Gaborone, Botswana Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Gaborone, Botswana

Gaborone, Botswana 07/18/19

Background:

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

No, I previously lived in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (DOS), and Augsburg, Germany (U.S. Army).

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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?

My hometown is St. Paul, MN. Everyone flies through Johannesburg and from there I would take the Delta flight to Atlanta then on to Minneapolis or Washington DC depending on where I needed to go. It usually took 25-30 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived in Gaborone from 2015 to 2018.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I was in a nice four bedroom (one bedroom set up as an office) house with a decent kitchen, pool, and a two-car detached garage. It was very comfortable. As stated by others there were a few really bad houses in the pool but 70%-80% of them were good. Housing was improving the housing pool, too.

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

I did this tour right after Tajikistan which was a 30% hardship post. I thought the selection of groceries here was pretty good although it was definitely better in South Africa (basically same as the US). Johannesburg was 4 1/2 hours away so you could always go there or go to Rustenburg (3 hours away) for better groceries. Sometimes you couldn't find specific items you liked or wanted.

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

I didn't ship anything and did not feel like it was necessary.

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

When I first got there the only pizza place was Debonnaire's (which was not great). In 2017 they opened up several Pizza Huts. Delivery always took awhile as did service at a regular restaurant, but it was great having Pizza Hut pizza. There was an Indian restaurant named Embassy at the mall that was good. Caravella's was a good Portuguese restaurant in a house that had live music on the weekend. Main Deck on the old main street area had some good bar food. The Daily Grind and Sanitas were my favorite places. They were the best restaurants in the city. Basilicos was expensive, but had some good Italian food. Eastern Crescent had great, really authentic, inexpensive Chinese food and is another of the best restaurants in the city. There were another 5-10 decent restaurants in the city as well.

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

The occasional ants and mosquitos were present but nothing too bad. Some people had snakes and scorpions but that was pretty rare. Almost everyone had a lizard or two, but they ate the bugs.

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Daily Life:

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

I used the DPO.

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

I had a couple come twice a week for housekeeping and gardening and they stayed about 4 hours each visit. I paid US$200 a month.

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

There was a small Embassy gym and a couple of decent gyms in town. Jack's Gym was by the Embassy and Virgin Gym was at the mall by the airport.

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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?

I had no problem with ATMs.

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

There were some but I did not attend there. Some of my friends that attended said they were frequently asked to lend money to other parishioners.

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

Everyone speaks English.

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

It is doable. They actually do have some ramps and other things.

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Transportation:

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

Use a personal driver. It is cheap and a lot easier. The CLO has a list of people.

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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?

You can bring anything but if you want to safari or camp you will want a 4 wheel drive.

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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?

Internet was mediocre. BBI was my provider and they were okay. You could usually stream video.

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

I used the Embassy phone.

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Pets:

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?

I did not have a pet but lots of people had dogs and cats. Some people bought dogs there from breeders.

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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?

All the spouses either worked remotely (difficult with the internet) or for the Embassy.

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

FSOs wore suits and specialists wore business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

There was crime but if you are careful you should not have any major issues. Keep your doors locked in a vehicle because they do open doors to grab purses. It is very rare for there to be violent crime against expats but home invasions are becoming more prevalent for some of the local staff to deal with.

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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?

Embassy heath care was poor. Other people have detailed this pretty accurately. I had some health issues I was concerned about and I did not care for the local doctor the Embassy employed.

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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?

Air quality was pretty good.

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

I did not have any allergies there. The climate is a lot like Arizona.

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

Only seasonal boredom disorder when you aren't taking enough regional trips.

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

Hot and dry, but nice in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have no direct experience but everyone said the high school was not good.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The people that had kids seemed to find a fair amount of activities. Some of them had horseback riding and stuff like that.

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Expat Life:

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

Morale was not good but it really should have been better. The city is fairly boring but the regional trips are spectacular. Work at the Embassy was fairly quiet and boring. There was a medium sized expat community and about 70 or so Americans at Post.

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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?

There were several people at the Embassy that threw a lot of parties. Some people did a lot of camping.

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

I think it would be best for families with young kids. You would have plenty of time to spend with your family. Dating was not good for single guys and even worse for women. It's my understanding there was a high AIDS rate there.

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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?

As has been stated before I never had my bags searched at the grocery store or other places, but all of the black Americans were always being stopped. It was weird seeing black Americans being treated worse in a country that was 98% black.

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

The regional trips in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were spectacular. I went to the Okavongo Delta for a trip which was expensive but something you have to do once. I stayed at Oddball's Camp which wasn't too horrendously expensive using resident and off season rates. Being poled around in a mokoro (dugout canoe) from island to island seeing incredible bird life, crocs, hippos, and all the other African wildlife was absolutely incredible. Madikwe which was right across the border from Gaborone in South Africa was the best place for safari. I stayed at Etali Lodge and we would be 20 feet or less from all the big five and lots of other wildlife. I only took one trip to Kruger which was about a 12 hour drive away but it was spectacular. Tuli Block in Botswana is the best place for leopard spotting (5 in 4 days including babies). Chobe is a great place to go (about a 9 hour drive from Gaborone). Stay in a hotel in Kasane and self drive. This will give you a great, inexpensive safari experience. Don't forget to do a boat ride on the Chobe River. It is another incredible experience. I also saw Victoria Falls, Cape Town, and Underberg (Drakensberg Mountains) which were all spectacular. I did some camping in South Africa along the Botswana border and other trips. All of my trips there were great fun.

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

I wouldn't call it a hidden gem but my favorite thing to do near Gaborone was visit Etali Lodge at Madikwe and go on Safari. You could go there for the day and for about $75 a person get a great breakfast, 2 1/2 to 3 hour safari, and a great lunch then drive back to Gaborone. You rented the entire safari vehicle so just get 4 or 5 friends from the Embassy and have a blast.

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

Botswana had some nice woven baskets and pottery but most of the best African handicrafts came from surrounding posts.

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

Nothing in the city was a particular advantage. It was pretty clean for an African city and stuff mostly worked.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I did some research before I came and I was coming from a 30% hardship post so overall it was a big improvement. Nothing goes on at the Embassy so it is pretty boring working there unless you are working on wildlife issues.

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

Yes, I was very bored when I was just stuck in the city but the regional trips were fantastic. Get out of the city. Go on Safari. See the incredible countryside in South Africa, Zambia, and Namibia and you will have a much better tour.

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

Yak trax.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure! The only ski resort in Africa is in the Drakensberg Mountains about a 9 or 10 hour drive from Gaborone, so you could actually take your skis.

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

Everyone said the #1 Ladies Detective Agency. I have never read the books, but I thought I would continue with the tradition. My bet is that no one who recommended the series read it either :-).

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Southern Africa is really special. I had some incredible adventures. I think Namibia or South Africa would be better posts than Gaborone but Gaborone was not bad. At times I was bored and discontent when I was only in the city with nothing to do but now that I have been gone for a year I realize how amazing the things I did were and as much as I did do I wish I had done more. I would probably not go back to Gaborone, but I would go back to the region, particularly Namibia.

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Gaborone, Botswana 04/30/17

Background:

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

This was my fifth overseas assignment with State Department, my second in Africa. I served previously in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Madrid, Spain, Chisinau, Moldova, and Tel Aviv, Israel. In addition, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lithuania.

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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?

I'm from Los Angeles, California. Many people take the 16+ hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. I did that once and swore that I would never do it again. I prefer to fly LA to Frankfurt, overnight there, and fly the next day from Frankfurt to Johannesburg. From Joburg to Gaborone the flight is only 55 minutes long and there are 12 or 13 flights daily.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived in Gaborone for three years.

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

Assigned to the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I would say that two-thirds of the housing pool is good, one-third really stinks for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately mine was one of the latter. I'm a guy and I don't cry much, but the day I arrived and was brought to my new home I cried. Most of the housing at post is pretty nice but I guess I drew the short straw being a single guy and only an FS-03.



Other units in the housing pool were quite spacious and lovely, and just about every house had a swimming pool. Keep in mind that a pool is a great luxury if you or your family actually use it, but it's a expensive burden if you don't. Generally I would say that a small majority of the community was happy with their housing.



Gaborone is a small town, so commute times were never excessive, no matter where you lived. About 1/3 of the housing was within walking distance to the embassy, but I don't think many people walked to work regularly. One of my colleagues biked to work regularly, but Gaborone isn't a real safe city to bike around. There are no bike paths and streets and sidewalks often have potholes or open manholes. There is some great mountain biking on the outskirts of Gabs, so definitely bring a bike. I just don't recommend bike riding through the city streets.

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

Groceries are not cheap in Botswana but not expensive either. In Gaborone you can find everything you need, just maybe not everything you want. I imagine it is more difficult to grocery items outside of Gaborone or other major towns.

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

I can't think of anything specific, but since this post has no DPO, it is a good idea to review diplomatic pouch restrictions and plan accordingly. The big concerns are liquids and electronic items with lithium Ion batteries.

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

The only food delivery I am aware of is a pizza chain called "Debonair." I thought their Pizza was OK, but I think most Americans did not think it was good.



There were quite a few fast food places that offered take-out. If you are into Fried Chicken then this is your post. There seems to be two or three fried chicken places in every mall. There is also a popular Thai fast food chain that opened a few years back (2 locations). Fast-food hamburgers are in very short supply in Gabs. A South African chain called Steers has one location in Gabs. There burgers are pretty good, but they seem always very crowded, and service is slow.

