Packing list for Fiji
This list has been compiled by Volunteers who currently serve in Fiji and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You can always have things sent to you later. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Fiji.
Avoid bringing clothing that requires dry cleaning. Also suede gets ruined here due to the high humidity.
- Long dresses with sleeves. These should be loose and well below the knees (ankle length is best). Latest casual fashions are fine. One or two “nicer” dresses are good to have for swearing-in ceremonies and other important occasions, such as weddings and attending church services. You really only need one of these to wear to church. Any other time, Fijians never wear dresses or skirts to their ankles. Just below the knee is fine.
- Black dress and/or skirt. In the unfortunate event that there is a funeral in your community, you will need to have a properly conservative long black skirt or dress.You will go to at least one funeral so definately bring a black dress or skirt. The dress doesn't have to be ankle length because you can buy a black sulu to wear underneath it.
- Long, loose skirts. These should below the knees and full enough for you to be able to sit on the floor with your legs to the side and your knees covered. These are what Fijian women wear everyday they're in town and some wear them in the village too, so bring plenty.
- Tops and shirts. At least one or two long-sleeved tops to wear when you’ve had enough sun. Also, plenty of loose-fitting, comfortable, short-sleeved cotton shirts. Tight-fitting and/or low-cut shirts or sleeveless tank tops are not appropriate. Loose tailored T-shirts are fine (check Eddie Bauer, Lands End, L.L. Bean, etc.). You may also want to consider one or two sleeveless tops for when you are traveling (on vacation/at resorts). If you can afford them, bring a few REI/Patagonia style fancy "quick-dry" whatever tee-shirts because cotton takes a long time to dry in humid Fiji and your cotton shirts will quickly get holes and become worn from all the hand washing. The REI shirts last forever and dry well in Fiji.
- Blouses. Depending upon your site and your assignment, you may find yourself dressing more formally/professionally than you are used to at home. Bring a few nice, lightweight tailored blouses. Short sleeves are best for the hotter weather. Italic text
- Jacket and sweatshirt. It does (occasionally) get cool here, so bring something that is sturdy and cotton. Long-sleeved T-shirts work well, too. You will not need anything like fleece unless you are planning to travel to a colder area during your stay. Italic text
- Undergarments. There is only one kind to consider: cotton. Bring as many as you will need for your full two years as they are very expensive to replace here and they tend to wear out with repeated scrubbing. You may need to wear a slip with your lightweight dresses and skirts. On hot days, cotton slips will be more comfortable than nylon. Some Volunteers wear non-see-through medium-weight cotton skirts to avoid the double layers that slips produce. Leave your panty-hose and stockings at home as women do not wear them here (they are too hot in this climate).
- Jeans and long pants. Usually they will not be appropriate to wear at your site and in general are just too heavy to wear in the heat anyway. Pants and jeans are acceptable for home wear and some urban activities, but almost never in a village or settlement. Bring a couple along for travel and/or visits to Suva. Lightweight cottons and capris-type pants are most appropriate.
- Shorts. One or two pair(s) of long, knee-length shorts are advisable. Though they cannot be worn in the villages in public, they can be worn at the beach or for playing sports. Some women also wear shorts under their sulus, so consider a pair or two for this purpose. Nylon running shorts or tight biking shorts are not acceptable. For exercising outdoors, longer running shorts or capris-length shorts are acceptable.
- You will want to go to Suva (the capital) occasionally and go out to dinner and go dancing and whatnot. So bring the same clothes you wear in the US when you want to dress up a little and look nice (jeans, spaghetti straps, short dresses, etc.). The Fijians do it too, it's fine.
- Slacks and long pants. Permanent press cotton-poly blends are a good bet and always acceptable in professional situations and at your site. Medium-weight, drab colors will last and hide stains and can usually go a bit longer between washings. Blue jeans are not acceptable in professional situations and are usually too heavy to wear anyway, but are fine to wear around the house and in some urban activities.
- Shirts. Permanent press, collared, button-down cotton shirts are suggested for work. Long sleeves rolled up for comfort are perfectly acceptable, but short sleeves are cooler and more commonly worn. Golf shirts are fine to wear to work. T-shirts and rugby shirts are for recreation only. One or two dressier shirts are needed for special occasions or church.
- Shorts. These are usually worn only in casual, non-jobrelated activities and in some rural-based assignments (e.g., fisheries). Cut-offs and gym shorts are for recreation only. Otherwise, stick to packing permanent press, medium-weight, drab-colored cotton shorts that come just to or below mid-thigh.
- Jacket, sweater, sweatshirt. It’s not always warm in the tropics, so you will find it handy to have an extra layer to wear. Washable cotton is suggested. It is not necessary to bring a sports jacket, but there are events when it will be nice to have one (swearing-in ceremonies, local celebrations, etc.). A tie with a short-sleeved dress shirt is also acceptable without a jacket for dressier occasions.
