FAQs about Peace Corps in Azerbaijan
- 1 How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Azerbaijan?
- 2 What is the electric current?
- 3 How much money should I bring?
- 4 When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- 5 Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- 6 Do I need an international driver’s license?
- 7 What should I bring as gifts for Azerbaijani friends and my host family?
- 8 Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- 9 How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- 10 Can I call home?
- 11 Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Azerbaijan?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current?
Azerbaijani electrical outlets accept plugs with two round prongs and operate on 220 to 240 volts and 50 cycles. Inexpensive adapters for U.S. equipment are readily available at places such as Radio Shack and travel supply stores. Be aware that the supply of electricity may be weak or sporadic, particularly in the winter months. Still, most PCVs in Azerbaijan have electricity most, if not all of the day. A lot depends on your site, but at worst, your electricity will cut out for a couple of hours a day, barring some kind of emergency that seriously knocks the power out. This is uncommon though.
Most PCVs buy a regulator during PST. This will regulate the fluctuating voltage so that your electronics don't fry. Some regulators have a 110 and a 220 volt plug in.
Most consumer electronics, like computers, cameras, and MP3 players don't require a transformer. Basically, if your plug is more than just a straight line between the appliance and the wall, and there's some sort of 'box' or 'square' that adds seemingly needless weight to the cord, then it will be able to use both 220 and 110. Check your appliances individually to make sure.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. If you do choose to have additional funds available to you for vacation travel, bringing credit cards or traveler’s checks would be less risky than bringing a large amount of cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
The most convenient way to access funds from back home is to bring a debit card so you can access your checking account. Adding a relative to you checking account is something to consider so that they can take care of any banking business that might come up during service. Set up an internet banking account as well so you can check your balance when you get online.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Nor can it be taken by TEFL Volunteers during the school year, barring exceptional circumstances. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Azerbaijan do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.
Be sure to have your U.S. drivers license valid through the end of service so that it doesn't expire during service.
What should I bring as gifts for Azerbaijani friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed the majority of their pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan tries to build a tentative site visit into its training program for the sake of early orientation and another opportunity for trainees to assess their commitment to Peace Corps service. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. The most important considerations will be the Peace Corps staff’s judgment about the safety and security of the site and a good match between a community’s needs and the trainee’s skills and abilities. Most Volunteers have other PCVs at their sites. If not, they live in towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital. For the first four months as a Volunteer, you will live with a host family, although you may elect to live with a different host family for the last two months of this period with the approval of the Peace Corps.
Volunteers are everywhere but Baku. Some PCVs end up in small villages and others end up in larger cities, like Ganja, Sheki, or Mingechiver. PC Staff doesn't have a great track record of putting trainees in the cities of their choice, so it's better not to become attached to one specific place when they are assigning permanent sites.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2423.
Can I call home?
International telephone service is available in most cities, but it can be expensive—as much as $2 per minute by cellphone and $6 per minute by land line for a call to the United States. The land line system is often overwhelmed, however, and disruptions in service are frequent. Having friends and family call you is considerably more cost-effective. Volunteers also can send relatively inexpensive text messages internationally.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me? Most American cellular phones are wired to operate exclusively in the United States. Cellular systems in Azerbaijan, which cover virtually the entire country, are GSM compatible and work on different frequencies than American phones. If you do own a phone that will work internationally, be sure to get in unlocked before you leave. Your service provider should be able to do this for you. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan will provide you with some money to buy cellphone once you get here. You will be responsible for paying for the costs of your calls from your living allowance.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
A growing number of Internet cafés or other businesses in the capital and in some of the larger cities offer Internet access, but internet cafes are generally only for male volunteers. Because of the weak telephone and electrical infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers in rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before departing for overseas service, many prospective Volunteers sign up for free e-mail accounts that they can access worldwide, such as gmail.
Many Volunteers bring laptop computers and find them useful for work and relaxation. If you bring a laptop computer, you will be responsible for insuring and maintaining it. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance. Because of the high value of laptops, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. You probably will not find the same level of technical assistance and service in Azerbaijan as you would at home, and replacement parts may take months to arrive. If you bring a laptop, be sure to bring a high-quality surge protector—electrical lapses and surges are common.
If you have a laptop, almost every volunteer would recommend you bring it. It's good for work, movies, games, music, and internet. Several PCVs have a phone connection at their homes or work so they can use dial up pretty frequently.
Some PCVs have used money from America to purchase a phone line to their house to be able to use the internet. A sum of money is given for discretionary spending when PCVs move to site, and modems and data cards are relatively inexpensive. Monthly discretionary funds are given and are suggested, in part, to be put toward internet so PCVs can file their program reports.