Georgetown, Guyana Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Georgetown, Guyana

Georgetown, Guyana 08/29/19

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 had previous expat experiences in Europe, Asia, and 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?

Northeastern United States. It’s surprisingly difficult to get to most of the United States from here. You can only fly direct from Georgetown to Miami or New York (JFK), and flights generally leave very early in the morning or arrive in the U.S. very late at night, making connections a challenge. Unless you’re going to south Florida or the NYC metro area, expect a minimum 12-hour trip to get anywhere in the United States. Aside from the U.S., the only daily major international flights are to Panama City (Copa), Trinidad (Caribbean Airlines), and Barbados (LIAT).

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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.)?

U.S. Embassy assignment.

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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 homes are scattered among a few (comparatively) high-end neighborhoods. Larger families are sometimes assigned to houses father east of the heart of the city. Housing is generally nice, though many houses have unusual architecture. Houses closer to downtown (e.g., Lamaha Gardens) don’t have big yards, but are close to other families and GIA; whereas the houses along the coastal highway have good-sized yards with grass, but are more isolated from other Embassy families. Georgetown is a VERY small city, however, so commute times to work or school are rarely more than 15-20 minutes regardless of where you live.

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

Processed foods from the U.S. and U.K. are generally available, although some products (e.g., stick butter) will vanish without warning for weeks at a time, and other products are prohibitively expensive (e.g., nuts, American breakfast cereal). Once you’ve lived here for a few months, you’ll learn the patterns of where and when to find just about everything you need, but, as with any developing country, you’ll get used to stopping at five to six locations to find everything on your shopping list. If you have school-aged kids, Amazon Prime will become like a weird wealthy uncle to them.

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

Georgetown is a pouch-only post, so plan your consumables shipments accordingly. Cleaning products, paper products, and baby products can be expensive and difficult to find in bulk quantities. Cooking oil and baking products (e.g., flour) can also be expensive or hard to find. And if you drink alcohol regularly… you’ll want to save space for that. On the one hand, Guyana produces the best rum in the world, and it’s reasonably priced for quality; and local beer is reasonably cheap and drinkable. Beyond that, however, alcohol is extremely expensive – e.g., a bottle of wine that would cost $10 in the U.S. will easily run $50 in Guyana.

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

Food delivery doesn’t really exist. Takeout is limited to local fish & chip shops and roadside grills, or fast food chains. There are now several U.S. chains here (Burger King, KFC, Dairy Queen, Popeye’s, Pizza Hut), although no McDonald’s or Starbucks. Sit-down restaurants are limited, but a few new malls are opening, which will expand options a bit. Ethnic cuisine is largely limited to Chinese and Indian food, although occasionally something new pops up (e.g., a Malaysian café recently opened). The most expensive restaurants are in the larger hotels; these can be surprisingly good, but are also very expensive for what you’re getting.

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

Yes. Guyana is a developing tropical country with all manner of insects and other animals. Geckos are your friends, because they don’t touch your food, and they eat a lot of the problem bugs. Spiders are massive and frightening, but if you can resist the urge to squash them, they’ll also help with the other bugs. Mosquitoes are a problem from dusk to dawn, particularly if you have a yard or any drainage issues near your house. Roaches and ants are abundant, but if you keep your kitchen and food storage areas immaculate, they don’t usually stick around.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch-only post for U.S. Embassy. Local domestic mail service is non-existent. FedEx and DHL deliver to Guyana, although the fastest service is 2-3 days, and they have strict rules on what they will and won’t ship. If you’re not a diplomat with pouch access, there are also private companies that can arrange for Amazon orders to be delivered to Miami and then shipped her; many Guyanese rely on these types of services for clothing, school supplies, etc.

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

Housekeepers and child-care workers are available, a full-time worker (40-45 hours a week) will cost about US$350/month, plus benefits. Live-in help is rare, but this isn’t usually an issue given how small the city is. If you have a yard, you will absolutely need a gardener (tropics = plants grow like crazy). It costs about US$40 to have someone come once a week. Private drivers are few and far between, but also aren’t really necessary, particularly if you have a diplomatic vehicle. Quality varies, and even the best workers aren’t immune from unreliability / inconsistency / pilfering. Manage your expectations accordingly.

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

The Marriott gym is available for non-guests, but very expensive. There are a few private facilities downtown that are cheaper, but often lack air conditioning and modern locker rooms, and (for female members) are hotbeds for catcalling and other harassment. The U.S. Embassy gym permanently closed in 2018, but Embassy personnel still have regular access to the pool and tennis court at the Ambassador’s residence. Running outside, while possible, can be dangerous due to street crime, hazardous road conditions, stray animals, and (particularly for women) aggressive harassment by passers-by.

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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?

Guyana is largely a cash economy. Some stores and restaurants take credit cards; however, many local banks aren’t tied into overseas ATM or credit-card networks, so international cards won’t always work. Embassy personnel can cash personal checks at the Embassy cashier.

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

Depending on your religious persuasion, yes. Hindu and Islamic temples are abundant, but there are no established synagogues. Georgetown also has active LDS and Adventist communities, and at least one good-sized Catholic church. Mainline Protestant churches exist, but are often tiny. There are also many Pentecostal churches of varying size and enthusiasm.

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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. Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America. The local accent can be difficult to understand at first, but you’ll figure it out eventually.

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

Yes. There are no sidewalks or elevators, no disabled transit, parking is a challenge everywhere, and medical care is substandard. If you have any physical disabilities aside from mild arthritis or seasonal allergies/asthma, think twice about coming here.

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Transportation:

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

Trains don’t exist. Local buses are cheap, but extremely dangerous (and Embassy personnel are banned from using them). Taxis are widely available, although some companies are safer and more reliable than others, and it’s rare for any taxi to have seatbelts in the back seat. Never, ever flag a taxi off the street! Call one of the reputable companies or use an official airport/hotel vehicle.

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

Guyana is officially right-hand (U.K.) drive. It’s legal to use a left-hand (U.S.) vehicle, but turning and passing are a challenge if you’re driving from the left side of the car. Embassy staff usually import their cars from the U.S. or buy a used car from Japan, although if you arrive in the summer transfer season, there should be a handful of cars available for purchase from departing personnel. Most cars will work fine in Georgetown and along the coastal highway, but 4WD and high clearance is a must if you want to travel anywhere outside the developed areas. Your car will take a beating here, so don’t bring something brand new. Locals generally prefer large Japanese models, although you’ll see plenty of Fords and Jeeps too. It’s not impossible to get parts for most vehicles, but it can take several weeks if you need to order something from the U.S. or Japan. If you’re not affiliated with a diplomatic mission, be aware that vehicle import duties are extremely high, especially for larger vehicles.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, and this has been a pleasant surprise. Internet is expensive, but speeds are usually fast enough to support streaming video/music without issues. Embassy homes are pre-wired for internet, so I don’t know how long installation takes from scratch.

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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?

Embassy employees are provided with local phones during their tour. Guyana (and Suriname) are considered part of the Caribbean, so U.S. phones also work fine with roaming plans. Private local cell phone service is a pain to set up, and probably isn’t worth it if you have U.S. roaming.

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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?

Think twice about bringing your pet here. There are no kennel services at all, and at least two Embassy employees recently had to ship their dogs back to the U.S. for medical care due when the dogs contracted severe tropical illnesses. There are very few vets available, and even the well-trained vets lack equipment to handle more than vaccinations and routine care. If you desperately want a dog or cat, just adopt a stray from the street, and find a friend to take care of it when you go on vacation.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Most EFM spouses work at the Embassy. Outside of hiring freeze(s) and government shutdown(s), Embassy management does its best to open as many EFM jobs as possible. Quite simply, this is a small Embassy in a difficult post, and there’s always a need for qualified extra help.

A few spouses also telecommute. Telecom infrastructure is reasonably good, as noted above, and there’s no real time difference to contend with, so established telecommuters can probably make something work here.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Some, although it varies by the personalities currently at Post. The Embassy generally has a few volunteers helping with the women’s shelter(s) and orphanage, and the local library has a Saturday morning reading program for kids. Guyana is a poor country, with all of the problems associated with that, so you can likely find other opportunities if you look hard enough.

