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

Personal Experiences from Conakry, Guinea

Conakry, Guinea 11/05/19

Background:

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

No. I have also lived in Bonn, The Hague, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, and Kabul.

View All Answers


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?

Suburbs of Washington, DC. It's about a six to seven hour flight from Dulles to Brussels or Paris. It's then another eight hours to Conakry (with a stop en route).

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Two years and four months.

View All Answers


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

Diplomatic mission.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

It is large, with a wall and barbed wire surrounding it. There are nearly constant maintenance problems. I have had five significant floods due to the roof needing repair. There are two housing compounds, an apartment building, and detached houses. Commute times can range from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on location and traffic.

View All Answers


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

There are several grocery stores that cater to expats, and their prices can be exorbitant. Some produce is available through local vendors. All produce should be bleached before consuming.

View All Answers


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

I can order most things online that I can't get here. I did bring a consumables shipment. Diet Coke and American beer are two things that can be difficult or impossible to get here.

View All Answers


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

The Sheraton has a buffet. Some people like a restaurant called l'Avenue. If you live downtown, there are more options available, but overall, the quality of restaurants here is not great.

View All Answers


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

Roaches, ants, mice and rats are all problems here.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Pouch or DPO, but lately items shipped in the DPO system have been stolen. There is no local postal system.

View All Answers


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

The cost of household help varies. There are plenty of people who want jobs but the quality of their work is often low. Americans will pay about three times what Guineans would pay for the same service. A full-time nanny/housekeeper is the USD equivalent of about $250 - $400 a month. A part-time gardener is about $80 USD per month. Part-time pool cleaner is about $80 a month. A part-time cook is about $225 a month.

View All Answers


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

I don't think anything is available outside of the embassy.

View All Answers


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

No, credit cards are not widely accepted and I would generally not use them. Some of the expat grocery stores take them and using them there is generally safe. No, don't use any ATMs.

View All Answers


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

There are missionaries in Conakry who have English-language Christian services on weekends.

View All Answers


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

French is really important, but depending on your contacts, you might also need Susu, Malenke or Pulaar. I'm not aware of any local French tutors, other than what is available for embassy employees.

View All Answers


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

Most definitely. There are no sidewalks, most roads are unpaved, and finding an elevator is a rarity.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

No. Don't take them.

View All Answers


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?

Something with high clearance that can take a beating and continue running.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

No. Probably a few weeks for installation.

View All Answers


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

Some people use Orange. My employer provided my phone, which is Cellcom. The data service is lousy, in my opinion.

View All Answers


Pets:

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

There are no well-qualified vets here, and even if you find one, it's doubtful that s/he would have access to legitimate vaccines or medicine. There's no quarantine. I wouldn't bring a pet here or adopt one here due to the lack of veterinary care.

View All Answers


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 a few jobs available in the embassy.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

You could probably find an NGO who would welcome a volunteer. There aren't established volunteer programs here.

View All Answers


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

Guineans often wear local dress. Foreigners usually wear dresses or suits to work, or at least a shirt and long pants. If you attend the Marine Corps ball, you could wear formal attire, but even there, I've seen pretty informal outfits.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Civil unrest is frequent. I have heard there are often protests that evolve into participants burning tires in the road, throwing rocks at drivers in their cars, robbing them, etc. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are common. I've heard home robberies also occur, and I think it is advisable to have a guard.

If you have a vehicle accident and are a foreigner, I feel like you should be prepared for an angry mob to surround your car. I have not seen regulations, stop signs, or lines on the road here. There seems to be no concept of driving safety, signaling, or right of way. Traffic is horrendous, in my opinion, and driving is very stressful.

I have not found any trash collection or waste management system here, so people just drop garbage everywhere and leave it.

View All Answers


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

There is no acceptable medical care here that I have found. Counterfeit medicines seem to be prevalent, doctors don't seem to be qualified, and clinic/hospital facilities are truly an abomination in my opinion.

Take Malaria prophylaxis, and make sure all of your vaccines are current before arrival. Ebola has been a problem but has been under control in this country since about 2016.

View All Answers


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?

Bad, in my opinion. Burning trash, car exhaust, and dust in the dry season are problems. Also, housing does not seem to be constructed well with properly fitted doors or windows, so the outside polluted air comes into the house. Get air purifiers.

View All Answers


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

Cook your own food and bring allergy medication.

View All Answers


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

Nothing in particular. In my opinion, this is a very stressful place to live.

