Maseru, Lesotho Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Maseru, Lesotho

Maseru, Lesotho 08/12/20

Background:

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

No. Have lived in a variety of cities/places throughout Africa and the US.

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

I'm originally from Oregon and to get to and from Africa to the west coast of the United States is always challenging, this was no different. Long flights without the best connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived in Maseru for 2 years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice house with good size yard and adequate storage space.

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

Good. Lots of things imported from South Africa so overall there is a good selection of quality groceries at reasonable prices.

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

IPAs and Mexican food.

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

Not a lot of restaurant variety here. You can find good pizza, and meat.

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

No. It's great that you can be in Africa and not have to worry about malaria here.

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Daily Life:

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

Had mail issued through our diplomatic mission.

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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 reasonable labor cost. We had a nanny and housekeeper.

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

I have basic gym equipment in my home, so did not use a public 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?

CC are accepted at the bigger stores and restaurants. ATMs are common but be careful which ones you use.

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

None if you stay in the city.

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

Yes, there aren't sidewalks or ramps.

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Transportation:

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

I would recommend something with 4 WD, high clearance, and A/C.

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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, installation isn't the problem but the cost and speed. It is some of the most expensive internet I've had to pay for and the speed isn't that great.

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

Used a local provider. Easy to get a SIM card and pre pay credit.

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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?

Incredibly difficult to get a dog into the country because of restrictions from South Africa. Do your homework on this one. IT. IS. HARD. Vet care in Maseru is poor, but there are decent providers in South Africa.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

It depends.

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Health & Safety:

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

Be aware of your surroundings. No huge issues but I lived in a house with a compound wall and drove a personal vehicle. I occasionally heard about some of the Peace Corps volunteers getting robbed when walking around the city.

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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?

No. It's nice to not have to worry about malaria in Lesotho. The health care is poor and you should go to South Africa for any real issues.

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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?

Pretty good most of the time. Especially if you can get out of the city.

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

Lots of sunshine year round, it can be a bit like being stuck on an island at times. The South African border can at times be challenging which makes you feel like you are locked in the country.

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

Moderate climate with a good amount of sun year -ound.

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Schools & Children:

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

Lots of good nannies. One of my children was in pre-school and attended a Montessori school that we really liked. My other child was too young for school.

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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, they are available and not very expensive compared to US preschools.

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

I know of some kids that took horse back riding lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

Overall pretty good. There is a good community.

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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?

Book clubs, lots of great wineries in SA and other fun things to see. Camping, hiking.

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

If you are single and get active in some of the different clubs/gyms then it would probably be ok, might be a little lonely at times. It was good for me with two small kids. Safe with affordable child care and things to do on the weekends.

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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?

It was easy within the work place and if you are active in clubs.

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

Yes. Gender equality is always an issue but no big racial/tribal divides that I've seen in other places.

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

There is a great wine/beer shop that has an excellent selection of SA beer/wine. The travel in to South Africa is fantastic. We did weekend trips to Vic Falls in Zimbabwe, Cape Town, Durban and Kruger. Great location with lots of fun things to do (if you love safaris and the outdoors).

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

Vic Falls, Durban, Kruger, the direct flight from Bloem to Cape Town, the wine shop next to Dominos

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

Not really. Some weaving but that really isn't my type of art.

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

The traffic is not bad at all (though the drivers aren't the best). The weather is great.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I have left now but I would go back.

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

Malaria prophylaxis.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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Maseru, Lesotho 05/17/16

Background:

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

I have lived in Asia and Africa.

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

Washington, DC. The trip to post is 19 hours, but depending on connection to Maseru you often have to overnight in Johannesburg, which extends the trip even further.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

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?

Construction here is poor, even in the best expatriate houses. Landlords are not very responsive and windows are single-pane. Power can cut in and out and so can the water supply. A typical commute is 10 minutes or less from most expatriate neighborhoods to downtown.

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

We find them cheap compared to the U.S., even with inflation this past year.

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

Black beans, baby/kid food (lots of extra sugar in foods here!), cereals, good coffee.

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

Fast food: KFC, Barcelo's, Galito's.
Sit down: Kick 4 Life's Number 7, Piri Piri, Primi Piatti, Spur, Regal Indian.

Not a great number of options, but there is something...