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

There are a lot of mosquitoes at certain times of the year, but fortunately there hasn't been malaria in Gaborone.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch. The Embassy does not have a DPO.



If you are not attached to the U.S. Embassy, mail service is pretty unreliable and inadequate. The Botswana Post office does not deliver to residences no matter where you live. If you want to receive mail you must rent a PO Box. Valuable items often do not reach their destination.

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

Very available, very inexpensive. My housekeeper worked for me 14 hours a week (two 7 hour days) and I paid her $120 per month.

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

The US Embassy has a small but adequate gym off-compound. There are also several nice membership gyms around town.



The embassy gym costs $250 per year for a family or $150 per year for an individual. I don't know the pricing of the membership gyms.

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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?

Yes. I used my credit card at gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets regularly and never had issues. Be very careful, though, when visiting neighboring countries, particularly South Africa.

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

I only attended some local Christian churches (Baptist or non denominational). I know that Latter Day Saints is also very active, and Seventh Day Adventist. If you are Jewish you are out of luck. I don't think there are any synagogues in Botswana, although have run into a handful of Israelis so maybe there are some Jewish services that I am not aware of.

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

In Gaborone, and other urban areas of the country English is spoken by everyone.

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

It is always difficult for people with physical disabilities, but, in general, I think Gaborone might be easier for people with disabilities than most places. It seems to me that many public places have made accommodations like handicapped parking spaces and access ramps for disabled people.



That said, I might have a totally different perspective if I spent a day or two pushing around someone in a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable, yes. Safe, no. Long-distance buses are frequently involved in major accidents. Minibuses around town are overcrowded, and not well maintained. The drivers are distracted with collecting money and scanning the roadsides for additional passengers.

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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?

An SUV is best if you want to go on safaris. Driving is on the left hand side of the road, but it is permissible to import vehicles with steering wheels on the left hand side. I imported an American vehicle (steering on the left) and found this situation to be of minimal inconvenience. There was one paid parking garage that I frequented where I would have to climb over the passenger seat to get the ticket, but other than this having a vehicle with steering on the left was a total non issue. People often say that overtaking another vehicle on a dual lane road can be more difficult, but I never found this to be problematic.

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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?

This is a huge issue. In Botswana, internet service is very expensive and very bad. All the internet service providers in Botswana are inadequate, but Botswana Telecommunications Corp (BTC) is more inadequate than the rest. STAY AWAY FROM BTC!! Other ISPs also have frequent outages and service issues, but at least when you phone them and complain they are responsive and do their best to address the problem. BTC will not even answer their phones. Broadband Botswana Internet (BBI) has a special plan for US Embassy employees, and is the provider that most embassy staff was using (as of 2017). OPQ is another provider which the US Embassy frequently works with.

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

Local provider. Both Malcom and Orange seem to have good service at competitive prices. I would avoid beMOBILE.

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Pets:

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?

I had a very good vet for my dog. I think there are many quality vets in town and around the country. In Botswana I often think the healthcare for pets is better than health care for humans.

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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?

Local employment outside the embassy is pretty rare. There are a few EFM jobs with the US Embassy, but not enough.



People who have their own internet-based businesses have suffered with the poor quality of the local internet services.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

SPCA is pretty popular, as well as some orphanages.

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

Suit and tie for those that work with the public.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are a lot of break-ins and home invasions, often at knife point. Walking around Gabs during the day seems safe. I took my dog for a walk daily and never felt in the least bit threatened.

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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?

The US Embassy and the Department of State have totally failed (FAILED!) to provide "the best possible" (or even adequate) health care to the State Department employees, in my opinion. There is no Foreign Service Health Practitioner at Post and the local doctor that the embassy has contracted is totally untrustworthy and incompetent. In addition, the doctors that are listed on the Local Medical Assistance section of the Embassy's website, and those that the Health Unit sends its employees to have horrible reputations, and to appear to recommended more because they are personal friends of the locally contracted doctor rather than their abilities.



In my view, the Department has turned Embassy Gaborone's proximity to Pretoria (a 5-hour drive) into a disadvantage. Issues that at other posts would warrant a medical evacuation, are not granted one from Gaborone. Essentially MED has taken a very liberal view of the term "local provider" ands deemed services available in Pretoria as locally available, and the patient is on their own to travel to Pretoria and pay for associated travel and lodging.



Many employees of the U.S. Embassy in Gaborone forgo the services offered by the Embassy Health Unit and utilize local doctors. This is one oasis in the midst of a very bad situation. There are some very good family doctors in Gaborone and elsewhere in Botswana. Ask your colleagues or the Community Liaison Office who they recommend. It is a bit odd to be working around the Embassy Health unit, but that is the unfortunate situation at this post.

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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?

Good.

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

It is sunny in Botswana year-round.

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

I don't know of any mental health issues, but I think morale at post is rather poor. Many would prefer this to be a two-year assignment rather than a three year tour. This isn't a matter of hardship as Botswana is pretty well-developed and modern. It is just that both personally and professionally, this his not a place to be long term. Gaborone is a pretty boring place, and the issues being addressed here are not critical to U.S. foreign policy. A lot of people would prefer to move on sooner rather than later from what I have observed.

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

The best way to describe the climate is dry. Many people have sinus issues because of how dry the climate is. The summer is hot and dry. The winters can get cool at night, but never too cold.

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Schools & Children:

1. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't have children, but I have heard from colleagues that the situation is challenging, but doable.

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Expat Life:

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

The U.S. Embassy has about 70-75 direct-hire Americans. Morale was not very high while I was there. Poor management at the embassy had a lot to do with that, so these factors could change quickly with new leadership. The Health Unit situation really dragged people down because it was an issue that should have been easy for management to resolve. The lack of a resolution appeared to demonstrated a lack of concern for the welfare of the community, in my opinion.



Unreliable home Internet was a local reality that certainly contributed to frustration and low morale. Hopefully local infrastructure improvements will resolve this issue soon. I heard there were issues with the schools that also draining, but I don't know first-hand about these problems.

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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?

Fortunately, when I lived in Gaborone, there were several families that I was friends with who like to entertain at home. Most things revolved around drinking alcohol. Around town, there wasn't a whole lot to do. There weren't many clubs or bars to hang out at or events going on around town, so entertaining at home was the main activity.

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

I am single, and I don't really feel this was a great post for single people. That said, I made the best of it. I never really saw any of my single colleagues dating Batswana. Even the Marines weren't intermingling with the locals. Some might say that this has to do with the very high HIV/AIDS rate among Batswana (25%). I am sure that has a lot to do with it, but I think there is also a cultural divide that I think is hard to overcome.



There is very little night life to speak of in Gaborone. This town closes up at 9:00 PM.

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

I don't think it would be a fun town for LGBT, but I do think it is a livable. The Batswana are more tolerant than most countries in Africa. There are no Pride parades but I don't think this community is persecuted.

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

My African American colleagues and friends told me that they were frequently victims of black on black prejudices. As a white male, I noticed that my bags were rarely checked by the person whose job it was to check every bag or cart as customers left the store. I didn't see any discrimination based on religion, but that certainly doesn't mean it didn't exist. Generally, it seems to me that Batswana are relatively tolerant people.



I understand there is a great deal of domestic violence at home. I imagine there is gender inequality in the workplace as well.

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

There is a lot to see in country and in surrounding countries. The Okavango Delta, Chobe Park, the salt pans, and many other incredible places to see wildlife are all must-see. Victoria Falls is just 50 KM from the Botswana border in Zimbabwe. In South Africa, Cape Town and the Western Cape are very beautiful.

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

The Gaborone Game Reserve is great!! It is a game reserve right in the middle of the city. It only cost $1 per person and $1 per vehicle, and you can drive around for hours. There are no big game there, but plenty of zebras, monkeys, warthogs, ostriches, and deer-like creatures. Bring a six pack of beer for you and you friends to drink at one of the picnic areas or game viewing blinds and you've got a great afternoon. You can also barbecue at the picnic areas, but watch your meat carefully, as monkeys will try to steal it right off the grill.

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

I don't really think of Gaborone as a "shopping post", but let's just say this is a "shopping assignment." Anyone assigned here will certainly pick up some beautiful and unique crafts and artwork along the way. It's almost unavoidable. Most of those crafts come from other places, and there is not a lot of great local crafts shopping in Gabs, but you will no doubt accumulate stuff.



There are cute LED solar lanterns made out of mason jars that people often buy here. They soak up the sun all day, and light your dining table at night.

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

It is close enough to Pretoria or Johannesburg that you could travel there frequently. Several of my colleagues went to Joburg every month.



Madikwe is a fantastic Game Park located just 45 minutes from Gabs.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If I had know about the health care situation at post I would never have come here. Again, this is not a Botswana problem. There are plenty of good doctors in Botswana. This situation is a failing of post and the Department. Someone going to Botswana unattached to the Embassy should have no issues finding competent health care providers in Gaborone.

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

No. The internet issue made the post too isolated, particularly since Gaborone was otherwise pretty boring. It is great to be able to visit the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, Chobe, and Cape Town, but perhaps it would make more sense to do all those things on a one month vacation rather than a three year assignment. Gaborone is not a great place to live for three years.

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3. But don't forget your:

Humidifiers. Get one for every bedroom. Maybe more than one.

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

The Movie "A United Kingdom" provides some historical background of the country.



The "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books, and TV series, though fiction, provide some cultural context.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Don't come here expecting to go on safari every weekend. The best places, like the Okavango Delta and Chobe, are a 10-14 hour drive from Gaborone, and ridiculously expensive. $1000 per night per person would be considered a bargain at many of the lodges. You will no doubt have some great trips during this tour, but it will not be your day to day reality unless you work on environmental issues, wildlife preservation, or tourism. I mention this because a factor contributing to the low morale at post is unrealistic expectations.

