Port Harcourt, Nigeria Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Port Harcourt, Nigeria 04/03/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

Two and a half years.

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

Accompanied spouse who is working for the major oil company here.

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

It takes approx sevenhours from Paris or Frankfurt directly into Port Harcourt. Virgin cancelled their direct flight and so now you have to travel via Lagos and onwards internally. I believe Virgin are trying to establish a direct flight into Lagos from the US for later this year. Internal travel on Aerocontractors or VirginNigeria are fine.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

On camps, the houses tend to be of a one-story nature with large gardens. Outside, most houses are two story with gates and large fences.

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

Very sparse. Most goods are brought in via air freight. When items arrive, they are sold almost immediately and the cost is higher than in the UK and Holland, but then again you might expect it to be. Good South African wine is available at reasonable cost (approx £4 per bottle) and some French wine too. Goods such as Nappies, washing powders, etc., are extortionate and we avoid having to purchase these as much as possible.

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

We shipped everything we could a very decent-sized sea freight container. I am very grateful for that! It is possible to purchase electrical items here at reasonable costs, I have just bought a Breville kettle for £16! We have purchased large freezers, TVs and LCD screens here, together with PC parts such as sound cards, etc.

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

Mr Bigs exists for fast food, mainly chicken but the quality is questionable. There are Chinese, Italian, and Indian restaurants available. It is worth getting an up-to-date recommendation when you are here. The big hotels have good restaurants.

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Daily Life:

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

Easily available, but lower your expectations. Wages are low here and everyone desperate to work for you. We were very lucky with our nanny and driver, but many people run into problems. Things can go missing and do get easily broken, which matters more when they cannot be easily replaced. Without tolerance, domestic help here will cause frustration.

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

Don't do it.

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

Yes, they are. Security means that, unless you are very determined, these are not available to expats. There are a number of 'churches,' mainly Christian, in this area.

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

Yes, but again quality is questionable. We have a form of satellite TV made available to us by the company and have channels such as Sky news, BBC Prime and Movie Magic. Without these we would be lost. Upside is that TV is not good for the children and so their viewing is very limited and outdoor pursuits more in order.

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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?

Nothing. Everyone speaks English, although local dialects are like foreign languages!

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

Yes, lots. It is mainly dusty, busy, mad roads without much pavement, and the sheer number of people walking and driving about make it very chaotic.

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Transportation:

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

Left-hand side.

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

No, not safe or reliable.

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

Can't imagine bringing a car here at all! We receive company cars such as the Honda Accord. Some higher grades within the company receive 4x4's. You see a lot of 4x4 vehicles about. The potholes (enormous craters in the road!) do make these the best bet here! Most local cars are so old that you feel you are part of a time-warp!

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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?

Not sure; ours is provided.

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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?

Buying locally worked for us. We brought one in and could not get it to work. Spend a little more to get a decent handset and don't expect western standards.

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

By cell phone, although the connection is terrible most of the time. We phone via a company if possible.

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Pets:

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

I believe it is good. There is one service here which picks up and drops off!

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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?

Don't know, but would think not.

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

Casual on the whole, although the Nigerian workers are very often the best dressed.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very unhealthy within Port Harcourt as a result of poverty and lifestyle here. Life on our camp, though, is at the other end of the spectrum and very healthy.

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

There are concerns to safety here. It is true that a lot of people are living on 'camps' with guards, which creates a false sense of security as everyone here, seems to be open to bribes. However we do not feel threatened and can travel about Port Harcourt as long as we do it with caution. Just now we are advised to maintain a low profile and only travel when necessary.

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

Clinics are available and as someone else wrote, getting to the clinics when you need to is more the concern. I understand that there are some decent Dentists locally run by expats. Our biggest worries here are malaria and car accidents.

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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, warm and warm! A constant temperature, but when the rains appear around the end of May it can become depressing at times until September. Most people leave for the summer school holidays.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our company has its own school within the camp, which does take in children from other companies when there is room. It has over 100 pupils and follows the UK system as well as having a Dutch section also. Morale is high and class sizes low (about 10 per class on average). Once children are 12, there is no longer adequate education for them here and most move on to boarding schools. The school is very accessible and the staff very approachable and competent. Within Port Harcourt there are other schools such as the Italian School, to name but one, with good reputations. The schools regularly interact with sporting competitions.

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

It is very difficult to accommodate special needs in this environment and so, sadly, it 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?

We have a kindergarten also on our camp and a meeting point for parents with children under 2 and a half.

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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 within this town. However, it doesn't feel that way due to the sheer volume of locals. Our camp is home to about 100+ expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Seems good. This is a frustrating posting as we are confined to a small area for most of our stay here. People are here for financial reasons, but the life can be rewarding if your attitude is right.

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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?

Within the camp, people tend to find a group and remain part of that for the time they are here. These can be divided into families, couples, etc., but quite often they are related to people's base countries. Amazing to see how nationalities stay together and having come on a posting such as this can seem quite aloof. I had expected more integration among expats.

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

No, the city is not good for expats particularly, although if you live on a camp the lifestyle can be good. Children do not travel out frequently. Adults can enjoy evening meals in restaurants and clubs (security situation permitting). There is a zoo, which is at present the focus of some expat ladies who are attempting to make the animals' lives better.

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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?

There must be I guess. However, I have not encountered any. I find the local Nigerian people extremely friendly, courteous, and happy.....if you also appear that way.

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

Not much locally!! I believe the trips to the river are fun, with sandy inlets and crystal clear water. Families do organize get-togethers often, which mainly involve swimming pools, food, and drinking! On camp we have a club with restaurants and a large swimming pool. There are a number of sporting activities available on our camp, such as squash, tennis, cycling and running to name but a few. There is a regular Hash which can be attended by anyone. Internal travel is fairly easy so travel to Lagos/Abuja for weekends is a possibility. There is a cattle ranch about a two hour flight away on the border of Cameroon, and VirginNigeria flies from Lagos to Accra, Ghana now. Some expats choose to visit the beach-side hotels there for a few days and no negative reports heard of yet.

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

There are wonderful carvings, and some decent paintings to be found once you find a decent supplier. The problem comes when you want to take them out of the country with you and they become National Heritage Items!! The levy can be steep.

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9. Can you save money?

It is possible to live on our local allowance together with the stuff we freight in, so we can save our home salary. This is not a great place for shopaholics!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I think so. It is a place that we will be glad to have experienced and in some ways we will miss! However, because of the unpredictability of this posting, the day we leave we may well heave a sigh of relief too! Glad we came, happy to leave.

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

winter warmers, although I did find a hot water bottle useful at one point!

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3. But don't forget your:

sun creams, mosquito repellents, and corkscrew.

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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?

A good local website, oyibosonline.com exists with local information.

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