Packing list for Kazakhstan

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(New page: This section of the Welcome Book has been thoroughly debated among Volunteers in Kazakhstan. Previous versions written by Volunteers have been described as “misleading and useless” by...)

Revision as of 23:56, 8 April 2008

This section of the Welcome Book has been thoroughly debated among Volunteers in Kazakhstan. Previous versions written by Volunteers have been described as “misleading and useless” by other Volunteers. There is no perfect list! Having received input from a number of current Volunteers, it is safe to say that everyone agrees that you can buy everything that you need in Kazakhstan and that bringing less is actually better. With that caveat, this section contains several lists of the “basics” and the most common recommendations from Volunteers.

Remember you have a 100-pound baggage weight restriction and that Kazakhstanis have been living here for centuries without imports!

During training, you will primarily need “business casual” attire, though there are occasions (such as the swearing-in ceremony) when more formal attire is appropriate (jackets for men, dresses/skirts for women).



Your luggage should be durable, lightweight, and easy to carry. Duffel bags and backpacks without frames are best. When choosing luggage, remember you will be hauling it around on foot. There are no “Red Caps” or luggage carts in this part of the world. If you cannot carry it by yourself, do not bring it!


The clothing you bring should be durable and versatile. The weather in Kazakhstan varies quite a bit. The summers are very hot. Spring and fall are rainy and the streets get pretty muddy. The winter is cold and windy with snow and rain. Kazakhstanis dress more formally than Americans, and there will be many occasions where you can dress up. You will probably be hand washing all of your clothes in a bathtub, so do not bring too many white things as they will get pretty dirty (though bleach is available).

Professional dress is required, but this does not mean expensive dress. As long as your clothing is neat, clean, and conservative it should be acceptable. A foreigner in Kazakhstan wearing ragged, unmended, unironed clothing is likely to be considered an affront.

Overall, your clothing and shoes should be comfortable and warm, keeping in mind that there may be little heat in the winter and no air conditioning in summer. Both men and women should bring one basic sport jacket/blazer. You may want to bring one suit or dressy outfit, but keep in mind that dry cleaning is not available in many places and you may get only occasional use out of these items. However, business and school dress here can be similar to that in America. Be sure to bring a good supply of lightweight, short-sleeved dress shirts. Tank tops can be worn on occasion, but they are not generally acceptable.

You will be walking a lot, and all of your shoes should be comfortable and, if possible, waterproof. Good shoes are hard to find, and imported shoes are very expensive, so do not skimp on these. Your shoes will take a beating and wear out quickly, so bring shoes with sturdy soles. Consider bringing an extra pair or two. Also be sure to bring shoes appropriate for all seasons (i.e., sandals, boots, etc.). Locals wear high heels with incredible skill on uneven surfaces and ice. Unless you possess this skill, high heels are not recommended. You will be taking your shoes off and putting them on as you enter and leave homes here, so slip-on shoes are much easier.

Note: It begins to get cold in Kazakhstan in October. Although you can purchase winter clothing in Kazakhstan (you will receive $200 at the end of pre-service training for this purpose), make sure you bring some warm clothes with you (i.e., sweaters, jackets, gloves, and hats). During training (October), you will visit your permanent site. If you are assigned to the northern part of the country, it may already be snowing with temperatures in the 30s.

General Clothing

For Men

Men here dress in suits for business meetings, weddings, and work. It is appropriate to wear a shirt, tie, and pants (not jeans) to work. Sports jackets with nice pants and dress shirts are acceptable. Most local people wear the same ties daily. You probably do not need more than two to four ties. The acceptability of shorts will depend upon your site. Shorts are usually only worn here by men for sporting events or exercise. A cultural point to consider is that hair is worn short by men in Kazakhstan, and beards on younger men are rare.