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

Shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops are fine for most public places. Business casual (think collared shirt and khakis) is acceptable for 95% of workplaces or other “formal” settings like a restaurant. If you’re meeting regularly with government contacts, or attending a high-profile event, you might need to wear a suit… but Guyana is always hot and humid, with no reliable dry-cleaning services, so no one wants to dress up unless it’s absolutely required.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Street crime is rampant in many areas of Georgetown, and it’s inadvisable to walk anywhere or travel alone outside certain safe spaces after dark. Many popular restaurants and shops are plagued by aggressive panhandlers. Drive with doors and windows locked at all times, and pay attention to who’s around you when you enter/exit your vehicle. The highways to the airport and Lethem are frequently targeted by bandits, and crime is enough of a problem that all Embassy houses have high walls, razor wire, and 24-hour guards. That said, Embassy personnel generally don’t have issues as long as they follow RSO guidance and otherwise exercise good situational awareness.

Driving can also be a high-risk proposition in and of itself, particularly after dark. Many roads are unlit; it’s not unusual to encounter wandering cows and horses on the highways at night. Drunk driving is a serious problem, even during daylight hours. Traffic enforcement is minimal, so disabled vehicles, horse-drawn carts, and out-of-control minibuses are also a big concern on the roads.

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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?

Road conditions are terrible, so car accidents are a daily concern. Guyana also has the full spectrum of tropical and mosquito/tick-borne diseases (although Georgetown itself is malaria free, so you don’t need daily meds unless you're traveling to the interior). Hospitals in Georgetown lack modern technology and training, and medical facilities are extremely limited. If you suffer anything worse than a routine stomach bug or cold virus, you’ll need to medevac to Miami for adequate care. Dentists are also few and far between, so best to take care of any root canals or orthodontia in the United States during your R&R.

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

Air quality is perfect outside of Georgetown. Within the city itself, air quality is usually excellent too, aside from the occasional brush/garbage fire. There just aren’t enough people/cars/factories to generate air pollution.

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

If you suffer from seasonal allergies in the U.S., you’ll likely suffer from them here, so plan on ordering Benadryl, Zyrtec, etc. from Amazon. If you suffer from mild to moderate food allergies, pack a lot of epipens (since they can’t be shipped through the pouch) and hope you never have an issue. If you have severe food allergies, consider bidding elsewhere. There are no medical allergists in Guyana, and emergency rooms really aren’t equipped to deal with anaphylaxis.

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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)?

Yes. This is a very small hardship post with limited opportunities for travel, which inevitably wears on anyone during a two-year tour. Do your best to make friends (Embassy or otherwise), try and get out of Georgetown every few weeks, and hope you and your family members avoid major medical issues.

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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?

Equatorial tropics. There are technically two rainy seasons (May – July and November -January), during which the rains are heavier, but the year-round forecast is essentially 90 degrees with a chance of rain, and lots of humidity.

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Schools & Children:

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

Embassy kids attend Georgetown International Academy (GIA). GIA is very small, with rarely more than 20 kids per grade in elementary school, and only a few kids in each grade from 6th grade onward. As with any small school, our experiences were mixed. Some of the teachers are wonderful, but many are poor and/or ineffective, and teacher-parent communication is often lacking. GIA also doesn’t have a lot of resources to support programs beyond the basic curriculum, so there is little support for gifted/talented students or any other enrichment programs. If you have a middle or high-school student, your best bet may be homeschooling or boarding school.

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

None. GIA simply doesn’t have the resources to handle 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?

GIA has a preschool which, although crowded, is reasonably affordable and fairly well run. Aside from GIA, local preschool facilities often lack established curricula, have widespread safety and staffing issues, and (in some cases) still rely on corporal punishment for discipline.

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

Karate is the most popular after-school activity, and the school program (which is managed by a local dojo) is very well-organized. GIA also offers off-site tennis and swimming lessons, and there are a few other random club activities (e.g., tech club). GIA also has a surprisingly strong performing arts program: the annual school-wide musical, in particular, sells hundreds of tickets and draws local press coverage.

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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 small, although growing due to the boom in oil-related activities. Aside from the U.S., very few Embassies have more than 2-3 diplomats in country. Morale within the Embassy is middling to poor – as noted elsewhere, this is a hardship tour with limited recreational activities and/or outside travel opportunities, so it just wears on everyone the longer they are 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?

Most entertainment consists of dinner parties and/or outings to a local retreat. There really isn’t much else to do around town.

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

It’s not a great city for anyone, but probably works out best for two demographics. Families with younger elementary school kids will be fine, because the school is a good place to meet friends, and there is enough to keep kids under 10 entertained for two years. This also wouldn’t be a bad post for a couple if you’re a tandem (or at least both working at the Embassy), because the work is fairly interesting, and you’ll have plenty of money to travel. If you’re a couple with older kids, or if you’re single… good luck, as it may be a long two years for you.

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

Guyanese are generally open to foreigners. Any Guyanese have relatives living in the U.S. or Canada, and nearly everyone has positive views of the United States (even in the current political environment). As noted below, there also isn’t a lot of racial/ethnic prejudice. That said, this is a very small place, so if you’ve had a negative interaction with someone (e.g., refusing a visa, cutting someone off in traffic, declining to give someone money), don’t assume that you’ll never see them again. As with street crime, situational awareness is very important.

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

Generally speaking, race and ethnicity don’t cause a lot of trouble here. Guyanese often speak more roughly about racial/ethnic differences than Americans do (i.e., political correctness doesn’t really exist here), but many Guyanese are of mixed racial/religious heritage, and all of the ethnic groups usually get along with one another just fine. Guyanese take particular pride in celebrating everyone else’s religious holidays along with their own, and all of the big Christian, Islamic, and Hindu holidays are national events.

On the other hand, domestic violence and child abuse are major issues in Guyana, and sexism and gender biases are often deeply entrenched in local communities. For expat women, this issue is largely confined to catcalls and street harassment, but (as noted elsewhere) it’s best to avoid traveling anywhere alone.

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

Guyana is known for two things: Kaieteur Falls and El Dorado rum. Kaieteur is expensive, but lives up to the hype. The public El Dorado distillery tour is a rip-off, but they occasionally offer private VIP tours that are free and much more detailed. If you can't get on the VIP tour, just buy a double serving of 12-year or 15-year (the two best known vintages) and save your money on the admission fee.

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

Manage expectations accordingly: the highlight of most weekends will be a trip to the movies or a child’s birthday party. That said, there are a handful of decent restaurants in Georgetown, although the food and service quality doesn’t usually match the price you’re paying for a meal. There are three movie theaters, all featuring first-run movies from the US (and sometimes India) for half the ticket price. If you’re into sports, there is a decent golf course, a surprisingly well-maintained go-kart track, and a few places to play tennis. Georgetown also regularly hosts pro cricket matches, which are popular and reasonably safe if you go with a group. If you’re trying to escape the city, there are several wilderness lodges within a 2-hour trip – day trips are usually best as an overnight stay will set you back US$400/night minimum. There are also spectacular opportunities for birding, fishing, and wildlife viewing, but nearly all of them require a prohibitively expensive and/or lengthy trip into the interior.

Regional travel is also very expensive, given the lack of flights out of Guyana. If you’re dying for a Caribbean beach vacation (Guyana has no white sand beaches of its own), the most affordable options are Tobago or Barbados, but even these will set you back $300 per person for the flight. Another alternative - although the border ferry service was temporarily suspended as of this writing – is driving to Paramaribo (Suriname). This trip takes a long weekend, as the drive is 8-10 hours each way, but provides some unique perspective on the different colonial and post-colonial experiences in this part of the world. Driving to Brazil is also theoretically possible during the dry season, but you’ll need a convoy of high-clearance 4WD vehicles to survive the journey.

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

Peltogyne (“purpleheart”) wood is unique to rainforests in the area, and there are few places to buy purpleheart bowls and carvings. Some of the indigenous tribes sell handicrafts and/or antique Dutch bottles, which can also make for nice decorations. Aside from these, your options are limited to rum, coffee, and hot sauce.

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

Clean air, short commute, and interesting work.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This is by far the smallest, most “off the beaten track” city we’ve ever lived in. The fishbowl phenomenon is quite real here, and it’s compounded by the cost and difficulty in escaping Georgetown (much less Guyana). We didn’t know how hard that combination can be until we experienced it ourselves.

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

Absolutely not. We had a lot of good/fun days here, and made some life-long friends, but two years is plenty long enough. This is a hardship tour in every sense of the term, and we feel lucky to have escaped without permanent damage to our health, marriage, or careers.

