fees are close to US$8 and our embassy recently changed their check cashing so getting cash has become more expensive.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We aren't allowed to use public transport. We do have uber but they won't use their map, can't find you, run out of gas and don't use air conditioning so it can be a struggle.
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?
A car that is prepared to off road on city streets. We have tons of potholes and the streets flood up to 3 feet deep or so in some areas. There are a lot of car break ins and people will also steal little things from the outside of the car if they aren't riveted.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is a constant topic of conversation at post. Internet is expensive, I think around US$135/month but that is not unlimited and if you stream it won't last you a month. We also have experienced outages and the company we purchase from will often downgrade the internet plan without notice.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Many people will get a phone that can take 2 sim cards. I have my US plan and also have a cheap phone with minutes that I use for local calls. Phone companies here will send spam text ads to your phone constantly.
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?
There are some vets. Many make house call which would be convenient if they came at the scheduled time...
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?
Most people work at the embassy now that the hiring freeze is over. Local salaries make it so it isn't really worth it to work, but we do have a bilateral work agreement. If a spouse has experience in development or NGO work they might be able to find a decent or interesting job.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Oddly, it is very hard to find volunteer opportunities.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Less casual than other embassies. In public places you can wear normal clothes, but women will get some stares if they wear shorts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Absolutely!!! People have had things stolen from their homes and cars (I've heard sometimes by staff or guards).
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
A lot of people have constant diarrhea and/or bouts of food poisoning. Most people exercise less here because of the air quality and heat. I would say the heat and air quality also lead to a greater level of fatigue. There is a med unit which will refer people out for minor things but if you have any serious issue you would get flown out.
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?
BAD! Air quality absolutely has an impact on health and makes it hard to enjoy being outside within the city and hard to exercise. Not sure if the quality is seasonal but a lot of people have allergies here.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You can basically never eat out because places aren't accommodating of that kind of issue.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
There are definitely a fair number of people who seem to suffer from alcoholism and depression but I couldn't comment on that in comparison to other posts.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There are dry and rainy seasons here, but it's always hot.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Friends with kids seem to like ISU and Ambrosoli. Our friends with young kids have little playgroups with other expats' kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Kampala has a big expat community because of the diplomatic missions and NGOs. Morale has been low because of the hiring freeze .
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 activities are going out for dinners and drinks with friends or to people's houses. Some people do tennis or rock climbing.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it would be tough to be single here. For couples it's boring. People with families seem to like this post best. I think for those with kids the schools, affordable help, and overall affordability is nice.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender equality is a very serious issue. I've heard there have been serial murders of women and women kidnapped for ransom and killed and that the crimes aren't investigated properly because it isn't a priority. There are definitely some religious prejudices.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
There are some fun regional travel opportunities. The national parks are cool but make for expensive trips.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectation of privacy, concept of rules on the road, and personal space bubble
3. But don't forget your:
Patience, sense of humor, and Imodium.