Friday, April 25, 2014

Mini hiatus

I am heading out of the country for a couple of weeks...
See you when I get back!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Inside B's Abidjan Budget

Many of you have been hearing horror stories about Abidjan's cost of living. Since I am but one person, who hasn't been here very long, I figured I'd start asking other people about their expenses. B is an Ivorian American living in Abidjan. She is in Abidjan temporarily and was kind enough to share her budget with us.

Housing: We signed a lease for 11 months and paid in advance for 9 months. The rent is 1,000,000 CFA which is roughly $2100 a month divided by five people since I live with roommates, is about $420 a month per person.

Phone: It varies really. I don't do a lot of talking on the phone, most communication happens via text message which if you get a specially offer, you get free texts every month, I'd have to find out exactly what that "forfait" was called. I usually recharge my phone every week for about 5-10,000 CFA which is between $10 and $20.

Public transportation can get you to the beach for 1 000 francs.
Leisure: It usually includes food ie going out to lunch or dinner with people, that's where I spend the bulk of my money. I'd say at least $50 a week, which is spent on most weekends. I was talking a dance class but it was really expense for my taste, about 8,000CFA a class, which is about $16 a class. Going to the beach, which I seldom do costs about 1000CFA in transport if you take a Baca [those minivan buses that are a form of public transportation here], which is pretty cheap. On the other hand if you take a cab, you can work out a deal with the cab driver for 22-25,000CFA for the day to drop you and pick you back up when you're done, which is about $50.000.

Most unexpected expense: Definitely transportation, we don't have a car so every time I go to work or out anywhere, I have to take a cab, which to work, round-trip is about $8 and that's not including any trips to the grocery store, the market or to visit friends or family.

What financial advice would you give to someone coming?
I would say expect to pay more to find good housing in a good neighborhood. I live in Deux Plateaux Vallon and there is always something going on. There are lost of food place, bars, bakeries and shopping markets. Stick to a monthly budget and if you can, GET A CAR! Expect to haggle for certain things even though you may still get ripped off as a foreigner. Lastly, Abidjan can be cheap if you know how to budget and plan but I've realized that it's sometimes as expensive as living in the States. Oh, also, be prepared to pay tips and bribes to be able to get things done as they should and on time. Sometimes it takes a little "convincing" to get things done that I would never have to deal with in the States. Almost forgot, paying for security ($40 a month) and gardening services ($60 a month).
Is there anything you feel particularly lucky to not have to pay for here? insurance? Instead of paying for heat during the winter months, it's the air conditioning that has to be paid for because of the heat.

Is there anything that people spend way too much money on here?
Hmmm probably transportation I would say and food.

So here is a recap of where B's money goes:

P.S. I heard some of you were having issues with the comment box. Just click on the No Comments to post your own comment/questions. Sorry for the poor ergonomics -- praying I'll be able to fix it soon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Traffic in Abidjan -- People Watching in Treichville

I got stuck in traffic today. Really, really bad traffic.  It was so bad, it took me an hour and a half to get from Biétry to Plateau this afternoon.  Rather than give in to frustration, I took out my camera and took a couple pictures.     

Mail in Abidjan

Someone asked me about mail in Abidjan.  I asked around, and despite seeing this sexy bike on the streets, have been told that Ivorian mail is NOT reliable. Plagues by theft, and lack of professionalism, the mail system only seems to be reliable for those mailing letters.  Anything of value, and anything being mailed from overseas, is likely to be tampered with. 
Sorry guys, looks like DHL and Fedex are your best bet.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

People watching in Abidjan

People give me a lot of grief when I try to take their pictures.  So I mostly do it from the back.  In the beginning, this was not my desired outcome, but over time, I have come to realize that the subjects seem more alive this way.  They're living, and I feel like I get to intrude on a fleeting moment of their day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Checking out the Arts Market

I managed to get out to the Arts market most commonly referred to as CAVA (le Centre Artisanal de la ville d'Abidjan) and saw some nice stuff.  It's located in Zone 3/ Zone 4 and is quite touristy.  In fact, it's so touristy, one vendor accepted dollars.

I found the vendors in the market to be excellent businessmen.  While I found some of their wares to be offensive, to not say repugnant, I do understand that some of these are sold to European tourists who have their fantasy vision of Africa and Africans. 

 It's still worth the detour, because beneath all of the junk, there were some nice masks and some pretty unique looking pieces that would make wonderful presents or decoration.  I also like supporting the local economy...My friend chose a mask from one of the ones below.  And I bought the mirror in the bottom picture.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

More food in Abidjan...

Abidjan has decent sushi.  Who knew?  Kaiten is pretty amazing and since they understand that not every Ivorian is down for raw fish, they even serve hot food (like pasta) to placate the anti-raw among us. All in all, it's expensive and service is slow.  But it was GOOD.


We also hit a place called Les délices de Suzanne.  This was a tea room kind of place that was lots of fun, laid back and very quiet.  It's best known for its incredible chocolate, but since we didn't have any, I can't really speak to its quality.  The brunch was excellent, though...


I was craving Chinese food, so I figured I'd head over to the Wasabi Retaurant in Zone 4.  It had CCTV blasting from a large screen and a couple Chinese people eating, so I figured it couldn't be too bad. Well, it was pretty bad.  I didn't die.  But it was bad. 

It's been awhile / Housing limbo in Abidjan

I have been gone for a bit. Sorry!   In my defense, work got super busy, I moved out of my temporary place, and have been waiting for my wire transfer from a French bank account to pay my deposit on my new place.  Also, our furniture deal seems to have fallen through.

Housing limbo is no fun! Avoid it by coming to Abidjan with enough cash for a deposit or with an Ivorian Bank account.  Some banks (I'm at SGBCI) are allowing folks to open them before they even get here. It may not work for everyone, but it's worth a try.  Had I known things would be this tough, I definitely would have investigated this option before coming.

I am also discovering the joys of trying to get electricity and water in my place...  It seems like the landlord should do it, something the realtor neglected to tell us, so we've been running around for the past couple of days trying to get that done.

I've come to realize that there are lots of resources within my company to help with my move; I've just been quite bad at making the most of them.  I'd seriously suggest you use every tool at your disposal when it comes to coming or settling here.  Abidjan is a place where ignorance can be costly.