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

Skis, winter clothes, and ego. The first two are self-explanatory. As for “ego” – your happiness (or lack thereof) here will largely be dictated by how well you manage work and social relationships. If you get assigned here, leave your ego in DC, and spend every day trying to be the best friend / colleague / family member you can be. You can’t survive here without a strong social support system both inside and outside the Embassy.

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4. But don't forget your:

Imagination, creativity, and organizational skills. Do you have a unique hobby that you want to share with others? Got a creative idea for a party? Are you good at inventing board games or team-building activities? You need to make your own fun here, so the more imaginative/creative you are, the better.

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

Wild Coast, by John Gimlette (2011). The book technically covers the entire Guianas region, but is heavily weighted toward Guyana (British Guyana) over Suriname and French Guyana.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you’re assigned here, expect a hard two years. That said, it’s not impossible to have a good tour here. Make friends, support your colleagues, get involved with the school, and find a way to escape Georgetown periodically, and you’ll survive just fine.

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Georgetown, Guyana 09/12/16

Background:

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

Fifth 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?

USA. It is a 4.5 hour flight to Miami. There are also direct flights to New York.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One and a half years.

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

Work.

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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, better than average. Architecture can be odd but spacious. Most kitchens are very nice. Some houses have yards.

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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 very expensive. Ship in as much as you can. Most items are available but at a considerable price and availability in hit or miss.

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

Ship everything you will want that is shelf-stable. Tires are a good idea.

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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. DHL is available.

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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 available, but varies in quality. Make sure you can trust them. They ask for more pay than I expected and as usual it is more than twice the rate of working for a local family. Nannies are either very good or not good at all.

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

There are several commercial gyms. The embassy has a small 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?

Never used one here. It is a cash economy.

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

Plenty. This is an English-speaking country.

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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 can be odd to go to the market and not understand what people are saying, but for the most part you don't need to learn much of the local creole.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

There are a couple of trusted companies for taxis, no trains, and the RSO advises against using the local mini-buses.

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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 car will do. It is a right-hand drive country, but you can use either type of car 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.

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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?

Importing pets is fairly easy. 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?

Most work in the embassy. There have been openings at the international school while we've been here. Some spouses have taught exercise classes, like zumba, or been personal trainers. There is a lot of opportunity to volunteer.

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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. Formal dress is required when going to the ministries.

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Health & Safety:

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

This Post is rated high for crime but if you pay attention to your surroundings and don't take risks you will be fine.

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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 what you would expect in a developing country.

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

The air quality is good.

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

Hot with periods of rain followed by hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

The international school is good for grades K-8. They use an American curriculum and have implemented Common Core and New Generation Science standards. Class sizes are small and teacher to student ratios are excellent.Some families have made it work for high school level. There is a real family atmosphere, all teachers, students know each other.


The down side to a small school is after school activities, which leave something to be desired, but the school does manage to get together some intra-murals with other schools in the city for soccer. Also, they cannot accommodate more than mild learning disabilities.

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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?

Yes there are a lot of local pre-schools and one at the international school which is expensive by comparison but more to U.S. standards.

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Expat Life:

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

Small expat community. Most people who come here have some idea what to expect and are therefore able to deal with the environment.

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

This post is best for families with young children.

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

Getting out into nature, driving to Paramaribo, and taking trips to the Caribbean islands.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, we've made good friends, it has been good for our careers, and the kids are happy at the school.

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

Your winter clothes and first world expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, binoculars, camera.

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Georgetown, Guyana 04/05/14

Background:

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

No- many years as an expat including cities in Europe and Asia.

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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?

Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

United States 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?

Houses are sizeable and within 15 minutes of downtown. Most houses have large family areas but feature odd layouts. Construction quality is not always the best but they are safe and comfortable. Once you get accustomed to Guyanese layouts and the odd features and lack of measured construction in your undoubtedly unique house, they are quite cozy and most people enjoy their houses. You will have a larger home than you would in most places.

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

Canned goods and basic groceries are good- you will pay ridiculous prices for some items and they will be inconsistent in availability- particularly some of the more specialized dairy items. There is one decent meat market. Goods are overpriced and it's good to ship in daily use canned items just because they are cheaper.

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

Tires, tires, and more tires- the roads are terrible and tire punctures inevitable. More day-to-day goods and less specialty items just so to save costs- a can of tomato paste costs over a dollar here and the same can would be about 35 cents in the U.S.

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

There are some actual real U.S. fast food chains- Popeye Chicken, KFC, and Church's Chicken, a Quiznos, and Bruesters Ice cream. The rest are generally knock-offs- place called "Domino" that you think is a pizzeria but doesn't serve pizza. Lots of snackettes and eateries- they are affordable. People tend to find a place they like and deem clean/decent and stick with it.

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

If it crawls or flies, you have it here- close to the coast, you have fewer mosquitos but they are omnipresent at dusk and evenings as are flies, giant roaches- and small ones too. The most problematic insect are ants which are everywhere and seem to track down the smallest food source. Colony killing ant baits and a clean household will keep them away quite nicely.

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Daily Life:

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

Through embassy pouch. Very limited- local mail is unreliable but DHS and FedEx are available though expensive.

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

It is available and can be cheap. Most Americans don't seem comfortable negotiating prices and don't understand the local wage scale. We pay our housekeeper about half of what most people do, she works a bit more than most, and is considered well-paid on the local market. Be picky about who you choose and make sure they are trustworthy early on.

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

There are some affordable gyms available but they are crowded.

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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?

Only at international locations such as Pegasus hotel. Credit card use is minimal here and I think relatively secure due to lack of technology here.

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

I think many main Christian sects have services here, Hindi services are plentiful and there are lots of mosques. I would think most would be in English or the normal language for the denomination. I do not attend any of these.

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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 the main language here- you will pick up the local dialect and wait for "just now" to actually happen. If Guyanese go into creole dialect, you will struggle to understand and in some of the more rural regions, you will wonder if it is a separate language.

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

YES, YES, YES. There is nothing for disabilities, most buildings do not have elevators, there is one escalator in Georgetown, and sidewalks are almost non-existent. The roads often look as if they had experienced an artillery barrage.

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Transportation:

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

There are no trains, only mini-buses and they are not safe and always seem to have some horrific fatal accident. There are hotel taxis that are affordable but as they cater to expats, they are more expensive. Find a good local and reliable taxi service and stick with that and you will be fine and have a very affordable taxi. That being said, even with the hotel taxis, you can get from downtown to the main outlying neighborhoods for US$6-8. It is about US$30-35 from the airport to the expat communities.

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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?

Japanese cars are king here- you can do left or right drive vehicles, both work fine though harder to pass in traffic with a left hand drive- an elevated vehicle is better and the deeper you plan on driving, the more rugged you should get- that being said, most of the traffic on interior roads still are basic vehicles such as mini-vans and canter trucks.

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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?

"High speed" internet is available but it is anything but speedy; speed is relative and seems quite variable, unpredictable, and sometimes goes out- but you get used to it and we all get by, even those who stream regularly.

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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?

Most use digicell- make sure you watch them charge your phone and credits are fully there- beware of text messages that charge you for being sent to you.

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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?

Only if you are involved in extractive industries.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

It is a poor country and I believe there are likely endless opportunities though I do not know for certain.

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

The president of Guyana wears a "shirt-jack." Some parts of the U.S. Embassy wear suits as do a limited number of the Brits and Canadians- I suspect this amuses the locals. Dress is pretty casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is rampant in Georgetown, in particular, and you have to be weary in key seasons such as Christmas which will have the predictable rise in armed robberies in the downtown. Stay out of the risk places and don't flash cash or jewelry and you will be fine. Expats generally aren't targets unless they are in high risk places or overly flashy with cash, jewelry, or electronics. We have never been confronted or robbed.

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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?

THe medical care is deplorable. There is one private hospital that is good and you can pay extra to have an appointment and not wait in the line. Most of the hospitals lack real sanitation and modern facilities.

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

The air quality can be good but the locals burn everything from garbage to dead animals so if you are downwind, beware. In the interior, the air can be very good but also very hot and humid in some places.

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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?

There are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons- the weather is predictable for the most part; even in the rainy seasons, it doesn't rain all day. The locals say the weather pattern is changing and the rainy seasons are less predictable.

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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 don't have a child in school here but have heard parents complain about the school. Guyanese education practices and considerations are different than in the U.S. and that seems to run over into some of the school activities. Some parents have stated their child fell behind in school.

