Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire

Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire 02/13/20

Background:

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

No, this was my fifth overseas assignment, but first in Africa. I have lived in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

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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?

USA. At the time of this publication, there is a 3x weekly flight on Ethiopian Airlines to/from New York JFK International Airport. However, if one is on US government orders, then you may not use this flight for official purposes as it is not an approved code share route. Depending on the origin from the U.S., one will either be on a United codeshare via Brussels on Brussels Airlines, or on a Delta codeshare via Paris CDG on Air France. Air France is currently operating three flights a day to Paris, and Brussels operates flights daily (depending on the day the flight may go via Ouagadougou or another city first). Many major international carriers operate flights to Abidjan (Turkish, Emirates, TAP, MEA, Corsair, Royal Air Maroc, South African, Ethiopian, Kenyan) however, many of these flights go to another Subsaharan African destination first.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for a total of three years.

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

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All USG housing was (at the time of this publication) single family villas. Some of them were in compounds, others were standalone. Most of the housing was quite spacious, but design and construction quality varied by date of construction. I had a very nice standalone villa with its own pool close to the US Embassy. It had some maintenance issues, but the design was very modern and impressive.

Other diplomatic missions had their personnel in apartments, and the apartments that I visited were generally quite nice. As a note, due to the African Development Bank presence (AFDB), rents are quite inflated. Thus, if one is looking for housing on a budget keep that in mind.

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

Quite expensive compared to the USA or Europe. If one is on the US Department of State cost of living adjustment (COLA), one will find that it is not sufficient. Most major French and European brands are available at the numerous supermarkets in Abidjan, but expect to pay anywhere between three to ten times what one would pay in one's home country. I am not a big cook, so I found that most items were available (for a price) at the major supermarkets (many of which were quite nice). Some people complained that certain specialty items were hard to find.

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

Well, if one is with the US government, then one should know that this is not a consumables post. Having said that, during my time, the US Embassy was able to establish a diplomatic post office (DPOS) which made shipment of internet orders quite easy and expeditious. So, in short there is nothing I wish I had shipped to post other than car parts.

European diplomatic mission personnel would ship containers (when allowed) of goods to themselves. Some of these items would include wine, dry food stuffs, etc. Wine, as an example, was easy to find in Abidjan, but like everything else in Subsaharan Africa, extremely expensive.

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

Fantastic Italian and French food: some of the best I have ever had. Very good Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese and, although Japanese and Thai were terrible and not authentic to me (if one has never had real Thai or Japanese food then one will not know the difference). In short, the only thing there is to do in Abidjan is to go out and eat, and the food can be fantastic. Please note, however, that some of the most expensive meals I have ever had were in Abidjan. Eat imported beef, foie gras, and throw in a couple of bottles of French wine, and your bill will easily reach $500 (USD) for two people.

There was also Burger King (numerous locations), KFC, Pizza Hut, and many Lebanese fast food places. Fantastic bread and pastry shops (as any former French colony has), and food delivery services (the largest being Jumia Food).

No one ever complained about food or beverage in Abidjan .

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

Malaria is endemic, and US Mission personnel are required to take a malaria prophylaxis. It's Subsaharan Africa and there are bugs everywhere. Dengue, which has not historically been a problem in Cote d'Ivoire, was causing serious problems in and around Abidjan. Ants, cockroaches, and other insects were common. Again, it is Subsaharan Africa.

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Daily Life:

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

US Mission personnel were able to utilize services available to them. Local postal facilities are not adequate.

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

Household help was shockingly expensive for the quality. 99% of expatriates employed a cleaner, and many had drivers and gardeners. Those who had experience working in the homes of other expatriates were better than those who did not (of course), but most of these domestics were often already gainfully employed, and/or would wanted a very high wage. Expect to pay around US$300 a month for a full time maid who will also cook. Expect to pay more if English language is required. A lot of US Mission personnel hired Ghanians due to the language ability, but this can pose complicated visa issues. Employers will be expected to pay into the Ivorian national retirement system (CNPS). Expect household help to be frequently sick, and in many cases, seem to not be completely literate.

It is not uncommon for Ivorians to not want to do manual labor jobs if they are from the Abidjan region; there are many third country nationals who fill these types of positions. It reminded me of the GCC, except Cote d'Ivoire is extremely poor. My hypothesis is that this mentality is leftover from the days when Cote d'Ivoire was "wealthy" and a regional leader. Of course, these days are long gone, but the locals seem to be unaware that their country is very much in the "developing" phase.

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

Lots of gyms, but they are quite expensive and usually not air conditioned. Expect to pay at least US$80 a month. The US Embassy has a very adequate gym, however one may not bring a personal trainer inside.

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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, it is quite common to use credit cards, however safety will vary. ATMs are common, however card skimming practices are also common.

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

I am not religious, but my understanding is that there were some English-language church services available.

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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?

Yes, one's life will be much easier is one is quite proficient in French. There are plenty of classes and tutors available in French. While there are local languages, they are not commonly spoken in Abidjan.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are sort of safe; U.S. Mission personnel are limited in the types of taxis they are allowed to use (woro-woros are prohibited). There are ride-hailing services available, however during peak hours they are quite difficult to get, and the drivers do not know how to use GPS to find the riders. Otherwise, public transportation is NOT 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?