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

No malaria! Just the usual ants and household pests if you aren't careful. Some people have also seen scorpions in their houses.

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Daily Life:

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

Through work or the South African postal service. FedEx if it is really important, although it is very 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?

Super cheap, at US$200/month maximum. However, they are not the best...

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

Yes, there is one CrossFit gym, Lehakoe Club. You can seek out yoga and other classes. Facilities are dated or hours are limited, but there are options. No great pools, though.

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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?

My credit card was "skimmed" the first month I arrived. We cash checks through work and use cash or ATMs in South Africa.

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

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

You don't need to know it, but greetings at least are nice to demonstrate respect and show you care.

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

Yes, as there are no accommodations.

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Transportation:

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

Nope. 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?

An older SUV, with some clearance for bumpy roads. Toyotas and Nissans seem easy to service. Any Japanese import, really. If you travel a lot, you want a car that is reliable! Nothing too fancy to attract attention or carjacking. Lots of people here have had cars stolen on trips to Johannesburg.

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Phone & Internet:

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

We have uncapped, highest speed available at $200/month. It is still not very fast and cuts out fairly often.

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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?

Vodacom, pay as you go.

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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 quarantine, but pets have to fly cargo to Johannesburg. It's expensive to bring them! Ladybrand, in South Africa, has a good vet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

it is hard to get work permits, but some people have found cool jobs with Vodacom and such.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty, if you seek them out!

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

Work: suits and nice attire. In public, anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

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

Westerners are not usually targets for crime, but we are very aware of our surroundings and cautious just as you would be in South Africa. There do seem to be frequent robberies and we hear gun shots occasionally from our house. However, we have felt safe with our 24-hour guards, alarm system, and dogs.

Traffic accidents and the lack of nearby medical care are our biggest worries.

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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?

Many. Very poor local health care. High HIV/AIDS rate. High tuberculosis rate. This is our biggest concern with small children and no decent medical care except in Bloem, two hours away.

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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, clean air!

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

It can get dusty here.

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

Winter runs from about May-August. Mornings and nights get rather chilly and cold, but daytime temps are in the 60s or 70s F. Summer is hotter, but it's not unbearable or really humid like Asia or other African countries we've lived in! We had a horrible drought this past year.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American International School here is tiny, but seems the best option. Nice administrators and teachers, but I wouldn't call it cutting edge and wouldn't want my children there for many years, especially as they get older. There is also Machebeng College but I don't know much about it.

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

None that I am aware of.

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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?

Not to Western standards, from our research.

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

Only soccer at Kick 4 Life.

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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 community. I think morale is better among the NGO crowd than among those at the embassy.

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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?

Dinner out, travel, hikes, camping trips, dinner parties, wine tastings.

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

It is a city where you have to make your own fun, but I think there is a nice expatriate and NGO community. People are welcoming. I think the singles have their group and the couples/families have their own groups, often meeting up somewhere in the middle. It might be hard here as a single person, though, as there are not places to meet people outside of work and the Hash.

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

I don't think they are specifically targeted for violence or anything, but it is still Africa and homosexuality is not completely accepted or understood. I'm not gay, but have friends who are and they have said they just prefer to be in bigger cities. I think here, they feel like they stand out. And, as with anyone, social options are limited.

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

Yes.

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

The outdoors. Great local Hash House Harriers group. Safaris. And lots of travel to Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban...

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

The Hash, and lots of amazing hikes and camping spots nearby.

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

Not much. Fabric and straw hats? Or TRAVEL!

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

Great outdoor activities: hiking, camping, etc. Close to South Africa and all that it offers. Has seasons.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, especially if you don't travel. But you might go insane.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Poor local medical care, how hard it can be to cross the border at times.

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

Probably not.

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

Sense of urgency.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and defensive driving skills.

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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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Maseru, Lesotho 08/03/15

Background:

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

No. Panama City, Panama

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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. Can fly Delta from Atlanta GA to Johannesburg, South Africa, which is an excruciating 15-16 hour flight, plus 45 minutes to Maseru's tiny airport, only 3 flights/day. We did the Atlanta trip twice, and flew through Europe with a stopover twice (Paris or Amsterdam are good choices). I preferred flying through Europe, even though it meant more travel days.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years, 2012-2014

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

U.S. government - 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?

