Top Hardship Assignments in the Foreign Service

Hardship differential pay is additional compensation of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 percent over basic compensation for service at places in foreign areas where conditions of environment differ substantially from conditions of environment in the United States.

A hardship differential is established for any place when, and only when, the place involves extraordinarily difficult living conditions, excessive physical hardship, or notably unhealthful conditions affecting the majority of employees officially stationed or detailed at that place. Living costs are not considered in differential determination.

This allowance varies from post to post because conditions can be different even in the same country. For instance, some of the medical facilities may be worse at one post than conditions in the rest of the country (where there are constituent posts), or there could be high crime rates and/or political violence at the capital city compared to other locations in a specific country. To start with, a 5% hardship post can mean washing/soaking fresh produce in Clorox, sporadic availability of electricity, or rationed non-drinking water as part of daily life (e.g. no bath, 5-min showers only; laundry twice a week, etc.etc.). Factors considered in the hardship differential pay are in Form DS-267, Post Differential Questionnaire, but I cannot find an Internet copy of the document to link to.


AFGHANISTAN [Kabul, Other]; IRAQ [Baghdad, Other]; REPUBLIC OF EQUATORIA [Malabo, Other]; TAJIKISTAN [Dushanbe, Other]; TIMOR-LESTE [Timor-Liste]

You go to Afghanistan and you get 35% over basic compensation. Why? I don’t have the worksheet that State uses to compute this differential but just quickly — besides the fact the Afghanistan is a war zone, well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. The USG tells Americans that Afghan public hospitals should be avoided and that tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the country. What else? Afghanistan’s economy operates on a “cash-only” basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available there, local telephone networks do not operate reliably and most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. There’s more. Apparently almost all water is contaminated, and dysentery is endemic among Afghans and very common among foreigners. Garbage is often tossed over compound walls and into open ditches and streams, which serve as water sources for home use. Fruits and vegetables for sale in the bazaar are washed in the open ditches. If you’re one of the hardy folks serving in Afghanistan, please email us and let us know that you’re not eating Spam and stale white plastic bread?

Iraq? Iraq is still a place where just driving somewhere could get you blown up. The USG tells Americans that vehicular travel in Iraq can be extremely dangerous. There have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous and should be avoided. Basic modern medical care and medicines are not widely available in Iraq. The facilities in operation do not meet U.S. standards, and the majority lack medicines, equipment and supplies. Because the Baghdad International Airport has limited operations for security reasons, it is unlikely that a private medical evacuation can be arranged. Oh yeah, limited ATMs, limited communication systems, and dust storms

And there’s this: illnesses common to this region are gastro- intestinal complaints including traveler’s diarrhea, heat related illnesses, sinus infection, frequent upper respiratory infection and irritation (commonly referred to as the Crud), nosebleeds and allergies. Two insect borne diseases that can occur in this region are leishmaniasis (sand fly bite causing skin sores) and schistosomiasis (parasitic infection from swimming/bathing in contaminated fresh water sources) disease.

Equatorial Guinea apparently is not a place to start up a career in photo journalism (take note if you’re a trailing partner). Special permits from the Ministry of Information and Tourism (or from the local delegation if outside Malabo) are required for virtually all types of photography. It has a strictly cash economy; credit cards and checks are not accepted; credit card cash advances are not available and there are no ATMs. In addition, most local businesses do not accept travelers’ checks, dollars or euros. And there’s this: There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. And if that is not bad enough — plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.

Tajikistan remains the poorest of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The country’s medical infrastructure is significantly below Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. There have been outbreaks of typhoid in the Dushanbe area and in the south, and the risk of contracting malaria, cholera, and water-borne illnesses is high. Throughout Central Asia, rates of infection of various forms of hepatitis and tuberculosis (including drug-resistant strains) are on the rise. There’s more. Tajikistan has a cash-only economy. International banking services are limited. Oh yeah — criminal groups and terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets… it is also an earthquake-prone country.

