Moving to Gabon?

So you or your husband/wife has been offered a position in Gabon and you are wondering if you should go…

I certainly can’t give you an easy yes or no answer but I can say that I am so glad that we came.  Life isn’t always easy here and it definitely requires a lot of patience but we have never (ok, almost never) regretted our decision.  The expat community is close and welcoming, it seems to be a great place for young kids and many people have fond memories of their time here.

With that being said, you need to come with an open mind.  I’ve met several women who come and hate that it’s different and can’t, or won’t, cope with the difficulties.  Those who tend to look at the negative side of everything often have a tougher time here.  You have to be prepared to take the good with the bad.

You’ve decided to move to Gabon and now you are wondering what to bring?

First of all, if your company offers you a shipment or cash in lieu of a shipment, take the shipment!!!  I can’t stress this enough!  Furniture is expensive and ugly here and other items of any good quality aren’t in abundance.  In our case, we had spent our cash in lieu of shipment money and had hardly any furniture to show for it.

If you are concerned about bringing your ‘nice’ stuff from home (as we were,) I’d recommend taking a trip to Ikea and furnishing your house ahead of time.  It’s going to be much less expensive and much nicer than what you’ll find here and you won’t care much if it gets damaged in transit.  (Do note that you are supposed to pay duty on any ‘new’ items brought into Gabon and that duty can be quite pricy.  Most expats who bring in new things take them out of the original wrap to make it look ‘used’ and sometimes even doctor receipts in case customs officials ask.  I’m not recommending you do this but many do!)

If your company provides you with furnished accommodation, you have nothing to worry about.  You may not be in love with it and it might not be what you’d buy if you had the choice, but at least you don’t have to pay for it.

Even if you don’t have a large container coming, your company will most likely give you a small air shipment by air or boat.  You need to pack both strategically as it will make a world of difference when you are here!

Note:  We’re Canadian so much of this is specific to what we are used to from home.

What to pack…

  • Small shipment or large, bring good kitchen items.  Pots, pans, baking dishes, utensils, anything you use on a regular basis.  New/old housewives, even if you don’t bake or cook now, you will when you get here.  There’s not a lot to do and eventually, you’ll start experimenting in the kitchen.
  • Bedding – we brought pillows, a light duvet, sheets and a duvet cover.  Many people have commented on it and wish they brought their own.
  • DVD’s and hard drives full of TV and movies.  You will have satellite TV here but it’s often out of date and repetitive and you can’t run down to the local Blockbuster to rent a movie.  It’s nice to have options on hand.
  • Lot’s of clothes equipped for a year long summer.  It’s not easy to find clothing here so don’t count on buying anything unless there is something you’ll have the tailor make.  If you have children, bring clothes they’ll grow into.  Keep in mind, it’s hot and humid here and anything that breathes well and doesn’t show sweat badly, you’ll love.  It’s nice to have a couple of dressier options.  The women’s club has a gala each year and people dress up.  Don’t forget, you will travel and you’ll want some nice things for that too!
  • Sporting equipment – there are tennis courts, a golf course, a gym and a few fitness classes in Port Gentil.
  • A kindle or a reading tablet – everything is French here and if you are a reader, you’ll crave books.  The only way to keep anything new on hand is to have an eReader.
  • A good and comprehensive French/English dictionary.
  • Voltage regulators – the electricity fluctuates badly here and it can seriously damage or wreck electronics.  We plug our computers and TV into a regulator to try and avoid that.
  • Safe or Lock box – you are moving to Africa and if you’ve read my blog you’ll know we’ve been robbed (more than once at that) and perhaps we wouldn’t have lost so much had it been locked away.  We now own a small one to keep our passports, cash and any important items safe.  If anything, it gives us peace of mind.
  • Your favorite toiletries – there isn’t much option here and I have always appreciated having my favorite things from home.  I bring almost all of that in with me including shampoo/conditioner, moisturizers and skin care, feminine hygiene products and make up.  You can find all of these items here so don’t think you will go without if you don’t bring it – it’s just that the selection is limited, especially when it comes to specialty products.
  • Medications – If you take any medications regularly, it’s a good idea to bring a supply in with you.  We do have several pharmacies but they probably won’t carry your particular medication.  If you have the chance to come for a look-see, it might be a good idea to drop in to the pharmacy to see if they can get your particular medication to save you the trouble.  (Unless you’re French as much is the same as France.)  I even bring in Advil, Pepto, Benadryl, etc. as sort of an emergency kit.
  • Photos and any other items that will make you feel at home.  It’s nice to be able to put something on your walls and it gives you comfort when you’ve been away awhile.
  • A toolbox – things can take awhile to get done here and sometimes, it’s just easier to do it yourself.  It’s nice if you have the basics on hand.  If we had a large shipment, we would have brought more.
  • Bring a few things from your country.  Occasionally there are planned events where you want to represent your country.  (Flags, beer holders, t shirts are nice to have.)  It also doesn’t hurt to have a few gifts on hand from home.
  • You are going to spend A LOT of time at the beach so bring beach things.  Towels, sand toys, frisbee/football, snorkel gear, umbrellas, boogie boards, folding beach chairs, a cooler and ice packs all come in very handy!