We lived within a 5-minute drive of the Embassy, which was pretty typical, and we liked our house in theory, but not in practice. It was a very nicely laid out single-story 3 BD, 2 BA house with a tiny yard and shared pool with 5 other houses in a compound. I doubt it is still in the Embassy housing pool as the electricity was a huge problem, and we almost experienced an electrical fire. We had to move out of the house prior to departing the post. But just about all the other houses were fine, and as I mentioned earlier, many of them actually have heat and A/C, but they are poorly constructed and not insulated. Roofs have also been known to leak, because when it does actually rain, it rains quite hard. Many expat homes are large with large fenced/walled in yards.

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

We could find most things we needed at the Pick N Pay grocery (which is a South African brand) in Maseru. You couldn't always get boneless, skinless chicken breast, but the produce was OK and inexpensive. For everything else, or specialty things, we drove 2 hours to Bloemfontein, South Africa, which is the nearest big, "real" city. We went to the Woolworths grocery store armed with coolers and ice packs to make the drive back to Maseru.

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

Canned black beans. We made everything else work, or could buy on Amazon, etc. I utilized the layette shipment through State Department when we had our son, but we could have purchased most baby things in South Africa if we had to.

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

The only American brand was KFC, and it's very popular. There are several South African brands, including a peri-peri place that was pretty good, and 'just OK' pizza joints. When we were there, the No. 7 Restaurant at Kick for Life was just taking off and we had some truly fantastic meals. Also enjoyed the Portuguese restaurant near the Maseru Club and the Chinese restaurant in the Lesotho Sun Hotel. The fast food places were all under US$10 and the nicest restaurants in Maseru would be maybe in the US$12/entree range. The exchange rate could change all of that, but it was in our favor in 2013-14.

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

Typical household pests: black flies, ants, cockroaches. Nothing too terrible.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch. I imagine everything else (DHL, etc) is extremely 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?

Many are available - and the really reliable ones tend to be kept within the Embassy pool. After several raises and bonuses, we were paying our full-time housekeeper and nanny approximately US$225/month. We paid a gardener US$10 and a meal for an afternoon's worth of work.

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

We used the small Embassy gym which was renovated in 2013 and has a few cardio machines, some resistance trainers, and weight sets. It was great if you had it to yourself - got crowded with 3 or 4 people. Some people joined the Lehokewe club, but I found it to be too dirty and the temperature was always too hot. (Basotho love being warm!)

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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?

Credit cards were accepted most places within Maseru city limits. Outside the city, you need to make sure you have cash, because even if a place does accept plastic, the line could always 'be down.' There were a handful of trusted ATMs in Maseru that we used without problem, but, we used the money exchange at the Embassy 90% of the time which was the safest route to take, and always got the best rate.

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

Don't know for certain, but I'll bet you can find an English-speaking Christian service.

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

You don't need any Sesotho in Maseru, but if you do know some, the Basotho will be delighted and you're bound to get better/friendlier service. Outside the city, you'll find English less prevalent but we were never 'stuck' in a language barrier.

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

I imagine it would be very difficult. Roads/sidewalks are in various stages of repair and the escalators were out frequently at the little mall. I did know a Basotho woman who was confined to a wheelchair, but she was fortunate/wealthy enough to have the proper supports in place.

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Transportation:

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

No public transit aside from taxis and mini-buses, of varying safety. There were a few trusted 'call-ahead' taxi services that we were encouraged to use as Embassy personnel. I would never hail one on the street or take a bus.

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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 want to get out to do anything outside of Maseru (and you will), you need a 'beefy' SUV. They drive on the left, so you'll want to buy a left hand drive vehicle. Lots of the cars in Maseru are from the online Japanese auto traders. We had a Nissan X-Trail which had optional 4x4 (and you'll need that) but there were many times I wished we had a larger and stronger engine. It did make it up Sani Pass, but I was nervous.

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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?

It is available and can only get better as time goes on - we had a pretty fast (for Africa), uncapped wireless home package from Vodacom by the end of our tour that we actually received a bill for at the Embassy (approx. $150/month). Before that arrangement happened, we had to pay for the data ahead of time and load it onto a USB data stick. This infuriating process involved going to the store in the mall, waiting in line, paying, then loading the credit onto the chip through a cell phone.... they're not quite up to speed on paying for things online.

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

There are several carriers available; we had ours through the Embassy.

