Malabo, Equatorial Guinea Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 08/20/17

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 Latin America and another city in Africa.

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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?

20-24 hours to the East Coast through Paris, Madrid, or Frankfurt

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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.)?

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?

The housing is very comfortable whether on compound or off. Every residence has three bedrooms. The closet space is a little small on compound but everything else is good. We live on compound in a 2-story townhouse with ample space. It takes less than 5 minutes to walk to work. The compound has a pool, gym, walking trail, and tennis/basketball court.

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

Most products are imported and are more expensive than in the U.S. but most everything we need can be purchased locally. The juice is not good here in our opinion and the milk is UHT. This is a consumables post so ship your brand specific favorites including liquids since they cannot be received in the pouch. We ship dry products we prefer via Amazon Prime.

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

Items that we shipped in our consumables included brand-specific hot sauce, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, Cranberry Juice, Grapefruit Juice, hair products, and brand-specific potato ships.

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

Malabo has several options for cuisine- Chinese, Japanese, Cuban, Dominican, Lebanese, U.S.-based Wing Zone, Cameroonian, and French, for example. Also, the Hilton and Sofitel offer expensive buffets for brunch and dinner. There are a few pizza places but they are just okay. The embassy employees get invited to one of the U.S. oil compounds for dinner often.

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

There are lizards all over the compound. I've never seen them inside our home but they seem to keep bugs away. Ants can occasionally be a problem and a couple of centipedes always make their way into the home.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch takes 2-3 weeks and is delivered once a week. Local postal facilities are not adequate to send mail but post cards can be purchased there.

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

Most expats pay 15,000 CFA or 20,000 CFA per day (about 30 or 35 USD). The people who live on compound currently use the same person because she is very good.

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

The embassy has a small gym on compound. The Hilton and Sofitel also have gyms. The Hilton gym membership is very expensive. It's free if you are staying there. You can find your specific sports interests if you make local friends. Golf, aerobics, and soccer are available.

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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?

No, this is a cash economy. I only use my credit card at Hilton or Magno Suites restaurant. ATMs are unreliable and not safe to use.

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

Catholic and Protestant.

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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?

You need to know basic words in Spanish. Yes, and post offers language classes in Spanish, English for local staff and EFMs who need it, as well as French, the second official language.

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

Yes, there are no handicapped parking spaces or ADA compliant side walks or entrances. It is also rare for a building to have an elevator. There are two embassy residences that are compliant though and there is one handicapped parking space at the embassy.

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Transportation:

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

No, public transportation doesn't exist beyond taxis which are off limits to expat mission personnel.

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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?

Most any car will be okay here as the roads are generally well-paved in the capital. Ship spare parts you may need as they will probably be expensive 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?

The internet has gotten better in the last two years. I don't remember how long it took to set up. It works enough for me to download my shows through Amazon and sometimes stream them. You can also stream Netflix and YouTube off of it.

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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?

People use Getesa aka Orange or Muni for phone service and Whatsapp for texting and free international calls with/without video. We also use Skype and the IVG to make calls to the U.S.

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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 two vets that I've heard of. Animals don't need to be quarantined upon entry but they'll need an e-chip to pass through Europe.

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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 expat spouses at the embassy work at the embassy. Other expats work at the U.S. oil companies but none of the embassy spouses work there. The expats spouses at the oil companies usually don't work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are orphanages.

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

People tend to dress business casual at this post both in public and at work. Traditional African clothing is also acceptable. Formal dress is expected at official functions.

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Health & Safety:

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

Direct hires and their families are not allowed to take taxis due to safety issues.

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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?

Like many places, malaria is a concern. Prophylaxis is available at the Health Unit and the nurse can test for it and provide treatment on site. There is one hospital with Western standards but it's on the expensive side. People medevac to the U.S., London, or South Africa.

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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 is moderate.

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

Wash fruits and vegetables well. Consider bringing your specific meds to post.

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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)?

Not really. Some people will need to leave every few months to get a change of scenery.

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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 but manageable. The rainy seasons last for several months.

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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 a Spanish school, French school, Nigerian school, Montessori school, a boarding school, and a school named Maria Cano with a U.S. citizen director. The kids at post in recent years attended Maria Cano or were homeschooled. I have not had any direct experience with any of

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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?

I have heard that day care is available.

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

I imagine so but you'll need to check with the local schools.

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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 relatively small. Most U.S. citizens either work at the embassy or for a U.S. oil company. Morale is good among expats.

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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?

Attend events at the Spanish, French, or Equatoguinean Cultural Centers. Attend Embassy events. Join a local church. There is some nightlife. You can go dancing or listen to music at one of the venues like the jazz lounge.

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

This post is better for couples and families as it can be hard to date or make friends locally.

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

No, LGBT is a social taboo here.

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

Equatoguineans seem to not like having Africans from neighboring countries around; they get harassed by the police and have a very hard time obtaining and renewing their residency. Women feel that they need their husband's permission to travel outside of the country and men often have children with multiple women.

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

The Spanish here is influenced by Spain. Also there are Latinos here from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay to name a few. Visiting the Playa Blanca Arena.

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

Karaoke is available at at least three restaurants. There is a Sofitel spa & resort beside the nearest beach (20-30 minutes away). There are also a couple of other beaches on the island and others on the mainland. There is also a big sea turtle nesting season that brings students from Drexel University in Philadelphia to do research at a beach with black sand and waterfalls called Ureca. Also, there's a volcano (Pico Basile) that you can hike. Both of these destinations require a free permit from the Ministry of Tourism that the CLO facilitates.

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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 really. You can find some of these things but they have been imported from Cameroon or another African country in regio

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

You can get to experience the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa and one of the world's least visited countries. It's a service needs differential post if you stay for three years. You get to ship consumables. It's a direct six-hour flight to Madrid and can be taken on long weekends.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

There are no shopping malls; one was constructed but is not open yet and the one movie theater is subpar.

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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:

Winter clothes

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4. But don't forget your:

Insect repellent
Umbrella
Sunglasses
Sunscreen

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

Tropical Gangsters book
Palmeras en la nieve movie

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 09/07/14

Background:

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

First 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?

USA. Connections available through Frankfurt, Paris, or Madrid. Typical trip length is around 30 hours depending on lay-overs.

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3. How long have you lived here?

20 months.

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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?

A new Embassy compound complete with townhouses was completed in 2013. Beautifully constructed homes with modern appliances (a dishwasher!) and new furniture. The compound has its own water purification system, so you can drink the water out of the tap. Compound also has a pool and tennis court.

Commute time is a 2 minute walk. :)

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

Availability of groceries has been increasing due to the larger numbers of expats. There are three main grocery stores that offer staples, including eggs, milk, and cheese. All meat comes frozen. There is not a diverse option of fruits and vegetables, and there is also a lack of consistency about what is available at a shop on any given day. However, if you go to enough stores, you can usually find something close to what you are looking for.

There is a high COLA here for a reason. Almost everything is imported and comes at a high cost. Especially items like cheese, meat, and surprisingly, pineapple!

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

Any specialty food items. A KitchenAid or something similar. Lack of diversity in the market means we end up making a lot of things from scratch! Anything for holidays, especially Thanksgiving (canned pumpkin is a must!).

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

Malabo is lacking quality restaurants. Those that offer semi-decent meals come with a large check (US$20-$50 per person at least). There are a few good restaurants that offer local fare (fish, chicken, plantains and rice) for about US$10-$20 per person depending on what you get.

You can eat cheaply on the street but it is not recommended due to the poor sanitary conditions of these operations and high rate of typhoid in the country.

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

There are lots of bugs here! Like most African countries, malaria is an issue here. However, the Embassy housing is well sealed, and I have never seen a mosquito inside the house. Free tests and treatment are available through an American-run NGO on the island. Within the city, we usually don't notice a huge amount of bugs or mosquitoes.

The biggest nuisance are the ants. They come into the pantries during the dry season, and like to sneak up and bite your feet if you accidentally step on one.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. Usually takes 3 weeks to arrive in country. Sending mail is more difficult. There is an outgoing pouch about once a monnth, but it is usually easier and faster to just find someone leaving the island to take your mail.

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

Lots of availability. Cost is higher than in surrounding African countries but still reasonable.