View All Answers


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 all year. It's dry with no rain from about December until May. The rest of the year is wet and humid.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Embassy employees send their kids to the American International School of Conakry (K-12), the Lycee Albert Camus (nursery school through grade 12), or Tom Pouce (stops at age 10). AISC has consistent challenges and I would not send a child to high school there due to the lack of academic and extracurricular options. It does offer small class sizes and everyone knows each other.

View All Answers


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

None.

View All Answers


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?

Albert Camus has a program for kids ages three and up. I've never heard of day care or before and after school care. People get a nanny.

View All Answers


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

No.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

It's small. Morale is not great. It is hard to get people to come here.

View All Answers


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?

People usually socialize at one another's homes. Some go out to eat.

View All Answers


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

It's a good place for people who can entertain themselves.

View All Answers


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

No. LGBTs are not accepted here. I met an "undercover" advocacy group and it's my understanding members aren't accepted by their own family members, let alone others.

View All Answers


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

No. There is a great deal of ethnic prejudice here among Guineans, but foreigners wouldn't be subjected to that.

View All Answers


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

Guinea is a Muslim country but people are tolerant. Christianity is also practiced here. Women are not treated as equals here. Female genital mutilation is still a widespread practice here; in some cases it's done to girls who are pre-school age and younger.

View All Answers


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

Getting away on R&R.

View All Answers


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

Taking a boat to Roum island and staying for a few hours provides a break. Soumba waterfall in Dubreka is pretty during the rainy season (it dries up during the dry season).

View All Answers


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

No.

View All Answers


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

If you don't travel frequently, you can save money.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

I talked to people about the location before I moved here, so I wasn't surprised.

View All Answers


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

Not if I had another option.

View All Answers


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

Winter clothes, unless you will travel abroad.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Malaria prophylaxis, sunscreen, and air purifiers.

View All Answers


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

There are very few books about Guinea. Memoire Collectif is a book in French.

View All Answers


Conakry, Guinea 05/20/16

Background:

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

Multiple and varied.

View All Answers


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?

East coast U.S., overnight flight (10 PM to 5 AM) to Paris, then connect on to the U.S.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Two years, from 2013-2015.

View All Answers


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

U.S. Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Varied, negligible green space, negligible views, these are not the "Africa houses" you might expect in a place where there is little else to do. Some houses that are non-embassy owned are bigger, but maintenance issues often come with that package. I think having a view of the ocean or a clear look at the sunset versus concrete walls and concertina wire would be of great value to our community since there is so little to distract you from the chaos of the city.

View All Answers


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

Anything at the western type grocery stores is expensive.

View All Answers


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

More pool toys.

View All Answers


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

Minimal selection, local is cheap, "western" is expensive.

View All Answers


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

Mosquitoes that carry malaria.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic Post Office (DPO).

View All Answers


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

Inexpensive but of varying abilities, choose wisely.

View All Answers


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

Decent at the embassy, some local options in hotels but they are expensive.

View All Answers


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?

You don't use them.

View All Answers


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

Not sure, certainly some Protestant services and likely an English speaking mass downtown.

View All Answers


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

You really need French to get around.

View All Answers


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

No accommodations at all.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

No and yes.

View All Answers


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 a HIGH CLEARANCE vehicle, anything else is a stretch at best.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Mediocre quality (can't really stream much but can squeeze out Skype most of the time). $100 or so per month.

View All Answers


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

Unlocked so you can get the local carriers.

View All Answers


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?

Not many, mostly with NGOs, limited pay.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Find your own, they are out there but French is a huge asset.

View All Answers


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

Formal.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Opportunistic crime whether on the street or home burglary.

View All Answers


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

Malaria is the real big fear. If you are not comfortable with taking anti-malarial medication regularly, do not go. Medical care is limited to Embassy Health Unit with basic primary and emergency care, very limited other local resources. Anything serious is a medical evacuation (if there is time).

View All Answers


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?

Polluted and dusty in the city.

View All Answers


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

Dust and pollution can exacerbate existing allergies and asthma issues.

View All Answers


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

Dry season with dust and rainy season with intensely heavy rain.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

The American International School of Conakry (AISC) was not up to the job during our tenure there. Very low enrollment. Overstretched and (some) marginally qualified teaching staff. Check on the current situation with someone with kids in the school. Get real-time info only!

View All Answers


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 is a French preschool that people like.

View All Answers


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

Nope.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

English speaking community is small, many find this a hard post though a few seem to thrive.

View All Answers


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?

House parties. Trips to the islands. Restaurants.