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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 quarantine - at least coming from the U.S. We used a pet carrier who met the cats at Johannesburg airport and 5 hours to Maseru, crossing the border. We used a vet in Ladybrand (and the care was substantially less money than in the U.S.), though there are vets in Maseru. I believe there may be dog kennel facilities in S. Africa.

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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?

I didn't know of any expats who were working locally outside of Embassies, NGOs, or non-profit health organizations, aside from a cake baker and a Thai chef who cooked for the Embassy a few days during the week. I think it would be frustrating and pay couldn't be that great.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

We did not, but I imagine there are lots of opportunities within the various health clinics, schools, or the Kick for Life foundation.

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

The Basotho dress well, even outside of work. It was business at the Embassy/ Business casual if you didn't work directly with the public.

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Health & Safety:

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

We didn't experience anything, but this is a 'critical crime' post. Vigilance must be practiced, and just don't do anything stupid. Most expats and wealthier homes in Maseru all have high fences with barbed wire and 24-hour guards, but I knew of one case where a guard actually broke in to a residence. Car lock 'jamming' was common in the mall parking lots/garages. This is an extremely poor country, so those who have something really do stick out.

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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, lots of concern. This is one of the highest HIV/AIDS populations in the world. Aside from that, the medical care is not great. For anything routine or major, you really want to go to South Africa. We did experience a medical emergency and I'm glad we were only 2 hours from Bloemfontein, but it was still 2 hours...I was medevac'd to the U.S. to have my baby, but Pretoria was an option.

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

Good, except terrible in the coldest winter months because people burn anything (trash, animal dung, etc.) to generate heat. Lots of particulate matter in the air. It's very possible our infant developed asthma from living there. Controlled field burning is also an established practice in parts of Lesotho and neighboring South Africa.

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

Lots of particulate matter /air pollution from burning garbage and all sorts of things in the winter. I'm not sure about seasonal plant allergies as we didn't have a problem. Can't speak to food allergies, but there aren't many alternative options at the grocery store in Maseru. I'm sure you could find alternatives in South Africa, though.

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

Very pleasant; very little rain. Cold winter months are tough because houses typically are not insulated. The only source of heat in our house was underfloor heating in the kitchen and living room - nothing in bedrooms. We cautiously used electric oil heaters and lots of blankets. Summers were awesome. On the hottest days, ceiling fans kept us comfortable. We didn't have A/C in the house, either, but some expat houses have both heating and A/C.

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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 didn't have direct experience, as my child was not school age, but there were a small handful of options. It seemed to be fine for the younger years but problematic for older children.

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

I could be wrong, but I doubt the schools are able 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?

We hired an extremely competent and caring fulltime housekeeper who became a part-time nanny once our son was born and I went back to work part-time. We offered a couple of raises and bonuses throughout her time with us. By the end, we were paying her roughly US$225/month, which I believe was on the higher side. But she earned it.

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

Not sure, but I doubt it.

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Expat Life:

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

Large expat community for the size of Lesotho, and lots of Peace Corps volunteers all throughout the country. Many expats love the Hash, and a lot of our friends tried to organize trips together. Morale was good, for those who were willing to make their own fun or find new interests. Morale was terrible for the sticks -in- the- mud.

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

I've addressed this before in other answers. You've got to make your own fun and friends. the most fun we had was at other homes or group dinners out to one of the few restaurants.

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

It was great for us - a couple who had a baby about half-way through our tour. We didn't need a lot of nightlife or exciting options. We enjoyed our small group of friends, the hash, and made our own fun traveling around. I knew a couple of single folks who bonded together and found things to do, but there were also singles who came through and complained about being bored or outcast from the 'family set.' I blame their own inability to adapt and make friends. So I would discourage singles who struggle to socialize with a diverse mix of people or who can't make their own fun.

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

I don't have any direct experience with this, but did know one gay couple who were really active and social within the expat community. Not sure what they faced locally; it's a fairly conservative Christian country.

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

Asians aren't liked too well by the Basotho, even though there is a sizable Chinese population in Maseru. It is a Christian country, but I'm not sure about religious prejudices. I think other African people (not Basotho) and African-Americans also faced discrimination. As a married woman and mother, I didn't have too many problems, probably because I 'fit the mold.' I think some single women are harassed. It's a man's world.

