FAQs about Peace Corps in Mongolia
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Mongolia?
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 102 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 pounds for any one bag. 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.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters, 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?
It is 220-240 volts, 50 cycles. Outlets take European-style round pin plugs and, as a general rule, are not grounded. You should consider bringing a voltage converter as well as a battery charger/adapter and several rechargeable batteries for flashlights and other battery-operated equipment. Candles are a necessity and are available locally.
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 will cover most living 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 will suit your own travel plans and needs.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. Volunteers are 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 Mongolia do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of motorized vehicles by Volunteers in Mongolia is strictly prohibited.
What should I bring as gifts for Mongolian 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. Mongolians will enjoy seeing pictures of your home and family.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two annual leave (vacation days) per month of service, excluding training. Annual leave may not be taken during training or during the first three months or last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. In addition to vacation days, Volunteers also accrue in-country leave days, which allow them time away from site to visit friends and to get to know Mongolia. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and after 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 cannot provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance. Weather conditions throughout the year make travel to and within Mongolia difficult.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training, and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites toward the end of pre-service training. This gives the 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 counterpart agencies. 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. Site assignments are based on the following factors, in order of priority: (1) the community’s request and needs, (2) the Volunteer’s skills and experience, and (3) the Volunteer’s interests and preferences.
Most Volunteers will live in aimag centers (provincial centers of 10,000 to 20,000 people) or soums (provincial villages of 1,000 to 10,000), and will generally be one to three hours from the nearest fellow Volunteer. Some sites are as far as a 10- to 30-hour drive away from the capital.
Some Volunteers choose not to drink and occasionally may have to put up with disappoval from Mongolians as a result. Some choose to drink only beer or wine, and others take just a sip or put a little on the tips of their fingers and do a ceremonial offering (you will learn more about this in training). Mongolians are usually respectful of these efforts and do not expect you to drink more. It is ultimately up to you to decide how to handle alcohol responsibly.
Are the heating systems as poor as some have said?
Yes, some are. Many Volunteers report being able to see their breath when teaching at schools. Housing may not have good heating, either. Some solutions are to wear layers, to become cozy with your Peace Corps-issued space heater, and to become a competent fire builder. Also how well you insulate your home or apartment makes a considerable difference. Many nationals are usually happy to assist you in insulating your home or apartment to get ready for the harsh winter.
Where will I eat during pre-service training?
During training you will live with a host family, who will provide your breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekdays and weekends. This can be difficult for some Volunteers because they do not have full control over what they eat. Some trainees have even offered to cook for their host family as a strategy to eat a mutton-free meal. Once you get to your site, you will have more control over your diet.
My friends and family keep telling me to pack toilet paper—is this necessary?
No. While most of the toilet paper in Mongolia is not quilted or soft, you do not need to pack any—all the toilet paper you need can be bought locally. You can even find baby wipes.
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 2416 or 2413.