FAQs about Peace Corps in Malawi
- 1 How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Malawi?
- 2 What is the electric current in Malawi?
- 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 Malawian 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 from Malawi?
- 11 Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- 12 Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Malawi?
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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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 70 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 in Malawi?
Roughly 230 volt, 50 cycles. We say “roughly” because it may range from 190 volts to 260 volts when it is on. Less than half the Volunteers have electricity at work or at home. Batteries are available; “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 to other countries. Credit cards and travelers checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal 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. 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.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be given to you, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.
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 Malawi do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking.
Volunteers sometimes drive while on annual leave during their service. For this reason, we recommend that you bring your U.S. driver’s license.
What should I bring as gifts for Malawian 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 a portion 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. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, 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, but may be within one or two hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites may be a 10- to 12-hour drive or even multiple days from the capital.
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 1.800.424.8580, 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 1.800.424.8580.
Can I call home from Malawi?
Yes, but generally only from larger towns. Calls from Malawi to the United States are very expensive. We recommend writing letters and setting up periodic calls from home on special occasions. Phone cards do not work in Malawi, and it is no longer possible to make a reverse charge (collect) call.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. The systems are different from those used in the United States. Many Volunteers buy a cellphone in Malawi. However, the costs are very high for service, and the coverage area for cellular phones is limited. Key Peace Corps staff members carry cellular phones to ensure availability at all times for emergency contact.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There are now cyber-cafés in the three major towns that provide both e-mail and Internet access. At the Peace Corps office in Lilongwe, there is e-mail and Internet access for programmatic needs (finding resources for your work). It is not recommended that you bring a computer, as few Volunteer sites have a stable electrical supply, surges are common, and maintenance and repair options are extremely limited. Also, due to the high value of a computer, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime.