Accra, Ghana Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana 05/04/19

Background:

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

Not our first. I've lived in the Czech Republic, my husband has lived in Kenya, Germany, Peru, and Venezuela, and together we've lived in Mexico and now Ghana.

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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?

Texas/New Mexico. Not super convenient to get back, which is why we haven't bothered during this tour. It's going to take us about 30 hours airport-to-airport to get home when we do home leave this summer. There are a few direct flights between the U.S. east coast and Accra, but many flights are routed through London, Amsterdam, or Brussels.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Approaching 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?

Housing is more than ample, larger than anything we ever had in the US. Most housing is in the form of standalone houses or townhome-type attached houses in multifamily compounds. All housing is in close proximity to the Embassy (within a 2-mile radius or so). We're in easy walking distance, and many of the other compounds are as well. Our home has four bedrooms and each has its own bathroom/shower. Additional half-bath for guests downstairs. And domestic staff quarters (a small, un-air conditioned room with its own bath/shower) detached in the back. Many compounds have pools.

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

You learn your way around the grocery situation and where to find what. It took me a while to discover, for example, that the best way to get cheese of all kinds (from grated mozzarella to cream cheese to white cheddar) is from the deli counters at the shops that cater to expats. US and European-oriented products do tend to be expensive and sporadically stocked. Local produce is very inexpensive, and you will have all the pineapple, papaya, bananas, mango, and coconut your heart desires. Imported fruits and vegetables range from slightly more than you'd expect to pay in the US; for easily-transported produce like apples and pears and potatoes to ludicrously expensive for more delicate items like broccoli and berries.

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

We didn't ship much in our initial consumables shipment since we didn't know what to expect. We made a later shipment that included peanut and olive oils (sunflower and canola and general "vegetable" oils are easily available), masa harina for making corn tortillas, specific hot sauces we like (though Ghanaian hot sauces are delicious, too), our favorite beer (the beer here tends to be very generic lagers and Guinness "foreign stout," which is quite different from the Guinness sold elsewhere), and wheat to grind. High-quality white flour is readily available (the town of Tema has an excellent flour producer), but whole wheat is harder to locate, and not always fresh. If you like specific brands of cleaning products or toiletries, those items are worth putting in consumables, too. Even if you find brands in the stores here that you like, they might suddenly disappear from the shelves.

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

There's an app called Jumia Foods that facilitates deliveries from a wide variety of restaurants. There are quite good Indian, Chinese, and French restaurants nearby. Pizza is hit-or-miss here. Seafood can be a bargain. We love Ghanaian food but not everyone does. If you do enjoy it, you can eat very inexpensively here.

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

We haven't really had much trouble. There are plenty of insects here but they seem to mostly stay outside; we sometimes see tiny ants in our house. At one point we did end up with a rodent of some kind in our house but the Embassy was quick to help; borrowing a neighbor's cat took care of it even more quickly.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Can also get pouch for vendors that won't ship to DPO. Generally pretty quick and reliable. Sometimes packages get misrouted and take a while to arrive, but really have no complaints.

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

Very affordable. I think we pay on the high end for part-time house cleaning and it's still very affordable by U.S. standards. Drivers, nannies, gardeners, housekeepers, cooks; all can be engaged very affordably, and in most cases they are people who have worked for Embassy families and/or other expats for years.

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

There's a crossfit gym close to the Embassy but I don't know what it charges. A lot of people run or walk together in the early mornings (it gets too hot later on). There's a group of people who play in an informal tennis league at the Embassy, and there's a neat local tennis club with clay courts that's quite affordable to play at. The gym at the Embassy isn't great but it's adequate. The Embassy pool is long enough for lap swimming, but even better is the pool at Lincoln Community School, which is open for school families at certain times during the week.

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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?

We don't use credit cards locally. They're accepted at some expat-oriented restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores, but we just prefer to use cash. I haven't heard of anyone having cards copied or any other card-related crime, though. Mobile phone-based payment systems are popular here and if we were not nearly at the end of our tour I'd probably set that up. There is an ATM in the USAID building on the Embassy compound and a cashier in the Embassy where checks can be written for local currency.

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

Lots,but this comes with the caveat that Ghanaian church is a very different experience. Services are very long, and even liturgically-based churches like the Anglican or Roman Catholic churches manage to draw services out to two or three hours. Many Ghanaians spend the better part of every Sunday at church. One exception is the Apostolic Nunciature, which has a Roman Catholic service each Sunday that generally is more within US expectations for length.

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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?

It's very, very much appreciated if you can manage greetings in Twi, but it isn't necessary. There are some classes available but I don't know much about them. Local staff and domestic workers are often very happy to teach people basic phrases.

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

Definitely. I don't see much in the way of accommodations for physical disabilities anywhere.

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Transportation:

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

We take taxis and Uber sometimes. Very affordable, and I think reasonably safe with the proper precautions (same precautions you'd use anywhere). Trotros, the minibuses used for public transit here, are not allowed by RSO (actually, I'm unclear as to whether they're outright disallowed or just strongly discouraged).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a Toyota Highlander. It's been great. Small cars with low clearance might be very tricky. Even within the areas of Accra we travel regularly there are fairly rough dirt roads and potholes in major paved roads can be pretty deep.

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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?

All Embassy homes have Vodafone internet service with unlimited data for about $40-$50. Reliability varies pretty widely among the compounds. Ours has been reasonably good. Many people have backup 4G routers. Social sponsors can get internet running before arrival, but it's a fairly simple process to get it going even if it's not set up before you arrive; just a matter of making a payment to get it turned on in most cases.

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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?

Mobile phones service is quite inexpensive by U.S. standards. After setting up service with one of the providers (MTN and Vodafone are the big ones, and fairly equivalent, I think) you can recharge by purchasing scratch cards, by submitting payment at authorized locations, or even through the commissary. I usually buy 20 cedi ($4) scratch cards and they last me about 2 weeks each.

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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 is a substantial group of spouses here who work from home, either telecommuting or working as freelancers in various fields. I know of at least one spouse who teaches classes here, but I don't know the details of working on the local economy. There are some jobs at the Embassy, in the Consular section and the Community Liaison Office (CLO).

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Due to my own work I haven't explored this as fully as I would have wished. There are many, many volunteer opportunities here. There is a large expat women's group (NAWA) that makes grants to local NGOs, schools, etc. and can also connect potential volunteers with opportunities, and I'm sure there are other avenues as well. The Embassy occasionally will have beach cleanup activities.

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

My husband wears a suit to work most days, but think some people dress more casually. Formal dress is nice to have for the Marine ball and other galas around the holidays. On Fridays people often wear Ghanaian clothing to work.

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Health & Safety:

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

Accra is rated critical for crime and I have heard a few stories of muggings and robberies around the holidays. In general, though, I would say common sense measures for personal safety are adequate. It doesn't always feel like a big city, but it helps to remember that it is, and that it's never a great idea to make oneself an easy target. I don't personally know anyone who has had any trouble.

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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 problem in Ghana. We all take anti-malarial medications. Bilharzia can be an issue in freshwater locations, I've heard. Produce needs to be washed carefully to avoid foodborne illness (it's rare to make it through a tour without at least one bout of GI trouble, though). I was medevaced due to some cardiovascular issues, and I do think medical evacuation is fairly common when people encounter health issues beyond fairly basic stuff. My son's best friend was medevaced with a broken arm.

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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 smell of burning trash can be unpleasant sometimes, and December/January is harmattan season, which can bring lots of haze and blowing dust. In general, though, it hasn't been a problem.

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

Lots of tropical stuff blooming all the time means seasonal allergies can be irritated, but it's been manageable for us. Peanuts are a staple food here and I'd think anyone with a severe allergy would need to take extra care here.

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

I have heard people mention that they feel better, mood-wise, if they get out of Accra/Ghana periodically. I haven't had that feeling myself, but it's a pretty common sentiment. Daily life is different here from life in the US and it can be frustrating at times, so I can see why people might like to get away now and then. I don't think it causes any serious mental health issues, though.

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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?

A typical day is 90 degrees F with somewhere between 65-85% humidity. It's hot and sticky almost all the time. There are a few times of year when rain is more common, but I was surprised to find that the "rainy season" isn't what I had imagined a tropical rainy season to be (I was thinking daily downpours). In July/August the weather cools down by about 5-10 degrees and it feels blissfully cool by comparison to the rest of the year.

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Schools & Children:

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

I'm familiar with two international schools: Lincoln Community School, which is an IB world school and Ghana International School, which is a British-model school. GIS is very, very close to the Embassy (the back entrance to the Embassy is on the same road as GIS, about 500 meters away). A few families choose GIS, but the vast majority of kids attend LCS. I would say people are generally at least satisfied, if not thrilled, with LCS. The school is a particularly good fit for our family and we absolutely love it, but that's not a universal feeling. Some families feel it's not rigorous enough. We've enjoyed the very welcoming and community-oriented atmosphere and the "whole person" focus of the school. We have a child in late elementary and a child in high school and have been happy with both kids' experiences. I can't speak personally about GIS but we have friends with kids there and they are happy. There's also a French school, I think.

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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?