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Gaborone, Botswana 07/08/16

Background:

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

We have also lived in Mexico, Colombia, India, and Panama.

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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?

We are from California. We normally fly from Atlanta to Johannesburg - which is 14.5 hours there, 16.5 coming back to the U.S.! Add another hour to Gaborone. It's dreadful.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

We are a tandem couple working at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a 4 bedroom house in a small compound of 4 embassy houses. We have our own pool (also small) and garden. We have good storage space in the garage, but otherwise none. The bathrooms and closets are tiny! The house is without character, but perfectly suitable for us. A nice back patio to spend time in the wonderful Botswana climate.

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

You can find everything you need here - just not everything you want. It's not unusual to go to the store and you can't find tomatoes, or eggs. Or even bread! But it will be there tomorrow. You just have to get there when the truck from South Africa gets in. But if you're willing to look, you really can find almost anything. Costs are lower than US, but not cheap-cheap.

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

Baking items like cupcake wrappers and decorations.

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

There are several good restaurants in Gabs, and we go to the same ones often. Chinese, Indian, Italian. However there are no "great" restaurants. There just isn't the market. The great chefs are all up in the safari camps in the Delta. Fly to Cape Town (often) if you're a foodie.

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

There are a remarkable number of mosquitoes for such a dry place. Good thing they don't have malaria. Also flies are a real annoyance.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplamatic 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?

We pay about 250 USD for full-time care of three children and all housework. It's incredible.

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

The Embassy has a small but adequate gym at about 250 USD/year. There are modern gyms here with great facilities, but it will take a drive to get to them.

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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?

All are useful and safe.

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

Botswana is a very Christian country. Lots of English speaking churches of every denomination. There is also a sizable Muslim community. Others I'm not too sure about.

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

Very little. Very few expatriates speak Setswana.

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

Yes, but less than in other countries. There are designated parking spaces, and the US Embassy is accessible. One would have to research the accommodations to their specific needs.

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Transportation:

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

Local busses are crowded and probably not too safe. Calling cabs is safe, hailing not terrible but not great. Everything is affordable here, including car hire.

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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?

We have 2 cars, one Prado and a Toyota Prius. The city is fine for driving an economical car. Anywhere outside it's nice to have a little more clearance. Overall, the roads are good here. "Smash and grab" robberies are not uncommon - we are always encouraged to lock doors! Carjacking is unheard of though.

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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?

Internet is a problem - very very slow with low bandwidth. If you're planning to work from home take this into consideration. It works, it's just slow...

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Pets:

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 good vets and kennels. A lot of dog lovers here. We adopted a street dog here and she's been wonderful. t's expensive to get animals in and out (shipping) but can be done.

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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?

Spousal employment is virtually impossible. It is extremely hard to work on the local economy without some kind of "in." If your spouse is employed at a diplomatic mission and you have an "exemption" from work/residence permits, it's much easier. Without that, I've heard of spouses being unable to find even volunteer work. The U.S. Embassy has several good, substantive jobs for spouses.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many people volunteer at the pet shelter. There are also some children's charities.

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

People dress in business wear at the U.S. Embassy and Government of Botswana. It's not an overly conservative culture but people dress relatively modestly. Women can definitely get away with skirts above the knee and sleeveless shirts, especially in summer and in social situations. But business meetings are pretty formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

People should take typical security precautions. There are home break-ins. Keep valuables in safes. Always hide purses or other valuables in cars, and take care at stoplights at night - this is when people sometimes get "smash and grabs." Home alarms and barred windows/doors are recommended. Crime isn't as bad as South Africa but it does happen. I walk around the city during daylight often and feel very safe - as a woman I am never harassed. Still, one should always take common-sense precautions.

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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?

Botswana has one of the world's highest HIV prevalence rates. You'd be crazy not to take real precautions for that. There are a couple of good hospitals and high quality doctors, but people are regularly evacuated for things like appendicitis. Many expatriate women have their babies here. High risk or complicated issues though should be evacuated. Pretoria is nearby.


The U.S. Embassy does not have a full time practitioner. Many conditions are not evacuated and it is assumed people will take care of issues in Pretoria on their personal time, including mammograms, digestive issues, dental care. Many U.S. mission personnel get frustrated by this.

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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?

It's fine. It's a relatively small city - only 250k people.

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

I love the climate here. It is dry. Summers are very hot but dry heat, winters get all the way down to freezing, but by mid-day it's sunny and warm. Very comfortable. It rarely rains.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Schools are a big problem in Botswana. If you are with the U.S. mission you should contact the State Department Office of Overseas Schools before you decide to come here.


There have been improvements and if you're involved, your children can have a good education here. There are options. Find the right match for your kid and apply. The facilities are much poorer than any international school you've ever seen. They are much more "local" than international. (There are some good things about that.) Teachers are often poorly trained in things like classroom management. All schools struggle with attracting and keeping international teachers. Still, this need not be a deal breaker. You can make it work. You just have to work a lot with your kids and the school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Very little. There is a local Christian school with some well-trained special needs teachers. Otherwise there are very few services.

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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?

Pre-schools are probably better than other schools! There are many choices and most parents seem happy. Our daughter went to a Montessori school which we loved. Transportation is not provided though - this is a challenge.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Through the schools, yes. There are others, but transport is always the challenge. There is swimming, piano, Kumon, horseback riding, some crafts, but you are going to have to work out how to get them there.

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Expat Life:

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

Small but intimate. That is a nice thing about Botswana - we all seem to know each other.

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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?

In Gabs you have to "make your own fun." Dinners and parties at people's homes seem to be a large part of socializing. There are some lounges at night - they get a bit skanky after dark.

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

In my opinion it is not a good place for singles - but I'm married. The HIV prevalence must be a serious consideration when dating here. Having said that, Gabs has a well educated and sophisticated (and handsome!) population, so it's not impossible. Peace Corps Volunteers marry Batswana in droves! Singles tend to hang out together - and it's a great place to travel if you don't have to pay for children. So it's not terrible. This post is best for DINKs. If you have disposable income and a partner to safari with, you'll be in heaven.

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

Botswana is remarkably tolerant - especially considering the region it's in. Technically homosexuality is illegal, but Batswana are very tolerant and never prosecute. It's almost a "don't ask don't tell" society. There are a couple of prominent organizations who activate for LGBT rights. I think one could be comfortably gay here, but would have to be careful about displaying it.

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

I actually think this would be a great place to live as an African-American (full disclosure: I'm white). The country is 97% black, and a middle income country, so I love that my children's teaches, doctors, neighbors, are all black. I sometimes feel like my black colleagues get a little more welcome at representational events than me, though they tell me they have their own issues of people wondering where they're from, etc. Again, Botswana is wonderfully tolerant. You see Muslim dress, people of all racial groups, people seem to live and let live here. While it is a patriarchal culture that suffers from high levels of gender based violence, this doesn't seem to touch the expatriate community. I've had nothing but respect here as a woman. I've never once been harassed on the street - unusual compared to other locations.

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

Clearly the wildlife. There is truly nothing like the extraordinary experiences you can have on safari here. This is a once in a lifetime experience.

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

The Okavango Delta is one of the most spectacular places in the world. It should be on everyone's bucket list. The prices are also extraordinary. Doesn't matter. Save up and go. You will never regret it or forget it.

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

No. Many of the crafts here are imported from other countries. Don't bother. Spend your money on a good camera and go on safari instead.

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

Gaborone "Gabs" is safe (relatively), quiet, calm. I walk to work almost daily and never, never, get harassed, panhandled, even noticed. It's amazing. My kids love it. You can see stars at night. You get to know people. It's totally different from a big city. No malaria, clean, easy. Just easy.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It doesn't have the charm of other African cities. It lacks the chaos but also the energy and vibe. Batswana are a tranquil, somewhat closed people. Not as openly warm as people in other African countries, even close by like Zambia or Malawi. But the calm, cleanliness, and modernity is nice too.

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

Absolutely. The travel experiences from here are spectacular.

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

Umbrellas - it never rains. Plans for saving money - you'd be wasting your time here. Children? Just kidding. But seriously - if you have disposable income - this is your place. And if you have children, you don't have a lot of that.

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4. But don't forget your:

Money. Lots of it. Spend it traveling to the Delta (safari), Pans (nights under the stars), Vic Falls, South Africa. There is SO much to do in South Africa. Save up time and money.

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

Everyone recommends the ladies detective agency books. Those are good and a good representation of the slow pace. The Michael Stanley mystery books are similar.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Come. This is a great post. There is interesting, substantive work at a small embassy if you're with the US mission, and if not, you'll make some friends who are! The wildlife and other travel opportunities are extraordinary. And it's really, really easy to live here. So come.

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Gaborone, Botswana 03/02/15

Background:

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

No, but this is our first expat experience with kids.

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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?

Washington, DC area - it takes about 30 hours total from DC to ATL to Johannesburg (16 hours) to Gaborone.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About 1.5 years.

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

Government - U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Everyone is in houses, most with pools. All within a 15-minute drive of the Embassy. Electricity is pretty good, we seldom rely on generators. Internet is crap - the equivalent bandwidth of DSL circa 10 years ago. Chronic water shortage is also a concern - locals are subject to water rationing 2-3 days per week, but Embassy families have backup tanks that allow us to operate largely unaffected.