For Women

Kazakhstani women are very fashion conscious. Women should wear skirts that are at least knee length. In a few communities, schools do not approve of women wearing pants in the classroom. Also, blouses and upper portions of dresses should be modest. In certain cities and towns in Kazakhstan, you will see women in mini-skirts and other scant attire. However, you should be aware that for the Kazakhstanis, this sends a certain message about your character. Generally, Kazakhstani women wear dress boots to work in the winter and sandals in the summer.

Hair is styled in all sorts of ways, and shouldn’t be a problem. Local hair-coloring products are not up to par, and we’ve seen some interesting interpretations of henna and even blond hair coloring. Go with your natural color, or bring what you need.



In your haste to prepare for the brutish Central Asian winter,

do not forget to prepare for the equally brutish Central Asian

summer, especially in the south. It tops off at 110 F out here

and AC is pretty hard to come by so have good summer stuff, too. Don’t worry about sun block or mosquito netting as both will be provided by Peace Corps.


Pert Plus, Gillette, and even Herbal Essences can easily be found at the smallest bazaars, so don’t go overboard on the toiletries unless there is some aftershave, shampoo or whatever that you can’t live without for two years.

Work Clothes

Do not pack any work clothes that you hope to use after two years! After two years of your hand washing and sun-drying, the clothes will be rags, especially if you end up in a village. Do not, however, come like some Volunteers do, thinking that looking like a pauper in the third world is the norm just because it is the Peace Corps. People do dress up regularly, and clean, ironed clothes are a must in this culture. People may have only two outfits (some of your students will have only one), but they will look like they were just store-bought even if they wear them every day in a given week.

Clothing Colors

People typically wear black and gray in winter, especially as far as jackets are concerned. Having a brightly colored jacket will make you stick out as a foreigner. It is also not a bad idea to avoid white (especially in the case of socks) because this will be the hardest to keep clean.

Medical Supplies

The only medical supplies you should need are initial supplies of prescription medications—Peace Corps will provide the rest.

Cooking Supplies

After a couple of weeks here you will miss flavors other than fat in your food. Bringing spices you like with you is an excellent idea both for yourself and for introducing yourself to locals. You will get requests to cook things from locals and also it is a nice thing to do for people who will no doubt be cooking for you repeatedly. Do not use them for a while after you arrive even though you may be tempted. A few other hints: ranch mix and barbeque sauce are always missed by Volunteers.

Office Supplies

Office supplies are of poor quality here and having Sharpie pens that do not run out the third time you use them, three-ringed binders/folders, and clipboards are all luxuries foreign to this land. They will also be great tools for your class if you are a secondary English teacher and the folders you will need for the copious amounts of paperwork that Peace Corps will give you during training and expect you to hold on to.

Gifts for Host Families

While it is not something you have to bring it is a nice thing

to do and will endear you to the family. If you go visiting at

someone’s house (which you will do a lot in the next two years)

it is polite to bring a gift and this is a great way to start since

you will be living with them for three months. The best gifts are often the most useful ones. The two most popular gifts I have given to date are a high-powered flashlight (due to the power outages) and a large scented candle. For many of the families, money is tight so lavish, luxury items aren’t as big a hit as they would be in the U.S. Candy or something that can be consumed the first night you are with them is also a nice icebreaker. Remember, you will have two host families in Kazakhstan.

Saving Money

Many of you have just gotten out of college and cannot afford to blow a thousand bucks at REI as some of the other people will. Things in Kazakhstan are significantly cheaper than they are in the U.S. and the people here had to survive the winters long before you decided to come here, so finding heavy-duty winter clothing here at a fraction of the price is totally feasible. However, the selection of sizes and colors may be limited. Some of the larger-sized trainees who arrived in 2006 found it very difficult to find coats that fit. They ended up having coats sent from the U.S. Additionally, the quality may not be as good. It is advisable to buy gloves, silk undergarments, and winter shoes at home and bring some sweaters and at least a jacket with you.


If you are thinking of buying one before you come pay the extra cash if you can for a DVD burner.

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