FAQs about Peace Corps in Senegal
- 1 How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Senegal?
- 2 What is the electric current in Senegal?
- 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 Senegalese 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 Senegal?
- 11 Should I bring a cell phone with me?
- 12 Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my laptop?
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Senegal?
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 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 Senegal?
It is 220 volts, 50 cycles.
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 traveler’s checks are preferable to cash, but cannot be used in all locations. 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?
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. An extended stay of over two weeks at your site is strongly discouraged and requires advance permission from your Peace Corps supervisor and the approval of the country director.
The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, travel, or medical assistance. We strongly suggest that visitors consider obtaining insurance with emergency evacuation coverage from a company such as international SOS Assistance Inc. (PO Box 11568, Philadelphia, PA 19116; 800.523.8930 or 215.244.1500).
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage or reimbursement for the loss or theft of personal effects;
Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase such 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 are cautioned not to ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, expensive watches, radios, cameras, and computers are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and satisfactory maintenance and repair services are for the most part not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Senegal do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating pri-vately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Senegalese 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 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, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many other factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 12-to-16-hour drive 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 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 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; select option 2, then extension 2317 or 2318.
Can I call home from Senegal?
Yes. International calls to most countries can be dialed directly. To call the United States, first dial “00” and wait for a continuous tone (different from the regular tone). Then dial “1” plus the area code and the number. If you prefer to call through an operator, dial “16.” Calls can be made at businesses known as telecenters and at cabines téléphoniques (phone booths). At a telecenter, a clerk will present you with a bill after you have completed the call. At a cabine téléphonique, you will deposit coins during the course of the call.
Should I bring a cell phone with me?
Cellular phones are widely used in Senegal and function in most (but not all) parts of the country. Volunteers are allowed to purchase their own cellphones but are advised to purchase them in Senegal after ensuring that cellphones will work at their sites. If you have an existing phone that uses the GSM standard (for example T-Mobile), your phone should work in Senegal with a simple switching of the SIM card and having it unlocked if it is a locked phone. This can be done at many locations in Dakar. Note that the cost of cellphones and service is the personal responsibility of the Volunteer.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my laptop?
There is e-mail and Internet access at the many Internet cafes that have sprung up in Senegal, particularly in regional capitals. The cost varies from the equivalent of around $.40 an hour to $1.00 an hour. Many Volunteers do not have electricity in their homes, and security and maintenance of personal computers cannot be guaranteed by Peace Corps. Nevertheless, more and more volunteers are bringing laptops, especially netbooks, and finding them a valuable resource. Having a netbook in your community can facilitate grant-writing, information sharing and reporting duties. It also helps in IT training which is becoming an important part of many Volunteer's services across many sectors. If you do decide to bring a computer, it is imperative that you purchase personal property insurance because the Peace Corps does not reimburse trainees or Volunteers for the loss of personal items.