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

Availability is EXCELLENT for an African post - cost is comparable to the U.S. Lots of red meat and chicken available here, pork products less so. Upscale Woolworths carries great produce, bread, pasta/sauce, dairy/yogurt/cheese/ice cream, even cookies and cake mixes. Bring your Mexican/Latin American food favorites - spices, sauces, black beans. Bring CHOCOLATE CHIPS!! Bring your own paper products. Randomly, they do not have all-purpose flour, so bring and/or order that.

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

More fitness equipment; our own gardening tools and supplies; different consumables (the welcome packet had it all wrong - things we thought would be scarce are readily available, and vice versa); our car (Nissan Murano).

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

Moderate selection - we have several South African chains, like Nando's, Bimbo's, and Spur. We just got a Mexican restaurant that is decent and a Simply Asia noodle place. As one person said, "they scratch the itch," but don't really satisfy.

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

Nothing major - small house ants occasionally, and some mosquitoes (but no malaria).

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Daily Life:

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

Via diplomatic pouch through the Embassy. Mail comes in once per week, and takes two to three weeks to reach us. Outgoing mail to the U.S. takes longer - probably 3-4 weeks.

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

Available and relatively cheap - most pay US$1,500-2,000 per month for full-time help. But most do NOT cook, and the Botswana household help tend to be lazier than expats from Zim or Zambia.

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

Yes, there is a range of options - from the Embassy employee association gym (which costs about US$100/year to join) to very nice, newer, fancier gyms with classes that cost about US$1,000 per year.

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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?

Both are relatively safe here, but most that accept credit cards use the chipped cards.

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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?

None.

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Transportation:

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

No. RSO prohibits use of local transport.

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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?

Suggest waiting until you get here - if you plan to do a lot of road-tripping and off-roading, I'd suggest an SUV (but you'll want a comfortable one for those 10-hour drives). If you plan to stick around town, a small commuter car is fine.

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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?

No. DSL-quality internet is available - we pay around US$200 per month for less than 2 mbps download speed.

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

Nope - they are available and pretty cheap. Major companies are Mascom and Orange.

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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?

No. But there are some decent embassy jobs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Everyone volunteers at the local animal shelter, which I hear is very depressing because there are just WAY too many pets here and way too many people who can't afford them. Some connected with orphanages and women's outreach programs.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Some are surprised to find that there is a considerable amount of crime here, so you need to use your security features (home alarm, safe havens, etc.) and exercise common sense (lock your car doors, stash your bag under your seat, etc.). Smash-and-grabs are reasonably common, esp. if you are a woman out alone after around 9pm. I am moderately cautious and seldom out at night, and have not had any problems.

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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?

This is a big concern - there are no American nurses or other medical professionals on staff at the Embassy health unit, and VERY limited capacity on the local economy. The HU contains two nurses and one doctor, all local (but the doctor is American-trained and pretty good). Anything beyond the occasional cold/food poisoning/sprained ankle gets referred to Pretoria, and because we are so close in proximity, medevac is not always covered. Many complain about having to seek medical care in Pretoria on their own dime.

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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?

Fine. Occasionally so dry and dusty that it HURTS to run outside, but generally decent quality.

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

Bring your allergy meds, humidifiers, etc. Many people's allergies are unexpectedly aggravated here.

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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. We have a very brief "winter" from about May - September where temps dip into the 50s/60sF. Other than that, it's in the 90s-100F from January - March.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is an international school here (Westwood) that nearly every parent of school aged children seems unsatisfied with, and there's been little to no effort to get Embassy children into the other two "good" schools (Northside and Thornhill). Re: Westwood, I've heard reports ranging from general lack of satisfaction with academic rigor to bullying and borderline verbal abuse by teachers. Thankfully, I have no experience with this. If my kids were school aged, we would likely be home schooling.

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2. 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 several, including a newish "Montessori" preschool. They are trying, and we've been generally happy with it. Costs are around US$200-300 per month.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, the schools offer activities. There are also swim classes, piano/music classes, and other activities available.

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Expat Life:

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

Relatively small, relatively dispersed (hard to meet non-Americans), and morale varies WIDELY. If you find a group that has some common interests (fitness, running, book club, etc.), you can be quite content here.

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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?

Dinner with friends, movies at the theater, occasional wine and food festivals, running races.

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

It is fine for families, as long as your expectations are relatively low and you are prepared to entertain yourself. I have no idea what you would do here as a single or couple, unless you had a lot of money to spend traveling, or you frequented the three or four actual bars in town.

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

Not sure - you don't hear much about "that" here, which is probably an indication of how accepted GLBT persons are in Botswana.

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

There are internal issues with increasing anti-immigration sentiment - many doctors and others professionals have been forced out of the country to reserve the jobs for Botswana citizens. Household help from Zimbabwe having trouble getting visas. It is an outwardly "Christian" majority here, but that doesn't mean what it means elsewhere - it simply means you believe in God, and not to the exclusion of other local traditional beliefs. Lots of extramarital promiscuity, which probably contributes to the rampant HIV/AIDS problem.

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

After several months of adjusting to how little there is to do here (it's a "make your own fun" kind of post), we have come to embrace the slower pace and quiet life. It's a nice break from the DC rat-race. No commute, very little traffic, no malaria, no pollution like many other posts. Minimal food poisoning. You can get what you need, food-wise, as long as you're willing to shop at 3-4 different stores. I suppose those are the 'highlights.' We have gone on a few GREAT safaris in nearby Madikwe Game Reserve, and traveled to SA a bit, which were all memorable.

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

Not really. There are a few decent restaurants, a few movie theaters, a game park near the city where you can picnic and go mountain biking.

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

Not much.

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

Definitely the touring if you are into safari/wildlife photography, and you have the funds to travel. Sites are tough to get to (many are 10 hour drives or quick-but-expensive and unreliable flights on Air Botswana), many do not allow kids, and travel is pricey. Singles and couples without kids tend to take advantage; those with kids tend to stay pretty local. Compared to other areas of Africa, Botswana is noticeably devoid of any real "culture." Groceries are on par with U.S. prices, so no real cost savings there. Weather is very hot and dry - so if that's your thing, you'll love it.

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10. Can you save money?

Hm...probably if you live on junk food and don't travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

(a) how little there is to do here, (b) how serious the crime can be (it tends to come in waves, but you have to exercise constant vigilance), (c) how lazy and difficult the locals are (the dependence upon government to provide is endemic - this is a generation of people who have grown up living off the country's diamond wealth, enjoying a fairly middle-class existence, and knowing no real struggle; they tend to take it all for granted, and have little to none work ethic).

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

Nope. This was supposed to be a "reward" assignment, pitched to us as the "Paris of Africa" or some such malarky. But a lot has changed here, and it's not what it was 5 or 10 years ago. Compared to other African posts, it's easy living - just boring, and definitely not anything near Paris. This is NOT what I would consider a "reward" for a high-threat post.

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

Fancy clothes, shoes, jewelry.

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4. But don't forget your:

Board games, DVD player, swim gear, sunscreen.

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Gaborone, Botswana 10/12/14

Background:

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

This is our second post. First post was Frankfurt.

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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?

Florida. Trip is horrible - 23 + hours. You need to account for 2 days of travel. Our route goes FL to Atlanta, Atlanta - Joburg, Joburg - Gaborone.
There are no direct flights to Gaborone. When you want to fly anywhere, you need to go from Gaborone to Joburg (SA) and from there route were you want to go...This makes flying anywhere expensive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year and 2 months.

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

My husband is employed with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses. Few owned by the Embassy, most of them are rented. Our house is less than a 5-minute drive to the Embassy.

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

The variety of groceries is really limited. Sometimes you find something, next time they don't have it anymore. All products are imported and that adds to the cost.

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

Vanilla, spices you cannot live without.

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

There is Nandos, a SA chain. Restaurants are few and some of them are not as good. It's better to cook at home.

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

North of Botswana you need malaria medicine. Gaborone does not need malaria medicine.

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Daily Life:

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

No.. You cannot sent any mail out unless is a letter or the package is the size of an old VHS. We only have pouch here. No DPO. When buying stuff online, you can send returns for what I know. I have not tried this.

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

It's not that expensive. People get live-in maids. Our helper comes 2 times a week and gets paid US$131 per month. She cleans, washes the clothes and irons. Our gardener comes 2 days a week for 4 hours each day and gets around US$80

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

There is one gym and I think it is expensive. A Gym is also offered by the Embassy but it does not have good equipment and I think it is expensive.

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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?

Credit cards are used ok. We have not used ATMs here. Usually we carry cash or credit card.

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

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

English is spoken here as well as Setswana. You don't need to learn Setswana.. too difficult.

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

Nope. No resources are available.

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Transportation:

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

There are no trains. There are "combies" (really small vans) and taxis here, but people usually have their own car.

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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?

Driving is on the right side like in the UK. People import cars from Japan. Availability of parts for cars is limited.

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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?

ADSL only and is very unreliable. We pay for phone and internet around US$90 a month.

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

You can purchase them here.

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Pets:

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 vets. I know there is one kennel but I have not had any experience with it.

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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?

Nope. Botswana is revoking work permits for expats in order to give those jobs to locals... So don''t even think about it.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Have not found one.

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

Formal... Locals dress up even just for grocery shopping.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are lot of house break-in's. Crime rate is going up and police are useless. You need to be alert as some members of the Embassy have been robbed while at the mall and some houses have been broken into.

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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?

Not good. You would get evacuated to Pretoria. No good Doctors. here. Also the country has high levels of HIV. No special needs support or they are really limited. One one OT available in the whole town... and not as reliable for appointments.

