FAQs about Peace Corps in Uganda

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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 am I allowed to bring to Uganda?

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.

Please note that many items available in the US can also be purchased in Uganda but at a higher price.

What is the electric current in Uganda?

It is roughly 220 volts, 50 cycles. When the electricity is on (currently this is only every other day), it can range from 190 to 260 volts. Few Volunteers have electricity at home or at work. Batteries are available in Uganda, but C batteries may be hard to find, and AA batteries are very expensive and of poor quality.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Because credit card fraud is common, traveler’s checks may be the safest option. Note, though, that the exchange rate you will receive for your traveler’s checks will likely be lower than for cash and they may be harder to exchange than dollars. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. Due largely to rumors regarding counterfeit currency, it can be nearly impossible to exchange bills smaller than 50s, and it is best to bring more recently printed (2003 or later) bills to country.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). As Volunteers are considered to be “on-duty” 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, vacation days are charged at 7 days per week. In addition, 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. If their stay does interfere with your work, you will be required to count these days as vacation days used. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and require permission from the country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

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Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Uganda do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately-owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. If you plan to drive a rental vehicle when you take vacation, you may need an international driver’s license, so you should bring your U.S. driver’s license.

What should I bring as gifts for Ugandan 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 part of the U.S.; nice soap; 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?

Trainees are not assigned to individual 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 selections with the Ugandan government and community counterparts. You will have an opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps will not guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Volunteers normally live in small towns or in rural villages and usually are within three hours from another Volunteer. Some sites require an eight-hour drive to reach Kampala.

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. 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 the country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.

Can I call home from Uganda?

Yes, most volunteers have cell phones although cell service quality ranges. Calls from Uganda to the United States can be very expensive but has become cheaper over the years. We recommend setting up periodic calls from home on special occasions. Prepaid phone cards from the United States do not work in Uganda. Some volunteers will have access to internet via a USB dongle or smart sim card and can use the internet to communicate with friends and family at home. Other volunteers will travel to their closest internet cafe to access internet. Volunteers sending mail should expect at least 2 weeks for their letters to reach the US and at least 2-3 months (or significantly longer) to receive packages from the US.

Often volunteers are able to take advantage of deals and promotions from the local cellphone service providers that may offer lower rates to call home. For instance, Orange currently offers 45 minutes of talk time to the US for 5,000 Ugx or about $1.50. MTN offers a similar but slightly more expensive option to call the US as well.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

In general this is not recommended. The systems in Uganda are different from those typically used in the United States, the costs of service are very high, and the coverage area is limited. Most Volunteers have chosen to purchase cellphones in Uganda after finding out the extent of coverage at their sites. However, should you chose to bring a cell phone, you should make sure that the cell phone is unlocked, accepts a sim card, and can be used abroad. Smart phones can be expensive in Uganda.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

There are Internet cafes in most, although not all, larger cities throughout Uganda. Most Volunteers can expect to access such cafes once every two to three months. We do not recommend bringing a computer, as few Volunteer sites have electricity, power surges are common where there is electricity, and maintenance and repair options are very limited. Also, because of the high value of computers, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming victims of crime. If you do bring a computer, it will be at your own risk and expense.

This said, there are many volunteers with laptops in Uganda. Also, while internet cafes are rare in small towns, you can sign up for your own internet connection with most phone companies in Uganda. The fees are $30-$45 a month (this is a lot here, but can be worth it) and you will need to have an internet modem. You can buy an internet modem in Uganda, but they will be cheaper in the US. Just make sure you're getting one that is compatible. Also, the internet modems use a smart sim card. These sim cards can be inserted into smart phones for internet access.