Carjackings are not really an issue, and haven't been for quite a while, but never say never. An SUV or small SUV is best, but one will be fine with a sedan. It should be noted that during rainy season streets can become quite flooded, so something with ground clearance may be preferred. Also, if one wants to go to the beach, an SUV can be useful. There is no shortage of luxurious cars in Abidjan; there will not be an issue finding parts for Japanese, Korean, and European (particularly French brands) cars, but parts for American makes will be more challenging. While there are plenty of American cars on the roads, obviously some models sold only in the U.S. are not available in foreign makes, and thus their parts are not readily available.

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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?

Expect to pay US$100 a month for unreliable service that will having varying speed quality. Many people use LTE internet service as broadband, however this usually becomes throttled after one has used a certain amount of gigabytes within the 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?

MTN is the best; if one is with the US Embassy then they will help one establish an account at a very reasonable rate. Otherwise most people have Orange or MTN; the LTE signal depends on where one is within the country, but in general it is not bad. I personally recommend MTN, if only because they have slightly better customer service.

There are others, but I wouldn't bother.

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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?

Animals do not need quarantine if they are properly papered, but they will be if there are not. Do you want your animal quarantined in a developing country? I didn't think so! So learn everything about importing animals to Cote d'Ivore and there shouldn't be any issues. I don't own any pets so I can't speak to specifics.

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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?

If one speaks French very well and has many degrees then one may be able to work for the AFDB, or some other international organization. Some people do telecommute, but I guess that it is situational. Salaries for international organizations can be quite high, but getting these jobs is quite competitive. Otherwise, forget working on the local economy. There are many positions within the US Embassy if one is an eligible family member (EFM), but pay and prestige of these positions will vary. In summary, if one is a trailing spouse that cannot telework, then one may not be happy if one isn't happy to sit at home.

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

Ivorians tend to be quite formal at work (think suits for men, and the equivalent for women, or elaborate local outfits).

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, while it is definitely safer than a lot of places, bad things can go wrong at any moment. Lock your cars, be aware of your surroundings at night, and never venture into dangerous neighborhoods - one will learn what these are. Having said that, this is no Johannesburg, one can walk on the streets during the day, and as previously stated carjackings are not common. The biggest looming security concern is the upcoming Presidential election in October 2020. Previous Presidential elections have been quite violent, and resulted in civil wars - so that is a huge issue weighing on the minds of Ivorians and expats alike.

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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?

Well, as previously stated malaria and mosquito borne illnesses are major concern. Hospital quality varies, and while there are some mildly tolerable hospitals, one will want to leave if one is pregnant, or needs major surgery. Any sort of major accident or surgery, or health incident that requires hospitalization should be evacuated.

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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?

People complain about it, although I didn't think it was that bad. Yes, air can be bad from the lack of any kind of pollution controls and the smoke belching taxis and mopeds. However, in general there isn't much traditional pollution. Air can be quite bad during the "harmattan" season when the sands blow in from the Sahara. Otherwise, I do not think that the air quality is a major issue - anyone who insists that it is hasn't lived in China.

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

Not that I am aware of, although some people may claim that the air quality makes their allergies worse.

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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)?

No SADs as it is always hot, so in general none that I am aware of. U.S. Mission personnel do get a bit angsty as it isn't easy to get to the US, and we have limited mobility around the country, thus leaving one to feel a bit trapped within Abidjan.

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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, hotter, and hottest. Some dryer seasons, but it can rain all the time.

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Schools & Children:

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

International schools for those who desire an American curriculum are limited. There are some very good French schools, but then the children will be stuck in the French curriculum.

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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?

Not sure - but I think most people just hire nannies.

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

Some sports are available at the main American international school.

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Expat Life:

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

Well, lots of Francophone countries, and lots of African due to the AFDB. Over 140,000 Lebanese and other Arabs. Limited Americans/non-Francophone Europeans. Growing People's Republic of China presence.

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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?

Going to restaurants, going to the beach, going to bars, going to more restaurants, going to the beach again, lots and lots of bars - restaurants etc. Not much to do other than to go to restaurants and bars (although none of the bars were that great, but lots of great restaurants). A lot of house parties.

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

Not bad for single people, families tend to be happy (although I wouldn't want to put my children on anti-malaria meds).

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

Short answer is "it depends," but the longer answer is "no." So, Cote d'Ivoire is one of the few Subsaharan African countries that decriminalized homosexuality. However, there seems to be no concept of gay rights or being openly gay. Lesbians are invisible, and forget transgendered people. Having said that, there are plenty of gay expats who seem to find locals to be in relationships with. My assumption is that the local was probably benefiting from the relationship, as is common in other countries, but as long as everyone is happy who am I to judge? I've heard extortion can be a common problem here, and thus expats may refrain from relationships with locals. This can make Abidjan quite lonely for gay expats, and while there are lots of gay/bisexual Lebanese, they do not tend to fraternize outside of their own social groups out of fear of exposure. In summary, just like the rest of Africa it really sucks to be gay even if it isn't technically illegal.