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

Traveling through the country and taking in the amazing landscapes and witnessing people who live much the same way they did 100 years ago. Skiing in Africa was a huge highlight, and we have very fond memories of the Basotho we really got to know. It was also a good place to have an infant - not much night life, which suited us just fine, and we enjoyed a quiet 2 years spending a good amount of time out of doors. My husband really enjoyed the Hash House Harriers, which is a hiking club. It wasn't really my thing, but it is very popular among the expat community and those with dogs.

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

Right in Maseru, there aren't many places to eat, but I found them adequate. Again, the hiking Hash is very popular among the expats and takes place on Sunday mornings. Shopping in Maseru really isn't great, but you can find your typical handmade crafts at small markets in town (mats, brooms, Seshoeshoe (fabric unique to Lesotho) things.. some expats get dresses made from seshoeshoe fabric. We enjoyed going across the border to the neighboring South Africa town of Ladybrand to eat in a pleasant little restaurant called Living Life. If we were in town for the weekend, it was a Saturday morning ritual as long as the border wasn't too backed up. Lots of things to explore outside Maseru, including huge dams, caves with paintings, AfriSki, etc.

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

Special Seshoeshoe fabric gifts (dolls, clothes, journal covers, purses), grass mats and brooms, Basotho hats, and wool Basotho blankets.

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

You can save a lot of money as there isn't a whole lot to do right in Maseru, and the cost of living is cheap. You can hire housekeepers, nannies, and gardeners for very little money. You can spend a lot of money, however, by traveling to and spending money in South Africa. The exchange rate was in our favor, but the posh safari experiences (worth it!) are not cheap. We also took several trips to Cape Town and the wine country. Weather is phenomenal - sunny and gorgeous huge skies almost every day. Basotho culture is fascinating, and it is worth it to get out to the hinterlands of Lesotho. Winter can be very cold (but warm in the heat of the day), and summers are mild and very pleasant.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes - we saved some, and still traveled quite a bit. You can spend a lot of money in South Africa or regionally in southern Africa, for sure.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

We did a lot of reading/talking with folks, and I believe we were fairly prepared. We honestly didn't have any expectations, but ended up being pleasantly surprised about the easy living. It was just simple.

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

Yes.

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

Need for nightlife and poor attitude.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure!

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

No? You could watch "The Gods Must be Crazy" - that's about the San people in South Africa, but not far from Lesotho border, to get a sense of the landscape.

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

The Rough Guide for South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho

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Maseru, Lesotho 06/06/10

Background:

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

Also lived in Lagos, Montevideo, Ciudad Juarez.

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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?

From Washington, DC, it is an 18 hour flight to Johannesburg and then after a forced overnight there, a 45 min flight to either Maseru or Bloemfontein, South Africa (1.5 hrs by car from Maseru). Flying into Bloem is more reliable, particularly in the rainy season, as Maseru has no radar at the airport and planes cannot land if it's too cloudy.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Currently living in Maseru, since Dec 2008.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing for expats is generally single family homes on small compounds. Yard size varies. Bedrooms are often smaller than in U.S. Houses are not insulated and don't have central heating, so they are quite cold in the winter. (During the daytime, it can even be colder inside than outside.)

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

Groceries and household supplies are easily available in a full range of products at several locations in Maseru. Prices same as in South Africa, less than in DC.

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

Chocolate chips, brown sugar, baking chocolate, lime juice, and U.S. snack foods. Everything else we can generally get here (including pita, flour tortillas, many other "exotic" items for Africa).

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

KFC, Wimpy, Scooters, Nandos. Pretty cheap.

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

None.

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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.

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

Easily available. We pay about $200/month for full-time live-in help.

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

Yes. There is a small gym at the US Embassy for staff and a nice subscription gym with pool and other facilities at the Lehakoe Club (where the king also works out).

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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?

Credit cards are pretty widely accepted at most larger stores. ATMs are available throughout town and in SA.

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

Yes, Catholic, Anglican, and Christian. I'm not sure about Islam, but I believe they have services in English.

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

Yes, DSTV available - cost varies by plan, slightly more expensive than in US. Most papers are weekly or twice weekly, quality varies but is not generally great.

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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?

In the city, basic greetings are enough. In the rural areas, you must have Sesotho or a translator, as most people don't speak much English.

