With luck, you’ll have an employer to sort this out for you. If not, a few hotels will charge upwards of $150 a night and they’re a good option for a comfy bed, air conditioning and WiFi.
But you’re essentially paying for the cost of running generators all day. Don’t be surprised if you find dodgy plumbing or bathroom doors that don’t close.
Guest houses are another option at about half the price, and many offer air con, mosquito nets and good local food.
However, you might find yourself without power for much of the day, so don’t bank on being able to log on to your work email. It’s worth checking in advance how long the generators stay on.
A place to call home
Again, this might be provided and even paid for by an employer. Even if your costs are covered, however, you could still find yourself with a headache when it comes to searching for property.
Firstly, you will be expected to pay your rent up front. This could mean shelling out up $20,000 for the year before you even move in. Many landlords offer shorter tenures but at a higher monthly rate. On the plus side, you’re unlikely to have to set down a security deposit.
Good starting points when looking for property are the Freetown Announce Yahoo Group and the Visit Sierra Leone agency.
Choosing an area to live involves a lot of choices and trade-offs. In Freetown especially, traffic jams are common and walking or cycling up the city’s hills can be hot, sweaty and tiring (not to mention very soggy in the rainy season). So, proximity to work helps.
Checking utility supplies is a must. Find out whether you’ll have a direct water supply (and reserve) or will have to pay for deliveries to an outdoor tank.
Ask colleagues and locals how much “light” (state-supplied electrity) you’re likely to get each day. What generator back-up would you have? Would it be limited to certain hours of the day? Would you even have to buy your own? (We did; it set us back $5,000 – although you can rent them by the month and we definitely didn’t need such a massive machine)
If you’re a Westerner you’ll almost certainly end up living behind a big iron gate, meaning you’ll need a watchman to open it. Apartment complexes will probably have security included as part of the tenancy agreement but renting an individual home might mean having to hire someone yourself.
Annoyingly, once you’ve moved in, you might have to contract a variety of tradesmen to put right the dodgy pipework, wiring or carpentry as landlords don’t seem to see that sort of thing as their responsibility. Worse still, you might have to pay for yet more repairs when one of your hi-tech appliances blows the electrics or knackers the weak plumbing.
We paid Le500,000 ($100/£60) in annual water rates, while you have to top up your electricity meter regularly. We typically spend about £15 per week powering lights, air conditioning (one room at a time) or fan, fridge-freezer, TV, phones and laptops etc. During the blackout-prone drier months, we might spend an extra £15-30 a week on diesel for the generator.