FAQs about Peace Corps in Bulgaria
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Bulgaria?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. 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 Peace Corps’ 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 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. Please make sure you are aware of the current security restrictions both on what items you can pack in your luggage and what you can carry-on with you at the time of your travel, as these regulations have been in a state of flux. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/ prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.
We also recommend that whatever luggage you choose to bring should be easily transportable. Often Volunteers travel alone and are forced to make frequent bus changes, walk between different stations within a given city, or use public transit. Any baggage that is too bulky or ill-suited to being carried by hand could cause a traveling Volunteer problems. Many Volunteers find the best option is to purchase large travelers’ or hiker’s backpacks.
What is the electric current in Bulgaria?
It is AC 220 volts (V), 60 hertz. Plugs are the standard rounded European two-pronged type. Current converters and plug adapters are available in most U.S. stores specializing in travel or electronics. Adapters are typically available in the larger Bulgarian cities, but may not always be easy to locate. Many devices, especially equipment like laptops or iPod chargers with their own AC adapters, can accept 220 V Bulgarian current in addition to U.S. 110 V and only need a plug adapter. Many devices have text written on them stating whether they are able to work on both 220 and 110 V.
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. Credit cards, debit cards, and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. It is very difficult, however, to cash a traveler’s check in Bulgaria, so do not plan to use one within Bulgaria. If you bring an ATM or debit card to withdraw cash, you may want to confirm with your U.S. bank that your card will work in Bulgaria, as some financial institutions block the use of cards from countries known to have problems with financial fraud. More and more businesses in the larger cities in Bulgaria have started to accept credit cards, but this is very recent. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
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, so please plan accordingly.
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 such 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 Bulgaria do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses, trains, and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Bulgarian 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. In particular, gifts that represent your unique cultural community within America are often appreciated by Bulgarians and provide the opportunity to teach that not all Americans are alike. Alternatively, a standard Bulgarian gift is a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or a box of chocolates—all of which can be purchased here in Bulgaria.
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 the middle of pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to understand each trainee’s specific skills and strengths, and to use this information to assist in matching Volunteers and sites. You may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including type of town or village, local needs, basis of the local economy, type of school, and geographical location. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and it is integral to your success as a Peace Corps Volunteer that you are flexible and are up for a large variety of diverse site placements and situations. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages, where the need is the greatest, and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer by public transportation.
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, 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 non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.
Can I call home from Bulgaria?
International phone service to and from Bulgaria is reasonably good in the cities. Internet clubs can be found in most large towns and often provide cheap, international calls. Calling cards can be used from some telephones; check with an international long-distance company to see if it provides services in Bulgaria. You may not have quick or easy access to a telephone, particularly during your pre-service training, and as a result, may not be able to receive calls from home at your site. Advise family and friends that it could be several weeks after your arrival in Bulgaria before you have the time or opportunity to call home.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Internet and e-mail access is becoming more available, and Internet cafes can be found in most major cities and towns. Many small villages, however, do not have Internet access. Many Volunteers choose to bring laptops with them, and are happy that they have them, but many other Volunteers do fine without them. If you bring a computer, you should purchase personal property insurance for the computer and other valuables before you leave; it is not that expensive and well worth the price. The Peace Corps does not provide this coverage.