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

The Embassy has a small workout area with an elliptical, stationary bike, treadmill and stair master. There are gyms at a few of the hotels that offer passes for a hefty fee.

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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?

There are two (maybe 3) places that accept credit cards and that is it. There are a few ATMs, but I have never used one. It is a cash economy.

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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?

If you never leave the compound, none. Many of the local restaurants also have wait staff who speak English. That being said, some basic Spanish always helps around town, and especially if you ever get stopped by the police.

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

Within the Embassy compound, you would be fine. However, outside of that, the sidewalks are not well maintained, there are few ramps and few elevators in the city. It would be difficult.

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Transportation:

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

No trains or buses. Only taxis. Taxis are cheap (US$1 for a ride) but not recommended to take because of their poor quality.

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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?

There is a great road that goes around the entire island, and to get to the "normal" places in town, a 4-wheel drive would not be necessary. However, one is recommended if you want to venture off the beaten track, or for when it rains and you need to get through the flooded streets. I would not recommend a very large car, as the streets can get congested and are narrow.

Toyota is the recommended brand of car to bring, as there is a dealership, and often parts available. However, I would recommend getting any car you bring thoroughly checked out before coming, as repairs can be expensive, and they don't always have the parts you need.

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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?

I don't know how "high-speed" it is, but yes. Internet is very expensive (between US$250-$1,000/month depending on speed and company), and not always that great.

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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?

There are three cell-phone carriers. The main one is Orange but coverage is not great at the Embassy compound. Embassy provided phones run through Muni, another telecon company.

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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 quarantining necessary. There are no kennels available. There are two "vets" on the island, who are just two men who have other jobs, but work as vets "on-call". They can take care of basic issues (immunization, antibiotics) but don't do surgeries or anything complicated.

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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?

It really depends on what you do and how hard you look. Post has a few EFM jobs, and there aren't many EFMs, so everyone who wants one has one. There are three major oil companies on the island for possible employment. If you speak Spanish, it may be possible to find employment for foreign-run companies in EG. There is an American-NGO that runs a malaria control project, and a biodiversity center run through Drexel University. Also many opportunities to teach English either through the Embassy or for the oil companies. Doctors and nurses could work at the Israeli-run hospital.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Limited. A few of the expats volunteer at an orphanage but that is about what is out there.

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

Guineans like to dress very professionally for work. Suit and tie is a must for men when meeting with someone high in the government. Outside of work, dress is fairly casual. Women don't tend to wear shorts; mostly dresses and skirts.

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Health & Safety:

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

Malabo is actually a fairly safe place to live. RSO recently forbid the use of taxis due to poor maintenance of the vehicles, drunk driving, and a recent surge in taxi crime on the mainland. For Americans (and especially diplomats), you are usually not bothered by the police.

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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 not the greatest in EG. If you have particular health concerns, do your research to ensure that care is available. There is an Israeli-run hospital that offers many specialties, consultations and 24-hour emergency care. Other than that, options are limited. Bring a good first aid kit with you!

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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?

During the dry season (October-February) the air is very smoky due to burning trash and volcanic ash from the mainland. However, once the rain comes, quality greatly improves. There are no real rules on car emissions, so the city can often be filled with exhaust fumes. However, for the most part, the air quality is moderate to good.

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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?

It is never cold here. There are two main seasons, rainy and dry. The rainy season is divided into two sections as well, starting off with a month or two of heavy rains in the morning, then clear skies for the afternoon. This is followed by a few months where it rains pretty consistently throughout the day. The rainy season ends with the "soft rain" season, where the rain comes and goes throughout the day with sunshine in-between. It cools off during the rainy season, and the nights are very pleasant during this 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?

The education system is not great. Other expats send their children to the French or Spanish International school. There are currently no strong options for schooling in English. The Israeli hospital provides a small school for children of the employees there, and one American family has put its children in school there. That being said, this is probably not the best place for school-aged children unless you are willing to have them learn in another language or put in the effort to supplement their education.

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

Nothing organized.

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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 Embassy community is small but the expat community is quite large due to the presence of oil companies, construction, etc. Morale is a mixed bag. I'd say this isn't the happiest post but also not the worst.

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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?