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

Likely none- Guyana is not handicapped friendly and generally special needs kids and handicapped kids are not let into the schools. You will likely find them as cheap labor somewhere or as "specialty beggars" at market entrances.

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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 but I do not have experience with them.

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

I understand there are some limited programs- apparently there is a new swimming program and a baseball league has just started as well.

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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 small and morale seems highest among the recent arrivals and the soon to be departing- Georgetown can wear people out and one needs to get away from time to time. Morale is really what you make it to be- you can be very happy if you choose to be and don't mind a quiet life, if you are negative about Guyana and choose to remain so, you will be miserable 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?

Most entertaining is done at home- there are some very limited bars worth going to but they are better for singles- the rum is world class and cheap. The beer is limited and terrible but you find your "best of the worst" and get used to it- many of my colleagues have taken up brewing their own beer which creates its own social platform.

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

It can be a good city for families if you accept that there is only so much to do and you are limited by where you can take your kids or that it will be overly expensive to get out. Single men seem to enjoy the city the most as it is a poor country. Single women seem to have a hard time. I think it is best for couples without children.

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

It is illegal to be gay here though they do not seem to actively prosecute; you will hear about the "anti-man." Most people have a negative view of homosexuality. There are some groups fighting for LGBT rights here.

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

There are there major ethnic groups- Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese, and Amerindians. You won't find many Amerindians in the main cities and they keep to themselves. You will find distinct Indo and Afro neighborhoods and regions. There are some tensions between the two but these mostly exist around elections which are racial.

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

Guyana is a beautiful country but it is hard to get around. Going to the interior is adventurous and can offer some excitement for the adventurous. Georgetown's main attractions can all be seen in a day or two at most.

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

There are some neat places in the interior such as Kaiteur Falls but once you have seen them, you have seen them. There are some overpriced eco-tourism places but again, their charm is that they are not Georgetown and they generally are small in scope and get overrated as they are the only game in town so to speak.

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

Wood carvings, local crafts, outstanding world-class rum, the 21 year old El Dorado is beyond belief, and local art.

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

Weather is consistent and the interior offers a jungle experience.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't fly out of Guyana all the time and bring consumable items to help you save on costs.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How bad the medical care really was.

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

No, being here is sort of like doing a tour in combat, after a while, most expats can tell you exactly how long they have left on their assignment and the happiest people are always those who are "short" on their tour.

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

Expectations that being on the ocean will enable you do swim in the ocean- there are really no beaches in Guyana and by Georgetown the water is filthy- everything from trash to sewage goes into the water.

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4. But don't forget your:

Endless patience, sunscreen (though you will likely stay indoors in the day as it is too hot and bright), repellant, ant bait, sense of humor, and willingness to get to know the locals who are the best part of Guyana.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

There are a lot of you-tube videos about Georgetown and Guyana.

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

I didn't know of any but don't bother reading anything about Jonestown, it's not a big deal here and no one really cares. You can visit if you like but it's pretty much grown over and not much to see aside from being able to say you were there.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

With the right frame of mind, this can be a good place, I have had a good time here but have been able to explore the country and get out of the city. Those who are tied down by families or who are more timid in their travels, seem more unhappy here.

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Georgetown, Guyana 11/04/13

Background:

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

The only other city we lived in was Madrid, Spain.

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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?

Home base is western Colorado. The trip is roughly 24 hours door-to-door. Departing Georgetown, one must usually fly to Port of Spain. At Port of Spain, one has to get off the plane and go back through security. The next leg is from Port of Spain to Miami, then Miami to Denver.

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3. How long have you lived here?

August 2012 to July 2014.

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

Employee of the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The vast majority of housing is two-story. One should be aware of areas that are prone to flooding and try to avoid housing in those areas.

Commuting, as with any city, varies significantly depending on the time of day. Leaving early in the morning or late in the afternoon, one can get to or from the U.S. Embassy/Grand Coastal Hotel in about 15 minutes max. Leaving during the high drive-time periods will easily double that time, if not more.

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

Groceries, including American brands, are readily available and they are generally expensive. A pound of butter (four sticks) is US$6 to US$7. A Butterball turkey will be around US$90, while a ham will run around US$60 to US$70.

By far the best butcher shop in town is Rossingnol Butcheries. It is run by Surinamese people. The cleanliness and selection are second to none.

Most people obtain fresh fruits and vegetables from the open-air markets like Bourda Market. The pricing is generally cheaper than what one would find in the supermarkets; however, one will most likely be charged the "non-local" rate.

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

I would ship more wine. The wine here is generally horrible (some possibly even counterfeit) and expensive. An inexpensive bottle of wine still runs about US$30.

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

I am aware of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Popeye's Chicken as far as U.S. brands go. I do not know the pricing because I do not go there. Other local fast food options are available, but I do not go to those either.

Decent restaurants would certainly include the Mahraja Palace, Pegasus Hotel, Dutch Bottle, and the Grand Coastal Hotel. For a couple, including a bottle of wine, dinner may approach US$100.

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

Pests can be a problem if one does not take action to keep them at bay. Ants are fairly common but ant bait cures the problem fairly quickly. Only one small spider has been encountered in our home. Mice, on the other hand, have been a bit of a nuisance but it's nothing a mouse trap cannot solve.

There are a wide variety of "critters," but with the exception of the above, I have no personal experience with them.

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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 is received by diplomatic pouch. That means there are restrictions. One is well-advised to brush up on those regulations before coming to post.

One ounce or less envelopes can be mailed from post. Packages no larger than an old VHS tape is all that can be shipped.

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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 readily available and very inexpensive. I have experience paying a cleaning lady US$15 for a day of work. Personal recommendations are the best way to find a good and trusted employee.

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

There is a workout facility available to U.S. Embassy employees at no cost. The National Aquatic Center is available to the diplomatic community.

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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 treat Georgetown as a cash economy. I have never used a credit or debit card here; although, they are accepted. The only ATM I trust is the one that is located at the Pegasus Hotel.

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

Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, several Protestant services are available.

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

English is the official language; although, it can be mixed with Creole.

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

I believe it would be very difficult. There are virtually no sidewalks. Also, with very few exceptions, the buildings are not handicap accessible.

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Transportation:

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

There are no trains in the country. Buses are incredibly unsafe, just stay away from them. There are good taxis. Be sure to get a trusted recommendation before using a taxi.

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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?

Toyota is a very popular brand here, both left-hand drive and right-hand drive. Many people opt for four-wheel drive. Those make it easier to drive into the interior or to get through some flooded areas. Service and parts for Toyota seems to be readily available.

I do not believe there are any restrictions on what type of vehicle can be imported. Local liability insurance runs about US$125 per year.

Import duties can be quite high on diplomats' vehicles if they are sold before being in the country at least three years. Even still, many locals are very interested in buying vehicles when diplomats depart post. The amount of duty they owe on the transaction will be considerably less than if they bought a new vehicle or imported one themselves into the country.

I am not aware of any carjackings.

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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, it is about US$50 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?

No personal experience, my phone was issued.

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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?

I do not believe they do. There is pet care available, but I am not aware of the quality.

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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?

None of which I am aware.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many opportunities.

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

It varies in public from shorts and flip-flops to coat and tie.

At the U.S. Embassy it varies from slacks and a nice shirt to coat and tie.

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Health & Safety:

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

Much of the housing in the area is protected by 24/7 guards, concertina or barbed wire, masonry walls, and iron gates.

There can be crime problems if one opts to go to "out of the way" places along the seawall for example. If one uses good judgement, just as one would in any city, crime is not as much as a factor.

Driving is another matter. The country is set up as driving on the left. There are no restrictions on left-hand or right-hand drive vehicles. The other drivers are quite aggressive. The best advice is to not be in a hurry and drive defensively, paying particular attention to the taxis and mini-buses. One must also share the road with livestock, wild dogs, pedestrians, bicyclists, and horse-drawn carts.

The lack of street lights and the number of others noted above with whom one must share the road, make traveling after dark particularly challenging.

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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 definitely are concerns. The main reason for that is that the quality of medical care is much, much lower than that available in the U.S.

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

The air quality is usually very good. The only bad times are when a neighbor or nearby business decides to burn trash. The fumes of plastic and other trash items can be overwhelming.

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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?

The climate is, for the most part, very predictable. The high every day is 88 to 90F. The lows are 75 to 78F. The only change is whether or not it rains. There are two rainy seasons; however, that does not mean it rains all day long during those seasons. The main rainy season is in the winter. The other is late spring to early summer.