There are a few Montessori preschools near the Embassy (Little Explorers and Owls' Nest) that are popular with Embassy families. Little Explorers is very close (walkable from the Embassy, though that's not always advisable due to traffic), and I've heard very good things about it. I think compared to equivalent schools in the D.C. area they're inexpensive, but it's not an insignificant cost.

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

LCS has a wide variety of after school activities and sports teams. I appreciate that there are also noncompetitive sports activities (swimming, soccer, ultimate frisbee, basketball, lacrosse) that just encourage learning the sport, having fun, and getting exercise. Parents have organized kids' tennis lessons at the Embassy. There are martial arts classes (tae kwon do, I think?) at a studio very close to the Embassy. Our daughter went to a really great soccer camp over the summer, taught by a former star of the Ghanaian national team. She's not a huge soccer player but she enjoyed the opportunity to participate.

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Expat Life:

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

I think there's a reasonably large expat community, though I haven't had as much opportunity as I would have liked to meet more people outside the US Embassy community. There are many other diplomatic missions and certain international business concerns, as well as development agencies/NGOs. There are also some expats who run guest houses, restaurants, etc. I'd say morale is moderate. We love it here, but not everybody does, and there's large "luck-of-the-draw" component to housing for embassy families. We landed in a very social compound with great neighbors. I think it would have been a bit more difficult to be in a standalone house.

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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?

Our compound has weekly happy hours. The commissary hosts monthly happy hours and there are other CLO-organized events. Other missions also have regular social events, and there are some expat-oriented restaurants and pubs that hold trivia nights & other special events. There is a also a complex of restaurants that attracts a mix of expats and Ghanaians - sort of a food court but with real restaurants - and they have a dance floor/stage with salsa nights, etc. North American Women's Association holds regular social events ranging from coffees to evening restaurant outings. We've never lacked for social opportunities, and in fact I feel like we could have done more to explore social life outside the expat bubble . . . it's there, but we haven't really connected with it.

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

I can really only speak to how it's been for us as a family, and we have truly enjoyed it. The school has worked out well for us, our kids found the school community very welcoming and accepting, and we've enjoyed living in a compound with friendly and incredibly helpful neighbors. When I was on medevac my husband was humbled by the support he received from neighbors. For us it's been a great family post.

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

I am not sure about this. Ghana does have a very conservative religious streak. It's not a topic I've heard discussed. There's definitely not a clearly visible LGBT community.

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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?

This is a tough one to answer because I feel like I haven't tried as hard as I might have to get outside the expat community. LCS has some Ghanaian students but not a whole lot. I would say it is very easy to become friendly acquaintances with Ghanaians, but takes a conscious effort to move beyond the expat bubble to make true friends. Ghanaians are warm, welcoming, friendly people, and I have really enjoyed living here, but I don't feel like any of the Ghanaians I know are truly friends. The Ghanaian I am closest to is the woman who cleans our house twice a week, and I will truly miss her when we leave, but I would be dishonest if I said we have become friends in the same sense I've become friends with other expats here.

As for prejudices, I feel an uncomfortable deference is paid to white people in many cases. (I am white, so it's my discomfort I'm referring to. That might say more about me than about Ghanaians . . . I don't know). I don't feel like I can speak to the experiences of other ethnic groups.

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

There is a substantial Muslim minority here (about 15% I believe) and Christian and Muslim Ghanaians seem to get along very well.

Gender equality is a complicated issue here (as it is most places!). I've met women here who are scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors . . . and they seem to be very well-respected by all. But there are definite gender-based expectations and I've experienced some dismissive behavior from Ghanaian men who are much more respectful to my husband. This is all very hard to judge/understand from the outside, though.

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

In addition to just enjoying our everyday life here, we've had a lot of fun getting out and exploring. There are beaches within easy striking distance of the city (the beach here in Accra is fine to visit for a meal at a seaside restaurant, for instance, but not a great place to swim). Sadly the beaches are often marred by significant amounts of plastic waste, but it can still be a welcome getaway from the city. There are national parks: Kakum, with its elevated treetop walkway and Mole, which is known for its elephants, are the ones we managed to get to. There are beautiful waterfalls, an impressive hydroelectric dam that was the big infrastructure project of first president Kwame Nkrumah and that provides something like 85% of Ghana's electricity, there is the Volta River. The local markets are fun - Makola Market is almost a city unto itself. The forts along the coast, particularly in Cape Coast and Elmina, were key centers of the transatlantic slave trade and are an essential, but painful, visit.

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

It is true that the wildlife in Ghana doesn't compare to the wildlife in east Africa or southern Africa, and tourism here can be a challenge by US standards, but for us the key to enjoying life here was to get out anyway and enjoy it for what it is. We loved Meet Me There, a lodge run by a nonprofit that uses lodging/dining revenue to fund community-based projects. Shai Hills is a wildlife park that only takes about an hour to get to. Aburi Gardens is a botanical garden about 45 minutes - an hour outside Accra. Near Cape Coast and Kakum there is a stingless bee research center that made for a fascinating visit. It's really interesting to go see glass beads made (TK Beads is in Accra, about a half-hour or 45-minute drive from the embassy). There really is a lot to see and do here.

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

Beads and jewelry made from beads, wax print fabric and dresses/clothing made from it, kente cloth, batiks, baskets, shea butter and related products, masks and carved wood furniture/sculptures . . .

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

Friendly people, a pleasant community, a huge city that sometimes feels almost rural (in the area around the embassy, at least on the weekends).

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wasn't prepared for how much the lack of changing seasons would throw me off, but I don't know how one can prepare for that.

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

Absolutely. I'd stay another two years.

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

Expectations for things to go a certain way. Grocery stores are stocked in what feels like a random way. Suddenly your favorite product will vanish from the shelves of all the stores, only to reappear a few months later. The store that usually has the best cheese will sometimes just run out altogether (one mega-supermarket I went to once was completely out of ketchup . . . they usually have an entire shelf with many brands, but they were just OUT; it's not at all unusual for a store to be completely out of a staple like flour or milk). So expecting the reliability of western supermarkets will just leave you frustrated, and that can be extrapolated to most other areas of life, as well. Even at relatively expensive hotels you'll have toilets that don't flush or hot water heaters that don't heat (if there's hot water there at all). But accepting that things are the way they are can free you up to really enjoy it here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Flexibility, sense of humor, and lightweight cotton clothing.

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

Homegoing is a really good novel. Apparently there's a soap opera or something on YouTube called An African City (or something like that) set in Accra. I haven't seen it.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Accra is a very livable (and rapidly growing/developing) city and Ghana has been a great place to be. Traffic can be a hassle, nobody enjoys hopping the open sewers, and it can be irritating to visit several stores to get what you need for a special dinner, but there is a lot to enjoy, too.

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Accra, Ghana 04/18/18

Background:

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

No, we've previously served in East 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?

Virginia, USA. Fly to post via Europe from the Washington, DC, area.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months.

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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?

Housing here is a mix of multi-house compounds and standalones, leaning more toward multi-house compounds. Houses range from 3-4 bedrooms and usually, multiple bathrooms. I've heard complaints from others here that housing isn't big enough "for Africa" but I find our house quite comfortable. All houses are within a 10 minute drive of the Embassy, which is a huge plus.

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

Availability is inconsistent (for example, you might find something one week and not the other), and groceries/food can vary from affordable to very expensive. For example, pineapples are consistently about 50 cents each, but broccoli is about $20 a head. Certain vegetables are always available, such as carrots, but you might get bored. US-branded products are much more expensive (shredded cheese, etc). Alcohol is widely available and not much more expensive than the US, which was surprising.

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

We shipped a lot of items in our consumables which was great. So far I haven't encountered anything I wish we'd shipped and hadn't. Some things I wish I'd purchased in larger quantities that are personal snack preferences (for example, you can't really buy bags of chips here, so I wish I'd brought endless tortilla chips).

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

Delivery is super easy and can be done via app from almost every restaurant in the area. There are a few restaurants very popular with expats, such as pizza places, etc. The restaurant scene isn't as varied here as it was at our last post, but there are some good ones. Prices can seem expensive for here, but in reality you can eat at a very nice restaurant in the neighborhood near the Embassy and get lobster pasta for less than $20.

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

Bugs are common here, although I don't hear often of a lot in houses, and the embassy comes quickly if you notice bugs inside (flies, ants, etc).

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Daily Life:

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

We have DPO and pouch in Accra. Packages tend to arrive more quickly than mail, and mailing packages back to the US can have them arrive Stateside anywhere from 1-4 weeks after shipping. DPO arrival here is usually 7-14 days within ordering.

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

Bountiful and very inexpensive. We have a nanny/housekeeper and a gardener. Our nanny/housekeeper is a godsend and worked for 2 embassy families before us.

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

There is a small gym on the embassy grounds that isn't official, so it doesn't have bathrooms or a shower. So I only work out after work when I don't mind if I'm sweaty or disgusting. Many people take tennis lessons at the embassy, or partake in bootcamp classes at post. Same with yoga. I know there are some Crossfit style gyms, but I don't know how much they cost. The embassy gym is adequate (6+ treadmills and a few ellipticals/bikes, free weights and some weight machines).

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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 generally prefer to operate in a cash economy in Africa. There are ATMs but I would not use them unless it was an emergency. There is an ATM at the embassy that many people use. We have used a credit card for a hotel stay, but nothing else while here. The embassy cashier can cash checks so you have local currency.

