Expats moving to Angola’s capital will have much to consider and plan for. Although elements of culture shock may be felt and visa processes can be stressful, Luanda has plenty to offer in terms of its people, cuisine, climate and natural beauty. Expats will undoubtedly experience ups and downs when moving to Luanda, and we've listed some of those pros and cons below.
Lifestyle in Luanda
+ PRO: Beautiful people and culture
Angolans are known to be extroverted and friendly. Although expats may experience culture shock, once they put in the effort to understand the customs and language, making friends in Angola will be a blast. Socialising can also help newcomers settle in and see the city from a different view.
+ PRO: Vibrant food scene
Both Luanda’s cuisine and restaurant scene are mouth-watering and vibrant. Angola’s cuisine has deep connections with Portugal and Brazil, but with its own flair, including steak, beans, chicken and fish. Meanwhile, while Luanda lacks an abundance of museums, it makes up for it in restaurants.
+ PRO: Animated nightlife
Expats may be surprised to hear that Luanda’s nightlife is eclectic and vibey. Angolans revel in a good party where they can show off their stylish fashion sense and killer dance moves.
Culture shock in Luanda
- CON: Language barrier
This could be a pro or a con depending on the expat’s ability and desire to learn a foreign language. English is not spoken widely in Angola as a whole, so there may be language barriers. Learning a few essential words can help integrate expats into their new home and show they are putting in an effort. A little goes a long way. Portuguese is the country's official language.
- CON: Inequality is shocking
There is a stark juxtaposition between the wealthy elite who dress in designer labels, travel in expensive vehicles and own luxurious property, and the Angolan majority who live in informal settlements and lower-quality accommodation. This may be a culture shock to expats who are unfamiliar with this extreme inequality.
Safety in Luanda
- CON: Crime is a reality in Luanda
Undeniably, safety is an issue in Luanda. Muggings and robberies do happen, and travelling alone at night and especially as a woman can be dangerous. Expats should be aware of high-risk areas.
+ PRO: 24-hour security available
Still, while expats should take care, they need not worry too much while going about their general workdays and lives. Many international organisations that employ expats have strict safety regulations and organise secure accommodation for their employees while employing 24-hour guards to monitor workplaces and residences.
Weather in Luanda
+ PRO: Pleasant, tropical climate
Climate can have a major impact on well-being. Fortunately, Luanda’s weather is ideal for most expats. Angola’s geographic location means it has a perfect tropical climate, all year round. Luanda is situated right on the coast, meaning nearby beaches are enjoyed by foreigners and locals alike.
- CON: High humidity
Luanda is a humid city and can leave expats unused to the weather feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. Still, the exceptionally hot summers are relatively short, while most of the year the temperatures are pleasant.
Healthcare in Luanda
+ PRO: Many healthcare facilities
Being the capital of Angola, Luanda has the most healthcare facilities and there are some good private clinics and 24-hour hospitals. Many doctors and health specialists can communicate in English.
- CON: Inadequate healthcare in general
Healthcare does not compare well to the standards expats may be used to. It is advised to get private healthcare and organise health insurance that covers costs abroad, such as in South Africa or Namibia in case of emergency and complicated procedures.
- CON: Mosquitoes are a nightmare
Not only do these bugs have an annoying buzz and an itchy bite, but they also carry diseases. Expats should make sure they have up-to-date vaccinations, use insect repellent and learn about the risk of malaria and yellow fever from their healthcare advisors prior to the trip.
Working in Luanda
+ PRO: Secure and attractive salaries and work packages
Expats often move to Luanda for work as part of a multinational company most likely involved in the oil or diamond industry. Because of this, they already have secured high salaries and can afford the luxuries available.
- CON: Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork
Bureaucracy seems to be the name of the game when it comes to getting anything official done. The visa and work permit processes are time-consuming and complicated, and expats will often receive different advice on requirements from different sources.
Education in Luanda
+ PRO: International school options
Although public education in Angola may be lacking, schooling should not be a worry for expats with children. There are private, international schools in Luanda that can help smooth a transition for families. A familiar curriculum can be continued without language barriers, as there are options for Portuguese, American and British curricula, along with the International Baccalaureate.
- CON: Expats must plan ahead
Tuition is expensive and adds to the already high cost of living in Luanda. There is also high competition for space in international schools, and expats should contact the schools in advance to secure a place for their children.
Getting around in Luanda
+ PRO: Expats can travel out of the capital
Although getting around in the city itself can be difficult, expats should remember they can travel outside the city too for some stunning getaways. This is possible provided that expats are well informed of the road standards and a potential need for a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and safety and security issues. Angola has much to offer with its warm coastlines, lush rainforests, expansive deserts and savannah environments. These are unmissable for any expat staying in the country.
- CON: Traffic is a nightmare
Like life in any other big city, congestion is a major issue and expats are advised to avoid rush hours if possible. Most expats will need a car but may be able to organise a driver through their company so that the stress of driving is out of their hands.
- CON: Reckless vehicles on the road
While slow-moving traffic is one thing, Luanda’s wild minibus taxis, 'candongueiro', are another. These white and blue vans zip through the streets. Perhaps expats up for an adventure may be willing to take this risky form of transport accompanied by a local friend for a cheap trip and an interesting story to tell afterwards. That said, they are best avoided, and often wreak havoc for other vehicles on the road.
► Read more in Moving to Angola for a comprehensive guide on the rest of the country
"It’s still a country in development, so negatives are always around in regards to medical care, supermarket supplies and all of that, but through all the years it has improved majorly." Read Youmna's expat interview to get insight into Luandan life.
"This is a very challenging environment for expat business, but there is huge potential and rewards for those with patience and persistence." Read our expat interview with Chris for more on the ups and downs of moving to Luanda.
Are you an expat living in Luanda?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Luanda. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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