There are roughly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night/darkness each day.

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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?

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

I believe there are programs offered through the 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?

The community is relatively small, but morale seems good.

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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?

A lot of entertaining/social life revolves around the community. There is not a great deal to do here.

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

I have experienced the city as part of a married couple. I would have a difficult time characterizing it as "good." There are not a lot of things to do in Georgetown when compared to the U.S.

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

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

None that I have personally experienced; however, I am told it is fairly common among the locals.

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

The highlights have included the LE Staff, the varied cuisine, and venturing into the interior.

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

There are interesting/fun things to do, but costs can vary wildly. For example, travel into the interior can be quite expensive, fun to do, but...

In town, I enjoyed the rum distillery tour and the sugar cane processing tour.

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

Most notably are the hand woven baskets and handmade wooden items.

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

Because of COLA and hardship differential, it is fairly easy to save money - especially if one does not get caught up in doing a lot of travel throughout the Caribbean.

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10. Can you save money?

Definitely!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I did not have a good grasp on the level of poverty and the amount of garbage that is around the city.

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

I am torn, but probably lean toward not going here.

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

GPS.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella and wine...

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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Georgetown, Guyana 05/08/12

Background:

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

No.

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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 D.C.. And it takes about six hours to New York City.

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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.)?

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?

Housing varies, and mold and insects tend to be present in this tropical climate. Commute times vary depending on housing location, averaging between 10 and 15 minutes.

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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 expensive compared to the States. Plan to pay at least 30-50 percent more than you would at a Safeway for example. Some items will be more than this, especially anything that requires refrigeration. Even products grown locally are more expensive.

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

Laundry soap, paper products.

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

There is a pizza hut and a KFC. Prices run about 30 percent higher than DC.

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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?

It is difficult to find FRESH fruit and vegetables here.

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

Mosquitoes carry dengue fever. This is a concern. Ants and cockroaches also come with the territory.

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Daily Life:

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

It takes between two to four weeks for mail to arrive. You have to use a private shipping company to mail things out of the country and there are size and weight restrictions for receiving.

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

It is available and is reasonable.

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

Yes. The most notable is Buddy's, which is also a restaurant and pool hall on the lower levels of the building

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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?

It is safer to use cash rather than ATMs or credit. The Pegasus hotel has been know to be a safer place to use the ATM if necessary.

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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?

Everyone speaks English, but with different accents.

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

Yes. There are no sidewalks and the streets are dangerous.

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Transportation:

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

Mini-buses are not recommended because they are overcrowded, the drivers are sometimes known to drive recklessly, and the possibility of petty crime is high. Taxis are used and certain drivers are often recommended by members of the expat community

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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 type of car would work while traveling around the city.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes and it costs $50 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?

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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)?

Extremely limited.

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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.

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

Casual to business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is an issue, but using common sense and being aware of your surroundings definitely helps.

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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 is a concern. Medical care is extremely limited and both types of dengue fever have been an issue for some of the members of the expat community in the past. Parents of small children and pregnant women should be aware of this before coming.

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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. Many burn trash.

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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?

Two seasons, dry and rainy. Flooding is an issue and is a concern with some of the housing.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an international school, but I do not know much about the teachers or the curriculum.

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

I do not think there are any formal programs available to those 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 is a preschool at the international school and another preschool run by group of expat mothers and local Guyanese teachers.

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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?

Relatively small.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies.

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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?

There is little to do around town. But for those who do not mind a low key lifestyle and who prefer creating their own entertainment, this is a city that provides this opportunity. Families with small children or couples thinking of becoming pregnant should be aware that the medical care here is extremely limited.

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

Yes, although it is technically illegal in this country.

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

It appears that racially, between the Guyanese, there seems to be some tension most noted during election years. There are a variety of religions present in the country including people of the Muslim, Hindu, and Christian faiths.

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

The sunshine and natural beauty outside the city.

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

There are a few restaurants, a coffee shop, and some people walk on the sea wall or around the national park. If you are willing to drive, there are some river and creek areas people go to enjoy swimming and a picnic.

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

Rum and travel to the interior.

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

Ecotourism to the falls and rain forest and rare birds for those that are avid bird watchers.

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11. Can you save money?

Both food and travel are expensive here. It can be challenging.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Winter coats and gloves.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bug repellant, sunscreen, and sense of humor.

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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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Georgetown, Guyana 03/12/12

Background:

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

4th expat experience -- 2 tours in AF and 2 in WHA.

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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?

Orlando, FL.Connenctions: Orlando-Miami-Port of Spain-Georgetown or Orlando-New York-Georgetown.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2-1/2 years.

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

US 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?

Housing varies here. Some floor plans look very similar to the US, while others are built on stilts to avoid the flooding that occurs during rainy season. Yards tend to be on the small side, with only a few places having enough grass to use a lawn mower. Most housing is within a 20-minute drive to 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?

Overall, stuff is imported and expensive. Some basics -- eggs, bread, flour, sugar, tropical fruits and local veggies -- are reasonable. Everything else is costly. Locally-made laundry soap, cleaning products, etc., are much more diluted than US products and you end up using a lot more, so you don't save money. If you need specific products for skin allergies, you need to bring them.

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

Anything that your family uses regularly or in great quantity -- pet food/supplies, laundry soap, TP and paper towels, cereal, specialized baking supplies. Getting stuff is hit-or-miss (stores bring in tons of things for the Christmas season that you will not see at any other time), so, if you see it -- BUY it and toss it in the freezer. Also, bring more Tupperware/Gladware than you think you will need. There are cheap knock-offs available, but they break quickly.

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

There is a Pizza Hut here, as well as a Popeye's (which I would not recommend). There are also a local fish-and-chips place, Nicky's, and a Trinidadian chicken chain, Royal Castle, which are both really good and fairly reasonable. Guyana is not a "foodie" culture. Restaurants all offer the same dishes at varying quality and prices. This is a place to practice your cooking skills or develop a friendship with someone who does!

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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?

Meat/eggs here are "free-range," with animals wandering about and little to no commercial feed being given to them. This makes the meat a bit tougher and less fatty than many people are accustomed to. Good chicken is widely available, "American-style" cuts of beef, lamb, and pork can be found with searching, or ask a butcher to cut it for you. The trick is knowing how to ask for what you want, as things are called different names. There are lots of vegetarians, so meat-substitutes are not an issue.

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

It's a tropical country, so the normal bugs are here -- tiny ants in the kitchen, mosquitoes, etc. To balance it, you will also have small lizards and frogs that help keep the population under control!!

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Daily Life:

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

We use the pouch, which takes between 2 weeks (off-season) and 6 weeks (Christmas).For urgent pacakges, you can always use FedEx, which is expensive from here, but reliable.

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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 affordable, our full-time person is 70/week and she does everything from kid care to cleaning to cooking four nights a week.

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

The embassy has a small gym and I have heard there are other places that are available for a membership fee.

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

Write a check at the embassy for cash. There are two grocery stores in town where I feel comfortable using my debit card. There is one ATM where I would use my card for cash.

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

Our family is not chuch-going, so I am not sure, but we seem to have a variety of missionaries from lots of denominations.

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

There are 3 main papers in town, all in English. However the quality of the journalism is lacking and stories tend to focus on accidents and deaths. Both internet and DSTV options exist. We use DSTV and have a good package with kids' stuff, movies, news, sports, etc. Cost is about US$65/month.

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

Although this is billed as an English-speaking Post, give yourself time to adjust to the Creole! After a couple of weeks everything becomes much clearer, although there are still people I don't understand (mostly from small villages).

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

Georgetown would be impossible for someone with mobility issues. There are few, if any sidewalks and they all have cracks and holes. Many buildings don't have elevators and all have steep stairs (many without handrails). Since most houses, shops, etc are built high to avoid flooding, shopping would be incredibly challenging. Housing is either on stilts or with bedrooms on the second floor. I believe that the Embassy is the only ADA-compliant building in Guyana (and even our elevator is subject to outages).

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Transportation:

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

NO. NO. Absolutely NO mini-buses!! They are a nightmare and make driving here a challenge. Buses swerve all over, stop anywhere and drive like maniacs. If you can find a reliable cab (and there are several), get the driver's cell number and use it. Cabs are cheap and, with a good driver, an excellent option.

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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?