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

It would be difficult, but better than in most African countries. People in wheelchairs can often find an elevator, for example, but not always. Outside of Maseru, it would be almost impossible for someone with physical disabilities to get around.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis that are called (not hailed on the street) are safe and fairly cheap. I wouldn't recommend the buses or other taxis.

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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 plan to travel in Lesotho, 4x4 is recommended, as most roads outside the major towns are not paved.

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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?

It's not high speed, but it's not dial-up, either. ADSL and 3G are both available - prices range from $50-100/month depending on plan. Downloads are limited.

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

Cell phone service is available through much of the country (except in most mountain areas) from 2 providers. Average about $50/month depending on plan.

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Pets:

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

No, but they all have to transit Jo'burg, and South Africa requires them to come in as cargo, not excess baggage.

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

There is a good vet in Ladybrand, just over the border (20 mins) in SA.

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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?

Not really - some spouses have found jobs with other international NGOs or the schools.

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

Government officials are often in suits. Otherwise it can be fairly casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Maseru is a critical crime threat post. Twenty-four hour residential guards are recommended, as home invasions (armed, but generally people who cooperate are not harmed) are not uncommon. Street crime (muggings and even sexual assault) have increased in number since Dec 08 and expats have been targeted in these crimes of opportunity.

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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 is no quality local medical care. Patients can be stabilized in some situations, but the nearest good quality care is in Bloemfontein, SA, which is 1.5 hrs by car from Maseru.

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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 good with low pollution. However, in August-September, before the rains start, it can be very dry and dusty and people with allergies or asthma sometimes report difficulty then.

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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 4 season in Lesotho - this is NOT tropical Africa! Rainy season is October to March (spring/summer), and winter is dry and sunny but quite cold. June/July/August often have lows below freezing and daytime highs in the 40s or 50s F.

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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 personal experience with the American International School, but I understand that parents are generally happy with it. It's a small and friendly place that goes up to grade 9. Expats also use Maseru Prep and Machabeng College, which completes high school and has IB.

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

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

There are some preschools available, including a program at the American School. Most people seem to use nannies (widely available and not too expensive) instead of daycare.

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

Not really, only through the schools or private instruction.

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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 but growing - many different nationalities. Most associated with UN or a variety of NGOs (most of them health-related).

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good, especially those with kids. Lots of young families here.

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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?

Many family-related activities sponsored by schools or individuals. There are only 4-5 restaurants in Maseru that expats usually go to, and few safe nightclub options. You have to be willing to make your own fun.

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

Maseru is a good family post, but may be tough for singles - limited social opportunities, although there are a number of young singles with various NGOs that seem to make a decent social life for themselves.

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

Gay/lesbian expats would do fine here, but should expect to keep a low profile to avoid provoking negative reactions. Lesotho seems to have a more or less "don't ask, don't tell" attitude towards homosexuality, but it's not overtly anti-gay as many other African countries are.

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

No. All major religions except Judaism have worship space in Lesotho and there are no overt prejudices that I can see.

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

Traveling into the mountains of Lesotho, the novelty of experiencing snow and skiing in Africa, and the very family-friendly atmosphere among the expat community in Maseru.

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

Abseil in Semonkong, join the Hash (mostly hiking and very family friendly, unlike many hashes), pony trek at Malealea, ski near Oxbow, drive through Sani Pass, eat at Living Life, volunteer, travel throughout South Africa by car, plane, or train.

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

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

Maseru is "Africa Lite." There are many amenities within close reach (especially across the border in SA), corruption is relatively low, democracy is relatively strong. You can save money and there are fabulous travel opportunities within driving distance.

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11. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, Maseru is a friendly place, with both Basotho and expats welcoming us. Lots of great travel opportunities both within Lesotho and in South Africa, and many other families with young kids. We've been very happy here.

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

Desire to be in the international spotlight with the movers and shakers, need for high speed internet, and Western sense of time.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure, sunblock, sun hat, hiking shoes, bird book - and wool socks for winter!

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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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Maseru, Lesotho 03/13/09

Background:

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

No, we have lived in France and the Philippines.

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2. How long have you lived here?

We have been here 7 months so far.

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

My spouse works at the U.S. Embassy.

