I arrived early in the morning at Kinshasa’s N'djili International Airport this past January 29th on a connecting flight from Addis Ababa. Upon arrival, I expected the same chaos that I experienced during my previous surveys in 2003 and 2008, but I was pleasantly surprised.
During a recent survey quarter, I had the pleasure of surveying Athens, Greece. While I was on-site, I encountered several protests and demonstrations, which allowed me to really feel like an assignee, navigating the change of social disruption.
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Western rideshare apps have struggled in Turkey. Protests by taxi drivers and government opposition have left these ridesharing companies in a state of uncertainty over the last year. On my recent trip to Ankara and Istanbul, I experienced this firsthand. In Ankara, I tried to use a popular local rideshare app but gave up because it was only available in Turkish despite claims that they support English-speaking users. Apart from the local rideshare app, there was no other rideshare presence in Ankara, and I was entirely reliant on local taxis.
On my last survey, a five-week trip across Africa, I visited Lagos, Nigeria and Cairo, Egypt, two of the most notorious traffic destinations in the world. These locations lived up to their hype, and I spent a lot of time sitting in traffic. However, I was surprised to find that Nairobi, Kenya’s traffic was almost as bad despite lacking the same level of notoriety. Nairobi’s three main issues are a shortage of stop signs and traffic lights at intersections, poor road quality, and incredible amounts of construction that disrupt traffic routes.
During my survey of Bangkok, I found the multiple transportation systems available for use extremely helpful, especially in comparison to other Southeast Asian cities. In Yangon, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City, I was entirely dependent on taxis and rideshare apps, as there are no functioning rail systems, the buses are difficult for foreigners to use, and the cities are not particularly pedestrian friendly. Conversely, in Bangkok, I used a much more balanced mix of rideshare, metro (MRT), Skytrain (BTS), and walking.
Despite the availability of options, public transportation in Casablanca feels prohibitive. The bus system is not really an option for expats or visitors as the vehicles are old and falling apart. The tram is modern, but stops are limited, and it doesn’t connect with major malls, hotels, or restaurants.
In Cairo, expatriates typically use a driver rather than relying on public transportation options. During my August survey I found that, even though taxis have meters, drivers are frustratingly unwilling to use them when driving expats.
Language barriers are common on survey, but each year technology makes it easier to get around and collect cost of living survey information. While in Bratislava during my recent survey, I arrived at a transport ticket counter to find that none of the staff were able to speak English, but this wasn’t as much of an inconvenience as it would have been a few years ago.