Timor-Liste has some good beaches; surely it does not merit a 35% hardship rate? Let’s see – although limited emergency medical care is available in Dili, options for routine medical care throughout the country are extremely limited. That said, almost all maladies of the developing world are found there. Residents are subject to water and food-borne illnesses such as typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, worms, amebiasis, and bacterial dysentery. Mosquito-borne malaria, Dengue, and Chikungunya fever exists throughout East Timor. Respiratory illnesses are common. Asthma problems are generally worse during a tour here, as are any other respiratory or skin allergies. Dental care, such as cleaning, repairs of dental cavities, root canal, and bridgework cannot be performed in Dili. The main city has no optometrists or ophthalmologists of reasonable quality. Thinking of starting a family? The cost of diapers averages around $1 per diaper. There’s more. Gang-related violence occurs sporadically in Dili, and Americans risk intentional or inadvertent injury when traveling in affected areas. Public transport is generally inadvisable and is unavailable after dark. Electricity, telephone and telecommunications, roads and lodging remain unreliable. Oh yeah, it costs approximately $1.50 to $2.00 for each 15-minute block of time for broadband service.


ANGOLA [Other]; BANGLADESH [Dhaka, Other]; BURMA [Rangoon, Other]; CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC [Bangui, Other]; CHAD [Ndjamena, Other]; CHINA [Nanjing, Other, Shenyang, Wuhan]; CUBA [Havana]; DJIBOUTI [Djibouti City, Other]; ERITREA [Asmara, Other]; ETHIOPIA [Other]; GEORGIA [Tbilisi, Other]; GUINEA [Conakry, Other]; INDONESIA [Bandung, Medan, Other]; KENYA [Nairobi, Other]; LAOS [Vientiane, Other]; LIBERIA [Monrovia, Other]; PAKISTAN [Karachi, Peshawar]; PAPUA NEW GUINEA [Port Moresby]; RUSSIA [Sakhalin Island, Vladivostok]; SIERRA LEONE [Freetown, Other]; TURKMENISTAN [Ashgabat, Other]; UZBEKISTAN [Tashkent, Other]; ZIMBABWE [Harare, Other].


ANGOLA [Luanda]; ANTARCTIC REGION POSTS; ARCTIC CIRCLE POSTS; ARMENIA [Yerevan, Other]; AZERBAIJAN [Baku, Other]; BELARUS [Minsk, Other]; BENIN (Other]; BURKINA FASO [Other]; BURUNDI [Bujumbura, Other]; CAMBODIA [Phnom Penh, Other]; CAMEROON [Yaounde, Other]; CAPE VERDE [Praia,Other]; CHINA [Chengdu, Guangzhou]; COTE D’IVOIRE [Other]; DEM. PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA [Pyongyang, Other]; DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO [Kinshasa, Other]; ETHIOPIA [Addis Ababa]; GABON [Other]; GRENADA [Nuuk, Grenada, Other]; GUINEA-BISSAU [Bissau, Other]; GUYANA [Georgetown, Other]; HAITI [Port-au-Prince, Petionville, Other]; GHANA [Accra, Other]; INDIA [Hyderabad, Kolkata, Other]; INDONESIA [Jakarta]; KAZAKHSTAN [Almaty, Astana]; KYRGYZSTAN [Bishkek, Other]; LEBANON [Beirut, Other]; MADAGASCAR [Antananarivo, Other]; MALAWI [Lilongwe, Other]; MALI [Bamako, Other]; MAURITANIA [Nouakchott]; MONGOLIA [Ulaanbaatar, Other]; MOZAMBIQUE [Maputo, Other]; NEPAL [Kathmandu, Other]; NIGER [Other]; NIGERIA [Abuja, Lagos, Other]; OMAN [Other]; PAKISTAN [Lahore, Other]; PAPUA NEW GUINEA [Other]; REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO [Brazzaville]; RUSSIA [Other, Yekaterinburg]; RWANDA [Kigali, Other]; SAO TOME & PRINCIPE; SUDAN [Juba, Khartoum, Other]; SURINAME [Paramaribo, Other]; SYRIA [Other]; TANZANIA [Dar Es Salaam, Other]; TOGO [Lome, Other]; UGANDA [Kampala, Other]; VIETNAM [Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Other]; ZAMBIA [Other]

Post Hardship Differential FAQ
(Also see DSSR Chapter 500). See the full list of hardship differential posts here.