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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?

Lots of dust. It does not rain much here.

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

You do need your allergy medicine.

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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?

Dry.. May-September is winter.. So it is cold.. Don't think because you are in Africa, it will not get cold.. It does. From the end of September - April, it's summer and really hot and does not rain much.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

None. There is one school that proclaims to be international school and were everybody goes to but the education is not good. All schools are not up to the USA standards and this post should be declared as not suitable for school age kids. Some families homeschool, others have sent kids to boarding school. Our kids go to a local Christian school, it's still not optimal, but better than the "international" school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None.

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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?

Some. There is a Montessori preschool that seems to be good but I don't have any experience with it.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

None... Nothing for the kids to do.

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Expat Life:

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

Low.

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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?

Invite people over for dinner. Small gatherings. There is really nothing else to do here.

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

In our view no. I don't know about singles. There are no bars, or places to go. For families without kids, I think this place will be great as they can travel if they don't mind spending the money.

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

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

None.

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

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

Nothing.

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

None.. Well maybe you get the chance to go on Safari but... there are really expensive. It is really hard to save money. There is no culture.. You would think you are in Africa and will be able to get a sense of the music, food, etc... Don't get your expectations high on this...The Okavango Delta is a very popular tourist destination but is really expensive..especially if you have kids.

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9. Can you save money?

No

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Support for special needs and quality of the schools. Schools are really bad here. One or two schools are decent for elementary school and locals put their kids' names on the school register when they are 2 months old.. No special treatment for U.S. Embassy Employees. So you will not get in. We have tried to get a spot since we got here.

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

Nope.

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Gaborone, Botswana 11/24/13

Background:

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

This was my second expat experience.

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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?

My most common flight home was the Delta flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Atlanta, Georgia. The flight from Gaborone to Johannesburg is about an hour and relatively cheap (US$100 - $150). The Johannesburg to Atlanta flight is 17 hours.

There are also some Washington, DC to Johannesburg that goes through Senegal as a fuel stop.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two Years.

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

U.S. Government Employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Stand alone houses, some in small complexes throughout the city. Most are nice, with pools and gardens. The commute, depending on where you live can be 40+ minutes depending on the time of day. The problem is that urban planning did not take into account turning lanes, so often you have to endure significant traffic going in one direction until you can get to a traffic circle and come back in the opposite direction. However, there are a considerable number of diplomatic residences close to the Embassy.

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

Groceries can be fairly expensive by U.S. standards. Household supplies are comparable.

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

Most things are readily available. Just whatever specific brand that you know you won't be able to find locally.

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

Food is decent. There are a wide variety of restaurants. Fast food is mostly limited to chicken. You will be hard-up to find good seafood, as Botswana is landlocked. After a time of eating Chicken Lickin, KFC, Hungry Lion and Nandos, you will be excited to see McDonald's in Rustenburg, South Africa (3 hour drive). More and more restaurants are popping up however.

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

There are rumors of baboon spiders. I didn't see any, but I did see some rather large brown spiders, mosquitoes (non-Malaria area).

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Daily Life:

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

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?

I hear it is fairly inexpensive. I didnt have house help, but my gardner was 100 BWP per visit...which was about US$13.00. He was good and I used him once, sometimes twice, per week.

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

There are gyms in Gaborone. We have an Embassy gym so I dont know too much about the private gyms.

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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?

ATMs are generally safe. I used ATMs regularly. I would just say stick to ATMs that are in lit areas after dark. I don't remember anyone having any issues with card skimming.

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

I know for a fact that there is a Catholic English service.

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

99% of the people in Gaborone will speak English. Setswana is mostly used when you are talking to older people and when you are outside of the city.

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

I dont think so. There are certain places where you would likely find it challenging, but nothing exceptionally difficult.

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Transportation:

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

My Batswana friends use the buses regularly, going from Gaborone to Francistown; Gaborone to Kasane; Gaborone to Francistown. They also use taxis regularly. I would not recommend regular use of combis. Most people I know that didnt have private cars, had a regular taxi driver whom they called for transport.

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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?

Botswana is a right-hand drive country. You can use anything to get around the city. If you are adventerous and want to do self-drives, I would recommend a SUV and preferably a 4 wheel drive. You will see Mercedes, Range Rovers, etc. driving around the city. You can also drive throughout the country in a car (although there are potholes in certain areas). The only time I was very happy to have a SUV was going off-road onto the salt pans, going off-road to reach a lodge, and self-drive game drives.

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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?

Internet will cost you approximately US$100 per month.

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

You can use Orange or Mascom. Some people use both, depending on where they frequent around Botswana. Around Gaborone, either works. Contract service is not common. Most people simply buy airtime, which is available at most gas stations, malls, and even street vendors.

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Pets:

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?

Getting pets into Botswana can be a pain because they often have to travel through South Africa which is very difficult to transit due to vaccination requirements, etc. It is also very costly. You should expect to spend approximately US$3,000 to get your pet into Botswana.

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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?

N/A. If you work in healthcare or edcuation there might be some opportunities. Some of the international corporations may have some as well...but I am not sure about the bilateral work agreements.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The Embassy sponsored some volunteer opportunities and there are definitely ways to contribute your time and talent in Botswana if you ask around.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is increasing but I wasn't fearful as I engaged in my daily activities. There has been an increase in robberies against restaurants, hotels and businesses. There are crimes of opportunities such as smash and grabs from vehicles, and petty theft. A few people I know were robbed at knife-point for cell phones and small valuables. Residential crime has been an issue as well, particularly if you don't have the luxury of high walls, electric fences, security grilles and intrusion alarms. However, if you use situational awareness you can live in Gaborone with little to no security issues. It's much safer than most major cities in the United States and no indication that foreigners are targeted.

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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?

None. Although, major medical emergencies are medivac'd to South Africa. Routine medical care is adequate however.

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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?

It can be a bit dusty, depending on where you are, but the air quality is decent.

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

Weather is great. The winters are comprised of warm days and cool nights. You definitely have to layer. The summers can be very hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Futbol (Soccer) is the game of choice. During season, you can always find people playing futbol and the Embassy has a recreational team.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community seems to be a decent size; however, all of them tend to do their own thing. There are expats here working with the diamond mining operations, diplomatic, etc. I tended to socialize with the American diplomatic community as well as Batswana friends. There were few instances of diplomats being invited to other diplomatic events, but not so common. It is probably because there is a decent amount for people to do in the city, everyone finds their own little niches. Morale seems to be high however when I was there.

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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?

Get-togethers are common. Braais are common. There are also a number of bar/clubs and resturants. You need not be there long before you meet people who will invite you to tons of events.

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

This is a good city for singles, families and couples in my opinion. Families have the benefit of living in a small, quiet, stable African country with an array of recreational activities for the weekends. Couples and singles can enjoy the growing retail and night life. There are a few bar/clubs that couples and singles can frequent as wells as restaurants.

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

N/A - Although as an expat I think you would be insulated pretty well from any negativity associated with being gay or lesbian. I don't remember any instances of mistreatment of gay or lesbians in country, although I know in some of the more rural areas, people can be more conservative.

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

None. Botswana is very tolerant with respect to religion. I know there is a Hindu Temple, a couple Catholic Churches, and a few mosques within the city. I don't know of any synagogues, but I am sure there is likely one.

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

The weather is beautiful, the people are friendly and the proximity to so much were my highlights. The ability to go camping on the salt plans, to drive to Kasane and take a river safari, drive over to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe).

Johannesburg is only a 4 hour drive and there are tons of recreational activities there.

The other highlights have been just hanging out with coworkers and friends, having braais (grilling).

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

Moremi Gorge, Kgali Hill, Mokalodi Game Reserve, Moremi Gorge, Mmamotshwane Gorge, Lion Park, Salt Pans, Kasane (Chobe National Park), Okavango Delta. I would also recommend going to a Batswana wedding or going to a cattle post with a Mostwana. The #1 Ladies Detective Agency film site is in such ill-repair that it's not worth going to see anymore.

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

Safaris and trips.

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

Southern Africa in and of itself is a beautiful region. The city is continuously growing with a large amount of retail venues, hotels, and restaurants being built. In the two years I was there, two shopping complexes were built.

The Batswana are extremely friendly and there are some outstanding recreational opportunities albeit expensive.

The cost of living is a bit more expensive (consumables, gas, etc.). A lot of the tourism is located outside of the city and not really within a "day-trip" distance. The Mokalodi Game Reserve, Gaborone Game Park, Kgale Hill are popular venues. There are often things going on in the city such as the Gaborone Marathon, Gaborone Dam boat races, etc.

Outside of the city are the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, Salt Pans, and some other smaller and less known attractions such as Moremi Gorge. Safaris are marketed to foreigners, and can be very expensive; however, if you talk to the Batswana they can give you insight on how to travel and see things at a more reasonable rate.

You "can" save money, but if you really take advantage of what the region has to offer, it's likely that you will not.

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10. Can you save money?

You can, but if you take advantage of the vast opportunities of the Southern Africa region, you won't.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

WIsh I had known I would have such a great time and meet such great people.

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

Yes.

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

Notion that all of Africa is a third world poverty stricken backwoods. Botswana has a slow and laid-back feel and although the bureaucracy can be frustrating, it's a functioning democracy. It will be what you make of it.

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4. But don't forget your:

Camping gear, swimsuits, fishing poles and bbq grill (they can be quite expensive on the local economy).