If you are only going to drive in-town, a sedan is fine. If you are going anywhere outside town, an SUV is a must. I would recommend high-clearance and a winch, for rainy season.

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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 speed has picked up considerably, but is still not high-speed. Skype works, but can be jerky. The Embassy is billed for the cost and officers reimburse. Monthly cost is $40.

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

The embassy issues cell phones to all officers. Spouses/older kids can easily get a pretty cheap one locally and fill it with "minutes".

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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, just have all the proper paperwork before you come. Pets can come as extra baggage on Caribbean and Delta. This was a pleasant surprise, as it is much cheaper than cargo. Delta has a heat embargo, but Caribbean does not.

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

One decent vet in town. Bring flea and tick stuff for your dog! No kennels available, so our gardener and housekeeper watch the pets while we are on vacation.

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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?

Nope.

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

Tropical business. For women, slacks/skirt and a decent blouse. For men, short-sleeve, button-down shirt (no tie) and slacks. Evening events -- maybe a tie and jacket for men, but not usual. Haven't been to an occasion where I need formal wear.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crimes of oppportunity abound here. That said, use your common sense and you should have no problems. There are lots of animals (cows, horses, goats) wandering about freely, so we do try our best to avoid driving at night. We have been here more than 2 years and have never had an incident or felt unsafe.

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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?

Health care is a major concern here. The hospital the embassy uses is very old and out-dated. There is a newer private hospital in town and more staff are going there, as it seems to be cleaner and more modern. All prescription meds should be brought with you or shipped in. Water is provided through a home distiller, so is not fluoridated -- the embassy provides fluoride pills for kids. Malaria pills are not required in town. Our family has good health overall, but the few times we have had to go to a local doctor, I have not had good experiences: the pharmacy didn't have the medicine my child needed in the proper strength or it was not refrigerated as it was supposed to be.

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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. Sea breezes all the time. Some trash burning, but normally blown away quickly.

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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?

Warm and hot, always humid. Georgetown is right on the ocean so there is always a breeze. Weather is hot and humid most of the time and "dips down" into the 80s at night.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is one "American" school here--Georgetown International Academy (GIA). It is a small place (about 100 kids from K-12), but very lively. The teachers and staff really get a chance to know your child since class sizes are limited. There is a very active School Board and PTA and they are always looking for way to get more parents to participate. Currently, GIA is recommended up to 6th grade, by the Dept of State. However, the Overseas School Advisor recently visited and has said he believes the recommendation should be increased to 8th grade. GIA is fully accredited and recently won the James Stilter Award through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for "The school that best exemplifies AdvancED's mission to spread academic excellence to children world-wide". Both of my children have been really happy here.

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

GIA has limited capacity to handle special-needs children, although they seem to have had very few issues with my child's mild ADHD.The small class sizes and loads of personal attention from teachers and staff are great for kids who need extra assistance, whether academically advanced or slightly challenged. GIA (or any school) would be very difficult for children with mobility issues -- Guyana, as a whole, is not the place to come.

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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 some expat Moms groups, some local pre-school options and, of course, Georgetown International Academy, aka the American School.

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

The school has soccer, hip-hop dancing. and cricket available. The YMCA has karate. There are swimming lessons and tennis lessons, although these can be hard to find.

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Expat Life:

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

Small, small, small. Not very many embassies in town, a few missionaries, very few US companies. Oil exploration is going on off the coast. If oil is found, there will be a boom in many areas.

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2. Morale among expats:

Not sure, as we hang out with mostly embassy and school families.

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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?

Entertaining is done at home with casual BBQs, dinners, movies, cards. With a good circle of friends, you can be busy most weekends.

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

Families and couples would do well here, provided they have good community spirit. If you have kids, there will be lots of family activities through the school. If you don't have kids, but still like casual entertaining (at-home dinners, BBQs, etc.), you will be OK, if you are willing to throw yourself into the mix. One of the things we like about a smaller Embassy is that people tend to pull together more and help each other out. That said, you need to be willing to participate! Single men seem to have few issues dating in Georgetown, but several single women have told me that the dating scene is very tough (but that seems to be a general trend around the world).

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

We had a gay officer here who was out and he left with a partner. In talking to him, I would say that the community is not open, but it is there.

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

Guyana is a mixture of races and religions. For the most part, they all seem to get along pretty well. Christmas is big here, with Hindus and Muslims putting up lights and decorations. We just had Phagwah (Hindu) and everyone in the city had colored powder on them. Eid is celebrated with feasting as well. An officer who just came from India commented that it was really nice to be in a place where people from different religions got along. That said, there is not a lot of social mixing in the general population, with people tending to marry within their own group.

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

The close Embassy community and getting to explore some of the rainforest.

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

Several "black water" creeks (water that has lots of tanins from leaves) abound right outside the city. These are shallow and generally safe for kids. Be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty! Driving to Suriname is pretty easy and a good "long weekend" trip.

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

There are some chances to go on trips to Amer-Indian villages, so you can buy baskets there. Some local wood products/carvings are nice, but you do need to watch for people who have used uncured wood, which will crack as it dries.

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

The warm, family feeling from the Embassy and school community. A chance to see one of the least unexplored places on Earth -- the Amazon rainforest.

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11. Can you save money?

Not likely with the cost of imported goods.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Knowing everything, I would come here. I have found my tour both professionally and personally rewarding, meeting some great people who will be my friends forever. That said, our family is very adaptable and flexible. I can see where people could certainly be unpleasantly surprised by their tours here.

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

Cold weather clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sun-screen, patience and sense of humor. Bring your community spirit!!

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

Great book by a British author (available on Amazon) called Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge.It covers all the "Guianas"--British, Dutch and French. Part travelogue, part history lesson and part social commentary, it is very readable.

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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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Georgetown, Guyana 02/16/12

Background:

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

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?

Washington DC, 8 hours including layovers through a direct flight from NYC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year since Feb 2011.

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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?

The East Coast is becoming more popular as large mansions are being built there. There is expat housing in a number of neighborhoods and they're okay. There is housing closer to the city center which is also nice, though not in a compound or closed neighborhood. The nicest neighborhood is Bel Air Springs and it flooded during this past rainy season. Other areas like Lamaha Gardens are a bit higher and no flooding occurs. The US Embassy provides 24x7 guards that are stationed WITHIN your gates. They have the keys to let you out of your home, so you sometimes feel like a prisoner, but we have never experienced any security issues.

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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 here. You will regularly spend US$40 per visit for small stuff. EVERYTHING except the fruits and some local veggies is imported, and as Guyana has no deep water port, it has to be unloaded in Trinidad and reloaded onto smaller ships that can make it to these ports. This AUTOMATICALLY increases the shipping costs, which is passed onto consumers in the price. It's safe to say the price is usually double what it is in the US. You can get US goods that are imported directly from COSTCO or WALMART but it will cost double. Diapers are US$75 per box of 120, Toilet Rolls are expensive, Cereals are around US$7 per box. You will not find good cheese in Guyana. The wine selection is poor. To find everything you're looking for you have to go to three or four markets. There are no SUPERmarkets here.

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

Food. Comfort food that stores well. Wines. Large items that can't make it though the diplomatic pouch.

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

Fast food restaurants include Popeye's chicken, Church's Chicken and Royal Castle Chicken. There is a Mario's Pizza and a Pizza Hut. NO MCDONALD'S OR BURGER KING!!! There is a local shop that copies the Subway concept and has good subs and wraps. There is a good, but expensive restaurant tucked away in a lost neighborhood 40 minutes outside of the city. The Chef, repatriated from the US, imports all the ingredients (including lobster and rib-eye steaks) from the US. A lobster meal can cost US$80 - 100.

There are local restaurants but the food is always the same. They have one curry base that they use different meats in. They have Snacketts that sell local fare which is a mix of Indian and creole foods, but limited and usually the same at every place. Chinese food is very popular here, especially the fried rice and noodles, but it's not the same as the US Chinese food and over all I've been disappointed. The beef in Guyana is terrible. The cows are free range in the city and walk great distances to find good grass, which is different from US grass, so the taste varies greatly, also because the cows sometimes eat trash. Because it's hot, they can never put on any fat which gives beef it's flavor. The food gets repetitive after a year, so cooking at home is essential.

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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?

Many organic options for fruits and some vegetables just because it's too expensive to grow anything with chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. The chicken here is tasty. The BEEF is awful. There are many vegetarian options here.