View All Answers


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

Good for couples, then singles, then families. I think this place is a real challenge for many (but not all) families. The older the kids, the harder it is. It you have bilingual (French) speaking older kids there may be a bit more of a community to tap into.

View All Answers


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

I would imagine only if quite discreet.

View All Answers


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

Guinea is mostly Islam-"lite." Very distinct tribal differences that can sometimes flare.

View All Answers


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

Epicenter of the world's largest Ebola outbreak.
Watching the evening bat migration along the coast.
Listening to local live music.
Urban walking/biking to try to learn the city a bit.

View All Answers


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

A very few bar/restaurants that may or may not be worth the hassle of the traffic chaos to try to get to. Mostly quite far from housing. Islands off the tip of Conakry can be a nice distraction. It is difficult to get out of Conakry given the horrific traffic. Battle your way out to a waterfall to relax and feel the stress return as you sit in endless traffic chaos to get back home. Rarely worth the effort unless you are immune to two hours of sitting in vehicular anarchy.

View All Answers


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

A relatively limited selection of "artifacts" and souvenirs, many from outside of Guinea. Better souvenir options in some of the interior cities.

View All Answers


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

Saving money (the caveat is that you do not travel if you want to save).

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Only if you do not travel out of country too often. Conakry will wear you down and you will need to take breaks, those can create a strain on your wallet.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

The school situation. The lack of green space. The inability to enjoy the coast anywhere in the city.

View All Answers


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

Yes, but not with school age kids.

View All Answers


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

Thoughts of wild animals and grasslands. Conakry is a dirty, chaotic, gridlocked, impoverished URBAN experience.

View All Answers


Conakry, Guinea 12/30/14

Background:

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

No, I've lived and worked throughout Africa.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

almost 3 years.

View All Answers


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

USG.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For USG, the commute to the Embassy is easy. Trips en ville during peak hours are horrendous as the peninsula can be quite congested.

View All Answers


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

Imported goods are expensive and inconsistently available, staple foods are very affordable if bought on the local market.

View All Answers


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

More quality wine.

View All Answers


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

No fast food and few restaurant options. Still, there are some good options- Lebanese, Continental, Chinese, and local spots (serving brochette, chicken/fish and chips, cold beer). Fancy hotels (Palm and Millennium) are decent come with fancy prices.

View All Answers


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

Tons of ants in the house- they are small and impossible to get rid of; if you eat outside, the black flies will descend upon your food/drink; malarial mosquitoes.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO.

View All Answers


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

Available and affordable- about US$250/month, plus overtime.

View All Answers


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?

Cash economy.

View All Answers


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

French is a must-have, but Guineans are highly patient and encouraging so it is a great environment to lose your inhibitions and practice/learn.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

No, yes.

View All Answers


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?

4WD, Toyota.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

readily avaiable with cheap credit.

View All Answers


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 quarentine. There are a lot of dog owners in Conakry and the current expat community is very dog friendly. That said, there are not a lot vet options, so serious health issues can be difficult to treat.

View All Answers


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?

Only in development or perhaps education.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

About a year ago there was a rash of non-violent burglaries in several expat homes, though these seemed to have stopped. Otherwise, it's a pretty safe city.

View All Answers


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

Ebola, malaria. Local health care will do in a pinch, but most major issues require med'evac.

View All Answers


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 to moderate. It is really only bad immediately following the rainy season when the harmattan is blowing upcountry and everyone in Conakry is burning trash.

View All Answers


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

Extremely long 6-months rainy season (May-Dec) followed by a very dry season.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

The French school is excellent (especially for younger children) and offers a bilingual program (sufficient for beginners) from preschool through (I think) 3rd grade equivalent. There have been some major issues with the American school and virtually all parents in the past four years have turned to home schooling after bad experiences there. That said, there are many in the community devoted to turning the school around, so keep an open mind and ask for honest up-to-date analysis.

View All Answers


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?

Another good French language preschool option is Tom Pouce- it has been well received in the expat community (18 months-kindergarten).

View All Answers


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

Yes, through the school. Private tennis lessons also available.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Small but very friendly and welcoming. Morale depends largely on whom you choose to spend time with.

View All Answers


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

Dinner parties, pool parties, weekend excursions, dinner out, etc...

View All Answers


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

I think it is a good city for adventurous types- regardless of marital or relationship status. It is a make your own fun environment.

View All Answers


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

Friendly people, fun adventures.

