FAQs about Peace Corps in Vanuatu
- 1 How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Vanuatu?
- 2 What is the electric current in Vanuatu?
- 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 Ni-Vanuatu 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 Vanuatu?
- 11 Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- 12 Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Vanuatu?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. (Check with your airline’s website for the latest information.) 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 (although you can usually get away with more) 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 (short-wave 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 Vanuatu?
Vanuatu uses 220-volt current and three-prong “Australian” plugs. Port Vila, Luganville, Lenakel, Isangel, and Norsup are the only areas with central electricity. Inexpensive converter plugs are available in Vanuatu.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same modest 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 and debit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs that accept Visa and debit cards in the downtown areas of Port Vila and Luganville. If you bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. The currency exchange rate for the Vanuatu currency, the vatu, can be found at http://finance.yahoo.com/.
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 you complete your pre-service training and have been a Volunteer for six months; guests are welcome to stay for up to 30 days. However, it is important to realize that such visits can be stressful when you are adapting to your assignment and a new lifestyle. You may want to advise visitors to wait until after you have completed your first year of service. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance; or access to computers and Internet service.
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 such insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally insurance application forms will be provided with the welcome information, but we encourage you to consider all options carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, laptop computers, 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 Vanuatu do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles and Peace Corps vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from trucks to lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. However, you do need a valid U.S. driver’s license to rent cars in other countries while on vacation, so you may want to bring one.
What should I bring as gifts for Ni-Vanuatu 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 and caps from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give to your host pre-service training family and community members.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps Ttrainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed 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 host country counterparts. 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 selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or rural villages.
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 Office of Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. In non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 1.800.424.8580.
Can I call home from Vanuatu?
Many improvements were made to Vanuatu’s telephone system in 2002. As a result, local and international calls can be placed from most, if not all, islands, as well as from Port Vila and Luganville. Therefore, you should be able to call home during training if you wish. To do so, you must first purchase a calling card, available at Vanuatu Telecom offices and in many shops. Although Vanuatu’s phone system is reliable, most of the islands rely on solar energy and storage batteries; hence, during prolonged periods of cloudy weather, telephones may temporarily go out of service. However, Peace Corps/Vanuatu has strategically placed radios and satellite phones, so temporary phone outages should not cause any major communication difficulties.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Cellular phone service is currently available only in a few urban areas. However, if you bring a cell phone from the United States, you will need to buy a SIM card (approximately $50) locally to be able to use it.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There is a reliable e-mail and Internet access at the Peace Corps office and at Internet cafes in Port Vila and Luganville. Some agencies to which Volunteers are assigned also have Internet access. A number of Volunteers bring laptops and access the Internet on their own. Be advised, however, that most Volunteers are assigned to sites that lack regular electric power. If you bring a laptop, you may want to purchase a solar panel with the appropriate adapter to recharge the laptop’s battery.