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

I think many religious services are in English, since it is a national language here.

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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?

None, although it is nice to try and learn a bit of Twi or Gaa.

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

Yes, there are rarely sidewalks and, in fact, there are deep ditches on the side of the road for drainage.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are affordable, but not very well-maintained. RSO recommends negotiating a price before getting in and making sure your window can go up and your door can lock. Tro-tros are multi-person vans that are common with locals, but not particularly safe or 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?

I recommend a small SUV or larger (like a CRV and up). A CRV should be fine. Some of the roads have potholes and it's good to have some clearance on your vehicle. That being said, a very large car would have a hard time navigating small parking garages, narrow streets, etc.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We got internet within days of arrival, set up by the embassy. Unlimited 3G internet is about $50 a month, so that's pretty cheap. We find it pretty reliable, without going out too often at our house. We use it for streaming TV and it works mostly fine.

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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?

Mobile phones are easy to buy, as are SIM cards and air time. People here use pay as you go top ups. MTN and Vodafone are both popular.

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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?

The embassy provided us the names of a couple of veterinarians, but we haven't had to use one yet. Lots of embassy folks have pets (cats, dogs, rabbits). Bringing our pet in was relatively easy - GSO had a sheet of exactly what needed to be done. There was no quarantine.

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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?

Here in the embassy most non-embassy spouses do not work because there is little work at the embassy. I don't know any who work on the local economy, but I am sure there are some.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Endless opportunities with orphanages, street children, churches, etc.

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

Work is on the more casual side of business. Public is casual. Formal dress is only required occasionally at fancy events.

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Health & Safety:

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

Ghana is a critical crime post, but most crime can be mitigated by using personal security protocols and paying attention to your environment. So this would mean driving with your doors locked and windows up, locking your house doors at night (you'd be surprised that people don't!), etc.

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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 critical here, so everyone should take anti-malarials. I think there are some medical clinics that the embassy recommends although we have not yet had to use them.

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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?

I'd say it's largely fine, except for during Harmattan in December/January when the air is VERY hazy with sand. Lots of folks end up with stuffy heads/dry throats at the beginning of Harmattan before adjusting. I would imagine those with asthma would find that time of year difficult.

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

Ground nuts (peanuts) are very popular in food here. If you were to serve in Ghana and have a peanut allergy I would be cautious about eating out and bring an EpiPen at all times.

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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)?

None that I know of.

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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?

VERY HOT AND HUMID all year. Period.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are a couple international elementary and secondary schools, of varying quality from what I hear from those who send their children there. The main school, Lincoln, is quite far from the embassy neighborhood and kids are on the bus for a long time.

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

I have a neurotypical child, so I'm unqualified to speak to this topic although I know there are families here with children with special needs.

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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?

There are a few really great Montessori schools here for children that are world-class. Those run about $8,000 a year, which is much much cheaper than DC. Most people send their children to Little Explorers or Owls Nest. Nannies are common for needed after care and they are affordable. We have experience with one of these schools and can't say enough good things about it. These schools go through 1st grade too and are close to the embassy.

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

Lots of children take swim lessons and ballet and tennis. I think there are many sports through Lincoln, but don't know first hand.

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Expat Life:

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

I don't know. There are a good number of Westerners. Their morale depends on how much they rely on the local economy (aka, don't have DPO) and how long they have lived here.

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

I wish more people socialized here. There are some restaurants, and I believe people will gather at homes.

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

I'm not single so I don't know. I think most of the people posted here who find Ghana most comfortable are families with young children.

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

I would guess it might be difficult since Ghana is a very religious and more conservative place, but I do not know firsthand.

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

Not that I know. Ghana has issues among Ghanaians with misogyny.

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

Our child has made excellent friends and really excelled in her school. We've enjoyed some beach trips.

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

Ghana is very sleepy. You can drive 90 minutes out of town to go to the beach, and that's about 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?

Ghana is a great post for colorful and plentiful Ankara/wax fabric. You can have clothes made easily and inexpensively. Baskets are also beautiful here and affordable.

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

It's warm, housing is close to the embassy, and Ghanaians are very friendly.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How little there would be to do on the weekends and how expensive/difficult it was to fly out of Ghana to other places of interest, even Europe.

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

I think so, but would have come in with a greater understanding of the availability of a social life/travel.

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

Winter/fall/clothes for moderately chilly weather.

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4. But don't forget your:

SUNSCREEN, summer clothes, and all your favorite snacks.

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

Homegoing is a great novel set in Ghana by Yaa Gyasi. It's truly beautiful.

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Accra, Ghana 08/04/17

Background:

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

No. I've also lived in Japan and Germany.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

I came from Northern Virginia. I flew from DC to Brussels (7.5 hours) and then from Brussels to Accra (6.5 hours). There was about a three-hour layover between flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Only a month so far

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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?

I live in a large five-bedroom house (not detached) on a compound. It's about a 35-minute walk from the embassy. Most embassy housing is closer.

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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 anything you're looking for here, but be prepared to pay for the name brand items. If you're willing to take your chances on the local or regional products, you can live quite cheaply. If you insist on American or European products, expect them to cost two or three times as much.

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

I wish I had brought more cleaning supplies, especially disinfecting wipes (like Clorox wipes). You can find cleaning supplies here, but they are very expensive or of inferior quality.

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

The only American restaurants I've seen are KFC and Pizza Hut. I may have seen a Subway and a McDonald's around here, but I'm not sure. There are some nice restaurants in the embassy area that sell Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, and Thai food. There is also a buffalo wing restaurant nearby.

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

This is a tropical location. There are lots of ants, spiders, roaches, mosquitoes, and other bugs. The ants are pretty stubborn.

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Daily Life:

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

You can mail and receive letters and packages at the post office at the embassy. Mail to the US takes 2-3 weeks to arrive, so plan accordingly.

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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 is available and cheap. But your mileage may vary in terms of reliability. I've heard of hired help getting fired for stealing, for example. Be smart when interviewing and think about whether you want a live-in helper or someone to just come to your house twice a week or so. You can hire a nanny, a cook, a gardener, a driver, a housekeeper, or someone who can perform several of these tasks.

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

There is a gym, a pool, and a basketball court on the embassy grounds.

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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've used my credit card at the bigger supermarkets and merchants at the shopping malls with no problem. But this is primarily a cash country. I would not take my chances with an ATM unless it's on the embassy grounds.

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

English is the official language of Ghana, so I'd imagine it's easy to find an English-language religious service.

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

English is widely spoken, but it can be hard to understand at times because of their accent. Locals speak Twi, Ewe, Fanti, and Ga. You don't need to know those languages for your survival, but it can really help make a good impression if you can say a few words.

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

This is not a city that is friendly towards people with physical disabilities. I haven't seen many handicapped access ramps. Even sidewalks are hard to come by.

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Transportation:

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

There are lots of taxis here, but they are often in poor mechanical condition with broken seatbelts, no air conditioning, or broken windows. One cab I was in had a broken speedometer. You also have to negotiate the price beforehand. There aren't any trains. I've seen buses, but I would not recommend using them unless you are really adventurous.

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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?

Bring something that you wouldn't mind getting dinged or dirty. The roads are not so good in a lot of places with huge potholes and open ditches on the side of the road. There don't seem to be any rules concerning traffic, so drive defensively and expect your car to get dented or scratched.

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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?

There is internet service, but it's not fast and it's not reliable. You can get unlimited 3G service or pay-as-you-go 4G service. The wireless router's signal in my house doesn't cover all the bedrooms.

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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?

No recommendations. I still have my US phone and simply receive texts while I'm connected to my wifi at home. The three main phone companies here seem to be Airtel, MTN, and Vodafone.

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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?

This is not really a pet-friendly country. There are a few stray dogs walking around.

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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?

Since there's a hiring freeze, no spouses are working at the embassy unless they were working before the freeze started.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I have no idea, but I'd imagine there are lots of opportunities.

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

A dress shirt and tie for men at the embassy, but a jacket is not necessary. Women can wear a blouse--a business suit is overkill. Every Friday at the embassy we can wear local Ghanaian clothes.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is some street crime involving people on bikes or motorcycles snatching smartphones or purses from people walking. Just keep your street smarts and you should be fine. Stay away from places where there aren't a lot of people walking around and avoid walking around by yourself at night.

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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?

There's a lot of air pollution and trash on the roads here. Also be advised that you can't drink the tap water. There are open ditches and open sewers too. Take your malaria meds regularly.

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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 Ghanaians often burn trash and the air can smell like manure depending on the way the wind is blowing. If you have strong allergies, think twice before coming here.

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

Peanuts (ground nuts) are in a lot of the foods here and the locals don't seem that concerned about food allergens. Keep your Epi-pen handy or just cook at home.

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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)?

Ghana is near the equator, so it gets dark around the same time all year round--about 6:00 pm. There is also no winter here--maybe the coldest it gets is the upper 60s F (about 20C).

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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?

It's hot and humid or warm and humid almost every day. You don't need a jacket. Maybe you'd want one long-sleeve shirt because of air conditioning, but it's summertime all year round here. If it's cloudy and rainy, it can be pleasantly mild, but never really cool.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most embassy kids go to Lincoln Community School, but there's also Ghana International School and one other Christian-based school. The embassy provides a shuttle bus for these three schools.