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:




Most Batswana don't know of it, or don't like it...but I found it entertaining and enjoyable. It's a television series featuring Jill Scott.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Water shortages have been an issue in recent history, as well as load shedding. The most dangerous aspect of living in Gaborone for me was the power outages at major intersections between dusk and dark.

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Gaborone, Botswana 07/27/13

Background:

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

Not a first expat experience.

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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?

Washington, D.C. to Atlanta then a 16-hour direct flight on Delta to Johannesburg, then a 1 hour (or 30 min., depending on the size of the jet) flight to Gaborone.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All U.S. Embassy housing, even for singles, is in single-family homes spread throughout the city. The houses themselves are all very nice, large, typically with large yards and swimming pool, and are equipped with diesel generators for the frequent (nearly daily, thanks to a power crisis) blackouts, and water storage and filtration/UV treatment systems for the non-potable water (the country is also in the middle of a drought/water crisis). Gaborone and its roads were not planned with the recent growth in population in mind (currently 200,000 people in the city), and as a result, cannot support the ever-increasing volume of traffic. Thus, even homes that are located a short distance (2 mi. or less) from the Embassy suffer from HORRIBLE commute times (30+ min.) 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?

Groceries are surprisingly varied and readily available, but expensive. Everything is imported through South Africa from there, Europe, South America, or elsewhere in the world, so all manner of fresh produce and fine cheeses from England, France, Italy, etc. are available. Several American products are available as well -- even Dr. Pepper imported from Texas at one grocery store! You can find most everything you'd need, again, all at a price. One generally has to go to two or three stores to get everything you need/want. There is a store called Game that was recently acquired by Wal-Mart and has many of those types of household products.

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

Nothing. Order what you need/want online and have it shipped -- slowly -- through the pouch.

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

Very limited. There is no McDonald's in Botswana, if that says anything. The only American chain, and only restaurant with a drive-through, is the KFC. There are a few burger places, Wimpy's, for example, but all are located in malls. It is hard to find a quick meal anywhere. There are a few good Portuguese, Chinese and Indian sit-down restaurants. There are also a few new restaurants that have opened in new malls/hotels. Food is expensive here, around US$25 a plate at a sit-down place. Local fare is bland (grits, beef, goat, chicken, squash). Not a country known for its cuisine, e.g. cooked caterpillars are popular when in season (Google image "mopane worms" at your own risk).

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

Minor mosquitoes only in the summer. No need for malaria prophylaxis unless you are traveling to the tourist areas in the north of the country.

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Daily Life:

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

The Embassy has a pouch. We can only mail out packages the size of a VHS tape or smaller. We can receive packages, but it takes on average 3 weeks from the States. There have been many problems with the pouch, particularly in receiving the bags once they arrive in South Africa; the airlines flying from Johannesburg to Gaborone are small planes, and they de-prioritize sending the pouch mail on their flights. After more than two years of requests, the Government of Botswana has approved a DPO for post, but plans for establishing it remain forthcoming. Local mail is available, but I have never used it and would not be confident of it.

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

Limited availability of reliable, competent domestic help; extremely low cost (around US$1-2 an hour). Nannies are very hard to find. Cooks are next to impossible, not a culture that cooks much beyond staples. Best to try to hire domestic help from a departing employee, with their recommendation.

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

A few. The Embassy has a modest gym facility a mile or so from the chancery building.

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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?

Fine to use them.

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

Yes, there are Christian churches, including Catholic and Mormon. There is no Jewish synagogue. There are several Muslim mosques and Hindu temples.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The local newspapers are in English; one has a section in Setswana. DSTV cable is available and is expensive.

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

None. English is used everywhere, however, many people from the villages (employed in Gaborone as domestic workers; waiters; cashiers) do not understand or speak it well. Setswana is the local language.

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

Many difficulties throughout the city. The chancery building itself is 3 floors with no elevator.

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Transportation:

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

No. There are no passenger trains or city buses, only combis (public vans) and taxis. We are restricted from riding in combis because of rampant tuberculosis. The way people drive here, it would also be very unwise to ride in one.

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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?

For in town, any type of vehicle is fine. The roads in town are mostly well-maintained. If you plan to drive into the bush, you'd want an SUV. Driving is on the left here, but left or right-hand-drive vehicles are acceptable. There is no restriction on imports. Many expats purchase cars from Japan and have them shipped here. Thanks to diamond revenue (and easily obtained loans), locals drive all manner of luxury cars. It is completely normal to pull up by one (or several) late-model Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover, Audi, Jaguar, etc. etc. ... at a stoplight.

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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?

Internet access is available from the government-subsidized phone/internet company, but it is expensive (US$100 per month) and is not high-speed. They offer either a bronze, silver, or gold package, but there is virtually no difference between them because they do not dedicate one line to each customer, you share a line with unknown others. If the others are using it at the same time as you, it is very slow or connectivity is lost. This is glaringly apparent at the U.S. Embassy. When the speed is good, however, you can Skype or even watch Netflix (with a proxy server).

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

The Embassy provides them to direct-hire personnel. Orange and Mascom are available if buying your own. It is expensive. I think only Orange supports iPhones. I don't know anyone with one. I don't think even unlocked iPhones from the States work here.

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Pets:

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, but it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to bring dogs into the country; they must transit South Africa, which has stiff regulations for dog imports, including a blood test that only 2 laboratories in the U.S. perform, to the tune of US$500. The blood must be drawn, tested, results mailed, and the animal shipped all within 30 calendar days, which proves nearly impossible with the airlines not always guaranteeing a spot on the flight you select for the animal (best to ship separate from PCS because of these stressful logistics). The air shipping is expensive. A pet expeditor must be used at least on the South African side, and typically a road transfer from there to Botswana, all at high cost. Cats are easy to import.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are several veterinarians, care is fine. Kenneling options are available, but Embassy-affiliated pet sitters always seem to be available.

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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?

A few, but becoming increasingly difficult as the government of Botswana seems to be limiting the availability of work permits and licenses.

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

The Batswana (people of Botswana) tend to lean toward a more formal look. Suits, dress clothes at work. Some people dress more casually, but Batswana are generally modest in how they dress.

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Health & Safety:

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

There are instances of home invasions, smash and grabs, muggings, and thefts, even in the embassy community. Crime seems to be increasing. Embassy housing (all houses, there are no apartments) are surrounded by 8-ft. walls topped with electric fence; every window and door has iron grilles, and every home has a safe haven. It is imperative to use them, and use the motion-detecting alarm at night and when leaving the house. It is not advised to go walking or running by oneself. The common sentiment in regard to security is "Well, it's not as bad as Johannesburg ..."

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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?

As mentioned, this is the country with the second-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. The drinking water was recently declared non-potable. The U.S. Embassy is installing high-tech filtration systems in all personnel homes and in the office facilities. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary unless traveling to the northern areas of the country, including the Okavango Delta, which are malarial zones. Dental care is good. Medical care is marginal; medevac flights to nearby Johannesburg, even just for a consultative appointment, are common. The only Embassy-recommended OB-GYNs, a German couple, recently left the country because of difficulties as mentioned above with permits. Pediatric care is OK. The Embassy Regional Medical Officer visits quarterly from Harare. A local, U.S.-trained physician was recently hired to work some hours out of the Embassy Health Unit, which has improved the services available there.

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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?

Fine. It is a little dusty. It's a small city but there is still a lot of vehicle exhaust. The Marines say they can feel it when they go for runs.

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

The climate is wonderful, constant sunshine. "Dry heat" in the summers, which are comfortable, with sunshiney dry daytime highs in the 80s-90s, nighttime lows in the 40s. There are four seasons, and the winters are cold at night, hovering just above freezing, with winter daytime highs in the 70s, again with pure sunshine. It rarely rains during the winter, only during the summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are two main international schools that children of U.S. Embassy personnel attend. The common complaint is that the academic programs are lacking and not rigorous enough for many children, and that as a result students are behind their counterparts in U.S. public schools. That said, some students graduate from the IB program, so they do have that program here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Limited.

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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?

Nannies are VERY inexpensive (around US$1-2 an hour), so people with preschool aged children typically have one, making daycare facilities unnecessary. There are several options for preschools, the two most popular among expats and U.S. Embassy families being Humpty Dumpty and Dipeo.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, in the primary and secondary schools. I have not heard of any for preschool-aged children. The one dance school starts children at age four.

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Expat Life:

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

Large but shrinking; word is the government of Botswana is making it more difficult for expats to renew or receive permits and licenses to work here.

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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 social activities center around entertaining at home with brunches, braais (bbq), dinners, etc. A new 3-D movie theater recently opened that is very nice. There are farmers markets, small musical performances, and the like now and then. It is a pretty limited town as far as the availability and frequency of entertainment events.

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3. Morale among expats:

Fair. Those who absolutely love Africa, the bush, and safaris (and have the paycheck and time off to enjoy it) love it here. Those who love big-city life, dining out, and cultural opportunities (art, museums, music), don't. Morale at the Embassy is not high.

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

It's fine for everyone. The majority of activities in Gaborone are geared toward families. Everyone, particularly singles, can get bored with the lack of options of things to do. Many take trips (5+ hr. drive) to Johannesburg/Pretoria on the weekend. There are abundant safari lodges just across the border (45 min.+ away) in South Africa's Madikwe game reserve, and in northern Botswana (12+ hr. drive or a few hrs. flight) but all are very expensive. It must be mentioned that this is the country with the second-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, currently at 25% of the adult population infected; something to consider if dating.

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

It's fine. Homosexuality is illegal here, but there are public and vocal gay rights groups. Gay locals and expats alike do not seem to encounter any real prejudices or problems.