View All Answers


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

Easy weekend trips include Rhoume Island, Soumba Falls and Lac du Koba. The beaches in Sierra Leone are good for a long weekend. Conakry has excellent live music on weekends at places like Jardin du Guinee and Obama Bar. The expat community tries hard to make activities and everyone is welcome. There is a solid Mountain biking contingent that goes out (of conakry) almost each weekend. There is a new chapter of Hash House Harriers, a weekly Sunday pick-up basketball game, etc... It is a social community, but you have to be willing to make an effort.

View All Answers


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

Drums, masks, cloth (batik, indigo, printed wax).

View All Answers


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

Guineans are friendly and the country is beautiful once you get out of Conakry.

View All Answers


8. Can you save money?

Definitely.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

View All Answers


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

Sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Anti-bacterial soap, sense of fun, and spirit of adventure... seriously, this city is what you make of it. If you can look past the underdeveloped city and trash on the side of the road, you really can enjoy your tour in Conakry. Guineans are among the friendliest in the world and the country is beautiful.

View All Answers


Conakry, Guinea 09/06/09

Background:

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

This was my fifth expat experience. I previously lived in Europe, the Caribbean, and Japan.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

3 years (2006-2009).

View All Answers


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

Worked for the U.S. Embassy.

View All Answers


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

Approximately 18-20 hours from Dulles, via Paris.

View All Answers


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 apartments and houses for embassy people. There are a couple of housing compounds, but many people live off compound. Houses are nice sized but are older and have many maintenance issues. Most houses are within a 15-minute commute to the embassy.

View All Answers


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

Most items are available in local grocery stores, but they are not always of great quality. It's definitely a post to use your consumables shipment.

View All Answers


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

Use the consumables shipment for just about everything you like to eat or use on a regular basis, especially liquids.

View All Answers


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

There is no American fast food, but there are a few hamburger joints and schwarma restaurants. There are a few decent Chinese, Lebanese and French restaurants. There are also a couple of Vietnamese restaurants.

View All Answers


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

I think the mosquitoes are worse in Washington DC, but there are a lot of ants. I gave up fighting the ants in my kitchen.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

The embassy is trying to get a diplomatic post office. Until then you cannot send packages through the embassy.

View All Answers


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

I've been very happy with my housekeepers. They run about $100 per month.

View All Answers


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

The embassy now has a small gym next to the multi-purpose room that has machines and free weights. There is also a walking/jogging trail on the embassy compound.

View All Answers


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

There are no ATMs that I know of. It is mostly a cash economy.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

There is a South African satellite company that offers English-language TV for about $80 per month.

View All Answers


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

Local languages are difficult to learn, and there are no classes offered at the embassy. French is sufficient to deal with most situations.

View All Answers


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

A lot.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Affordable yes, safe no.

View All Answers


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

An SUV is best. Even in the city the roads can be in very bad shape. There are some people who drive regular cars and they seem to do alright.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

The Internet is not very fast or reliable, and it costs about $100 per month.

View All Answers


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

The embassy issues cell phones.

View All Answers


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. Also there is no problem traveling through Paris, as long as you are only transiting and you have current rabies vaccinations for your pets.

View All Answers


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

There are a few vets that provide basic care such as vaccines. I wouldn't trust them for anything more serious.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

Business suits at work, casual in public.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Not much air pollution, but there is a lot of garbage in the streets -- and water. It is not a sanitary city.

View All Answers


2. What immunizations are required each year?

Yellow fever, typhoid. Malaria prophylactics are required.

View All Answers


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

Not many problems. I have heard that some houses were apparently broken into, and the security forces sometimes try to shake people down, but the dip plates usually protect us from that.

View All Answers


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

Health care is poor in Conakry. Any serious health problems need to be taken care of in Dakar or Europe.

View All Answers


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

The rainy season is from about May to November, with July-August being the wettest months. I have never seen such heavy rain as the rain in Conakry. It is the wettest world capital in the summer. Then there is not a drop of rain from December to April.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

There is a decent-sized expat community outside the embassy.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

It varies. It takes a lot of effort to keep your morale up at this post.

View All Answers


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?

Most entertaining is done within the embassy community. There are a few music clubs, and the French cultural center puts on some shows from time to time.

View All Answers


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

Conakry has its challenges for all. One of the biggest problems is boredom. People really have to make an effort to find things to do, and most people try to help the community by hosting events.

View All Answers


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

It is a Muslim country, so there is not an active gay community, but I am not aware of any problems that gay people have had.