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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?

Lincoln seems to have a lot of extracurriculars, including music and sports.

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Expat Life:

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

There are a few Westerners here affiliated with the government. I've seen a few people from the Middle East and a conspicuous Chinese population here.

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

I guess people go to the local expat bars or hang out with other embassy personnel.

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

It's probably not a good city for anyone who does not have their own transportation. It can get frustrating walking everywhere. Families should be content with their spacious living quarters and the swimming pools and other families on the housing compounds. Single people will need transportation to go to the restaurants and clubs.

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

I wouldn't know. But if there is an LGBT scene here, it's very underground.

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

There is a sizable Muslim minority here, but I haven't noticed any discrimination.

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

Purchasing fruits and vegetables from the roadside vendors has been a lot of fun.

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

There's the Accra Mall, the Marina Mall, the marketplaces in Osu, the slave castle, and the embassy-sponsored trips.

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

You can buy beautiful wood carvings and fabrics that can be woven into clothing.

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

It can be quite cheap, but only if you're willing to forego a lot of Western brands and conveniences.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How polluted it is and how much litter there is on the side of the road.

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

I would. Ghana is a beautiful country. You need to be smart about what you eat and where you walk, but the Ghanaians are friendly and jovial. I've had a great experience.

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

Expectations that living here is anything like living in the US or any other first-world country. Things are simply different here. Oh, and don't bother with any coats or jackets.

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4. But don't forget your:

Mosquito repellent, anti-malarial drugs, first aid kits, and walking shoes!

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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. Do you have any other comments?

If you're in the Foreign Service, Accra and Dakar are probably the two nicest posts in West Africa. You can have a lot of fun here and save a lot of money. Just remember that this is a country where a lot of people will do anything (and I do mean anything) in order to survive, even if that means lying to make a buck. Great country though.

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Accra, Ghana 04/06/17

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 three other African countries.

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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?

San Antonio, which is a long long way away. Maybe a 24-hour trip?

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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?

Mostly compound living, mostly around 2000 sq ft, not at all generous for African standards but probably enough for a family. Most compounds are 6-10 houses and most have a pool. There are some stand-alones too, which can be larger but which are mostly crumbling and decaying. Diplomatic housing is all very close to the Embassy, within a 15-minute walk or 5-minute drive.

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

Groceries are expensive, cheese is super expensive, fresh milk doesn't exist, UHT milk is what you have to drink. Imported fruit and veg is extremely expensive and local fruit and veg is limited to about 10 different things, which are available all time and mostly revolves around the squash family of vegetables. There are no seasons here so it is the same stuff all year long. Anything imported is expensive, and it is highly unlikely that a Westerner will want to eat Ghanaian food daily (unless you have a taste for white processed carbs).

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

Bring as many groceries as you can! TetraPak soups, sauces of all sorts, couscous, tomato sauce, pesto sauce, cereal, peanut butter, laundry detergent, if you eat it or use it in the house, bring it. You will save a fortune. A lot of this stuff is found locally but is really pricey, and often an inferior brand. Pack fresh cheese in your suit case and freeze it.

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

All types of food is available in Accra and all deliver. There aren't really American chain fast food restaurants, but you can get all other types.

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

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy DPO and 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?

Cheap and bountiful, although quite clueless for the most part. Be prepared to state the obvious over and over. People have housekeepers, drivers and nannies, although I have yet to meet a Ghanaian who really seems to love the kids she looks after.

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

There is a small gym at the Embassy and a few others scattered around that are pretty nasty and very expensive. Accra is not a great place to be if you like to keep fit.

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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?

Nope, wouldn't touch that in West Africa. Keep credit cards in your safe, locked away until you leave the country.

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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?

English is the official language, but Ghanaians love it if you even say one word of Twi to them.

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

Yes, it would be awful. There are no accommodations for anyone with disabilities and locals view disabilities as a weakness.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are cheap, safe and bountiful, but hot and you really need to be able to direct the driver where you are going unless it is to a major landmark. Thankfully, armed with a data plan on your phone and Google maps this should not be a problem!

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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?

As big and monstrous an SUV as you can find. Potholes and sewage ditches are on every road and any other car will have problems.

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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?

There are a few choices for internet available. All are hit and miss and not that fast. They will cut you off for no reason, and never refund your money so beware.

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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 a few choices, Vodafone and MTN seem to be the most popular and are very cheap, pay as you go. Data is also extremely inexpensive.

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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?

Don't know, but very much doubt it. Ghanaians are generally terrified of dogs and will happily beat them. Animals have no rights in Ghana.

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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 jobs available at the Embassy. Most people who want a job find one. Locally there is not much unless you want to volunteer at the numerous places needing help.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Thousands, you name it, you can do it!

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

Business or business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, Accra is super safe.

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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, yellow fever, HIV and AIDS, and if you need any kind of surgery you better get ready to jump on a plane. Pretty much any kind of medical condition will call for a medical evacuation.

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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?

Dood when no one is burning trash, which is rare. December-January is dusty season and the Sahara sands blow in and cover everything.

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

Bring your own epi pen and Allegra? Peanuts are in all the local food so if you have a peanut allergy don't eat local.

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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?

Extremely hot and very very humid all year long (about 100 degrees every day, maybe cooling to 95 at night), December to January it is slightly less humid. Make no mistake, every single day is hot and sweaty.

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Schools & Children:

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

Lincoln is the best one available, I would rate it as barely OK, they tend to have all their student shows in the evening at 6pm in the open air gym at prime mosquito time, so it really loses any cool points from me for that. Many of the teachers are local Ghanaians, with about 50% American or Western teachers. In my experience, the school's communication with parents is terrible.

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

They have the standard services, it is not too bad if your kid has a run of the mill issue i.e.: dyslexic, ADHD etc, but anything more serious and they probably can't help.

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

Lincoln has a plethora of after school activities, your child will certainly find something to suit them. Soccer is huge here.

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Expat Life:

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

It is pretty large. There is a large diplomatic community plus a large gold mining community, oil and gas and textiles. Generally most expats make the best of it. You do find the odd person who loves Ghana.

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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?

Make your own fun. Compound parties, grab some friends and head to the beach, dinner parties, there are night clubs and restaurants to visit too.

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

It is horrible for expat singles: there are very few of them. Couples and families seem to have more options.

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

No, that is illegal and they publicly flog gay people.

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

Not really, other than hating Nigerians.

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

Trips out to the west of Ghana to visit Stilt Villages and beach trips. Ghana is ill-equipped for tourists, especially tourists who would like access to air conditioning or a comfortable bed. If you are into camping in hot weather, Ghana travel and tourism will be much easier for you.

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

Makkola Market (if you don't mind haggling and getting sweaty). One of the many beach bars for a beer at sunset, Cape Coast slave forts, local markets, fantasy coffin makers.

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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 a great shopping post, but there is fabulous African wax print fabric for cheap, fake and genuine antiques, local arts and crafts, beads.

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

You don't need to waste time sitting in the steam room, just take a walk outside.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Just how hot and humid it would be every day. How every conversation with a local will likely end up with an argument. That is exhausting.

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

Hell no!

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

Expectations that:

anything will happen on time

that you can get your grocery shopping for the week done in 8 hours

that you will be able to enjoy traveling to cool places in West Africa easily

you won't sweat through your clothes within five minutes of being outside


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4. But don't forget your:

REI sweat-wicking clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, and DEET bug spray.

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

"An African City" is fun to watch on youtube.

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Accra, Ghana 08/11/16

Background:

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

No. I have previously lived in Latin 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?

There are direct flights from JFK and Dulles (about 10.5 hours). There are also many options to fly to Europe (Belgium, London, Portugal, and then fly to Ghana (about 6 hours from Europe).

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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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?

We live on a compound in a sizable house. A lot of expats live in certain neighborhoods (Cantonments, Airports, Labone) and commute times are not bad though traffic can be bad--just depends on where work is.

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

There is a lot that is available at high cost.

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

You can find most everything though dairy products are very expensive. People freeze cheese and meat and bring it in their suitcases when they come to post.

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

There are many restaurants that are decent and available (Chinese, Korean, Indian, Lebanese, Italian). A lot of people use HelloFood app to have food delivered but I have not tried it.

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

Occasional ants and cockroaches but nothing too bad. Depends on the quality of housing.

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Daily Life:

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

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

There is Pippa's Gym and others in the airport which are supposedly good but not cheap. There is a yoga studio in the Movenpik hotel which is supposed to be good but again, not cheap.

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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?

Credit cards are accepted but it is recommended to not use them. However, we have used a credit card for grocery shopping without issue.

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

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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?

You will be OK with just English.

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

Difficult due to lack of infrastructure.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe and affordable, and Uber is now here.

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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 because of poor quality roads.

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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 (Vodaphone and Surfline) though it isn't fast. Upon arrival you'll need a few days to get it set up.

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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?

Data is cheap, so you can get a local cell phone and pay less than $10 a month for data/cell coverage. Calls to the USA are also cheap.

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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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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?

Lots of NGOs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The North American Women's Association can hook up people with volunteer organizations.

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

Business or local dress (especially on Africa Wear Fridays).

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Health & Safety:

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

Ghana is relatively safe though one needs to be aware of surroundings and not walk around waving your cell phone.

