FAQs about Peace Corps in Kazakhstan

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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 Kazakhstan?

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 limitations. 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 100 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 (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. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permittedprohibited-items.shtm.

What is the electric current in Kazakhstan?

The electricity here is as in Europe—220 volts, 50 Hertz with Shuco-style plugs (two round prongs). Even if your appliance says it is 220V-compatible, you will need an adapter that allows you to plug it into an outlet for two round prongs. Adapters do not convert electricity—they only allow you to plug in an appliance with an American-style plug into the Kazakhstani two round prong electric sockets. It is possible to find converters and adapters in Almaty. There are almost no grounded outlets in Kazakhstan.

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 covers their expenses.

Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Consider bringing extra money (say $300) to buy a local coat, hat, and clothes. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are not particularly useful in Kazakhstan, since only a very limited number of establishments in Almaty and a few of the larger cities accept them; however, they can be useful on vacations outside the country. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs. Only new (offset picture) dollars in very good condition can be exchanged. It is safer to bring a debit card (ATM card) to access money directly from a U.S. bank account. Most larger towns and cities in Kazakhstan now have ATM (Bancomat) locations.

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. Education Volunteers in Kazakhstan work in schools and these schools operate on an academic schedule similar to that of the United States. Therefore, vacation time is available during winter, spring, and summer breaks. Organizational and community assistance program Volunteers may take vacation at a time that is convenient to both the Volunteer and his or her host agency. Extended stays by visitors at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your 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. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. 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. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.

Volunteers should carefully consider whether to bring 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 Kazakhstan do not need to get an international driver’s license because operation of vehicles is prohibited during service. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses, to mini-buses, to trucks, to a lot of walking.

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

Tokens of friendship are greatly appreciated, and you are likely to visit local families during your pre-service training. 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; and photos to give away. Most people would probably enjoy candy, especially chocolate, from America more than a small souvenir. Apartments and houses are small and eating candy while drinking tea and conversing is very important culturally. It is highly recommended that you bring pictures of your family, home, local area, and other points of interest to you. Sharing photos is a great ice breaker and social norm here.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are assigned to their sites after completion 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 their ministry counterparts. Many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps does not guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Approximately 70 percent of Volunteers will live in towns or rural villages while the rest live in cities. Some sites have only one Volunteer; larger cities may have up to four. Many sites are from 24 to 40 hours away from the Peace Corps office by train.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services in Washington, D.C., 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, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.

For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Kazakhstan has cellular phone services, and Peace Corps staff members are equipped with cell phones to attend to emergency calls. Because of the lack of radio transmitting stations, cellular service is not widespread in some rural areas. Differences in GSM technology make many U.S. cellphones incompatible with the Kazakhstani system, so only phones and cellular plans purchased here will function in Kazakhstan. These phones are reasonably priced, unless you go for a more impressive phone with Internet capabilities and flashy bits. To date, every single volunteer carries his or her own cell phone. The technology boom has also had its own affects on Kazakhstan; Internet cafes are growing and you'll find that most children in towns and cities enjoy their own phones with mp3 players and cameras.

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

Some Volunteers have e-mail access from their homes and can check e-mail daily. Other Volunteers must travel up to four hours to a city to visit an Internet café and therefore can only check e-mail once every couple of weeks. Many Volunteers bring laptop computers to Kazakhstan and find that having a computer makes their life easier. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have computers repaired at most sites and U.S. warranties are not honored in Kazakhstan. If you plan to bring a computer (and printer), consider purchasing property insurance, as theft of laptops has been a problem in the past.