FAQs about Peace Corps in Kiribati
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Kiribati?
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 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.
As you get closer to Kiribati, you may encounter a more restrictive baggage allowance by airlines. When you pack, try to put all things of value and everything you will need for the first week in one bag because there is a chance that not all of your checked baggage will arrive on your flight with you.
Air Pacific, the airline you are likely to fly into Kiribati, has begun to more strictly enforce its limit on carry-on items. You are allowed one carry-on item weighing not more than five kilograms. If you have more than one carry-on item, you can probably check it and pay any excess baggage charge. Bring enough cash (or a credit card) to pay the charge, and the Peace Corps will reimburse you later up to the approved amount. Please carry all valuables on your person as luggage has been vandalized in Fiji and Tarawa airports.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radio receivers 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 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.
What is the electric current in Kiribati?
The electric current on the main island of Tarawa is 240 volts. The outer islands do not have electricity, except for occasional generators (also 240 volts). There are also some solar-powered lighting systems on the islands, which some Volunteers have been able to connect to. Most Volunteers do not have electricity.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that suits your own travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two annual leave (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. 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 or travel assistance.
Volunteers in the education project have additional vacation restrictions based on school terms. No one is permitted to take vacation during Peace Corps/Kiribati’s conference dates.
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, such insurance can be purchased 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. Additional information about insurance can be obtained by calling the company directly.
You should not ship or take valuable items overseas, unless you are willing to take the risk of losing them. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage. Moreover, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available in Kiribati.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
You don’t need an international driver’s license in Kiribati because Volunteers are not allowed to drive motor vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus. Outer island travel is by truck, bicycle, or foot. Driving an automobile, and driving or riding as a passenger on a motorbike in Kiribati are grounds for administrative separation from the Peace Corps.
However, it may be useful to have an international driver’s license when you are on vacation in another country.
What should I bring as gifts for Kiribati friends and my host family?
At the end of training, you will be expected to give a few gifts to your host family. 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; toys for children (all Kiribati families have children around); cards; balloons; bubble gum; stickers; perfume or cologne; cassette tapes; good can openers; tools or pocket knives; nail polish; T-shirts; and or photos to give away. Families in Kiribati have many members. You will probably need a variety of gifts. You could always make them more personal by creating them yourself. Appropriate gift items are also available in the stores in South Tarawa.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Most trainees will be assigned to one of the outer islands of Kiribati, where they will work in the schools or in communities. Assignments are made by the Peace Corps staff based on requests from the government ministries. All sites are visited and surveyed for safety and security, community cooperation, and other factors before a Volunteer is assigned.
There are 16 possible islands of assignment. Each island typically has one to four Volunteers assigned to it, though not all islands will have Volunteers at any given time. Except for South Tarawa, all the islands are isolated and offer a simplified way of life not seen in the developed world. In all cases, you will be connected to Tarawa by one, two, or three Air Kiribati flights each week, weekly mail delivery, and radiotelephone from the national telecom service. There are also
high-frequency police and health clinic radios that Volunteers can use in an emergency, as well as private CB radios. A few islands have direct telephone service and others are being added. Volunteers on the most isolated islands may be issued a satellite phone for official communication. Boats carry cargo and passengers to all the islands, but on irregular schedules. All forms of transport and communications in Kiribati are subject to technical difficulties, delays, and cancellation.
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 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 Kiribati?
You can call home from Kiribati, but only if you are in Tarawa or on one of the few outer islands that has a telephone. There is no way of calling home “collect” from Kiribati. You can buy calling cards here, but overseas calls are expensive. There is one phone in the Volunteer transit house that your family can call, although you cannot call out. We recommend that families look into a good international calling plan before receiving that first bill. In a serious family emergency, the country director will authorize a Volunteer to contact his or her family by any available means.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. Cellular phones from the United States do not work in Kiribati. There is a local cellphone network that works only on South Tarawa, and only with phones that are programmed by the local phone company. Some satellite phones may work in Kiribati, but they are very expensive, are difficult to maintain, and may not be used except with special authorization.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Peace Corps/Kiribati maintains two computers with Internet access for Volunteers in the information resource center in the Peace Corps office. These computers are for official use, but limited personal use is allowed. Trainees may not use these computers until they have been sworn-in as Volunteers. Unless your assignment is in South Tarawa, bringing your own computer is not recommended because of the lack of electricity and the moist, salty air on the outer islands.