Bissau, Guinea Bissau Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Bissau, Guinea Bissau
1. How long have you lived here?
2. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Working for UN agency.
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
4 hours from Europe (Portugal).
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Very hard to find a house with electricity and water. For International organization staff, they usually stay in ex-Swedish camp where running water and generator is available. But there is long waiting list and it's expensive (For instance, a tiny flat costs US$800, a flat with 2 rooms US$1,300 a month).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
It's very expensive since most of goods are imported + tax. Twice as expensive as Europe.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Everything and as much as possible. It's expensive and not many things are available.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are a few restaurants. UN cafeteria is a good place to meet expats.
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The unemployment rate is very high and you can get domestic help easily, starting from US$50-100 per month. But you have to select one carefully, as many expats complain of petty thefts.
2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
No credit card/ATM exists. (I saw only one at TAP office.)
3. What English-language religious services are available locally?
4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
If you purchase Canal +, you may get CNN but mostly French channels.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The official language is Portuguese, but French is widely spoken. Few people speak English.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Right hand side.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There's no train. Local minibus.
3. 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?
4WD definitely. The road conditions are terrible and you should have a strong car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
US$2 per hour. It's slow and quality is not to Int'l standard.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There is two mobile companies - Guinetel and Areeba. I recommend Areeba as it has extensive coverage and better quality of service.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Use Skype. Phone calls tend to be very expensive.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
People eat monkey, dogs.
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?
Some NGOs may need help. You should ask around.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Generally safe for daytime. Nighttime should be avoided since there's erratic supply of public electricity and it's very dark.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria & Cholera. I had malaria 3 times and my wife 4 times. UN doctor is generally good at treating it. Medical facility is almost non-existent and you should go to Senegal or Europe if it gets serious.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Rainy seasons - May to October. Rest of time is dry season. It rains very hard during August, so try to avoid then.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a handful of French and Portuguese schools. You may contact Embassy for more details.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Mostly UN, NGO staff, and a few Embassies. It's a small community.
2. Morale among expats:
Can't tell. It often goes extreme.
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 discos and restaurants where you will see the whole expat community.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's very hardship duty-station. But you will still find something to do. There's a small expat community and two places to visit for the weekend. A cruise with mainly French tourists, leaving Friday and returning Monday morning is worth trying. It visits various Bijago islands and they are untouched and beautiful. (Before the rainy season only: Jan - May.)
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Meditation. Reflect yourself and your life.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. Can you save money?
Not really. The cost of living is quite high. But you also have incentives if you work for anInternational organization.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I love the country, nature, and people despite all the horrible facts. I definitely would like to go again.