View All Answers


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

It is a fairly tolerant country, with a welcoming view towards religious minorities. There is some ethnic chauvinism among Guineans, and women are not always treated as equals -- although there are a lot of women in government and industries.

View All Answers


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

There are islands off the coast that make for a nice excursion. There are a couple of waterfalls within easy driving distance from Conakry, one of which has a nice restaurant. Kamsar is a port city about 4 hours away that has some nice restaurants and a couple of supermarkets that are well stocked with American-type products.

View All Answers


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

Wood carvings, locally-made shirts, suits.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Absolutely.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

High expectations and winter clothing.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Patience and sense of adventure.

View All Answers


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

Diamonds are Forever, by Ian Fleming.

View All Answers


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

Diamonds are Forever, by Ian Fleming.

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Death of Two Sons", "A Prince Among Slaves".

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

Conakry is definitely one of the most difficult posts, but it has wonderful people who are trying hard to make a better society for themselves. Guinea has a diverse and interesting culture and it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen.

View All Answers


Conakry, Guinea 05/20/09

Background:

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

Previous expat living: Spain, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

I have been here for 9 months and will be here a total of 2 years.

View All Answers


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

US Foreign Service.

View All Answers


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

Flights are best through Paris. I believe it is about 6 hours from there, but the flights don't leave daily.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing for US Embassy employees is in apartments or houses around the city.

View All Answers


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

Food is expensive, except local fruits and vegetables. If you have a consumables allowance, take full advantage. The stores have very limited supplies and are incredibly expensive. Many people at the embassy use netgrocer.

View All Answers


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

Wine, lots of canned vegetables, more games.

View All Answers


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

That depends on your definition. There are Lebanese shwarma restaurants that are fast. No McDonald's or even anything close. There are a few decent restaurants, though nothing too fancy.

View All Answers


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

Mosquitoes and ants.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

We use the pouch at the embassy. Not sure how others do it.

View All Answers


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

Lots of available and inexpensive help.

View All Answers


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

There is a gym at the Embassy and a few private gyms. It is tough to run outside because of the crazy traffic and pollution, but some people do it.

View All Answers


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

There are only abouttwo in the country and they are not reliable. It is definitely a cash economy.

View All Answers


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

There are some English Christian services. Not sure of the denominations.

View All Answers


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

There is satellite for about US$50 per month. AFN for embassy personnel.

View All Answers


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

French is a must. If you don't speak French, it will be much tougher to enjoy Guinea. If you learn some Sousou, even better.

View All Answers


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

Definitely. This city is not designed with the disabled in mind, and I think it would be very challenging to live here with a disability.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

We can't use public transportation at the embassy. Shared taxis are affordable and readily available, but not the safest. Travel to the interior on public transport is only via bush taxi.

View All Answers


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 car would be ok -- but it is only leaded gas. For safety, it is good to bring a bigger vehicle. We have a Honda CRV and feel like it is a decent car. Many people have large SUVs. Bring parts with you.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

There is internet available for about US$100 per month, but it doesn't qualify as high speed. It is enough to search the web and use Vonage.

View All Answers


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

There are several companies providing cell coverage here. It is fairly good. There are no landlines to people's homes, so we rely heavily on cell phones for communication.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

There are some vets, but no kennels that I know of.

View All Answers


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?

I don't think so. Perhaps with NGOs.

View All Answers


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

It varies at work. Some are in suits, some business casual. In public, no shorts.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Fairly unhealthy due to burning trash.

View All Answers


2. What immunizations are required each year?

View All Answers


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

There are definite security issues -- crime, high military presence, recent military coup, etc.

View All Answers


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

The lack of medical care is a definite concern. There are a few places to get decent care, but anything major would require a medevac.

View All Answers


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

There is a pleasant dry season and a rainy season, but it is warm all year round.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

The American International School of Conakry is really a blessing. The director, who is new this year, has taken the school and made it into a place that kids love to be. Classes are small and multi-grade, and the teachers do an excellent job at managing this style of learning and making it enriching for the kids. The school offers after-school activities -- everything from African Dance to Science Club -- and the school works hard to build a real sense of community.

View All Answers


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

I am not sure, but I think it would not be an ideal situation for a child with lots of special needs.

View All Answers


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 use nannies. All that I have come across, including my own, are really wonderful caregivers. The American International School has a preschool program, and many people also use Tom Pouce, a French-language preschool.

View All Answers


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

There is a small soccer/baseball program at the American International School. I don't think there are any organized leagues.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Pretty small, few Americans outside the embassy and missionary community.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

I think it goes in waves. Right now, there are a lot of people who make an effort to enjoy life here, and that makes a difference in such a small community.