Undergarments. Bring a good number of cotton briefs. Underclothes are very expensive in Fiji and wear out quickly due to hand-scrubbing and humidity. Cotton boxer shorts are not available here.
- Swimsuits. Local men just wear their walking shorts for swimming. Trunk styles are more acceptable than bikini Speedo styles.
- Neckties. One will come in handy for special occasions and for church. Most men do not wear ties to work as they are too hot.
- Socks. Cotton socks are expensive and hard to find here; however, you probably won’t need more than a few pair.
Shoes and Accessories
- Athletic shoes. Fiji offers many different sporting activities, especially walking. If you plan to do a lot of running, hiking, or playing squash, bring the appropriate shoes for it. Brand-name shoes are often available, but expensive and styles are limited. Be aware that expensive athletic shoes are among the items most often stolen from Volunteers. Leather hiking shoes are usually too hot and mold before you get much use out of them. I've been in Fiji for almost a year and I've worn my sneakers once. I live in flip-flops.
- Sandals/walking shoes. A good sturdy, waterproof style (like Teva or Chaco) that can be worn both in the water and out are a good investment; you will find yourself living in them. You may also want to bring along a “nice” pair of sandals for more formal occasions (swearing-in, celebrations, etc.)Fijians don't wear nice sandals even on nice occasions. Flip-flops are always appropriate. Plastic flip-flops are widely available here and are great for showers. You will probably not need dress shoes, heels, rain boots or the like.
- Sunglasses. The sun in the tropics is very strong, so be kind to your eyes. If you wear prescription glasses, you may want to invest in a pair of prescription sunglasses. Cheap, non-polarized sunglasses are available in urban areas; duty-free shops carry quality brands, but be ready to pay a premium for them.
- Hats. Hats are taboo in the villages, but there will be plenty of times when you are away from the village when you will be glad for some protection from the sun. A collapsible, washable type that is easily packed is best. Note: never wear a hat inside a building or house.
- Waterproof windbreaker. A lightweight, waterproof jacket is a good thing to have. Make sure it isn’t too heavy and that it’s breathable. You will not need a full raincoat, as a cool, afternoon shower will be a welcome change from the heat! Plastic raincoats tend to be cumbersome and very hot in this weather.
- Umbrella. It rains a lot here! Inexpensive folding umbrellas are available, but tend to be poorly made. Consider bringing one from home (Eddie Bauer makes a great travel umbrella that is well-made and very small). Better quality, full-size umbrellas are available everywhere. Definitely bring a travel-sized, rust-proof umbrella from home. You will use it all the time.
- Waterproof watch. Even if you don’t get the watch wet, if it isn’t waterproof, it will rust from the humidity. Watches can be purchased here at reasonable costs.
- Personal hygiene and toiletry items. Just about anything you need can be purchased here; however, imported items often cost roughly the same as they would in the U.S. If you have a favorite brand or product, you might consider bringing a supply with you. If you are on any special medication, bring a three-month supply with you as it may take that long for a replacement to be ordered from the U.S. Anyone with glasses, hearing aid, etc. should bring at least one replacement. In most cases, the Peace Corps will not replace lost or damaged contact lenses nor more than one pair of eyeglasses.After you swear-in (at the end of training) the peace corps doctors provide you with any kind of medication you can think of, including sunscreen, face-wash, lotion, bug-spray, pain killers, baby powder, etc. So don't bring too much of this kind of stuff, just a little to get you through training. Oh wait. They did give us sunscreen and bug-spray during training so don't bring any of that.
Kitchen and Home
- Clock. Bring a small one with an alarm, either wind-up or battery-powered.
- Good, sharp kitchen knife. Needs no explanation and will make your hours in the kitchen much fewer and less painful! Remember to pack this in your luggage and not in your carry-on bag. For sure bring this
- Battery-operated (or solar-powered) tape recorder, radio cassette/CD player and/or shortwave radio. Also bring along some of your favorite music as pre-recorded tapes and CDs are very expensive here. You will be very happy if you bring your iPod and portable speakers (battery powered in case you don't have electricity).
- Portable tool kit. Screwdriver, pliers, etc. can be bought here, but you may want to bring a small portable kit anyway. Kind of a good idea, but if you don't already have it, don't go buy one just for Fiji.
- Towels. Two towels and face cloths. Lightweight towels dry faster in the humidity.
- Flashlight. Also known as a “torch” here in Fiji, these come in very handy. Consider a waterproof flashlight. Mini-Mag-lights are great, too.
- Pocket knife or all-purpose tool. A Swiss Army knife or Leatherman is something you will find yourself using daily.
- Duct Tape. A roll or two will come in handy throughout your two years.
- Luggage locks. A few small locks for your bags when they are in storage. Note: Most airlines are discouraging their use in flight, so you may want to just pack them in your suitcase rather than actually using them on your trip over. Italic text
- Plastic drip coffeemaker. Bring it if you really love coffee. The non-electrical kind that fits on top of a glass decanter or the type that you can brew an individual cup is best. Instant coffee is available all over Fiji and drip coffee can be found in Suva, if you’re willing to pay the price.
- Silica gel. This is to protect your electronics (camera, etc.) from moisture damage. It also comes in handy with leather items, tapes, shoes, your medical kit, etc. You can get packets at your local craft store (used to dry flowers), at some discount chains (Target), some home stores and on the Internet. The kind that you can bake and re-use is best. Yes, bring this if you love your iPod.
- Basic cookbook. The Joy of Cooking comes in a compact paperback version and is very useful. You will get Peace Corps Fiji cookbook with all the info you need for cooking in Fiji, so you don't need to bring your own.
- Vegetable steamer. Non-electric, basket kind that fits inside a pot. I guess if you really like steamed vegetables.
- Zip-loc bags. These have so many uses! They keep the bugs out of your food; they can be used to store items (with a little silica packet to capture the moisture), for travel, wet clothing, cosmetics, etc.
Miscellaneous and Personal Items
Bring along small, but replaceable, parts of your life you don’t want to live without for the next two years. Make sure they are light enough to carry, sturdy enough to last and dispensable enough so that losing them wouldn’t be serious problem. Here are some suggestions:
- Checks. It’s a good idea to keep a checking account at home so that you can write checks for things like tax returns, magazine subscriptions, graduate school applications, etc.
- Camera supplies. Film is available, but lens tissue, cleaning fluid, etc. are very expensive. There is also a one-day developing service, but expensive as you might expect.
- Paperback books. Very expensive in Fiji. Peace Corps is developing a limited lending library and there is a public library in Suva. Books can be shipped surface mail or “M-bag” (ask the post office for information), but will take several months to arrive. Bring as many as possible, you'll love yourself if you do.
- Day pack/backpack. Waterproof is best. You will use it often. Yes.
- Games, Cards, UNO, Scrabble, Frisbees, etc.
- Sturdy luggage/travel bags. Waterproof and collapsible.
Hard luggage tends to be cumbersome here as you will not have much room for storage. Collapsible cloth bags or backpacks tend to be more durable than leather goods, which can mold quickly. Once you are in Fiji, you will be asked to travel during training for extended periods of time with only your necessities in one suitcase, so bring one average-sized lightweight piece of luggage so that you can travel light when necessary. You might consider a few waterproof bags—also known as sea bags—for when you travel by boat. You don't big sea bags, just small ones to fit your wallet, cell phone, ipod, etc. for when your traveling by boat.
- Inflatable globe or lightweight atlas. Great for explaining where you come from to local children. Adults too.
- Musical instrument(s) (if you play any).
- Photos of home. Photos of winter/snow scenes will be especially fascinating. Fijians love to see photos of your family from America.
- Simple song book of American songs. If you don't know any American songs...
- American pocket dictionary (British versions available here). Why would you want this?
- Backpacker’s sleeping bag. You will not need a full-size sleeping bag, but a “dream sack,” cotton “mummy” sleeping bag liner or other lightweight travel sheet will come in handy. Completely unnecessary.
- Surface mail subscriptions of your favorite magazines. Takes about six to eight weeks to arrive. Wait until you get your site assignment, then have your subscriptions sent there. You'll definitely enjoy getting magazines in your mailbox. Some good ones are Time, the Economist, and National Geographic.
- Cheap baseball logo hats for gifts.
- U.S. symbols (such as pins, flags, etc.) for gifts. Bottle openers, nail clippers, bumper stickers, ashtrays, ballpoint pens, etc. It's a good idea to bring gifts for you host family during training. After that, you don't need any gifts for anybody.
- Comic books, cheap wind-up toys, posters, magazines, logo T-shirts for gifts.
- Water sport equipment. If you plan on SCUBA diving or snorkeling during your downtime you might consider bringing some gear—especially light-gauge wetsuits or dive skins to protect you from water lice. Snorkeling equipment might also be very handy for environmental education Volunteers. We do not recommend that you bring a SCUBA tank, regulator or buoyancy compensating device, as they can be rented and/or supplied by our partners for professional use. Definitely bring a mask, snorkel, and fins. Nobody goes SCUBA diving as part of their assignment, and when you go diving on your own, the equipment is always included.
- U.S. postage stamps. A good idea for sending mail home with staff or other Volunteers who are going to the States.
- Bring a can-opener from America cause the ones here suck.
- If you're addicted to chewing gum, the gum here is kinda lame too so bring your own. But only bring the kind that you pop out of the plastic thing cause all other kinds melt.
- Hand sanitizer if you're into that.
- Women: Battery-operated body massager...trust me.
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