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

It is a long trip from the U.S. to Maseru. We took a direct 16 hour flight from Dulles to Johannesburg and after a three hour airport wait we had an hour flight to Bloemfontein in South Africa before a 90 minute road trip to Lesotho. You can fly from Johannesburg to Maseru but the connection times from the US mean that you will have to overnight in Johannesburg as the last flight for Maseru leaves at about 3pm as the pilots apparently do not want to stay in Maseru.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a great house which is a 5-minute drive from work and the South African border.

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

Groceries and household supplies are easily found. Many people cross the border to South Africa to shop there on Saturdays. If you can't get it in Ladybrand or Maseru then Bloemfontein is just a 90 minute drive away and there you can find pretty much everything.

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

You can get most things here. But if you like high tech gadgets bring those or be prepared to go to Bloemfontein (90 minutes) or even Johannesburg (4 hours) to get them. Bring your own DVDs unless you want to cross the border to Ladybrand to rent them. No cinemas in Maseru.

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

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

There are flies and mosquitoes but there are NO insect diseases that I am aware of - no malaria - it is too high here.

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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 U.S. Mail system. I tried to use the local system a few times and the postage is cheap and the letters did arrive. However sending parcels is a different story. One arrived and one is somewhere in a black hole.

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

Cheap. Our live-in nanny costs about US$130/month and is great value. Our live-in cook is slightly cheaper. But you need to get used to the Lesotho way of food which isn't everybody's cup of tea. They like corn and corn products as well as meat. Vegetables are not something that exists a lot in the local repertoire of cooking.

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

Lehakoe Club.

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

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

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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?

None in Maseru, though any knowledge is always a bonus. If you go out of Maseru to remote rural places, then the local language is needed.

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

Good luck! This place is not designed for anyone with disabilities. You are lucky to have a footpath so people walk on the roads.

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Transportation:

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

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

Bring one with high clearance. Driving on any roads in Lesotho into the 'mountains' requires high clearance to deal with the atrocious pot holed roads. However, if you stay in Maseru or drive in South Africa then any car is fine.

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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 it is slow and expensive.

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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?

Please don't use them when driving!

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

NO.

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

Neat.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pollution? Negligible! When it is dry there is some dust (erosion is a major problem in this country) but really pollution is NOT a concern - certainly not compared to the Philippines.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Yes. U.S. Embassy advises people not to walk around downtown Maseru. There have been assaults including right outside the U.S. Embassy. There have been home invasions so the residential security guards are a wonderful asset.

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

No health facilities here. We go to the doctors in Ladybrand as we don't like the Lesotho health. For any hospital care or specialist care you really need to go to Bloemfontein.

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

No humidity. It is generally clear sunny skies. Though I hear it gets very cold in winter (the houses are poorly insulated). There are impressive lightning and thunder storms in summer as well as some rain.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School has grades pre-school to 8.

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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?

We have a nanny who is fantastic. The AISL offers pre-school for children aged 3 or more and runs from 8-12:30pm daily.

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

Only if you make them yourself. I hear that there are supposed to be ballet classes. Our children go to music classes but aside from that you need to do it yourself.

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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.

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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?

Social life is limited to what you make. It often involves visiting other people. If you like golfing, lots of opportunities - Maseru, Ladybrand and further afield.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good I think. You make your own entertainment.

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

This is a great place for families. There are many families here. Singles would probably get bored as there are no clubs, bars or entertainment here unless you make it yourself.

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

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

No racial, religious of gender issues that I am aware of.

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

Semonkong waterfalls are the largest single drop in Africa. Getting there involves travelling several hours over atrocious pot holed roads. Morijia is 40 minutes away where you can walk and see dinosaur footprints! Don't expect HUGE footprints though! Thaba Bosiu, the birth place of Lesotho is about 30 minutes drive from Maseru and interesting to walk up onto the plateau. Ask for Ntate Edgar as a guide as he has wonderful historical stories to tell you. You can walk pretty much anywhere in Lesotho as all land belongs to the King. But expect a fan club to follow you if you walk in Lesotho. The village children are always seeking money or sweets. Otherwise you can head across the border to South Africa easily. But there are no malls unless you drive 90 minutes to Bloemfontein in South Africa.

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

Beadwork. You can also buy tapestries here as well as straw hats.

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9. Can you save money?

Definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Low clearance vehicles.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

It is a great place for families with young children.

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