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

Sort of ... it's a very international place, so one will meet people from all over the world, but one will have the most friends if one can speak French. If one doesn't speak French well, as I mentioned before, then do not expect to have many friends local or otherwise.

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

Not really, obviously like most places it is a "man's world".

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

Mmmmm. Best trips were leaving the country to Senegal. Cote d'Ivoire is not a terrible place, but there really isn't much to do except go out to eat. There is very little culture, and there is not much of a tourist infrastructure.

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

No. People go to the beach, but it is just a mediocre beach with really overpriced hotels.

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

Well there are some, but I wouldn't say that it is a "shopping post".

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

Ummm. it's not the worst place.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That there really isn't much to do, although I do not know how I would have been able to plan for that.

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

Short answer is yes, longer answer is no.... There is nothing fantastic about Abidjan, however for a Subsaharan West African post it really wasn't that bad. But, I would never go back.

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

Cold weather clothes and expectations of reliable service.

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4. But don't forget your:

Toyota Land Cruiser, patience, malarone, bug spray, and lots of 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?

Mmmm. There is some French movie made in the 1970s that was filmed at the old Club Med outside of Abidjan, but I forget what it is called.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If one cannot escape a tour in Subsaharan Africa, then Abidjan is probably your best choice. IF one can avoid Abidjan avoid it, but that goes for most of the region. People who like Abidjan tend to be Francophone Africaphiles.

Good luck!

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Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire 03/15/17

Background:

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

Not our first posting. Many other African posts.

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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?

From the US east coast, fly from Boston to either Paris or Brussels and then down to Abidjan.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

US 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 lived in a stand-alone house. Our house had 3 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms with an office. Housing varies more widely here than at other Africa locations. There are smaller 2 bed/2 bath townhouses to huge houses. Some have pools, others do not. Some have yards, other none.



Commute time depends upon your neighborhood but can be anywhere from 10 min to 1 hour.

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

The availability of supplies is wide. There are most major French chains there: Casino, Carrefour, Super U etc. Prices for most items are slightly higher to much higher than we are used to in the US.

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

Bring liquids, detergent, dishwashing liquid.

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

Almost every type of food is offered here.

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

Termites are everywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

Mail comes via diplomatic pouch only. There is no DPO. Have never tried the local post.

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

Household help and gardeners are widely available. The cost is higher than in most African capitals as the cost of living is much higher here. It is quite a shock to some people just how much the staff asks for as a salary when neighboring countries are half of that. Plan on $200+ a month for a full time gardener and $300+ a month for inside staff.

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

There are many gyms and sports facilities. Most are $500-$1000 a year for membership. Monthly memberships can also be obtained.

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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 and ATMs can be used in high-volume grocery stores, some restaurants and in malls. I would plan on doing most transactions in cash otherwise.

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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?

There is not much English spoken so I recommend learning at least a small amount of French. Language training is widely available.

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

Yes. There is not much in the way of ADA guidelines.

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Transportation:

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

Not advised for safety reasons.

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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?

SUV or other 4x4. Roads can get rutted and this provides extra visibility.

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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 available and reliable. You can get a portable wifi and have immediate access.

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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?

Many people use Orange or MTN.

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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 quarantine. There are very basic vet services. There is no high-level care.

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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?

Most spouses work at the Embassy. Some have NGO jobs but needed basic French to get them.

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

Professional attire is expected at the embassy. Suits. Ties for men. Casual on the weekends. Formal dress only for balls.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is minor petty crime although some home burglaries did happen at Embassy houses.

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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?

Malaria. Dengue. Chikunyunga. The medical care ranges from spotty to good. The embassy health unit has one of the best practitioners in the system right now. Evacuation would occur for trauma, need for surgery, etc.

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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 is awful with the pollution from cars and burning trash. There is also the seasonal "harmattan" dust that comes in January and February which makes the air brown. Anyone with asthma issues should be aware.

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

Dust allergies can be tough here. Food allergies can be handled if you know what to look for.

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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)?

Just the usual homesickness-type stuff.

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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?

Mainly hot and humid all the time with a small reprieve in January and June for a short time. Rains come in the summer mostly, April-September.

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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 American and a French school there. Many other private schools are also there and are very good such as Mermoz and Grain de Soleil.

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

Schools can try to make accommodations if they have advance notice.

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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?

Preschools are plentiful. Bebe Calin and Grain de Soleil are two that are excellent. Most before- and after-care is provided by nannies in the home.

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

Yes, you can find karate, judo, tae kwon do, soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, art, cooking, dance.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge community. The largest are French and Lebanese.

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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 is the Hash run, soccer, softball, women's groups, coffee morning etc

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

This is a city that has something for everyone. The only thing lacking would be parks and open spaces for children.

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

Not very tolerant of non-conforming gender roles.

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

This is a male-dominated society that sees nothing wrong with abusing women and children.

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

Making good friends and enjoying family.

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

There is a wide variety of African art and woodwork to collect.

