FAQs about Peace Corps in Rwanda

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FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks

How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Rwanda?

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. 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 Rwanda?

The local current is 220 volts/50Hz. Small electrical appliances can generally be used with transformers. Some Volunteers’ houses have electricity. We suggest that you bring a converter. Electric clocks will not keep time because of different cycles. There are power surges and fluctuations, as well as outages, which take a toll on equipment.

In general, do not bring electrical appliances. If you are one of the few Peace Corps Volunteers to have electricity, appliances for 220 voltage are available in-country, but are very expensive. If not, a solar battery recharger may be useful.

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 are preferable to cash. Visa and Mastercard are currently the most widely accepted credit cards, though some also accept American Express. Traveler’s checks are rarely accepted and, when they are, the exchange rate is very poor. It is possible to withdraw money from a Visa credit card at the Banque de Kigali in Kigali for a fee. Debit cards are not accepted in Rwanda, but can be useful when traveling to other countries. Western Union does exist but it can be costly to have money wire-transferred. 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 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 preservice 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 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 by contacting your own insurance company. Volunteers are cautioned not to 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 Rwanda do not need an international driver’s license since they are prohibited from driving for safety and security reasons. They are also discouraged from driving while on authorized leave. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycle taxis, and a lot of walking. For transportation needs with your overseas visitors, rental companies can provide drivers for a fee.

What should I bring as gifts for Rwandan friends and my host family?

While 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 their 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 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, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that 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 will usually be within one hour 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; select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at the above number. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, select option 2, then extension 2319.

Can I call home from Rwanda?

Yes. Most large cities and provincial capitals have a domestic telephone system; regional centers and some large cities provide overseas telephone services. All cellphones can make international phone calls, though it can cost up to $1 per minute to call the United States. Many Volunteers find it easier to call their families and ask their families to call them back. Cellphones in Rwanda can receive international calls. Personal overseas calls cannot be made from the Peace Corps office. Volunteers must use locally available public phones or cellular phones for all personal calls.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Only if it accepts a SIM card. SIM cards are cheap and easy to find in Kigali. It is also easy and relatively cheap to buy a cellphone in Rwanda.

Will there be email and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

There are now cybercafés in major towns that provide Internet access, and in most towns, Internet is also available at the post office. However, Volunteers can access email in the Kigali office resource center on a time-available basis. Some Volunteers may choose to bring a laptop computer; however, access to reliable electricity cannot be guaranteed and, as with any valuable, there is the threat of theft, loss or damage.

See also: Rwanda