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

Mosquitoes are a problem, but in the city there not known to carry dengue or malaria. The interior is a different story. Ants in homes are problematic, but not dangerous. Other tropical bugs are scarce, though I did see a 4 inch cockroach (an outdoor one, not ones that come into your home).

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Daily Life:

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

Thank God for the US diplomatic pouch and Amazon.com. Locals have to rely on DHL or FedEX which can be pricey.

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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 readily available. Prices vary, but typically you will pay between US$1.50 to 2.00 per hour for full-time help. It's recommended you have them do your shopping at the outdoor fruit/vegetable markets as they get local prices. You must also be explicit on what you need and want them to do in order to have it done properly.

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

There are a few gyms. The gyms in town are not air-conditioned, so they can get HOT. A trainer will cost US$ 7.50 per hour. NICE. And monthly fees are around US$25/month.

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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?

Some of the formal stores take credit cards and we've never had problems, nevertheless, this is a cash society and most transactions are in Guyanese dollars (current exchange 201 to 1 US). The largest denomination is a 1000 dollar note which is the equivalent of US$ 5. There are some ATMs around, but the safest ones are located at the nicest (3 star) hotel.

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

Yes, for all denominations including, Baptists, 7th day Adventists, Jehovah's witnesses, Pentecostals, various Hindi services and Muslim services, all in English.

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

Yes. Local TV has 4 stations, all are state-owned and operated. You can get Cable (which is sent through an antennae, weird huh?) or DirectTV. Cost is 50 - 75 per month. This is usually the signal from Puerto Rico, so many Spanish language channels.

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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. Guyanese Creole takes some time to get used to, but it's fun once you can understand it. Some news articles are written in Guyanese creole, look it up and have a laugh.

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

There are NO sidewalks in Georgetown. There are drainage canals along almost all the streets with precarious "bridges" built across them. There are few if any ramps to public buildings. There is a new law that has been passed to begin sensitizing the public and private sectors and there is an NGO that advocates for people with disabilities. That being said, it is not a city or country that can accommodate the disabled.

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Transportation:

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

Mini-buses are not safe. They are authorized to carry 15 passengers but usually carry many more. They are all privately owned so they compete for fares. Hence they are always racing to get ahead of other drivers, regardless of whether or not the other drivers transport people. The taxis are cheap, but most of the drivers have purchased their licenses rather than taken the test to earn them. They have no respect for and probably no knowledge of the rules of the road. This being said, it's good to find one driver you can trust and call them for your transport needs.

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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?

Right hand drive is recommended. Many people import from Japan. The price of gas is US$1 per liter so it can be pricey. Many people have 4x4 Toyota trucks and the RAV4 is a very popular car here. You will see some expensive cars and more are showing up on the streets. Amazing, as the import duties on cars is almost 200%. The streets are narrow and playing chicken with the mini-bus and taxi drivers is the norm. After a while, you learn that you don't need more than a few inches between you and the car barreling towards you at break-neck speeds.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The maximum speed for internet is 100mb. It's okay for streaming and downloading, but not spectacular. Some folks have a US VPN service which allows them to get US content like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora. They have generally been happy with the service.

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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?

Two companies, not much choice in plans. Blackberries are popular here. You can also get data plans. The cell phone companies send you text messages that are advertisements for their local events including dance club openings and cricket tournaments... quite annoying.

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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 is one vet that I know of, and he seems to be competent. As I do not have pets, it is hard for me to comment. Many people at post do bring their pets and all seem to be happy.

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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. Just plain no.

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

Caribbean Casual. The Guayaberas are popular here. Suits are seldom worn as it's too hot, even at night.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, many. There is petty crime and crime of opportunity. Women should be careful walking with jewelry and should NOT be out alone when the evening arrives. It's just not worth the risk. There are constant news articles about murders, but these are not directed at foreigners. Drug trafficking is rampant, and that brings its dangers. Most criminals act with impunity as the police and legal systems have serious problems.

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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?

YES! This is the poorest healthcare I've ever seen in my life. ZERO health standards. All the hospitals are dilapidated. the only one that is relatively modern is still comparative to a US inner-city free health clinic. There are 2 ambulances in the whole country, none of which are well equipped for first response. You are 16 times more likely to die of a car accident here than in the US. PLEASE put some serious thought into bringing your family to Georgetown, especially young children. We have people who have lived in Africa who say the healthcare situation was better in Africa than here! SERIOUSLY this is no joke. You have been warned.

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

Air quality is excellent. Flat city with Atlantic breeze ensures fresh air. Not a large population, so not a lot of emissions. The locals do burn trash and as part of the sugar cane industry, they burn the crops prior to harvest.

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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?

Two seasons, dry and rainy. The rainy seasons can lead to flooding in certain parts of town. The last major flood was in 2005 and some steps have been taken to improve the drainage, but the infrastructure is poor.

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Schools & Children:

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

Not much experience with the schools. There are some local private schools which are good, but not accredited through the US system. There is an American school that is improving. It is open to expats and locals. There is NO offering for High school and there are NO special education schools (at least up to US standards).

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

None that I know of. The local education system is not good unless it is with a private school, and I don't know of any that accommodate or have curriculum for special needs children. Do not believe government reports with literacy statistics or touting the services to special needs children.

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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 some local programs run by expat moms. Enrollment is reasonable and they have full time trained teachers. The facilities are okay, but the challenge is the extremely high cost of electricity which causes the majority of funds to go towards paying overhead costs.

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

Yes, but limited. The National Park (what was once the British golf course in the colonial days) has open fields to play and a track to run/walk. Cricket is the national sport and rugby and soccer are also popular. US sports are not well known. I think the locals are open to having expats participate in their sports and would never turn down a curious expat looking to join a group of friends playing in the park. There are no formal clubs for kids that I know of. The Olympic swim coach offers swim lessons for children at a local pool for US$25 per month. Boxing is popular but the gyms are dirty and the equipment is terrible. I don't recommend that as an activity.

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Expat Life:

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

Not too big. The foreign missions and some multinational corporation executives comprise the expat community. I would say less than 100 people.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Young single men tend to be happy here. Women not so much. Families are OK until there is a health problem with their children. The biggest challenge is the lack of things to do. After a short amount of time, you run out of activities and you're very secluded.

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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?

Mostly invites to people's houses. There is a vibrant night life and lots of liming. Again, single men love the night life, single women have to be cautious. Married people have to be cautious too as both women and men are promiscuous and your marital status is not a deterrent.

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

For couples without children or single men, yes. Women find it hard to date here. Families with children should seriously consider the healthcare deficiencies here. More on that below.

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

Homosexuality is illegal though the government rarely prosecutes it. There is a thriving gay community, but it is not very public. There is an NGO that advocates for the LGBT community.

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

One kudos to the people of Guyana is their religious tolerance. The majority of the population is Christian, Muslim, and Hindu and they all get along great. There is intermarriage between the faiths, although it's not very common. The real divide comes with race. There are three prominent races (four if you count the huge influx of Chinese immigrants). Afro-Guyanese (who were brought here as salves, much like the rest of the Caribbean), Indo-Guyanese of Indian descent (they came after the abolition of slavery as indentured servants), and Amer-Indians (the real natives of Guyana). Racial tensions exist between these and political parties are divided among racial lines. The ruling party in Government tends to be Indo-Guyanese while the Defense Force and Police force tend to be Afro-Guyanese. There is a strange balance of power between these two groups and the result is relative peace.

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

The people are very kind and open. Caribbean culture in South America. There are many birds and wild animals to see and the fruits are amazing, especially the pineapple.

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

There are creeks and one-star resorts along the rivers that help pass the time. There are trips to the interior which are unreasonably expensive (It costs the same to fly to Trinidad or Barbados for the weekend). Despite being part of the Caribbean, there are no beaches as the rivers empty into the ocean and give the water a brown tint and the beaches are full of mud and sediments. There is an active night life. The Caribbean concept of "LIME" or happy hour is well known here. There are NO movie theaters despite what prior posts state, although one is planned for 2013 (The ground-breaking on a Marriott hotel was supposed to happen over 3 years ago, I'll believe the promised movie theater when I see it)

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

Ahhh... The RUM is fantastic here. I prefer the El Dorado 8 year rum, it's not too woody in flavor and it has a reasonable price. I wish I could say the wood products. Wood in Guyana is next to none in the world. The types of wood, the durability and the beauty are indescribable. That being said, because electricity is so expensive, the wood is not kiln dried, so it's still moist. You can't make much from wood that is still wet. There are also no good craftsmen to actually make something nice. It's the irony of ironies.

