FAQs about Peace Corps in Paraguay
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Paraguay?
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 80 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. It is a good idea to pack any prescription drugs you take in your carry-on luggage. 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 Paraguay?
The current is 220 volts—any electrical appliance of 110 volts that you bring will require a transformer.
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 bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash because the Peace Corps cannot provide safekeeping for your cash and it is not currently feasible to open a U.S. dollar bank account. 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?
Volunteers often state an interest in traveling and learning about other cultures as main reasons for wanting to join the Peace Corps. You are encouraged to use your vacation time to travel around Paraguay and other countries. Each Volunteer accumulates two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service (this totals your first six months in-country), or the last three months of service. The first few months are important for establishing good relations with your community, and in the last few months you are expected to be finishing up projects and saying goodbye. We also suggest that you plan vacations to coincide with low levels of activity at your site.
Family and friends are welcome to visit you six months after you have sworn-in for service, and as long as their stay coincides with your planned vacation time and does not interfere with your work. However, you should advise them not to purchase any nonrefundable tickets until you are able to speak with your associate Peace Corps director (APCD) about any scheduling conflicts with mandatory in-service training events. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. Consistent with the Peace Corps’ worldwide policy that prohibits nonmarried couples from serving together, Peace Corps/Paraguay does not permit a Volunteer’s “significant other” to establish permanent residence with the Volunteer during service. 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 applications 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 Paraguay 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 and minibuses to trucks and a lot of walking. On occasion, a Volunteer may choose to extend for a third year to serve as a coordinator. Volunteer coordinators will need to obtain a local driver’s license since they are permitted to drive Peace Corps vehicles. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.
What should I bring as gifts for Paraguayan friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement, but if you wish to bring something, a simple token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; picture frames, 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 their permanent sites until approximately the eighth week of 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 selection and development. You will have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, many factors influence the site assignment process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Your Volunteer assignment description will give you some idea of the kinds of sites Volunteers in your sector live in. Some of the more remote sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital, but most sites are within half that distance.
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. Although your family may be tempted to try to contact you directly, precious time may be saved in the event that you need to go home if the office is contacted first. Also, it is hard on a Volunteer to receive bad news through impersonal means such as e-mail; Peace Corps staff can provide the personal support that a Volunteer may need when the news is delivered. During normal business hours, the office’s number 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 the Paraguay desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2515, 2516, or 2525.
Can I call home from Paraguay?
Yes. As mentioned earlier, Peace Corps/Paraguay has a direct telephone line from Asunción to Washington, D.C., that is available for Volunteer use after office hours and on weekends. Calls made to the Washington area are free, but calls to all other areas are billed to Volunteers at the long-distance rate from Washington, D.C. To take full advantage of the service, you should bring a major telephone company calling card or prepaid phone card to Paraguay to bill nonfree calls made through this line. Volunteers who call home from their site (or the telephone office nearest to the site) usually place collect calls, since the telephone company, COPACO, is unpredictable about accepting calling cards and credit cards.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Do not bring a cellular phone with you, since it probably will not be compatible with the system in Paraguay. Peace Corps will provide a cell phone after training is completed and the trainee has sworn in as a volunteer. There is a monthly charge for minutes used. Text messages are either free or very cheap. Volunteers can receive calls from US or within Paraguay for free.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Many businesses and individuals in the capital and in some larger cities have Internet access, and Internet cafes are springing up even in some of the more provincial towns. Volunteers posted at rural sites, however, may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to the capital. The Peace Corps office has computers with Internet access that Volunteers can use. Before leaving the United States, many prospective Volunteers sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, that they can access worldwide.
It is strongly suggested that Volunteers not bring a laptop computer due to the threat of theft and environmental conditions. Should Volunteers decide to bring their laptop computers, they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the equipment themselves. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring computers to get personal property insurance. Because of the high value of laptops, owners may significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of theft. Be aware that you probably will not find the same level of technical assistance and service in Paraguay as you would in the States and that replacement parts could take many weeks to arrive. High humidity and dust, which are difficult to avoid, also pose problems. Also note that being able to gain Internet access via a laptop is unlikely because very few Volunteers have a telephone line in their home or adequate lines at work. If you bring a laptop, be sure to bring a high-quality surge protector (electrical lapses and surges are common), which is more expensive in Paraguay than in the United States.
How can people send items to me in Paraguay?
We do not recommend that people mail packages, money, or airline tickets to Volunteers. There are modern supermarkets and well-stocked stores in the capital that should supply you with all your needs. Customs duties may exceed the value of the items sent, and picking up a package often requires an entire day’s travel to the city. Finally, packages can mysteriously disappear in transit.
Should it become necessary to send a package, however, we recommend that it be sent through courier service only, such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, or U.S. Postal Service Express Mail. Correspondence sent via courier arrives in three to five days. Valuables, such as digital cameras, iPods, and other attention-getting items, should not be sent due to theft.
Use the following address for DHL mailings:
Cuerpo de Paz
Chaco Boreal 162, c/Mcal. Lopez
To avoid sending an airline ticket overseas, a family member can purchase the ticket in the United States, and you can pick it up at the airline’s office in Asunción, using the reference number provided by your family member.