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

You will save a lot of money. Quick trips up to Europe.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That you cannot use the local beaches as they are polluted. You have to drive a good ways to get to them.

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

I am not sure. It was hard on my health with all of the pollution. If that were not an issue, I would move back.

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

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and bathing suit.

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Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire 08/28/15

Background:

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

This is my first time living in the developing world.

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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?

Usually Washington or the American Midwest, and it takes about 20 hours for two flights and a typical layover in Europe. Most RT flights to the US will run you $1500-2000 since there's little competition for this market.

For Delta frequent fliers, all the Air France flights connect through Paris, and there are daily non-stop overnight flights. They started flying the A380 about 4 days a week, which is an impressive feat for West Africa. It's a 500-passenger double-decker plane, so it strains the airport's capacity when it flies into Abidjan.

United frequent fliers can take Air Brussels, which also has a daily overnight flight direct to Brussels, but it stops for an hour most days in Burkina or Togo, etc.

Some people take the 1-hour flight to Accra and fly on Delta direct to JFK, but connecting in Accra is lousy. Royal Air Maroc is probably the cheapest option, but I've heard it's not worth the hassle. Emirates and Turkish airlines are also slightly cheaper, but you're going in the wrong direction to get to the States.

There were rumors 6 months ago that a direct flight would open up between Abidjan and Washington, but it seemed to fall through. The airport here, which is probably the nicest in West Africa, was recently certified for direct flights to the US, so one can hope.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About two years now.

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

I work in 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?

There's a housing shortage due to the return of the ADB, but everyone is in a house. They are spread throughout the city in different neighborhoods. Most are big; one or two stories, all made of cement. Some have pools. Most of the houses I've seen are decent, some are even quite nice.

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

The grocery stores here are nice and clean, but they all carry the same stuff, usually geared toward French tastes, and are slightly more pricey than in the States. It's a shame they took away the consumables allowance, as that's a great way to get your American food and product fix. They have plenty of imported produce and products at premium prices. Local fruits and veggies are much cheaper, but you will notice the difference.

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

I like having the American staples, because they're more familiar and cheaper to get in bulk at Costco. Same for cleaning supplies. I enjoy American beer, so that's nice to import, since you can't get it locally.

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

Fast food here is usually schwarma, unimpressive fried chicken, or fried Vietnamese spring rolls ("nems"). Just not that kind of culture here. Usually you can get a bowl of sauce with a hunk of meat or fish and a starch for $2 for lunch at road stalls, but I don't know many Americans who eat that way.

I'm a big fan of maquis food, which is more traditional fare (grilled chicken or fish, with starchy sides, and local beer) served at outdoor restaurants. It can take a while for the food to be served, and you eat with your hands, but I love it. In Abidjan, it's about $10-12 a person.

Most other restaurants are fine, but they all have a French bent and will be a little more pricey, especially for wine. Burgers here are terrible, just avoid them.

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

Not really. There are a few mosquitoes in Abidjan, but it's not too bad. Some people get ants in their houses.

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Daily Life:

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

Dip 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?

It's inexpensive, but also inconsistent. A lot of people have had sub-optimal experiences. Some pay more to get more seasoned help.

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3. 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 a cash-based society. Credit cards are taken at most hotels, upscale stores, and a few grocery stores. ATMs are safe and are located on every commercial street. The US Embassy also has an ATM.

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

It's very helpful to have at least some French to get around. A few folks speak some English.

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

Yeah, it'd be pretty rough.

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Transportation:

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

Shared public transport is probably quite uncomfortable, and you might have your pockets picked. The orange individual taxis are "safer," although their drivers tend to be maniacs and they lack seat belts in the back seats. But it's a way to get around, since they're everywhere. Always negotiate the price before getting in; their meters are usually rigged.

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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 Abidjan, I'd say an older mid-size SUV will help with battling in traffic, but the roads are suitable for sedans. An SUV will also give you clearance on some of the bad roads on the way to the beach or outside of the city. Toyota is the most-common brand here, but people drive all sorts of vehicles. Mechanics can be good and pricey or cheap and a crap-shoot.

Traffic is bad during rush hour, but it's all relative. Some drivers are selfish and flout the laws, and it's necessary to be a defensive driver here.

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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, and it's really improved. DSL is $80-90 a month and is fast enough to stream video. Some people tether from their 3G phone connections. We can stream HD video (with an American VPN service, but upload speeds are pretty dismal.

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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 folks have smartphones, and data plans are affordable and pretty robust in Abidjan. Less so out in the country.

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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 problems at all bringing in pets if you follow the guidelines, though I don't even think we needed to do that! Vets here are mostly enthusiasts and are not comparable to what's available in the developed world.

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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?

Probably not, unless you speak French; but even then, probably not. The US Embassy has more EFM jobs than applicants, which has changed since I arrived.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yeah, don't walk outside at night, and RSO advises staying out of certain neighborhoods. There were a few home invasions more than a year ago, but the embassy houses are pretty safe and have 24 hour guards.

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2. 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?

