Packing list for Nicaragua
This list has been compiled and revised by Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving in Nicaragua and is based on their experience. Use this information as a guide for packing, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. Obviously, you cannot bring everything mentioned here, so please consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, remember that there are weight limitations depending on the airline and the amount of luggage that Peace Corps will cover (80 lbs). You can buy a lot of what you need in Nicaragua, but some items are either difficult to come across in rural areas and some things are expensive (comparatively to the States and in relation to Volunteer salary).
FYI: Many great brands offer discounts for Peace Corps Volunteers (Eagle Creek, Timbuk2, ExOfficio, Keen, Chaco, Teva). Make sure to ask if a discount applies when you are buying new items. You may have to provide a copy of your acceptance letter.
General Clothing Items:
Keep in mind: Clothing stores are accessible in Nicaragua and many Volunteers buy used U.S. clothing in thrift shops. Personal items, such as underwear, tend to be more difficult to find. Clothes are generally washed with cold water on a concrete washboard and are hung to dry. Cottons and linens are breathable, which is good for the hot weather, but stretch and wear out quickly; also consider bringing some clothes made of fabrics that tend to hold their shape better and last longer (i.e. nylon, spandex, and polyester blends). Some Volunteers found that purchasing a lot of REI-type camping clothing was unnecessary and made them stand out because the local people do not wear similar attire, but that buying a good pair of shoes was well worth the investment.
• Two pairs dress pants • Two to four pairs of casual pants (including jeans which in Nicaragua can be worn in the professional setting as well) • Two to three dresses and/or skirts for women (cultural norms generally do not stipulate long-length skirts, shorter lengths are permissible) • Two or three long-sleeved shirts or blouses • Several short-sleeved shirts or blouses (polos are recommended by male Volunteers) • Several T-shirts and tank tops for casual wear • Lightweight jacket or cotton sweater for breezy days • Fleece sweatshirt or insulated jacket (for mountainous, cooler areas) • One nice outfit for special occasions, especially the Swearing-In Ceremony (sport coat or dress shirt and tie for men, nice dress or skirt for women) • Rain gear: lightweight raincoat (with hood), poncho, and/or durable umbrella • Swimsuit • Three to four pairs of shorts/capris • Exercise wear (e.g., sports bras [hard to find locally] and bicycle shorts) as some larger cities have gyms or aerobic classes • Good supply of socks (those with a cotton-polyester blend last longer and dry quicker) • A three to four week supply of underwear (cotton is best) • 3-4 good bras for women Volunteers (items of comparable quality to U.S. brands can be expensive) • Sleepwear • Lightweight robe • Belt • Hat or cap for sun protection
- Current Volunteers have also suggested making sure to include casual evening clothes as there are opportunities to go out in most cities.
• One or two pairs of shoes for professional wear (nicer sandals or comfortable closed-toed shoes that you would be able to walk long distances in if needed) • One pair of tennis or running shoes • One to two pair of sandals for casual wear (includes Chacos, Tevas, Keens, etc.) • Flip-flops or other shoes for the shower (also available locally)
- Hiking boots are suggested if you are a serious hiker and plan to do some intense excursions, but many Volunteers have found that the extra bulk of boots is a burden and that they are not necessary for most outdoor activities.
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items:
• Small (travel size) supply of toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap (and dish), sunscreen, etc. to use upon first arrival and to refill for short trips that you might take. You will be able to find these items, even American brand names, readily available and affordable. • Any makeup that you might want to use (small availability in country and expensive) • Contact solution (if you choose to wear contact lenses, solution is not provided by Peace Corps and difficult to find) • A three- to six month supply of tampons (the local selection is limited and more expensive than in the United States; many female volunteers have tampons sent to them in packages from home; pads are readily available in country) OR as an alternative to tampons, some female Volunteers suggest investing in a Diva Cup or Keeper • Any special products that you use (i.e. special brand of deodorant, hair products, face wash, razor blades etc.)
- The Peace Corps Nicaragua Medical Office provides your medication, but also sunscreen, insect repellent, vitamins, Band-Aids, condoms, and you can replace most of what is provided for you in the medical kit you will receive once in country. Do not over pack on these items.
• Special spices/seasoning that you enjoy using at home and are difficult to find in Nicaragua (taco seasoning, garlic pepper, lemon pepper, and Italian seasoning to name a few) • Recipes • Mess kit (useful when cooking on your own before buying a whole dishware/cookware set) • Tupperware/Gladware plastic containers • Measuring cups/spoons (difficult to find)
All electronics are very expensive in Nicaragua. Volunteers suggest bringing these from home. You might want to consider getting personal property insurance if your electronics are especially valuable.
• Laptop or netbook (Internet access is available throughout Nicaragua and Volunteers find personal laptops helpful in writing work reports, other work related letters/grants/budget proposals, and for communication purposes) • Portable DVD player • Digital camera • USB, thumb/flash drive • iPod, MP3 player, or small radio • Speakers • Surge protector
- Most Volunteers purchase inexpensive cell phones after several weeks in country (the system is set up to “pay-as-you-go” and you are able to make calls to the U.S. as well as in country)
• Inexpensive battery-powered watch and/or travel alarm clock • A set of sheets (double-size flat sheets will fit any bed) • Two lightweight bath towels and washcloths (quick-dry towels can be found at most outdoor gear stores and are recommended by many Volunteers) • Swiss Army knife and/or utility tool • Sewing kit • Ziplock bags (for keeping things dry and/or free of dust) • Bandanas or handkerchiefs • Earplugs (also very difficult to find in country) • Posters for decorating your home (and mounting material i.e. tacks) • 1-2 pairs of sunglasses • Large duffel bag or hiking backpack for traveling • Tote bag or daypack for traveling to school or around town • Gardening gloves and tools • Sturdy water bottle • Workout materials (such as a jump rope or resistance bands) • Headlamp and/or good flashlight • Extra batteries • Pictures of family and friends to share with members of your community (they also come in handy when you are trying to practice your Spanish and talk about home) • Small amount of school supplies (markers, glue, scissors, stickers, etc.) to use in schools and with youth and community groups • Games (cards, travel board games, an American football, frisbee, etc.) • Resource book (for teachers)
- The Peace Corps Office has a fully stocked library full of many resource books as well as novels and other reading material. Instead of packing a lot books initially (which can be heavy and bulky), consider bringing one or two and then having more sent to you or using/trading those in the PC Office.