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

There is no problem for people of any color or combination thereof. The current president is the son of the first president of the country, who was a black man married to a white Englishwoman. Many religions are represented here. There are, however, issues with gender-based violence in the culture here, but expats generally would not be personally exposed to this. There also seems to be general anti-American sentiment. The Batswana (people of Botswana) identify much more favorably with the British.

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

The weather.

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

As mentioned, there are insanely expensive safari options. Even with "resident rates" one can expect to pay US$600 or more -- even up to and surpassing $5,000 -- PER PERSON per night ... for a tent, some scones and stew, and hours of driving around in a truck to see animals. Knowing how low the minimum wage is (around US$1 per hour), it's very hard to justify the exorbitant expense. Of course, if you are really into the safari experience, as some are, it is worth it. Regional airfare is very expensive, around US$500 for a flight to nearby (16+ hr. drive) Cape Town, South Africa. Folks make the 5+ hr. drive to Jo'burg because the flight costs on average US$300 roundtrip. There's not much to do in Gaborone and less (apart from safaris) in the villages and vast open space outside it. Think very hard about your interests, what you can afford and how much time you might have to take off to enjoy it.

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

Handwoven baskets? "Nice" ones are very expensive (hundreds of US$), but are indistinguishable from cheaper versions. Local handicrafts sold at booths are usually from West and Central Africa or South Africa, not Botswana. This is not a very handicraft-oriented society.

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

The weather is great. There is world-class, EXTREMELY expensive, safari tourism in the north of the country, the Okavango Delta.

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11. Can you save money?

If you don't go on safari. But if you don't get out of town now and then, you will be bored to tears.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Going-out clothes; sense of urgency; expectation that this will be an "easy" post or place to live; belief that this is "Africa lite".

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, and lots of it; DVD box sets for something to do; willingness to work long hours.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Again, No. 1 Ladies', the HBO series based on the books, is a fun show, but not based on reality.

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

None. No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Alexander McCall Smith) makes for entertaining fiction, but is just that -- fiction -- not based on any real experience to be found in Botswana. Do not mention this series to locals, they resent it.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a post where you really need to be able to make your own fun, or you will be bored and disappointed. For a country so dependent on luxury safari tourism, the general lack of customer service -- at a cultural level -- is surprising. The locals are generally not warm, welcoming, friendly people. The ones who are just see dollar signs across your forehead (see luxury safari tourism). Too often the "this is Africa" excuse is used when things don't work as they should, or are difficult to accomplish, or are not as expected, including within the Embassy. Outside the mission, it is constantly difficult to work with the locals, who seem to hold the USG in very low regard. Overall this has been a surprisingly difficult post.

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Gaborone, Botswana 04/22/13

Background:

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

No. I've had several additional expat experiences, and this was my second posting in Botswana.

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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?

US - 17 hours from Atlanta to Johannesburg non-stop, then an hour up to Gaborone. I found this flight to be much better than the DC flight that stops in West Africa.

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3. How long have you lived here?

January 2010-August 2012.

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

Contractor.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A huge range: stand-alone houses, townhouses and some apartments. Also, there are a several neighborhoods in which to live. The commute time is not huge, depending on where you live. Phakalane is about 10Km out of town and is very popular. That commute into the city is 40 minutes or more. We lived right in town, 5 minutes from the office and 10 minutes from the school.

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

All South African brands are available - not cheap but I've been at more costly posts. The shock is the price of chicken - 40% more expensive than beef. Being close to South Africa, you can find about everything.

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

Sun screen (hard to find high SPF regionally).

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

Lots of South Africa chain (Nandos!). Not a huge range of restaurants, but great beef - really good. In the last year, due to the relocation of De Beers to Gaborone, it seemed to be changing with more diversity in offerings.

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

There is no malaria in Gaborone. We had trouble with ants (the biting variety), but it was managed with a local pest company (non-toxic chemicals).

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Daily Life:

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

It is hard to get mail from the States and even then it is not so reliable. There is no home delivery, so you have to rent a mail box.

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

Cheap and available. Quality varies, but we had a FANTASTIC housekeeper whom I found through a maid service. Lots of expats and one good site on facebook (gaborone grapevine) which helps with recommendations if you're just arriving.

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

Yes, several.

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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?

Both are widely used and accepted.

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

All denominations. Many will be in Setswana, but there are lots of English-language services as well.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes - moderately priced South African services.

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

None, really, but it is always good to have a few phrases.

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

Actually, the shopping malls have handicapped facilities, but it's not generally a handicapped-accessible city.

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Transportation:

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

We used taxis a lot. I found them affordable and 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?

Roads are good but not great (lots of potholes), but in and around Gabs almost any car would work. If you want to get out into the bush, obviously you'll need something sturdier.

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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?

We paid about $50/month. It was not fast - no streaming possible. This is a constraint in the region.

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

Lots of options.

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Pets:

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?

Not necessarily. We brought our dog from the US. We were happy to have him with u,s but it was extremely difficult and expensive to get him into South Africa. Think carefully about it. South Africa has extensive regulations about importing pets. We had to ship blood samples to Kansas to test for rare diseases. If you do bring a dog, don't skimp on the tests. They can and do ship pets back if everything is not up to par. Once you're in South Africa, all you need is an easily obtainable certificate to get your pet from South Africa to Botswana.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, there are a number of good vets. Kennels are harder, but there is a range of grooming salons.

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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?

No, and it is getting harder and harder to get work permits.

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

Business casual/casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime - don't leave things in your car. Home break-ins have become more frequent, although not nearly on the level of South Africa. We had one, though, and after that we had a guard. Most expats have the full security range: guard, wall, electric fence, and in-home security alarm system.

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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?

For anything serious you can go to South Africa. I found a good GP, but in my opinion you have to look around to find a doctor you're comfortable with. Not so great on dentists. Coming from the US, I didn't find them to be very proactive.

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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?

It's good, but it can be extremely dry at times.

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

Extremely hot in summer, dry and cool in winter. It's a desert, so in winter it can be quite cold, especially at night.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My experience was with Reception and Standard 1. There are 3 or 4 main schools at the primary level: Northside (way overbooked), Thornhill (very British) and Westwood. We were very happy at Westwood, and most parents are happy with the school choice for the younger levels. Secondary students are less happy with the school quality.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think not a huge range. Westwood did have access to support counsellors and occupational therapists, and I'm sure the others do as well.

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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?

In home nannies/housekeepers are common. There is also a range of great preschools - Humpty Dumpty seemed to be among the most popular.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through schools and camps during breaks.

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Expat Life:

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

Large - lots of South Africans but diverse.

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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?

Dinner parties, long lunches, eating out. LOTS of birthday parties for kids in school.

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3. Morale among expats:

I think high for families. Most find this a dull post, though, and singles on my staff suffered. For us, it was very high!

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

As a family, we loved it. Singles did not seem to enjoy it, and having lived there as a single years prior, I can see why. It is mainly a drinking scene with little diversity of activities. Couples also find it limiting. However, Johannesburg is a short drive away.

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

I think it's probably okay. There is a community even though it technically illegal in Botswana.

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

I didn't find any of these issues.

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

Day-to-day living, safari trips, and some regional travel.

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

Obviously lots to do regionally. In Botswana, tourism is obscenely expensive. Regionally, you can almost fly back to the US for what you would spend on a ticket to a destination outside of South Africa. That said, the safari opportunities are not to be missed, although for us it was a very rare treat. Gabs has a lot of family-oriented activities, which we enjoyed greatly.

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

Botswana is not very "crafty". However, the quality baskets are a must.

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

Peaceful, kind people. Lots of tourism possibilities but expensive. For us, the best benefit was a great family culture - lots of activities for kids. We loved it.

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11. Can you save money?

Not if you want to travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. It's not a glitzy, exciting post but it was great for us!

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

Need to rush!

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and Kindle (or e-book reader) - Books are extremely expensive here.

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

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency 5-Book Boxed Set, The Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Kama and His Nation, Deadly Harvest: A Detective Kubu Mystery
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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Pilot was made into a series.

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Gaborone, Botswana 06/06/10

Background:

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

5th overseas experience.

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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?

Home is Chicago. It takes 24-30 hours to travel from Chicago to Botswana. You may either travel from Chicago to Europe (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, or Paris) to Johannesburg and then connect to Botswana, or fly direct from Washington, DC or Atlanta to Johannesburg. There are no direct flights to Gaborone from the U.S. or Europe. Generally all travelers connect through Johannesburg. Many flights from the United States arrive in Jo'burg during the evening and are too late to make the last connection to Gaborone (around 7pm).Therefore, many travelers are forced to overnight near the airport in Johannesburg and finish their journey to Gaborone the following morning.

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3. How long have you lived here?

September 2008 to present (June 2010).

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

Assigned to the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most expats in Gaborone live in single-family homes scattered throughout the city. There are few apartment buildings here. Most homes are spacious (3-5 bedrooms) and have large gardens and often swimming pools. I live in the central part of the city and my commute to work is 5-10 minutes.

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

There are numerous quality South African grocery chains where the quality and variety is quite good. On a good day, you will find unexpected American products at reasonable prices. On a bad day, you will need to go to 3 stores to get the brand of butter or cereal that you prefer. Generally prices here are comparable to the U.S. and most products you crave for a western diet are readily available in stores, though sometimes you can only find South African brands which are slightly different than what you are used to back home.

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

Camping gear.