Again, you make your own fun here. There are some discotecas and night clubs but most social life revolves around getting together with friends for dinner, drinks, games, etc. If you make friends with people who work at the oil companies, they often have events on their compounds.

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

Due to lack of schooling and general things to do, it's not always the best post for families but it can be done. Malabo is a city where you have to make your own fun and adventure.

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

Not recommended as homosexuality is frowned upon.

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

Most problems arise for foreign Africans, not Americans. The local people do not like foreigners, and will often stop cars to check for proper documentation to be in the country (diplomatic cars rarely get stopped) and harass foreigners looking for bribes.

Women (especially white women) should expect to get cat-called in the street, supermarket, etc.

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

Hiking/camping in the southern part of the Island. Swimming under waterfalls and enjoying the beauty of the island. Visiting a beautiful white sand beach on the mainland.

Trips to Moka, an elevated section of the island where the air is cooler and there are beautiful views and a few hikes to enjoy.

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

As mentioned above, Malabo is a make your own fun type of place. Highlights of the Island include the Sipopo Beach, Moka (where there are two guided hikes available), and hiking/camping in the southern part of the Island.

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

There really aren't any. Spend it to travel outside of the Island.

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

It is an experience unlike any other. Possible to save money due to high differential and lack of things to spend money on. Beautiful hiking in the remote, mostly untouched southern part of the island.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you budget and plan ahead.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This is truly a country unlike any other. The people are unique and working here can be frustrating. No one will tell you anything directly, and it takes a long time to get anything done.

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

Winter gear (keep a bit for vacations!).

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3. But don't forget your:

Swimsuit, hiking gear and open attitude to make your own adventures and experience a place unlike any other.

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

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465087604/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0465087604&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder&linkId=6P7KDF2GXOQXCTP5

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Malabo is a place unlike any other. It is definitely an experience, and a post in which you will learn a lot, be challenged constantly, and make your own fun. The isolation is probably the most difficult part of living here so if you come this way, make sure you try and leave every few months, even if it is just to the mainland for a few days.

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Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 06/15/12

Background:

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

3rd time living overseas.

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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?

1-stop flights to Washington, D.C., connecting in Paris and Madrid with a couple of hours of layover (~$4000). Overall travel time is around 20 hours. Other U.S. flights connect through Nigeria or Ethiopia before continuing onto Europe (~$2500).

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

U.S. embassy 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?

Embassy housing is far from perfect (housing will be part of the new embassy scheduled for completion in summer 2013). With some patience and a sense of adventure, the housing is passable. Based on the European style, rooms don’t have closets.

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

The three “major” grocery stores have mostly everything you need, but hardly anything you want. Sending consumables makes living here much more comfortable.

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

Tennis balls, guitar stings.

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

No Western fast food. Grilled chicken and plantains is the local version of fast food. There are a couple of decent restaurants and a handful of low-end places. If you're open to going culinary native, you can always fine a tasty local joint for around US$5.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Good luck.

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

Malarial mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

The local postal service does work, though even locals are skeptical about whether to trust it. Embassy staff use the pouch exclusively.

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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 understand a maid a couple of times a week is pretty affordable, but you may have a hard time getting things as clean as you may expect.

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

The Hilton hotel has a gym and pool for an annual fee of $3000. I believe there are local places, but can’t speak to the quality or services.

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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?

The three Western hotels accept credit cards (I think only Visa), and there is at least one ATM in town. Otherwise, EG is still almost exclusively a cash economy.

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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?

Satellite television costs around $100/month.

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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?

Of course, knowing Spanish helps. Strangely, though, many locals don’t speak Spanish well, as they rely more on their tribal language or pidgin English. Knowing some French also comes in handy.

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

I tried using a stroller once and that was hard enough. I’d think it nearly impossible to get around with even a slight handicap.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable, yes. Safe, no. Taxis are in disrepair and drivers are undisciplined and often drunk. Taxis are the only form of “public” transportation and are not recommended.

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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?