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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.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It is good though the seasonal Harmattan (December- March) can exacerbate breathing problems. That being said, I am asthmatic and found it manageable.

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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 hot most of the year and slightly cooler in summer months and during the Harmattan.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many education options available. We have been happy with Lincoln Community School (there are others such as a French school and GIS), and the Little Explorers preschool (fantastic and highly recommended, though there are others).

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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?

We highly recommend the Little Explorers preschool. Others in the community use Beanstalk or Owl's Nest but for many reasons we liked Little Explorers better. It is not cheap but this preschool is worth it. It has an after-school program as well.

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

Yes, ballet, swimming, horseback riding, and piano lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

I would say it is relatively large (I don't feel like I know everyone or even half the people). Morale seems high.

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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 a HASH group, the NAWA, and an Accra Expat Facebook group.

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

I can only comment that this is a great post for families because there are a lot of other families. Between play dates and birthday parties, time gets filled up pretty fast. There aren't SO many things to do with kids, but as families you make your own fun.

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

The Christian/Muslim diversity within the country does not cause any issues.

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

The slave castles (Elmina) are a must see for historical purposes, tripadvisor.com is a good resource for this.

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

Goethe Institute has good cheap food and is an expat hangout. Also, they have a artisan fair the first Saturday of every month. Great to buy clothes, beads and other fun stuff.

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

Beads, masks, printed cloth.

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

People are very friendly. It is close to a beach (though for actual swimming it is recommended to drive out of Accra).

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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:

Lamps.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and bug spray. Also several Universal Power Source (UPS) units as blackouts happen frequently.

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

"An African City" (season 1 is on youtube) is highly entertaining.

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Accra, Ghana 05/04/14

Background:

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

3rd expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Midwest. Flight from Accra to JFK is 11 hours. Connections can be long. Normal travel time to get home is 28 hours with a connection through Atlanta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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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?

Mix of compound living and individual housing. The compounds seem to be newer but not necessarily nicer. Layouts are strange but overall the housing pool is good.

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

It is so expensive here. We were shocked with the prices in the grocery store. You can find South African brands of almost everything. Local produce can be expensive so shop around for the best deal. Once they start to recognize you, the prices get better.

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

Mexican spices, powdered milk, extra pairs of shoes for the kids, mosquito spray, laundry detergent.

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

We just got a KFC and it's similar to the U.S. You have options with restaurants...pizza, Thai, Indian, Lebanese, cafes.

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

Mosquitoes are EVERYWHERE. Malaria is a major issue here. If you aren't willing to take malaria meds, you might want to consider a different post.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and 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?

Lots of availability and cost is around US$200-300 a month for full-time help.

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

The Embassy has a facility we can use.

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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?

Don't use them!

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

Everything is available here. They are a very religious group.

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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?

Almost everyone speaks English.

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

Very much so. No sidewalks... pot holes the size of grown men all over the place.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe. Negotiate your price before getting in. Buses (called tro-tros) are 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?

A higher clearance car only because of the massive potholes. You can find car parts here, but they cost way too much. Bring oil and air filters with you.

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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, but can be unreliable. We pay around US$50 a month for basic Internet. You can choose your package. Most expensive package is around US$150 per month

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

We have a pay-as-you-go phone with Vodafone. Good prices.

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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?

Pet care is getting better. We use The Vet Place and are happy with the car our animals receive. No quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. And I've been told getting a visa to work locally is near impossible.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, at orphanages and teaching English to locals.

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

Business at work and whatever you want in public. Ghanaians tend to cover up more, even though the heat is ridiculous.

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Health & Safety:

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

It's a high crime post. If the opportunity is there, they will take it. We go out in groups and avoid unlit areas at night.

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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 terrible. If you have something serious going on, they will medevac you to either London, Cape Town or DC.

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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?

They constantly burn trash here and the smell of urine is everywhere. Harmattan season is especially bad. Expect to have respiratory issues. If you have asthma, bring several inhalers with you.

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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?

Hot and hotter. We get a breeze fairly often but it's a hot and sticky 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?

Our children go to Lincoln Community School and they like it. The school has big communication issues but they are improving. Lots of after-school activities. Some mission kids go to the American International School and love it. Not as many after-school activities there but they can accommodate special needs better than Lincoln. I'd suggest researching both to see what works best for your child.

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

Not many. If it's just a reading issue, they can assist. If it's more than that, they might not accept your child

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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?

Yes. Most mission member use the Owls Nest. From what I'm told, they just raised their prices and no longer give an option for 2 days a week.

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

The schools offer sports but they don't get competitive until high 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?

There is a good group of us here and morale varies. Most people are excited to leave.

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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?

It's a make your own fun post. The Embassy puts on different events, otherwise you are on your own.

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

Good for everyone. There are places to eat and I'm told there is more than one night club.

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

It is still illegal to be gay here but I haven't heard of anyone getting harassed for it.

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

Local Ghanaians blame everything on the Nigerians but otherwise no.

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

We've been able to save some money.

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

A weekend escape to the beach is so nice. Mole national park is popular but a 7-hour drive away.

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

Hand carved items, beads, kente cloth.

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

You become closer to your family and the embassy community as there is next to nothing to do here. It is definitely a "make your own fun" kind of post.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes because there's nothing to do. Shopping online can drain your account if you don't watch it.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Everyone wants something from you and the begging becomes a bit much. Driving here is awful and the traffic makes you go insane.

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

No. I was excited to come here, but after arriving the excitement was drained out of me. I can't wait to leave.

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

Winter clothes and high expectations.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bug spray, ant bait and bathing suits.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Keep your expectations super low and you'll survive.

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Accra, Ghana 04/24/12

Background:

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

First.

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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?

The flight from JFK takes about 10 hours, about the same for the direct flights from Washington and Atlanta. Plan on two seven-hour flights if connecting through Europe (London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, or Brussels).

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 Years.

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

Government worker.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing around Accra is varied. Some within walking distance of work, some not. Most are large beyond necessity. It really depends on your family size and a good deal of luck whether you get a new 4-bedroom near work or the older, fixer-upper three-bedroom that’s a short drive. Given the unusual flight times/routes, if you live near the airport it may take some adjustment to sleep through all the night-time flights over your house. There are no stores or shops of note within walking distance of most neighborhoods, you will need a car (or take a filthy taxi everywhere).

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

Reasonable substitutes can be found for almost anything. If you buy from one of the “supermarkets,” like the commissary, MaxMart, Koala, or Shoprite, you can find just about anything, but it will cost you more than in the States. If you are intrepid and shop at local stores and at Makola Market, you can find most things very cheaply. When you see something you want, you should buy all of it. Supplies of most things are erratic.

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

Mexican-American foodstuffs (tortilla chips, seasonings, etc.), root beer, dog food, bread machine mixes, name-brand cleaning supplies, specialty baking items.

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

You can find most any kind of cuisine here, but it will not taste the same as home. Among the choices are many Chinese restaurants, a couple of decent pizza places, some high-end hotel restaurants, a few good French places, a good Japanese/sushi bar, a couple of food-courts with fast-food chicken and sandwiches, and innumerable little chop bars and food stands. High-end restaurants can run as high as $50 per person without alcohol. Most restaurants that serve recognizable European/American food range from $10-$25 for an entrée. Street food is cheap ($1-$3), but you risk getting a stomach ailment. Our favorite places include the Accra Polo Club, Bella Roma, Monsoon, La Chaumiere, Champs, 3121, Movenpick brunch, DeliFrance, La Gallette, and Mama Mia. The first US chain just opened in Accra, a KFC.

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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?

Most of the food on the local market is organic in that it is direct from the farm. Lots of fruit and vegetarian options, especially if you like plantains. Gluten/lactose-free items cannot be found here.

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

Mosquitoes during the day carry dengue. Mosquitoes at night carry malaria. Prophylaxis is a must. Ants and spiders can also be a problem. The ants are small and numerous, the spiders can be HUGE.

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Daily Life:

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

All mail takes about two to four weeks from the States, depending on how it’s sent. Expect three weeks for a Netflix turn around.

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

Inexpensive and easy to find. Live-in housekeepers/nannies will cost you US$150-$250 a month. Gardeners/drivers can run US$100-150 a month. Guards are US$75-125 a month. Everyone you meet will have a relative that is looking for a job. Quality varies widely, but there are many with strong diplomatic family references.

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

There are small gyms. Some houses have small pools. Jogging is complicated given the lack of sidewalks and non-adherence to traffic laws.

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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 don’t know of anyone who uses a credit card here. Most places don’t accept them, and you run a big risk using them at places that do.

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

Yes.

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

Most newspapers are in English;their quality varies. English television is available through satellite providers.

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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?

Everyone speaks some English, most people under 50 are “fluent.” Most Ghanaians speak to each other in Twi, Ewe, or Ga.

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

Extremely difficult. No sidewalks at all. Random holes in the middle of any footpath. No handicapped access to anything.

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Transportation:

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

There are no trains. Buses come in two forms: STC long-haul coach buses that run between major cities and tro-tros that are short trip -- mini-vans that run everywhere (including right into your car). Tro-tros are cheap (USD $.25), but notoriously unsafe and overcrowded. Taxis are also everywhere, relatively safe (compared to tro-tros), and cheap (USD $1-5).