90 percent of the time it's good, if only a little humid. For about a month in January there's the Harmattan sand mist that darkens the city, cools things down, and can get in your lungs. Then there are the locals that occasionally burn their trash, which can make certain neighborhoods lousy for a few hours. There's a whole part of Zone 4 that smells like brownies at night, due to the cocoa processing plant there.

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

It's a 60/40 split between hot-n-dry or warm-n-wet. During the rainy season, it'll be cloudy most days with brief light showers and occasional downpours.

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Expat Life:

1. 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's a new movie theater that shows films in English a few nights a week, which is quite nice. Restaurants are popular, same with night clubs. Dinner parties are nice. The embassy has monthly wine and cheese nights. CLO organizes family-friendly activities.

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

It's quickly becoming kid-city here, which means fewer social activities for singles/childless couples. Single people seem to have fun here, though, with a few exceptions.

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

There's a benign homophobia within the general public, but hostility and violence are incredibly rare, especially compared to elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. That being said, I don't know of a vibrant LGBT scene here.

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

It's a mixed religious culture here, and people seem to get along. Most people here don't care for atheists, though. There are some gender stereotypes, but it's far more benign than more religiously conservative countries. Almost all jobs here are gendered, i.e. all the cashiers at grocery stores are going to be women, and all of the people selling junk in traffic are going to be men.

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

Côte d'Ivoire is, with a few exceptions, a safe country to travel around in. I've done out-country trips both with the embassy and personally, and never have I ever felt like we were in an unsafe situation. Let me clarify that: the only danger I face here is other drivers on the road - and the road conditions.

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

I love the main university in Cocody. It's several square miles of mostly green space with little traffic, only students walking around. It's a great place to run at sunrise or sunset.

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

Some crafts are available, but it's not as developed here as in other parts of the world.

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

The climate here is pretty good; it's rarely too hot and it never gets chilly. The infrastructure in the city is greatly improving, but it still has a way to go. There are plenty of decent, if pricey, restaurants in the city. Ivoiriens here are pretty warm and friendly, and foreigners aren't really hassled. You can find almost anything in the city, as long as it's something that the French would want to buy, but the prices are going to be higher. American food, restaurants, and products are very much a niche thing here, although that seems to be changing. We've been able to save a decent amount of money, but that's because we don't eat out much.

Fruit here is great; when it's in season, you'll have the best pineapples and mangoes you've ever tasted.

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9. Can you save money?

Definitely, as long as you aren't eating out for every meal.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely, and things are improving here every day. I'm just happy that I take an international trip every few months to keep it from getting overwhelming.

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

Winter clothes and bicycles.

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3. But don't forget your:

Tex-Mex spices and bourbon. And sunscreen and umbrellas.

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Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire 06/07/09

Background:

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

No. I have lived in England.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Almost a year.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

The most common flight route to the US goes through Paris. However, if you're flying to New York or DC, it is possible to fly through Dakar, Senegl.

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

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?

Embassy housing is large and showy. However, many people have had serious problems with their housing. Leaks, mold, termites, etc. Getting things fixed the first, second, or third time is very difficult.

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

Just pay it and don't try to convert it to US prices. You'll be happier. Cote d'Ivoire may be an agricultural power house, but everything is exported in raw form. Then imported back in. So, the country that grows cocoa beans does not make chocolate bars. A pint of Ben & Jerry's is $10. A small can of tuna is $3-$4.

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

Cans of tuna and chicken. Boxes of pretzels. Twice the amount of cleaning products (the help here loves to use cleaning products).

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

Lots of restaurants ranging from cheap to expensive. There are no American fast food outlets. There are no Starbucks. You can get sushi here but it's not that good.

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

Welcome to the wonderful world of insects. Bring bug spray, ant traps, stuff to put on bug bites, and for crying out loud, take your malaria pills.

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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. For personal packages we cannot send out anything bigger than a padded envelope through the pouch. We can, however, receive boxes.

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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'm paying $16-20 a week (depending on the exchange rate) for someone to come to my 4-bedroom house -- clean everything, and do the laundry. I have been told by many people I'm paying too much. They are usually paying a dollar or two less. My housekeeper is grumpy because I won't let him cook and shop for me.

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

If you are active, this is the embassy for you. Yoga, volleyball (there is a court right next to the marine house), tennis (lessons are $10), golf, Hash House Harriers, and a pretty decent work-out room in the embassy itself. Many houses have pools. If you don't, you can join the Golf Club and use their pool.

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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?

Cash only society. Seriously. You will use your credit card for on-line shopping, and you will blow the dust of your ATM card before going on R&R. BRING YOUR CHECK BOOK and get cash from the Embassy cashier.

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

Not a good church-goer.

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

All the newspapers are in French. I get my news from the internet and AFN.

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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?

Get that intro to French course. It will help. You need to learn to order in restaurants and shop in the grocery store.

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

Well, all of the embassy's handicapped door buttons were disabled because they were detriments to security. So, someone in a wheel chair or with a cane would have great difficulty just getting in and out through the heavy main doors. Sidewalks are rare in Abidjan, and they (and the streets) are usually in terrible repair. Every single house I have been in has stairs.

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Transportation:

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

Do not take them. Many are unsafe. Shared taxis open you up to robbery attempts. You can, if you have to, take a private taxi but then you can be pulled over by the police at a check point and be forced to pay a bribe. Stick to your dip-plate vehicle.

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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 do not need an SUV or four-wheel drive. You do, however, need a car with a high clearance. Many of the roads (possibly the one you will live on) are terrible. Ivoirians build killer speed bumps, and huge pot holes are not uncommon.

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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. However, it's West Africa. Prepare to go to war with which ever internet company you chose.

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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 issues cell phones.

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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)?

There are many people with pets and they seem very pleased with the vet care. When going on vacation they leave their pets either with their servants or with a friend.

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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?

The International School has hired two people I know. To get a job in Abidjan outside of an NGO, one would have to be fluent in French.

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

At work - business, business-casual. After work - women will want cute going-out outfits. Get natural fibers (you will be sweating). Hit cheaper places like H&M so if that adorable top gets ruined (very likely) you won't feel bad.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Burning garbage is common. Cars belching black smoke is also common. In certain spots the lagoon always smells like sewage, and some days Abidjan itself smells like sewage. The Ivoirians drop their litter everywhere. There is absolutely no environmental awareness. That said, I've had no eye or throat problems, and my skin looks great.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

We take our malaria pills! You'll need rabies, typhoid, yellow fever, all the usual stuff.

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

There is a lot of crime -- especially around Christmas time. Home invasions seem to be less common these days. But the police are my main issue. There are several security forces -- all of them taking bribes. They all carry AK-47s. However, it is commonly believed the guns are not loaded since the safeties are not on, and none of the police have managed to kill themselves while using their AK-47s to direct traffic, gesture, scratch, and twirl like batons.

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

Embassy Abidjan currently has an excellent medical professional with a good staff.

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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?

It's usually in the mid 80's, partly cloudy/sunny, and humid.

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Schools & Children:

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

Before the US Embassy was evacuated twice, the international school was pretty large and quite nice. Now the facility is rented out to the UN, and a smaller version of the school is still chugging along. Currently, there are no American children at the US Embassy.

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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?

If and when the US Embassy allows families back, there will be plenty of local help for small children. HOWEVER, malaria is a major concern here, and malaria pills are not recommended for children under 12.

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

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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. Mostly NGOs, UN, and other embassies. There is a large Lebanese community, but these people have lived here for generations.

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2. Morale among expats:

The expats who stayed through the civil war are pretty devoted to Cote d'Ivoire.

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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?

Nightclubs, bars, restaurants, people's home. Volleyball, yoga, tennis, golf.

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

Right now it's all singles or couples without children or with grown children. It's a good group of people and there is a lot of socializing. There are a lot of nightclubs, bars, etc. So drinking and dancing opportunities abound. But forget about museums, window shopping, going to the the movies, walking in parks, walking on sidewalks, sitting in a cafe with a good cup of coffee.

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

This is a culture where men are not gay, they just have sex with other men. That said, expats are not held to the standards of Ivoirian culture. Also, it's very common for straight men to hold each others' hands. I have no information for lesbians.

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

As an expat with diplomatic plates - no. As someone who has read the human rights report on Cote d'Ivoire - hell yes. Women really do not have equal rights, no one has equal protection under the law, and there are a lot of tribal prejudices. It seems to me that religious intolerance is not that big of an issue here.

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

Nightclubs, bars, restaurants. Grand Bassam beach is only an hour away from Abidjan and great for a day trip (though the vendors will bug you). Assini is about two hours away and nicer, but you pay a lot (no bargains!) and you should bring your own pillow. There are markets, but the quality of local crafts are either (a) poor and far too expensive for what you are getting, or (b) good and expensive. There are no bargains to be had. There are no cool animals (killed off years ago) and the preserves/national parks are now off limits as they are in territories controlled by Force Nouvelle or bandits. Abidjan does not have one single tourist attraction. Most everyone gets a tailor and starts having clothes made. Men have had tuxes and suits made for the Marine Ball. Women get local outfits, gowns for the Marine ball, casual clothes, you name 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?

In general, crafts here are not good. The good stuff is around, but it is very expensive. Lots of people buy material at Woodin which is made in Cote d'Ivoire and have clothes and other things made.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Despite the fact that everything is really expensive here, I have found myself banking quite a bit without even trying.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but with a big grain of salt. Abidjan is vibrant, and it has an active nightlife. But it also has crumbling infrastructure, lots of poor people, crime, garbage, and blatant corruption.

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

Western ideas of scheduling, getting things done quickly and correctly, driving ....Just leave the west behind. Get a copy of the book African Friends and Money Matters: Observations from Africa (Publications in Ethnography, Vol. 37)
and start reading it now.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor. Also, if you've been meaning to knit sweaters for everyone in your family, finish WAR & PEACE, take up golf -- this is the place to do it. In short, if you don't have a hobby or self-improvement goal -- get 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?