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

Gaborone has little fast food, and most outlets are South African rather than American. We do have a KFC.The most popular fast-food option is probably Nando's, a very good chain that offers Portuguese-style grilled chicken and sides. We also have Wimpy's (a South African hamburger joint) and some additional fast-food restaurants at the malls. There are good restaurants in Gaborone for steak, Portuguese food, Indian, Chinese, and pizza/italian. Unfortunately, while the range and quality is decent, the market is a bit small and after a year here, we have hit all the establishments that there are. Restaurant costs are similar to the US/Europe.

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

Many households suffer from ants and termites. There are mosquitos in Gaborone, but there is no problem with malaria in Gaborone or the southern part of the country. You must take anti-malarial drugs if you travel north of the Tropic of Capricorn. All of the main tourist attractions like Chobe and the Okavango are in the north and require malaria meds when you visit.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the 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?

Domestic help is readily available and will cost about $200 a month for a full time maid/nanny. Gardeners are a bit cheaper and are easy to find. Many people also share domestic staff (part-time for certain hours during the week) at a lower cost. One thing that is hard to find here is a domestic who can cook.

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

There are numerous gyms and sports clubs available around the city. Many expats belong to Energym or GymActiv, and there is even a local outlet of the Curves franchise for ladies. You can also join the national tennis or squash clubs for modest fees. Lots of people walk and run outdoors when the weather is good, and there is a Kalahari Hash House Harriers club which meets weekly. There are at least two golf courses available. There are several stables outside town where you can ride horses.

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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?

It's very easy to live in Botswana!Almost every store takes credit cards and ATM cards and it is safe and reliable to use them here. Beware however when traveling to South Africa-- where credit card fraud is common!There are ATMs in all the major cities in Botswana should you need cash, and it is safe to use them.

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

Yes, all major Christian denominations are represented here. You can also find mosques in the major cities.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are several newspapers and 1 TV station which broadcasts predominantly in English. The newspapers have a fairly small distribution and are not of the highest quality. Satellite TV from South Africa is available for a reasonable price, and has started including 3 HD channels.

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

English is the official language, but everyone prefers to speak Setswana. Some knowledge of Setswana (greetings, polite phrases) will make you popular with your local friends/contacts, but is not required.

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

There are no ramps/elevators in most buildings. It would probably be hard to get around if your mobility was limited.

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Transportation:

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

There is no train service, but buses, combis and taxis are absolutely accessible.

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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?

4x4s are popular, as so many people travel outside the city on the weekends. This is a country that drives on the left, so that is a consideration. Most popular brand here is probably Toyota, but you find most brands represented here and can get parts and service. Many expats import used cars from Japan.

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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?

Yes. The speed is far from blistering, but it will usually suffice to browse effectively. We have had a little trouble using Skype, which works sometimes, and doesn't other times.

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

Botswana has the highest prevalence of cell phone use in sub-Saharan Africa.3G coverage is spreading, but usable normal coverage is available in all population centers. There are 3 or 4 carriers to choose from and they offer both contract and pay as you go plans.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, there are both vets and kennels that seem just fine. Even more, there are numerous stables if you prefer your pets to be a bit larger.

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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?

Botswana is trying to make sure that there are plenty of opportunities for its own well-trained citizens. This has lead to protectionist policies that can make it hard for some expatsto find work. But with that said, there are opportunities, and with a bit of persistence jobs can be found for well trained candidates. Best prospects are teaching at international-caliber schools or the University, or work with one of the many development organizations here helping with the HIV/AIDS crisis.

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

People dress very similarly to what you would see in the United States or Europe. Suits for those who work in offices, slacks and polo shirts on the weekend.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is increasing in Gaborone, but we have so far been able to avoid the violence that is common in South Africa. We know many people whose houses have been robbed and there are certainly car thefts and "smash and grabs" in parking lots or at traffic lights. However, most criminals will simply steal your belongings and will not use violence or hurt their victims. My biggest worry is car accidents. Botswana has more than its fair share of road fatalities, many of them alcohol related. I do not advise driving late at night if you can avoid it, especially during the last weekend of the month (pay day), when alcohol-related car accidents are most common.

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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?

Medical care is improving. They have recently opened a state of the art private hospital in Gabs, but it is still having some staffing issues. You can get routine work done, but for surgery, I would still prefer to head to South Africa or back home to the US/Europe. Remember that Botswana has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates in the world-- and modify your behavior accordingly!

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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?

The air quality in Gaborone is good. This is a small city (around 200K people) with no real industry or traffic.

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

Botswana is a semi-arid country and the Kalahari desert covers a large area in the center of the country. In Gaborone, summers can get very hot (upper 30s to 40 degrees), while winter tempatures dip to near-freezing overnight (lows in the 3-8 degree range).As Botswana is in the southern hemisphere, our hottest months are November - January and our coldest months are June - August.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The Westwood International School is approved by the State Department for K-12.Many parents seem happy with the school. You should note however that the school is on a British/South African schedule -- the year begins in January and there are three terms, with a break of about one month between them. Friends are also very happy with the local Northside and Thornhill primary schools, as well as the Maru-a-pula secondary school. Both Westwood and Maru-a-pula offer the International Baccalaureate program for high schoolers. All these schools have websites if you need more information.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

We have two children in preschool in Gaborone and we are extremely happy with the experience. I strongly recommend Humpty Dumpty school, but other friends were very happy with the education at Playmates, Busy Bees, and Dipeo. To my knowledge most preschools here are half-day only (7:30 to 12:30pm) and are 5 days/week. However, there may be some full-day options. Most expat families have live-in nannies, who are able to assist with childcare during school breaks, afternoons, evenings, etc.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Most sports programs are through the local schools. You can also sign up for swimming lessons at local pools, at least one of which is indoors and available year 'round. Kids can take squash, tennis, or horseriding lessons for a fee.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is small in terms of raw numbers, but fairly large percentage wise. You will regularly run into the same people that seem to live life like you do. There are at least a dozen embassies here, as well as numerous expat workers with development NGOs (mostly working on HIV/AIDS issues).

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale is pretty good. I would call it excellent among people who are ok with small town life and/or outdoor enthusiasts. The only expats who are truly unhappy here can't live without a bigger city with more nightlife and social opportunities.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Gaborone is a small town (about 200K people) and is relatively quiet. Most entertaining happens in the home-- pool parties, barbecues, dinners. There are at least a dozen restaurants and a few bars to visit. There are two western-style malls to shop at on the weekends (both fairly small).If you crave big-city excitement, Johannesburg is only about 4 hours away by car.

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

Families (especially those with young children) seem most happy in Gaborone. This is a small town with a slow pace of life, but if you want to spend weekends swimming or biking with your kids, reading by the pool, gardening, or camping, this is the place for you. Some teens seem bored by the lack of social outlets. There are two small malls and two movies theaters and lots of sports opportunities, but little else in the way of teen activities. Singles are less happy here unless they are the type that truly enjoy tourism and the outdoors. If you are looking for an arts/culture scene or nightlife, this is not the best city for you.

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

Homosexuality is considered illegal in Botswana, but I have not witnessed any attempt to sanction or punish gays here. However, what little gay scene exists is quiet and does not attract much attention to itself. I don't think it would be easy to meet a new partner here or date as a gay single.

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

Botswana is predominantly Christian, but there are mosques in the major cities and towns for the small, mostly south Asian, Muslim community. There are also some Hindus and a temple in Gaborone. I have not seen any problems with religious intolerance here. Botswana also have a very open and tolerant attitude toward race. You see many interracial couples and families here and this is perfectly accepted. Botswana's first President Sir Seretse Khama married a white woman from England, and their son, Ian Khama is President today. More than any other country I have experienced, whites and blacks live together here in peace and harmony.

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

Visitors to Botswana should not miss the country's world-renowned tourist destinations, including the Chobe National Park (in the far northeast, near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe) and the Okavango Delta. Botswana has one of the world's largest populations of elephants, and also has abundant antelope species, amazing birdlife, rhinos, buffalos, giraffes, lions, leaopards, cheetahs-- all the wildlife you could ever hope to see on safari are here. There are camping opportunities at amazing parks and nature reserves throughout the country. One drawback for non-campers is that the lodges in Botswana (especially in the Okavango Delta) are VERY expensive and cater to wealthy Americans and Europeans. There are few discounts or incentives for local residents at the high-end lodges.

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

If you like camping, hunting or safaris, Botswana is an excellent place to be.

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

Hand-made baskets. Botswana has lovely (though often expensive) handmade baskets to collect and some other nice handicrafts for sale (cloth, carvings, etc).

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

Botswana is a beautiful country which offers a good quality of life and many unique tourism opportunities for expats. Cost of living in Gaborone is moderate, and unlike most African cities you can drink water straight from the tap, drive on good roads, enjoy near-constant electricity and other utilities, and send your children to good schools. Botswana is a relatively developed and easy place to live.

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely. If you keep the travel budget under control, you should save money.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

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

party clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

camping gear and binoculars.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

HBO's "No. 1 Detective Agency" movie and mini-series.

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

--Alexander McCall Smith's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series of mystery novels.--"Whatever you do, Don't Run" by Peter Allison--"Twenty Chickens for a Saddle" by Robin Scott--"Place of Reeds" by Caitlin Davies--"The Colour Bar"(bio of Botswana's first President Seretse Khama)--

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Botswana is one of Africa's true success stories:a successful democracy for more than 40 years which has also built a stable economy and raised living standards for its people. Botswana has turned its diamond wealth into roads, schools, and clinics. You have to admire this country and this government. They still have areas for improvement, but Batswana are deservedly proud of their nation. This is a great place to experience!

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