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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 small sedan (called a saloon car here) would be adequate for all the major roads along the coast and around Accra. Travelling deep into the Volta Region or to the parks in the Northern Region will require a 4x4. Bring air and oil filters with you. Try to purchase tires before arriving, they will run you US$150-200 per tire in Accra (and probably used ones at that price).

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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?

Vodaphone has “high-speed” service, when it works. But customer service is non-existent. Expect to wait weeks for installation or service requests. Disruptions in service are commonplace. The most common package costs about $70/month and is adequate to use Skype. Vodaphone has recently upgraded the service in Cantonments and it is adequate for streaming video.

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

They are cheap and easy to get. If you are not issued one, you can get one on the local market fairly easily.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but getting them here is still stressful. Easy import requirements.

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

Almost all vet care is via house call, although a new quality vet shop and grooming salon has opened and is highly recommended. No Western-quality kennels to speak of. There are many stray dogs here. There are no parks or other public green spaces.

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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?

Nothing that would pay well enough to justify the effort.

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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 everywhere else.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a developing country and the crime is what you would come to expect. However, it is manageable by using common sense. Don’t leave things in your car. Don’t walk down the dark alley. Don’t show off your nice camera in the market. Etc. We have actually been pleasantly surprised by the security atmosphere here and have not had a real problem (yet). People we know have had burglaries, purse snatchings, and cell phone robberies. There is significantly less violent crime here than in neighboring cities like Lagos, Lome, or Abidjan. That said, however, as Ghanaian economy is starting to cope with the benefits/problems that come with a rapidly-expanding oil-based economy, the crime seems to be becoming more prevalent.

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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 pills are a must. Don’t drink the tap water or use ice in restaurants. Fruits and vegetables must be sanitized. Don’t swim in the open ocean or in still water, like Lake Volta (risk of schistosomiasis). Anything that requires a hospital will need to use medevac.

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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?

Burning trash is a constant, the smell of the open sewers can be stunning. The cars have no emissions controls and getting behind the wrong taxi or tro-tro can cause serious lung damage. The best air is at the beach or in the hills, far from Accra. Do not come here if you have respiratory ailments.

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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?

Nov thru April is very hot (95-100F) and mostly dry, sometimes with a dusty Harmattan wind (in January and February). May and June are hot (90-95F), humid, and rainy. July thru October is tolerable (85-90F) with occasional rain. If you think that you will miss winter/spring/autumn, this is not the place for you.

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Schools & Children:

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

It seems to be better for younger children.

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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?

Most people have a live-in nanny.

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

Yes, and for adults too. Easy to find adult softball, volleyball, floor hockey, dodgeball, horseback riding, and soccer leagues

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Expat Life:

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

Medium. Mostly businessmen and students. The tourist numbers are small, but growing.

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2. Morale among expats:

It ranges. You can be happy here, but you have to work at not being frustrated by the little things.

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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 a few museums and cultural sites in/around Accra. As for entertainment, there is a western-style movie theatre at the mall, a bowling alley, and plenty of bars and clubs. Many of the different diplomatic missions have cultural events, especially the Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Institute. There are some good beaches within a couple of hours from the city. Unless you are willing to spend two-hours in the car for a small payoff, this is a “make your own fun” kind of post.

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

We have friends in every circumstance. Everyone seems fairly happy, if they want to be. It’s easy to get frustrated by West Africa (just try to eat in a decent restaurant in less than two hours), but our community is strong and active. I would not say that it is better or worse for married people or single people, it’s best for people who know how to amuse themselves.

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

Homosexuality is technically illegal in Ghana. However, there seem to be no practical restrictions or problems in regard to this.

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

Foreigners are very conspicuous in Ghana. Most people, however, are either genuinely curious about you or, if you’re in a touristy area, they are trying to sell you something. As for religion, they have every denomination you could want -- Presbyterian and Muslim seem to be the most prevalent.

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

The people are ridiculously friendly and naturally curious. We will really miss the genuine amicability of people.

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

Many places to shop and eat in Accra. Day trips outside the city include gardens, waterfalls, beaches, boat tours, slave forts, and wildlife parks. Further afield are Mole National Park, the Volta highlands, and Kumasi. Togo is a four-hour drive from Accra, plan on at least five hours to the Ivory Coast border. West Africa is NOTHING like East Africa or Southern Africa when it comes to variety or quality of tourist attractions. Manage your expectations of tourist infrastructure and quality of attractions.

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

Lots of hand-made crafts like masks, kente, carvings, batik, etc.

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

As Ghana becomes more developed, life for expats is getting easier. The supermarket shelves are stocked with adequate South African substitutes, the road quality is improving, telecommunications are conforming to international norms (we recently got seven-digit phone numbers!), and travel options out of Accra are growing. It is probably the best city in the region in which to live.

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11. Can you save money?

Easily, but you’ll want to spend it on trips out of the region. Travel within Africa can be more expensive than travel from Africa to Europe. Given its relative standing in the region, I am surprised at the high level of pay differential.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not.

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

Cold-weather gear, nice car, and need for punctuality.

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3. But don't forget your:

Linen clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, and quality snack food.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The general consensus is that Accra is neither a great nor a horrible posting. Some people curtail, others extend. Most make what fun they can for two or three years and are satisfied to move to another place. In comparison to the rest of Western Africa, this is one of the better postings. In comparison to the rest of the world, this is a tough place.

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Accra, Ghana 08/09/11

Background:

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

No. I've been posted to Port au Prince, Tegucigalpa and Kingston

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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?

11 hours from DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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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?

There is a mix of townhouse compounds and single family homes.

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

You will need to go to a number of stores to get everything you're looking for. Groceries and household supplies are quite expensive. You will be overwhelmed at how expensive they are.

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

Foods and cleaning products I can't do without and car maintenance parts.

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

A number of decent restaurants throughout the city. Ranging anywhere from $5-7 to $45-55

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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?

Not the best place for vegans and those suffering from nut allergies.

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

Mosquitoes and instances of malaria are very high.

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Daily Life:

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

As a diplomat, we receive our mail thru the diplomatic post office at the Embassy.

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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 plentiful and reasonable. Just be sure to ask pointed questions when interviewing and keep in mind that Ghana has a high illiteracy rate.

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

Yes

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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?

Do not use them!!!!!Almost everyone I know has had their accounts stolen.

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

Yes. Almost any religious demonination can be found in Ghana.

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

Yes.

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

None

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

Lots!Uneven roads, limited sidewalks, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis can generally be taken without incident. Just be sure to know your surroundings and agree on a price before getting in.

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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?

Any vechile is fine. Just know that not all roads are paved and those that are are not in the best of conditions.

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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. Around $100/month for high speed internet.

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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?

Easily available here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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

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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?

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

Modest and pretty formal

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Health & Safety:

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

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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 very good.

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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?

moderate - they burn trash quite often

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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?

Hot and humid during the dry season (Nov. - May)Mild and overcast during the rainy season (June - Sept/Oct)

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, and surprisingly good. A number of preschools are available but they are quite expensive. Most cater to the expat community.

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

No

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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

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2. Morale among expats:

Decent

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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?

Unless you like the club scene, you'll need to create your own entertainment.

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

Singles and couples should do well here. Families are in abundance.

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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?

Women are not treated with as much respect as they should be.

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

Commute is less than five minutes

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

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

Stools, glass beads, mud cloth, kente

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

Culturally rich country - chieftancy, arts and crafts, food, music, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

I couldn't

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not

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

Winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Accra, Ghana 06/11/11

Background:

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

Accra is my first expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Direct flights from Atlanta, New York and DC.Atlanta and DC flights are around 10-12 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Have lived here one year.

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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?

Houses are generally large, some in compounds, some individual. Most US housing is within 10 minute walking distance of the embassy.

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

Western groceries are very expensive. Local fruits and vegetables are inexpensive.

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

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

No American fast food restaurants,There are some South African chains. There are new restaurants every day - there are now at least three Thai restaurants and two excellent Italian restaurants.

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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?

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

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Daily Life:

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

View All Answers


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

Domestic staff is readily available.

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

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Using credit cards or ATMs is not recommended.

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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?

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

English is the official language.

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

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Transportation:

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

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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?

SUVs are common here. In the city it would be OK to have a sedan. Travel outside of the city especially during the raining season requires 4-wheel drive. Bring parts with you. Roads are overcrowded.

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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 works most of the time. It is too slow to stream video. Skype is possible but not great quality. Cost is around $60 a month.

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

Cell phones and minutes are inexpensive.

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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)?

There are a few trusted vets in town. They even make house calls.

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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 few jobs for expats on the local economy.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

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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 real concern here and antimalrials are recommended for everyone.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good except for during Harmatan when it is unhealthy.

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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?

Rainy season April - October. Cooler temps in July and August. Usually in the 90's with a frequent 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?

We do not have school age children. There are 4 main schools:Lincoln International, an IBS school;American International School, a Christian school, Ghana International School (GIS) and the German-Swiss International School. While the location of GIS is very convenient, most students go to Lincoln.

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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?

There are several preschools in the area that have a good reputation.

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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?

The expat community is large here.

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

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

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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?

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

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

Beaches, tours of slave trading posts, sea turtle viewing

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

Glass beads and baskets

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

The atmosphere is laid back which can be an advantage or a disadvantage. The people are very kind and helpful. The beaches are beautiful.