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

It's easy to bang your head against the wall here. Graft and corruption are accepted. Educated people believe in witchcraft. You can go around in circles just trying to order a drink. Do not come to Abidjan with the idea it will be a great jumping-off place to see the rest of Africa. Plane fare is expensive, and direct flights to places of interest do not always exist. However, you probably will save up enough money to make one or two trips. Mali and South Africa are popular.

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Abidjan, Cote D'ivoire 01/23/09

Background:

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

no - Tokyo, Paris, Ulaanbaatar, Port Louis.

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2. How long have you lived here?

9 months and counting...

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Air France has direct flights from Abidjan to Paris, from which you can fly to many cities in the U.S. Abidjan to Paris takes about 6 hours. Some people prefer to fly to Accra or Dakar first and then take Delta direct to the States. There is a direct Accra-JFK flight and another direct Dakar-Atlanta flight.

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

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?

Embassy housing is one of the most fabulous things about this place. All of the houses are exceptionally large places. Nearly all of them (except a few compound style houses) have their own, large, enclosed yards and several houses come with their own swimming pool! The houses that are furthest away have a maximum 15 minute commute time without traffic. In general, it takes me 10- 15 minutes to get to work in the morning. As a single person with no family members, I have a 4BR/4BA house with living room, dining room, huge kitchen, breakfast nook, and pool. The smallest houses in the pool have 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, but come with a garage and their own yard. There are no apartments in the embassy housing pool.

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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 almost everything in Abidjan, though you may have to pay big $$ for it. There are several supermarkets which stock all kinds of local and imported food. If you stick to local items, you can keep your costs low. Imported items can be very, very pricey. A small box of cherries imported from Lebanon, for example, cost me US$15. You can definitely feel the French influence here - the cheese and wine selections are very good.

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

Liquid items that cannot be sent by pouch. Everything else can pretty much be ordered. Most people ship toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies because local quality is not as good.

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

Fast food: Steers (a South African chain) and Akle (a Quebecois chain) are here. Restaurants are very good here - you can find good Chinese, Tex-Mex, sushi, Indian, Vietnamese, Lebanese, French, and Italian restaurants here. Costs range from about $2USD for a shawarma to $30 a plate at fancier places. Pako's, which has two locations, has an excellent selection of breads, pastries, and a very reasonably priced breakfast menu with omelettes and crepes.

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

I have found giant roaches (around small mouse size) in my house before, and there are various other little beasties that will find their way into your house, including ants and inchworms. That said, I expected the bugs to be bigger and scarier - they aren't really so. Mosquitos are a problem: bring repellent and take your mefloquine, doxycycline, or malarone to avoid malaria.

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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 is best. There is no door to door mail service here, and streets are unnumbered and unnamed.

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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 inexpensive and can be very good here. Nearly everyone has a housekeeper, a gardener, or someone who cleans their pool. Prices are around US$15/day for help.

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

The Embassy has a fitness center with treadmills, an elliptical machine, stationary bikes, weight machines, etc. Embassy staff hold yoga classes weekly, and there is a beach volleyball court behind the embassy where people play twice a week. Many people also swim or play tennis at the Golf Hotel or go horseback riding at the local stable - both of which are located about 5 minutes away from the embassy. The expat community organizes hashes on the weekend. There is a weekly Saturday French hash, and a once-a-month Classic (British/Anglophone) hash on the 3rd Sunday of the month. Some embassy employees have also taken the embassy boat out for fishing.

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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 have used ATMs here with no problems. Some people are uncomfortable with this though and just use the embassy cashier. There are very few places where credit cards are accepted here.

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

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

DirectTV is available here.

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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?

Very few people speak English here and everything is done in French. You will be much happier getting around knowing at least basic phrases.

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

There are almost no sidewalks. Those that exist are broken and uneven and often used by cars as an additional "lane." The few high rise buildings have teeny tiny elevators or stairs. The embassy is wheelchair accessible, though most government buildings and stores are not.

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Transportation:

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

The Embassy does not recommend taking public transport in general. Orange cabs can be used in a pinch and are not super expensive.

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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?

A smaller SUV is probably ideal, mostly because some ground clearance is nice to have during the rainy season when some of the streets get flooded. Also nice for off-roading if you want to get out of the city. Many people have sedans, though, and there are literally all kinds of cars on the road, from brand new BMWs to falling apart rat-trap station wagons.

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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. There are two companies - Aviso and AFNet. Costs for DSL are around US$50 a month, and can go lower or higher depending on how fast you want your connection to be. Service is sometimes spotty, and can go out from time to time. Paying your bill is also a pain, because you need to go to pay in person with cash. You can prepay for several months, however, if you forget to go in to pay, they will cut your service off.

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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 cell phones to all employees. There are quite a few providers in town. Most have spotty coverage outside of Abidjan, with no service in rural areas. There are a few days a month when dropped calls and a busy network can be problematic.

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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)?

People use a vet in Cocody (Dr. Diakite) and one in Riviera. Care is generally very good, though more specialized pet meds may not be available on the local market. There are no kennels that I know of. People usually ask friends or their housekeeper to take care of their animals while they are away. Nearly all hotels here, including those at beach resorts, will allow pets to stay with you too.