View All Answers


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?

Lots of house parties. It is a make-your-own-fun kind of place. Good concerts at the Franco-Guinean cultural center.

View All Answers


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

I think it is great for families. There really is not alot to do, so it is up to you to make your own fun. Getting together with other people is a big part of the social life, but quality time with your family is plentiful. That said, I know people of all sorts that have loved it or hated it. I think it depends on the person and their attitude.

View All Answers


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

I would guess that it is not, but I don't know.

View All Answers


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

Foreigners are few and far between, so being foreigner definitely gets a lot of attention, which some people consider a problem. The country is mostly Muslim, but Guineans are generally tolerant.

View All Answers


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

Visiting the markets for fabric shopping/tailor visits, going out to dinner, house parties, drumming lessons, shows at the Franco-Guinean cultural center.

View All Answers


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

Drums, batiks, paintings, fabrics, carvings.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Yes -- there is not a lot to spend it on except food.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I would, but my husband wouldn't. It is a tough place, but very interesting. You just have to know what you are getting in to.

View All Answers


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

expensive shoes and jewelry.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

DVD collection, charcoal grill, pool toys, party items, snack foods, and anything to entertain yourself.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Clouds over Conakry

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

Conakry is a tough place, but the Guinean people are really wonderful and make being here an enjoyable experience. The experience is what you make of it.

View All Answers


Conakry, Guinea 03/26/08

Background:

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

No, lived/worked in southern and west Africa before Conakry.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

23 months.

View All Answers


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

I am a U.S. embassy employee.

View All Answers


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

Via Paris or Brussels; there are 4 or 5 flights a week. Theoretically it's possible to travel regionally on regional carriers like Air Senegal and Bellevue, but skip these if you're easily frustrated by unreliable timetables or are easily spooked by aging planes.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing tends to be large with huge yards and pools as the default. Even apartments are large with 3 or 4 bedrooms not uncommon. The problem is that buildings are not always built to U.S. standards so you may get an electric shock turning on a light switch, or the floor may not be quite level so it may slant slightly. Do not be surprised if bathroom tiles are teal and/or magenta, or if the kitchen is Pepto pink. These issues are generally minor and should be considered charming.

Embassy housing is all over the city with 24-hour guards at all residences. They have generators, water reserves, etc. Commute to the embassy ranges from 5-20 minutes, depending on traffic. The new Embassy is in a great location and the commute is mercifully against traffic. NGOs and others working downtown can spend 30-90 minutes in traffic or even longer in rainy season when traffic gets particularly horrible.

View All Answers


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

Groceries are mainly imported and expensive. The fluctuating dollar to Guinea franc exchange rate complicates things at the check out. You can find almost everything here including Mexican and other ethnic foods, but the brands may be mysterious and the quality questionable. Use your full consumables allowance and ship any brands to which you are particularly loyal. Fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seafood are plentiful and inexpensive. NetGrocer.com and Amazon's grocery service have made things easier, but if you must have diet lactose-free cherry vanilla bon-bons, ship them.

View All Answers


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

More all purpose and cake flour-- my cook complained about the grainy quality of the local flour and he's right; spare set of tires; more voltage converters and UPS; a Polaroid camera so I could leave photos with locals when I travel; more pool/beach toys and supplies; a small barbeque grill to toss in the car for road trips; more stationary/thank you notes/ invitations; more disposable plates/flatware/platters/tablecloths; more disposable Tupperware because there are so many parties and it's nice not to care if you get your dish back; more Islamic-themed small gifts; more umbrellas.

View All Answers


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

Very little is fast in Conakry, but a few fast food type restaurants have popped up. Al Forno, a wood stove pizza place downtown, is a hit with the embassy crowd. Their popular 4-cheese pizza costs about 50,000 Guinea Francs, or US$15. The two Riviera restaurants have consistently good food - chicken, steaks and the like. Hotel Cameyenne is supposed to have the best burger in Conakry. The Novotel has a good Sunday brunch that rivals any you'd find in the U.S., but it's pricey for Conakry -- US$40 at last check.

For fabulous French pastries and chocolates Le Damier is the best, and they too have an extensive Sunday brunch. Some of the best ice cream you'll ever find anywhere is available downtown next to MounaNet cyber cafe. The best food will probably be whatever your cook prepares. Conakry has a surprisingly good supply of cooks who can prepare almost anything from traditional African fare to American favorites to frou-frou French cuisine.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DHL functions well here, but it is prohibitably expensive. The Guinean mail system is not reliable, so if there were no pouch I'd have to use DHL.