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11. Can you save money?

You can save money here, but not on groceries.

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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:

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Accra, Ghana 02/24/10

Background:

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

Sixth time living abroad. Second time in West 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?

Washington, DC.KLM flies via Amsterdam and is generally a more comfortable flight than its Delta competitor. Travel time is approximately 24 hours including layovers and transfer time. Delta flies direct to NYC, but for persons traveling on it may be difficult to clear customs with small children and then recheck everything at JFK.The Delta flight is approximately 10 hours. United is scheduled to begin direct flights to Dulles in either April or May 2010.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two and a half years - leaving in 2011.

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

DOS spouse/AEFM 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?

Most people live in compounds. Some of them are very new, which is nice aesthetically, but can be a pain while construction bugs are ironed out. Most of the stand-alone houses in the pool are older and small. The large stereotypical "Africa House" with the giant great room and pool is not something you will find here. Most everyone lives in the neighborhoods surrounding the embassy. Commute time can be as little as 10 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by car.

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

We have an AEA commissary here that gets regular shipments of dry and frozen goods. Prices are higher than in the US, so anything that you use a lot of you will probably want to ship in consumables. That said, there is definitely a plus to having cool whip and turkeys at Thanksgiving and having a place near the embassy to do your shopping. Koala, MaxMart and ShopRite are the three major grocery stores, but there are also some specialty stores. There really is no logic to prices; one month you might pay GHC 8 for orange juice, the next month the same brand is GHC 14.You will not be able to get everything you need/want in one store - grocery shopping is a several stop activity. Groceries can be VERY expensive on the local economy. Prices tend to be raised around the holidays - fresh vegetables such as broccoli can go for up to $20 in December. Locally grown produce is nice and can be gotten for a decent price; pineapples, mango and papaya are all staples. Household cleaners can be very expensive; especially name brands. Bring what you can in your consumables. Many folks order some things you can't get here from Amazon.

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

Bikes. Can be a good way to go short distances. A child's play gym or Little Tykes house/fort for the back yard.

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

There are a variety of decent restaurants. Cheap places that are family friendly include Papaye in Osu and Frankie's, which can run as little as about $3 per person. Mama Mia's is a pizzaria that is very popular with the expat crowd. Nicer places abound and can run up to $100 for dinner for two, including wine. A good variety, and you can find Indian, Ethiopian, Korean, Chinese, American, Ghanaian, African, Mexican (sort of) and Italian here. The only frustrating thing is that Sunday Brunch does not exist here except for the bigger hotels.

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

Little biting flies and mosquitoes. This is a malaria zone. Some houses report a problem with ants. Many people engage a local sprayer regularly to spray yards as the embassy isn't really very keen on spraying. Borax helps cut down on the ant problem. Inexpensive "zappers" can be purchased locally and put in bedrooms. We sleep under mosquito nets, but most embassy people do not and prefer instead to take anti-malarial drugs either in additon to or instead of other measures. Bring your bug spray.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch only. Non-embassy expats rent PO boxes at the post office."Duty" on your items that someone sent you depends on your negotiation skills.

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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 people employ at least one person. Unlike in other countries, Ghanaians like to "specialize".It may be difficult to get someone who wants to do cooking AND cleaning or cooking, cleaning AND nannying. Embassy expats tend to pay the most and average wage is probably GHC 200/month. Many people supplement this with a food allowance for their staff. Some only want to work 9-5; it is important to negotiate a schedule that works for you so that you aren't immediately at home with dinner, kids and everything else dumped on you when you are tired from an 11-hour day. Babysitting is very inexpensive and overtime is affordable, even on holidays.

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

The embassy has a gym; there is also Pippa's Gym and Aviation Social Centre. Many people bring treadmills with them - Game has some machines and free weights available for purchase locally.

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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 not used the ATMS, but I have a friend who does this regularly and has had no problems. I purchased plane tickets once by credit card. I had to tell my credit car company in advance and let them know it was a one-time purchase and the approximate amount. Many of us shop with credit cards online through Amazon.com and some of us have had some problems. A lot of vendors will block your server from making orders (e.g. Drugstore.com and ToysRUs) if you order from home. Credit card fraud is a problem here.

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

Yes. Many, many Christian churches, mosques and a Hindu Monastery. The Embassy of the Holy See holds Sunday mass.

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

Yes. Several local papers for about GHC 0.70.The International Herald Tribune.

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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?

Zip. Nada.

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

There are no sidewalks. Nothing is wheelchair accessible. It would be difficult.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis do not have seatbelts. Some folks take the tro-tros, buses and taxis, including many expats, but I think your own car is probably best. You pay for the taxi what you can negotiate; there are no meters.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

An SUV gives you the most options, especially when traveling outside of Accra. If not an SUV at least a 4WD.A minority has "non SUV cars" and they get around Accra just fine. If you have a US spec car you will want to pack some parts in your consumables. Tires are very, very 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?

Yes, but service can be scatty and the "customer service center" is not able to actually troubleshoot or assist. You usually have to go to the office in person. It is about GHC 70/month. You do not get refunded or credited if you do not have service. In THEORY you can write a letter, but I know of no one who was successful in getting credit.

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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?

Get a pay-as-you-go SIM card. Everyone here has a cell phone; it's a must.

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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)?

No kennels to speak of. There are a few good pet stores, but if your pet is fussy, you want to bring specialized food from home. Vets are generally competent, but I would not do elective surgery (i.e. spaying) here.

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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?

With some NGOs perhaps, but work permits can be a problem.

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

Casual and neat. Ghanaian men wear a lot of suits. Fridays are great because it's national dress day and you see lots of colorful local outfits. Even expats wear them.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime is present there is some type of violent crime (usually a robbery at gunpoint (homemade guns - gun ownership and availability isn't an issue here)) a few times a year. The embassy assigns night guard from 6-6 and most everyone employs a day guard. Common sense precautions can prevent you from becoming a victim. As someone else said, this is NOT South Africa!

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

This isn't the place to have a serious health problem. The HU does a great job with what they have, but emergency services can be scary. Many folks join WARA (West African Rescue Assoc.) which provides good emergency care, but we are in Africa and conditions are sometimes less than ideal in public hospitals (even the expensive 37 Military Hospital) and equipment is older. Most women medevac to have children; it is required for embassy women. Malaria zone. Medevac is Pretoria or London.

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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?

If you have asthma, you will have problems here on a regular basis - especially during the Hamattan season. Sometimes it is hard to tell if your neighbor is burning tires or smoking weed, honestly. Burning trash is common, although it is not as bad in Accra in the Cantonments area and Labone where a lot of expats live as it is in local areas.

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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?

Hot! Two rainy seasons a year provide some relief. Best and coolest months are August and September. Beginning on late October the weather gets hotter and by January we are all baking. Rainy season begins end of February or mid-March and finishes by beginning of May or so. Smaller rainy season hits mid-July for about 2 weeks.

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Schools & Children:

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

Unlike 99% of the children, our children do not go to Lincoln Community School. We chose instead to send our kids to the German Swiss International School, where they have a bilingual program. The school is smaller and has a family feeling - we know all the kids and probably 90% of the other parents (at least by sight) and classes and grades frequently have programs together so learning across ages is practiced. The teachers and headmaster are all very accessible and have been active parts in our children's education. I also like that it has opened up other avenues outside of the embassy community. The previous reports we had read here about LCS were not very positive (2007 time frame, reports from 2006 and older).My friends who have children at LCS seem happy with the school presently, but report some dissatisfaction with the training and classroom methods of the local Ghanaian teachers, particularly in the kindergarten class. Since IB came to LCS, people seem happier. One family sends their children to Ghana International School and is happy with that. One family homeschools.

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

There is a special needs school in Labone about 10 minutes from the embassy. Two embassy families send their children there and seem happy with it.

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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?

One of our children is in the German Swiss International School Nursery. He likes it a lot. Many other schools locally offer preschool:Little Explorers, Brilliant Stars, Gingerbread House, Twinkle Tots and Buzy Beez are just a few.

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

Pretty much anything you want your kid to learn (tae kwon do, ballet, etc.) can be done at your house in a private lesson - for cheap. We have the 5-time Ghanaian TKD Bantamweight champion coming to teach our son private lessons every week and it's only GHC 10 (about $6).Keep in mind, however, that you may have to go through a couple of teachers to find what you want. During the summer, however, it is miserable. GIS and LCS have had summer programs, but they tend to be loosely run and expensive. We never got our son's ceramics project from LCS daycamp last year, because he was sick and when our driver left to go pick it up, the program administrator asked him for a dash. GSIS has a soccer training camp for kids on Saturdays during the school year. Swimming is year round and the embassy has a pool. Other expats go to LaPalm, Alisa or other hotels and pay about GHC 7 to swim. Swimming lessons are available from Albatross Swim School, which is red cross standard and run by Kwame Kpodoh, the LCS swim coach and lifeguard.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large, I think. Over 8,000 American currently.

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2. Morale among expats:

It ebs and flows. It can be great one week and terrible the next. That's Africa.