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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?

There are some opportunities with local NGOs and the UN for those with prior experience. Most other jobs are not very well-paid, though there are some available.

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

The Embassy is not overly formal. Men do not generally wear suits at the office, though for representational events, they are required. Women wear anything from upscale casual to suits. In public, you can see all types of clothing. Women are generally not harassed on the street; however, Cote d'Ivoire is nearly 50% Muslim, so appropriate attire is appreciated.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Pollution is moderate to unhealthy in Abidjan, depending on the day. Days when people burn trash in the street all over the city are the worst, as smoke fills the air and you will be covered with ash, even if you are outside for only five minutes. The dilapidated state of many vehicles here also results in unhealthy levels of exhaust and emissions. I do not think the pollution is that bad here, but those who are sensitive to pollution might feel otherwise.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Yellow fever is absolutely required upon entry into the country, otherwise you will be given a shot at the airport before you are allowed to enter. Rabies, meningitis, the hepatitis series, and others are recommended. Check with your doctor to be sure.

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

There is crime in Abidjan, with occasional carjackings and home invasions. That said, no one at post who follows security rules has had a problem. It is unsafe to walk around after dark alone or even with groups, simply because you stand out and people imagine you have money. The security office recommends that you drive everywhere after dark, even if only a block away. The embassy provides 24-hour a day guards, alarm systems, and many other security procedures to make you feel safe and secure at home.

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

Many people get weird bugs and have tummy issues here when they first arrive. Malaria is a main concern - many embassy employees who were not taking anti-malaria meds have gotten it and do not recommend it! There have been a few isolated cases of dengue fever here too. The HIV/AIDS rate is very high. The local hospital PISAM is okay for routine care, but not up to international standards. People die here from routine surgery, so those who can afford it go to Europe for serious health issues.

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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 and humid most of the year. In January, with Harmattan, the weather cools down a bit and there is less humidity in the air. There are two rainy seasons - one that starts around May and another later in the year around November. Some people here find the humidity annoying (bad hair days!), but the moisture in the air seems to do wonders for your skin. There is sunshine almost 365 days a year - fabulous!

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School. Some embassy family members have found work there, but I have heard the school is somewhat disorganized. This hasn't really been a concern as children are currently not allowed at post.

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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?

As children are not currently allowed at post, none of us have any experience with preschools or daycares in Abidjan. That said, household help is inexpensive and reliable and might be an option for some families. There are UN personnel with very young children here.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Embassies here generally have one or two people a piece, so the diplomatic community is somewhat small, apart from the Americans and perhaps the French. There is a large number of UN personnel and French military in Abidjan. There are also many NGOs working in Cote d'Ivoire, so there are definitely opportunities to meet expats, particularly if you speak French. The expat community is smaller, so you will see and recognize the same people at the same places after awhile.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good.

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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?

Single people spend a lot of their time going to restaurants, bars, and clubs in Zone 4. There are a decent number of places to choose from, though nothing rivaling the scene in bigger cities in more modern places. Many people entertain in their homes and host parties, barbecues, happy hours, or other themed events. Cheap household help and large houses make entertaining at home an easy and fun alternative.

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

Singles and couples that are currently at post seem to find it a good place to be. Families would be okay, as long as they were creative and imaginative about entertainment for children. There are no real parks or other outdoor places where kids can play.

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

Cote d'Ivoire is generally a tolerant place, and I think gays and lesbians should not have a problem here. Although you don't see it all the time, it is customary for very good male friends to hold hands here.

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

Cote d'Ivoire is very tolerant of different religions, and you can find mosques and churches throughout the city. Although men still hold most positions of power here, women occupy ministerial positions and you can find them working in nearly every sector, including the National Police. That said, part of the explanation for Cote d'Ivoire's political crisis lies in the ethnic tensions that are constantly simmering beneath the surface of things. There have been violent clashes between tribes even near Abidjan, though tensions are highest in the western part of the country. For daily living, African-American embassy employees have been subjected to different treatment than other diplomats, including being stopped or shaken down by police at checkpoints.

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

Day trips to very nice beach resorts an hour away or a three hour drive to one of the largest basilicas in the world, located in the de-facto capital city of Yamoussoukro (where you can feed alligators live chickens - yikes!). Longer road trips to Ghana: Accra is about 9 hours by car, with many historical and interesting slave castles, beach resorts, and other fun things to do on the way there.

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

Handpainted fabric with Senoufo designs; handcarved wooden items, incl masks, chairs, and figurines; and interesting and colorful African fabric. Tailors are skilled, relatively inexpensive, and can make fabulous things to order here simply from pictures.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely, especially if you eat local items and don't spend all your money at restaurants and the biggest budget buster - bars. Most people who can't save money here spend all their time trying to get out of Abidjan - either going to the beach resorts or taking trips out of country. Flying out of here is really expensive, though there are plenty of great things to see around West Africa that are only a short flight away.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Expectations that people should drive within traffic lanes and in an orderly fashion.

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3. But don't forget your:

French, sunscreen and mosquito repellent, bathing suits, club clothes, sports gear, and patience.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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