To its credit, the EG government has invested heavily in roads. Almost any type of vehicle will work fine in town and around the island. However, for going more afield, a 4x4 is still the best bet. Most vehicles are Toyota, which makes repairs easier -- but not cheap. Driving here is an art, so be prepared to slip in and out of traffic, straddle center lines, and break a lot of rules that you find unsettling. Beware of drunk-driving. It's a big problem here. Fortunately, you don't need to worry about carjackings or similar violent crimes.

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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?

Wired internet can cost up to $400/month, though 3G options have started begun appearing on the market for a bit less.

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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?

There are two options. Both have poor service.

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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?

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

I know of one veterinarian who has given shots to a colleague’s puppy.

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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?

Extremely limited opportunities for meaningful work.

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

Business casual at work; casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Just petty crime. One benefit of an overbearing government is fewer security concerns. Vehicle break-ins do occur, though not frequent.

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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 is a serious problem for those who don’t use prophylaxis. Air quality could cause problems for asthmatics. Malabo recently opened an Israeli-staffed hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. Most services are available.

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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?

Not good in Malabo. In the dry season the air is full of dust from the Sahara. Throughout the year there is burning trash, anti-mosquito fumigation, numerous vehicles with poor pollution standards, etc. It’s sometimes hard to walk outside. Air is better at the waterfront and very pleasant at altitude.

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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?

Thanks to its coastal and equatorial location, EG’s temperatures vary only a few degrees throughout the year. Daily highs range from 85 to 90 degrees F. The temperature itself is moderate if you don’t include the humidity, which makes it very sticky even in the evenings. In any event, it’s better than July/August in Washington, D.C. In the rainy season it can be in the high 70s and quite nice with an evening breeze.

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Schools & Children:

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

EG does not currently have schools appropriate for older children. There are three international schools: French, Spanish, and Nigerian. Think twice -- or more -- about bringing school-age children here.

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Word has it that there are around 400-500 Americans working at the oil companies. There are also hundreds of Lebanese, hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese, and a small diplomatic community.

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2. Morale among expats:

It’s a mixed bag. Life mostly consists of work, as there’s plenty to do at the office and little else to do after hours. Some people have a hard time reconciling life here with the ideal. Those with a sense of adventure and a willingness to laugh at the hardships are happiest.

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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?

There are social opportunities, but one must put forth effort. The oil companies regularly have activities and are pretty welcoming.

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

Malabo may be a difficult place for someone with high social needs or someone wanting ready-made recreational activities. There is a small movie theater that shows Spanish-dubbed American films, there are a couple of pretty good restaurants, and there’s the ocean. Because nothing’s handed to you here, you have to want to get out and explore what little there is. Life here with school-age children might be very challenging.

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

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

I don’t know about problems with race or religion. Like many places in Africa, tribal loyalties do have influence. I believe immigrants from other African countries do face some degree of discrimination and hassling, though much of that is probably from the government and not from individuals.

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

Because there is not much to do in the way of organized recreation, I have enjoyed the chance to get out into the jungle and to hike (on the paved road; it’s the only way) up to Pico Basile, Bioko Island’s almost 10,000 ft volcanic peak.

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

Snorkeling, jungle walks.

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

Ironically, little to none, since almost everything is imported.

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

Equatorial Guinea is not a destination because its infrastructure is underdeveloped and its government’s authority is overreaching. Perhaps an advantage is that you’ll be seeing a part of the world where few others have ventured. That’s worth something. Though lack of infrastructure does not readily enable access, EG’s landscape and climate are beautiful and worth taking advantage of while here.

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11. Can you save money?

If you’re bringing consumables, yes. Groceries and restaurants are pricey. And since there’s not much to spend money on in terms of entertainment, you can save if you want to. Getting to/from EG costs a pretty penny, so you'll spend a bit if you want to go anywhere, especially to other locations in Africa.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This is not a destination, but I have been happy here. Despite the fact that I’ve found a number of positive aspects of living and working here, I would not return.

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

Winter, spring, or fall clothing. High expectations for almost any Western amenities.

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3. But don't forget your:

Snorkel, Skype, home entertainment, sense of humor, love of adventure.

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

Tropical Gangsters: One Man's Experience With Development And Decadence In Deepest Africa, .

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Coming to Equatorial Guinea is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Stay positive, keep an open mind, and don’t compare it to anywhere you’ve lived or visited before.

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