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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 is definitely an active social circuit. Many people entertain in their homes, not just embassy expats. There are a number of clubs that meet - Caldonian society, NAWA and schools also have balls and dances sometimes. There are some crazy birthday parties for kids here. If you are not careful, it can be hard to balance your life. During holidays, it is probably possible to do something every night of the week. People here tend to be very friendly and open and make friends quickly.

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

It is good for families in certain respects - children are included in most embassy events and there are a lot of crazy birthday parties. It is great for couples with children because paying for babysitting here will not require you to take out a mortgage on your house. I would NOT want to be at this post as a single person. Single women here seems to fall into two categories:happy and VERY unhappy. I think dating here can be very tough - especially if the Visa Question comes up if you are attached to the embassy. I honestly think non-embassy expats have it much easier in this regard.

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

We have two gay couples at post presently and they are both integral parts of the community and very active. Ghana in general is very conservative and does not necessarily acknowlege or deal with homosexuality well. I would think discretion is the key. I have not heard of any instances of harassment.

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

You get called, "Obruni" and your prices are higher, but it's no big deal.

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

Visiting the slave castles, beach vacations and getting involved with some of the local women's groups.

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

Beaches, pool, the Accra Mall provides some shopping and a movie theatre with recent releases, go out with friends to eat or dancing. There are a lot of school bazaars in the fall which are fun to shop at. Ghana Mountaineers is a hiking club which meets about once a month. There are a number of clubs and groups that do sports or activities, you really just need to ask around. NAWA, the North American Women's Association, publishes the No Worries Guide To Accra, which lists most of them. Some folks here get into beading, and there are several places to visit to watch beads being made. A very large bead market and a center for bead trading in West Africa is at Koforidua, about a 2-3 hour drive. People do a lot of entertaining here. You only get bored here if you want to be bored."Making your own fun" is definitely part of the tour here.

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

Beads! Carved items, batik, and some artists do very good work in oils.

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

It's always warm!It's "Africa Lite" and a good chance for family who aren't too adventurous to come visit you.

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11. Can you save money?

Probably not. Unless you want to eat only local food and never leave your house. It's more expensive to live here than it was for us in Hong Kong, which is generally considered very expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably.

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

Winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, outdoor toys and equipment

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

No Worries, The Essential Guide to Accra by The North American Women's Association. Bradt Guide to Ghana.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

You really have to learn to adapt to live here and be ready for a roller coaster ride. Some days it is great to be here and others you really are not happy. It's very frustrating to run into some of the red tape here, but very rewarding when you can navigate it. Things are different here in pace and in method and it can take some getting used to. Find a group of friends, an activity or something like that soon after arrival; it will make your integration here that much easier.

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Accra, Ghana 02/05/10

Background:

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

No, three other African countries

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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?

U.S. where Delta has direct flights from Accra.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over two years

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

Associated with U.S. Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Single family homes (often older homes in U.S. Embassy area - newer homes farther out but traffic could be problem) and compounds

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

Lots of products - good U.S. commissary that has American goods.

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

If you have consumables, goods are cheaper in the U.S.But most things are available in Accra.

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

Limited - but very good Indian and sushi. Ghanaian food is pretty good as African food goes. There are some South African fast food chains that are good quality and some place called Frankie's that is like fast food. Cost isn't too bad.

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

Mosquitoes - malaria is present but not that frequent.

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Daily Life:

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

U.S. Government has a DPO.

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

Available and reasonable.

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

Yes

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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?

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

Catholic and Protestant (Elim and Ridge and Methodist).

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

Yes

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

None

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

One has to be careful about open ditches along streets and unmarked holes.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are very cheap and safe - you need to identify a landmark near where you want to go - as taxi drivers don't know all the street names.

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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 lot of expats bring 4x4 but the roads are pretty good - even going outside of Accra.

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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

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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?

Pay as you go SIM cards - works fine.

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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)?

Good veterinarians. Kennel service is limited and would not recommend it for long periods of time.

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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?

Yes

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

People dress neatly.

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Health & Safety:

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

It is a pretty safe country - this is an advantage that should not be taken for granted. That said there are opportunists - stories of dishonest individuals.

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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?

Pretty good.

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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?

OK except during dusty season.

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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?

Hot quite a lot - but cooler in dry season when it remains hazy/cloudy.

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Schools & Children:

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

For English speaking the main expat schools are British school,Christian school, and Lincoln. Christian school was started to improve academic opportunities and has very small classes - but limited social opportunities for older kids. Lincoln has IB program and graduating kids have gone on to some impressive colleges. However, several parents complained that the elementary IB curriculum didn't lead to amastery of all the basics - especially in mathematics.

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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?

Available

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

Yes

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Expat Life:

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

Medium?

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2. Morale among expats:

Not bad - it is pretty nice as Africa goes. Ghanaians are very nice people. The economy is moving forward.

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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?

Restaurants, other houses, religious/special interest groups, music, and White Sand beach club.

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

Families - especially with young children - not sure about singles and couples - as there are a limited number of things to do.

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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?

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

Quite a few beautiful beaches - both close and farther away like Busua and Axim and the slave castles.

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

Beaches, nice craft stores, castles, sports

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

wooden and ironwork crafts, there are some very nice craft stores, kente, gold jewelry

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

Schools are better than most of the other countries in West and Central Africa, saving money, beaches, culture/dance is interesting

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11. Can you save money?

Yes - partly because there are a limited number of things to do.

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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:

winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

beach gear

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

lots available

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

not sure

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Accra, Ghana 05/24/09

Background:

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

No, Dhaka, New Delhi, London

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2. How long have you lived here?

Since August 2008

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

US Embassy

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

US: Delta has a direct flight to New York. Europe: KLM and British Air. Middle East: Emirates.

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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: either single family dwellings with older and strange layouts and poor finish quality, or newer (or older) compounds with better finishes and design, but less yard. If you are on your own, quality housing is very expensive.

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

Expensive. Maxmart and Koala are closest to the embassy and offer a good range of US and international groceries at prices that are moderate to high. Shopright in the new Accra Mall is bigger and slightly cheaper."Game" is a Target/K-Mart type store, also in the mall, but don't expect US prices.

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

Flat screen TV; electronics are expensive here.

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

There is a large range of local and international dining options. The better the food and ambiance, the more it costs. At the top end, this can be quite expensive, and includes French, Italian, Continental, and Indian options. Moderate priced: Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Indian, Continental, Japanese, andfast food. If you like local food in open-air "chop shops" it is very cheap.

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

Malarial mosquitoes and ants.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy - pouch and DPO.

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

Full range of help available from $100 US to $200 based on experience. Embassy folks tend to overpay, and many staff experienced with embassy families tend to be coddled and have high preferences for leisure time relative to work.

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

Yes. At the embassy, Air Force Officer's Mess, and "Pippa's Gym."

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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?

Unknown, I have used cash exclusively.

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

There are a plethora of Christian churches and mosques in Ghana.

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

AFN, sat TV, multiple newspapers (although none very good.)

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

None.

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

Few sidewalks, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Except for backpackers, peace corp volunteers and students, most expats avoid local buses and trains. Taxis are cheap, but they don't look very 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?

Any kind will do in Accra. SUVs are more comfortable for trips outside Accra, but they are not absolutely needed.

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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, about $70 US a month.

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

GSM, get one.

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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)?

Unknown but many people have dogs and cats here.

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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?

Appear to be, with NGOs, etc.

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

From local dress to business attire. Black tie for balls, etc.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate: depends on if piles of grass and garbage are being burned.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

The standard tropical regime.

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

Petty crime, infrequent burglaries in expat areas. This is NOT South Africa.

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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?

Malaria is a concern and one should be prepared to take a prophylaxis.

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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 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?

Lincoln Community School is used by most US Embassy families and appears to be very good for younger children. Seems fine for older kids too. The Ghana International School is closer to the embassy, but it does not appear to have comparable facilities. There is also a Swiss school and a German medium-level school.

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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?

Some families use the local day care and preschools.

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

Yes, at school, in the embassy sometimes.

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Expat Life:

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

Seems large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on which clique you ask. First-timers in Africa have a bit of a transition period.

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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?

Restaurants, night clubs, casinos, cultural tourism, charity work, golf, etc.

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

There is an active expat community here for singles. Couples seems to be able to take more advantage of outings beyond Accra. Families do well enough entertaining each other.

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

Seems to be fine here, but not sure.

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

Ghanaians are friendly and welcoming to all. Within Ghana there is little-to-no conflict between religious communities. There is a large local community of Lebanese and Indian merchants.

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

Trips outside Accra, generally within a day's travel. Going to the Accra mall for movies, dining out, hanging out at hotel pools...

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

Handicrafts, jewelry, cloth, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

Possibly - depends on how much you earn, and where you shop and eat.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, Ghana is the jewel of West Africa and is relatively "easy." That said, it can also be boring for some people.

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

worries - Ghanaians are generally relaxed and friendly. Also your expectations of going on safari: the wildlife here is not comparable to that in South or East Africa. The beaches in and near Accra are treacherous and/or filthy. One has to travel at least an hour or so to find OK recreational beaches. The best are 2-4 hours away from Accra, and they should still be used with caution due to the strong undertow.

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3. But don't forget your:

cultural awareness of Ghanaian social customs and expectations.

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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?

Ghana is probably one of the easiest countries in Sub-Saharan African to come to for work or a visit. That said, it is a third-world country and has its challenges.

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