FAQs about Peace Corps in Madagascar
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Madagascar?
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.If you do then you will most possibly catch on fire!! This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in Madagascar?
It is roughly 230 volts (it ranges from 190 to 260 volts), 50 cycles. Fewer than half the Volunteers have electricity at work or at home. Batteries are available locally (though they may be of poor quality), and “D” cells are more easily found than “C” cells.
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. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. Visa, in particular, is accepted by a few tour operators. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
In order to facilitate payments to you in U.S. dollars near the end of your service, post will need your U.S. banking information to facilitate direct deposits. We will need: The name of your bank, address of your bank, account number, and ACH routing number, and whether the account is checking or savings. Most of this information is on a deposit slip or a voided check. Please bring this information with you.
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. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training, but we suggest that you wait six months before having visitors because you will be more integrated into your site. Extended stays by visitors 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 or sentimental items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, humidity and water damage, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Madagascar do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of motorized vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. You might want an international license for vacationing outside of Madagascar, but bear in mind that most are valid for only one year.
What should I bring as gifts for Malagasy 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 an extensive interview process with staff. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical skills and interests and medical needs prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with ministry counterparts. If feasible, you will have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages and will usually be several hours from the nearest Volunteer.
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.
Can I call home from Madagascar?
Yes, but generally only from larger towns. Calls from Madagascar to the United States are quite expensive. We recommend letter writing and setting up calls from home for special occasions. International phone cards do not work in Madagascar.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. The systems in Madagascar are different from those used in the United States, the costs for service are very high, and the coverage area is limited. Key Peace Corps staff carry cellular phones to ensure that they can be reached at all times in case of an emergency, and some Volunteers purchase cellphones locally for the occasional access they provide.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There is sporadic Internet access in many of the major cities. While some Volunteers consider Madagascar fairly hi-tech, they have come to accept a different standard. Although many of the larger cities are “wired,” this does not mean that an Internet connection will work on any given day. It is better to rely on “snail mail” and be happily surprised if you happen to get lucky with e-mail. As for bringing a personal computer, it is hard to know ahead of time if you will ever be able to use it. It is more likely that you will be worried about its being lost, stolen, or “fried” by an unstable electrical system. In other words, bringing a computer really is not worth the risk.