A note about food items…

Your shipping company will most likely advise you against bringing any sort of food items.  Ours did but we put in a box of spices anyways and had no trouble.  You’ll find the basics here but you’ll miss things like Montreal Steak Spice, Italian & Cajun seasoning.  I also like to bring spice packets for butter chicken, pad thai, chili, sloppy joes, Shake and Bake or anything of the sort that might make life a little easier here.  (You can get fajita and taco spices here but it is very expensive so I bring it too.)

In our suitcases we often bring a few boxes of KD, my favorite granola bars, peanut butter, a couple of salad dressings/marinades,  and Crystal Lite.  It seems a bit silly but when you are homesick, there is nothing better than the conveniences from home.

If you are from France or spent time living in France, you’ll find products and brands you know here.


A couple of notes –

-This list looks huge and don’t start panicking about how you are going to fit all of these things in your shipment, especially if you only have a small one.  Start with what is most important to you and work down the list.
-Just because it’s on the list doesn’t mean that it can’t ever be found in Port Gentil.  Actually, POG has gotten much better recently and occasionally one is surprised at what you can get here.  Just keep in mind, what is here often isn’t great quality and it will be 2-3-4 times more expensive than what you would pay in North America (fine for a few things but painful when you are paying for a bunch!)
-The voltage is 220 here and those travel converters aren’t reliable.  Buy electronics that will run on 110 and 220 so that all you’ll have to worry about here is an adapter.  We bought a regulator that also had 110 output so we are able to use the few 110V electronics we brought but we really wish we had just left them at home.  I think it’s probably just easier to buy a toaster and a kettle here.
-No matter how prepared you think you are, once you get here you will find a thousand things you wish you would have brought from home.  It’s inevitable.
-Things Joe and I really wish we had from home – our mattress, a BBQ and more decorative items to make the house a home.


Should you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to send me a message.  


6 responses

6 02 2012

Hello. I have a request to ask you. Can you help me with your e-mail?

6 02 2012

You can reach me at

8 07 2012

My husband and I are planning to move to Libreville and wonder if you can advise the best areas to find housing. Most likely we will have to live in company compound but would love to know there the beautiful, old colonials are if there are any? Also which areas are good if we want to live fairly near the main part of the city. I don’t know anything yet, so any advice and suggestions would be wonderful!

3 11 2012
Mont Saez

Hello, we’re moving to POG next January 2013 with two little girls. I would like to ask you how did you find you’re house. Thanks a lotn

14 11 2012

Hi pls suggest a good physician in Port Gentil, one of my friend’s needs to visit a doctor there. Thanks.

14 11 2012

Hi there,
Good is a relative term – we used Dr Marco at Mandji Clinic. We didn’t have any really negative experiences with him although the clinic itself is not particularly nice. There is a French gynaecologist that many people used at another clinic named Dr Dupagne but I think her English is limited.
Good luck!

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