View All Answers


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

Domestic help is readily available and skills range from excellent and experienced, to just starting out and have to be taught. Because they leave for mosque at about noon on Fridays, most domestics offer to work a half day on Saturday. A housekeeper should be paid about US$125 a month. A good cook who can cook American and European standard meals and traditional African dishes should be paid about the same, and can be expected to go to market to do the shopping. Nannies should be paid about US$100-110 a month, and they often eat lunch with the child/children from the employer's food supply, usually whatever the child is having for lunch.

View All Answers


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?

The larger hotels accept credit cards, but it's best to use cash even at the hotels. Avoid ATMs.

View All Answers


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

I don't know of an English-language service, but there are many missionaries in Guinea and I'm sure they meet somewhere and worship in English.

View All Answers


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

Embassy staff have access to AFRTS, but I think the only other option for English TV is a satellite service from South Africa. I have no idea how much it costs but I think you rent the dish and pay a monthly fee for the service. English language publications are hard to find on the local market.

View All Answers


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

A command of French is really key here. Guineans are kind and will try to communicate in English, but French really does rule here. Learning a few greetings in 1 or more of the 4 major native languages is greatly appreciated and will earn you truckloads of good will.

View All Answers


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

Nothing here is ADA compliant, other than the U.S. embassy.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

I drive on the right, but some Guineans drive on the right and the left and down the center of the street. But officially, yes, one drives on the right here. Streets are narrow and people, cars and livestock compete for room. If you accidentally run over somebody's chicken or soccer ball, apologize through your barely rolled down window and offer 25,000 Guinea francs as recompense, and you will be permitted to go on your way in peace. Though they are walking in the middle of the street, try not to splash people as you drive through mud puddles during rainy season.

View All Answers


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

Embassy staff are forbidden to use local taxis. They are assumed to be unsafe from both a mechanical and security standpoint. There is no functioning public transportation system, but the government has a shuttle system for its employees.

View All Answers


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?

Most people have SUVs, and they are genuinely necessary here. Because the streets are narrow and parking is often scarce, those with smaller SUVs are happier, I think. At least 2 wheel drive is needed to maneuver through the thick mud pits that the streets become during rainy season. Toyotas abound here and local mechanics can repair minor/routine things without difficulty. Ship spare parts. Minor accidents are common so an older SUV is probably perfect.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is available but it's not reliable. It is sometimes fairly fast, other times frustratingly slow, or completely down. A chain of cyber cafes, MounaNet, is very popular here.

View All Answers


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

The cell phone companies are oversubscribed so dropped calls and lack of service are common. Text messages generally go through, so you will learn to make that your primary means of communication.

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Phone calls are expensive on the major carriers SoTelGui, Areeba and Orange, but the service is generally reliable. For those with Internet, Skype is a good option.

View All Answers


Pets:

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

Vet care is hit or miss. There is one vet that is used by expats and people either love or hate him. Ship pet meds in your HHE, or get them online. There is no quarantine for animals when they enter Guinea, but have your paperwork in order, particular since you'll likely transit Europe to get here.

View All Answers


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?

I don't know, but I suspect somebody with good French and a U.S. degree could find work here in either the mining sector or in NGO/development organizations.

View All Answers


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

Like most west Africans, Guineans dress sharply. Suits and dresses are the norm at the embassy, although a tie and shirt sleeves in really hot weather won't raise eyebrows. Expats can get away with shorts and flip-flops in public and even in restaurants, but should really try a little harder.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Moderate to unhealthy. There is a lot of smog since wood and trash are often burned for cooking, and dust during the dry season can be brutal. Pollen is also quite high at points, so many people with allergies suffer here.

View All Answers


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

It's rare for expats to be specifically targeted for serious crime, although some isolated carjackings were reported in 2007. As in any large city, be careful. Expats will be assumed to be wealthy and there may be attempts to take advantage of them either by quoting ridiculously inflated prices for goods or services, or, more likely, asking for loans and gifts. If you don't like to haggle and it bothers you to be charged $.50 a kilo for mangos while the Guinean next to you is charged $.15 a kilo, don't come here.

View All Answers


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

Anything more serious than a stubbed toe is a medevac. Embassy staff and their families have access to the nurse practioner.

View All Answers


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

Hot and dry or hot and rainy.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

I know absolutely nothing about the international school (where US kids attend) but if memory serves, it does not have a very good reputation. I've heard good things about the French school.