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

The weather is great, the people are very friendly. The country is 97% covered in pristine rainforest. This place should be famous for eco-adventures, but alas, too much is wrong with Guyana to ever give it international status/recognition.

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11. Can you save money?

Depends. If a local can do your shopping, yes. If you want to buy only US goods, probably not. If you have to pay for your own utilities, you will most certainly not save money.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If I were a single male, in a heartbeat. The people are really wonderful. They have amazing spirits and are very open. The country is beautiful if you're willing to take risks, something having a family usually doesn't afford.

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

Expectations of modern luxuries, entertainment and basic healthcare.

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3. But don't forget your:

Good attitude, patience and gin.

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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?

I mentioned the electricity. This is, in my opinion, the major setback in Guyana. With affordable electricity, there would be a boom of entrepreneurship and development. There is a hydroelectric dam in the plans, but again, I'll believe it when I see it. This country is ripe with opportunity and could really become a spectacular tourist destination if it could sort out it's problems. That being said, people who were in Guyana decades ago were saying the same thing. Unfortunately there hasn't been much progress up to now.

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Georgetown, Guyana 02/03/10

Background:

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

No, also lived in Cotonou, Benin and Bologna, Italy

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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.Trip is 6 hours from JFK, which is the only direct flight to the U.S. (no flights to Miami, except via transfer in Trinidad)

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

U.S. Department of State

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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 am with the US State Department, and our houses are beautiful and large. The housing could not be more comfortable, in my opinion.

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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 get just about anything here. Once in a while I stumble upon something I cannot find, like Heath candy bars, but it is the list of what is not available is that specific. Having said that, one often must visit several stores to find what one is looking for. Almost everyone goes to the main produce market (Bourda) for fruits and vegetables, leaving the actual supermarkets for imported and processed items. There are no large, American-style supermarkets, but the small ones that are here are good.

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

Electronics (stereo, etc.) are expensive here, as are spare car tires. If you can ship those in cheaply, you will save yourself a lot of money.

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

The selection of ethnic cuisine is limited to local Guyanese food, Brazilian, Indian and Chinese. For fast food, there is a great local burger chain (JRs), several pizza places (including the newest Mario's, Pizza Hut and VIP), and several chicken outlets (KFC, Church's, Popeyes). The best quality food is at the several good restaurants and hotels, and the best bet is Guyanese food. Several Brazilian chuhascarias in town, too.

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

Mosquitos are a problem. Nothing that can't be handled by repellant and long pants, though.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the diplomatic pouch. However, I have used the Guyanese post office to send a letter home and it reached there without incident.

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

Readily available. I pay usd 20 a day for help, and this is considered a decent wage. My maid does a decent job with everything, including cooking. I have heard of others not being satisfied with the cleanliness standards of their maids, though.

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

Yes, but this is a bit of a let down. None are open on Sunday, none are air-conditined. The best one at present (eb 2010) is Fitness Paradise, on top of the Brandsville Hotel. Third floor, nice breeze, good new equipment. Only drawback is that it is small.

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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?

Internationally-connected ATMs easily used at Scotia Bank outlets and (any day now) Republic bank outlets. Both have ATMs throughout the city.

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

Yes, all in English. Wide choice of Christian, Hindu and Muslim services, but nothing else.

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

Yes, this is an English language country.

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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. Guyanese speak creole with each other, but everyone you would deal with knows English.

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

It would be very hard to live here with a disability. There are virtually no accomodations for disabilities in any building or street.

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Transportation:

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

Private taxis are plentiful, safe and very affordable.3usd gets you anywhere in central Georgetown. 6usd would get you to the suburbs. The shared mini-van taxis, on the other hand, 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?

Toyota Rav 4! Don't even think of anything else (or anything not comparable to that).You need high clearance for the roads, but something fairly small for how narrow the roads are.

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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 expensive and not that fast. About $50usd a month. A new sea cable is going in between Guyana, Surinam and Trinidad that should significantly improve speed and reliablity.

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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?

Only two companies here, GT&T and Digicel. Since 2009, the two are compatible, meaning one can call and text between them.

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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)?

I do not have a pet, but there are kennels and vets available 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?

No, there are not.

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

Business casual. Almost no one wears a tie.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not especially. Yes, there are the usual street crimes, and some violence that is NOT directed at foreigners. Overall considerably safer than its neighbors Brazil, Venezuela or Trinidad.

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

Medical care is not the greatest. Health concerns are dengue fever and malaria, mostly when outside of Georgetown.

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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! Yes, this is a poor country, but it has none of the air pollution or traffic of large poor countries. Garbage is a problem, though.

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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?

Always pleasant, though hot from about 10am to 3pm. There are a couple of rainy seasons that cool the air a bit.

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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 have no children, but have heard many complaints about the international school here. This would be the one true weak spot for this Post.

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

I am not aware of any. There is a local school here 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?

Labor is quite affordable and there are many Guyanese qualified to babysit. I do not know about preschool, however.

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

Yes, but I do not know details. Cricket and football (soccer) are the biggest by far, but there is a Judo association with lots of kids, go-carts, and many others.

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Expat Life:

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

In official capacity, about 30 Americans + 80 Peace Corps volunteers, 15 Europeans, 4 Mexicans, 4 Canadians, many from throughout the Caribbean (CARICOM is based here), as well as others from the region. Many other foreigners here with NGOs or businesses.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. Everyone pretty much agrees that Guyana is a well-kept secret. No one comes here, and no one knows that it is a decent place. The feeling seems to shared among most ex-pats, they all get along well, and morale is good.

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

Three hip new dance clubs just opened up in the first part of 2010. The city's first (8 screen) multiplex is opening in 2010. A small but decent selection of restaurants. But this is a smaller city, so in-home parties and entertaining are also big. There is a lot of informal hanging out here. Decent amount of concerts and cultural events.

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

For single and couples without children, or very young children, this is an excellent post. With older kids, not as many opportunities for them, in school or out.

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

Great place to be gay (speaking from first hand experience, and from the experience of nine other gay or lesbian ex-pats I know here). Some internalized homophobia, but nothing that affects foreigners. Never heard of violence or blatant discrimination amongst locals(except for literally one unusual case of police arresting a group of drag queens). There is an annual GLBT film festival, two gay rights organizations (small, but active), regular private parties and occassional officially organized dance parties. Several attemtps at establishing a full time gay bar have failed, but it is still a good place to be gay. Just bear in mind that it is a small Post, with all the drawbacks of a small town.

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

Some racial prejudices between the two main ethnic groups - those descended from India and those descended from Africa. Mostly everyone gets along very well, though. High marks for religious diversity and tolerance, too.

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

Driving down to the Rupunini Rodeo in the savannah region at the Brazilian border. Relaxing at peaceful eco-lodges along the rivers, attending interesting cultural events, such as the duck-curry cook-off in Berbice and the Deepavali parade of lights.

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

Lots of nature excursions, some that can be done on a weekend, most take three days or more. Good cultural opportunities and they are highly affordable (for instance, good dance or live music performances are rarely more than $5usd).

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

Amerindian woven baskets and greenheart wood carved bowls. Rum! Guyana has the oldest rum distillery in the world and it wins interntaional awards every year! Even the cheapest version is good, but you can spend up to $200 a bottle here in country for the highest quality.

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

Small and laid back. No traffic! Lots of stunning, untouched nature. Friendly. Cost of living is fairly high for imported items and interior travel (because it is so remote), but one can definitely save money here. Great weather year-round! Always between 70 and 90F. Housing is good and comfortable. Interesting old colonial architecture. Fresh fruit year round.

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11. Can you save money?

yes, but only if you do not overdue travel in the region. Travel is expensive here!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely!

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

Dishwashing degergent. You will have a maid to wash the dishes.

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3. But don't forget your:

picture books from your home to share with Guyanese friends.

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

The Bradt Guide to Guyana (even though already a bit out of date).

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

There are almost no movies on Georgetown. If you want to watch the Jim Jones story, it is more for curiosity of the story itself, but has nothing to do with Guyana or Georgetown.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Just remember that this is a small, developing country city. It has its share of poor country problems (garbage, some crime), but others pleasantly lacking (no traffic to speak of, no air quality problems). All in all, however, you should be quite happy in Guyana!

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