We moved to Abidjan, Ivory Coast in August 2021. Despite researching well and talking to many people, there are many things I wish I had known before arriving here. Here are my lessons learnt:
1. Where you live is a big deal. The traffic is bad so you must live near your office or where the kids go to school. Since Covid and the recent peaceful elections, the property market has boomed. This has impacted the housing market and has become very expensive to live in a 'nice' house. My advice is to start your search well in advance and talk to as many people as you can, guiding your path. Another point to remember: the total monthly rent x4 is what you must budget as a down payment to move in. It's broken down like this: 1) The rent x2 for a deposit, 2) One month’s rent for the agency fee, and 3) One month's rent for the actual rent. So, make sure the ceiling of your bank account has been lifted for this amount of money to exit without getting a phone call from the bank manager, or the transaction being blocked altogether (speaking from experience.)
2. Find yourself a ‘fixer.’ These people, known in the international community, assist with the ins and outs of local administration. They are particularly handy for helping change the Water and Lights accounts once you move into your new accommodation; drivers licences, visas and other administration
3. When your visa arrives, please don’t be idiots like us and throw the receipt away!! That receipt is called a coupon and you need it for everything! Subsequent visa renewals and converting your driver’s licence depends on it. We had to report to the police that our receipt got ‘lost’. They gave us a certificate which we have to show in addition to the visa. Very irritating.
4. As mentioned already, but again just in case you were reading fast... live close to where the kids go to school or where you work. Traffic is terrible here.
5. It rains A LOT in Abidjan. If you have eyes for it, you will see the infrastructure is built for heavy rains – very deep gutters, corrugated iron shelters, deep set patios and passage ways around the periphery of the houses etc. So, check that the draining in your house is done correctly and that you don’t live in a flood zone. We have heard terrible stories!
6. Expect Abidjan to be expensive! Off a thumb suck, Abidjan is roughly what you would pay in Europe for groceries, restaurants and entertainment. Private schooling is also very expensive, and in our case the French school is more expensive here than in our previous location. Double check all the costs before signing on the dotted line.
7. If you are sick, fracture a bone or need urgent medical care, drive yourself to Polyclinique Farah in Marcory Residentiel. They are open 24/7. If you need a Dr, ours is quite nice, Dr Vanie in Marcory.
8. Sorry to say, but the nannies aren’t so great here. Expect to take a long time to find a suitable nanny if you are doing it yourself. I tried 8 people before finding my nanny. There are agencies to help with this, but again, quite pricey.
9. Everything happens on WhatsApp, so make sure you get on as many WhatsApp groups as possible.
10. Ivorians love to party! And dress beautifully! Big gatherings of people, weddings... every Friday the weekend is announced with loud, drifting music and BBQ smells. A great time visit a Maki, an Ivorian restaurant serving local food. I have discovered a love for Allocco, deep friend plantain (banana type) side dish that is delicious! (But don't forget to come in a cotton sundress, JackieO sunnies and a straw hat to blend in with the crowd.)
From a logistics perspective, Abidjan has been my most difficult move. The administration has been tough and settling in has been long. From one scout to another, get as much support as you can for this initial period, so that the real Ivorian adventures can begin!
For those already here, what has your experience been moving to Abidjan? What is missing from this list? What else must we add?