View All Answers


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

I imagine special-needs kids are a particular challenge here.

View All Answers


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

I don't know about preschool but most people with small children have nannies.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Smallish, and spread out around the country. The business folks, mostly in the mining sectors, are centered around their various mines in the interior. Missionaries are all over the country in small clusters. NGO folks are also all over the country, but often come to Conakry where they are headquartered. The diplomatic community is small since most missions here have 5 or fewer employees.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Guinea is not horrible, but its reputation as a tough post is deserved. Morale is generally fair to poor. Recent civil unrest has made even long timers nervous. The president is ill, the government is unstable, and Guineans are restless. Expats complain of boredom. There are no movie theaters and no active arts scene to speak of. Shopping is limited to the Internet, or braving the various open air markets which some thrill seekers find entertaining. People prone to depression tend to suffer -- the gray days during long rainy season really take their toll on some folks. Rainy season also means more people stay home, which reinforces the complaints of boredom. Taken cumulatively the many small annoyances do add up. The millionth mosquito bite followed by the millionth power outage followed by the millionth fender bender just pushes some people over the edge.

View All Answers


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?

With embassy folks socializing, living and working together, Conakry can be insular and stifling. Dinner parties and movie nights at the Marine House are de rigueur. Singles wishing to date and families wishing to frequently socialize may find Conakry difficult IF they insist on interacting with the expat community exclusively. Those who get to know Guineans invariably enjoy more active and satisfying social lives. A command of French is essential, although many elites speak English, and college students will want to practice their English with you. There is an active network of dynamic, young Guineans -- many educated in the US -- strongly engaged and determined to better their country. The expat community is smallish, and although all the groups are penetrable, cliques tend to stick together e.g., diplomats, missionaries, business folks, NGOs types. As with most things, social life in Conakry is what you make of it.

View All Answers


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

Families and couples have an easier time than singles.

View All Answers


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

As male-dominated Muslim countries go, Guinea is surprisingly tolerant of gay/lesbian expats. I suspect gay Guineans have a much harder time. Open displays of affection are not welcome by gay or straight couples.

View All Answers


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

Expats are shielded from open displays of prejudice if Guineans have them. There are some subtle inter-tribal prejudices that will probably be imperceptible to most expats, and rarely interfere with work or social interactions.

View All Answers


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

Conakry is grimy and congested so people like to get out of the city often. The islands off the coast of Conakry are easily accessible and lovely for a beach day trip. The interior of Guinea is beautiful and lush, but the roads are poor and for any destination farther than Kamsar, budget at least a weekend. The World Food Program maintains a small plane and a flight to Guinea's lush forest region takes about 90 minutes. There you can climb Mount Nimba, or hike.

In town, anyone who likes to garden will be in paradise since it's possible to grow anything here. There are many chances to learn African dance and traditional indigo textiles. Many of the nightclubs have excellent live bands who play serious Jazz and a fusion of traditional music and pop. Covers of cheesy 1980s ballads are popular for some reason, and it's possible to have a karaoke type experience if you ask to sit in with the band for a song or two. These bands and amazing semi professional dance troupes can be booked as entertainment for parties for very reasonable rates. In addition to Jazz and Top 40/pop, they will gladly sing the cheesy '80s ballad at your next pool party if you ask them.

View All Answers


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

Guinea is known for its indigo fabrics. Artwork of the Kissi peoples from the forest region (Kissidougou and Foreariah) is particularly lovely, and Mandingo masks and drums are always interesting.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't order a bunch of stuff on the Internet or go to Paris repeatedly.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely. They say you cry twice when you work in Conakry - once when you arrive, and once when you leave. It may be the toughest tour you'll ever have, but it may also be the best one you'll ever have.

View All Answers


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

Bitterness that you didn't get assigned to Paris; winter clothes; 110v appliances; wool and flannel suits; sense of entitlement.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Umbrellas; rain boots; sunscreen; Off! With Deet; children's books/toys; camera; sense of humor, 'can do' spirit, and a 3/3 in French.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Prince Among Slaves http://www.upf.tv/upf06/Films/PrinceAmongSlaves/tabid/77/Default.aspx

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

Everybody has heard the horror stories about Conakry and its reputation as one of the toughest posts in the Foreign Service. It is what you make it; it is challenging, but the people are warm and the work is interesting. However, if you're determined to be miserable here, Conakry and its hoards of mosquitoes will definitely oblige!

View All Answers


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More