Packing list for Mali
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Mali 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 obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. Do not bring valuables or cherished items that could be lost, stolen, or ruined by the harsh climate. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Mali.
Note: All invitees need to bring 12 to 15 passport-size ID photos to use in getting visas when you travel.
You can get almost everything you need in Mali. The things you cannot get here are:
- Music system (portable CD player or iPod/mp3 player, good portable speakers)
- Mosquito net tent (portable)
- Jump drive/thumb drive
- Durable shoes (both sandals like Tevas/Chacos or hiking boots)
- Good kitchen knife
Packing for training
Most of the information below is oriented toward your life as a Volunteer. However, it is important to remember that for your first two months you will be in training. While in training, your meals, transport and lodging will be provided. Be sure to bring enough appropriate clothing to last you for at least a week as finding time to do laundry during training will be difficult.
Both men and women.
- Two pairs of lightweight pants in good condition (not too tight, too loose or too low cut)
- Three to five cotton T-shirts or tank tops (women, these should have wide shoulder straps)
- A few pairs of socks (avoid white)
- Sweatpants and a sweatshirt or sweater (it can get cool)
- Lightweight rain jacket
- Cotton bandannas
- Baseball cap or broad-brimmed hat
- Clothing for sleeping in common areas (boxer shorts, pajama pants, tank tops)
Note that shorts are not worn by men or women in public except to play sports.
- “Casual dress” clothes: shirts with collars and slacks (preferably lightweight cotton)
- Two-week supply of underwear
- One dressy outfit and one tie for official functions
- One or two pairs of shorts for sports
- One slip (preferably cotton)
- A good supply of bras and underwear, including sports bras - (breathable fabric/cotton)
- Two nice outfits for official functions (calf length or longer)
- Several dressy shirts
- Several nice, comfortable pairs of cotton pants
- One or two pairs of shorts or loose capris for sports
- Cosmetics, if you wear them
- Your favorite jewelry (but nothing too expensive or that you would be devastated to lose)
- One pair of sneakers or trail running shoes
- One pair of sandals or flip-flops (e.g., Teva, Reef, Birkenstock, or Chaco brand)
- One pair of dressier shoes (for more formal occasions— for women dressier flats or sandals are fine.)
A reminder about clothing: Malians, while not excessively formal, put a great deal of emphasis on a professional appearance. Dressing appropriately will greatly enhance your credibility at work, improve your ability to integrate into your community, and increase your odds of having a safe Peace Corps service. Men should expect to wear shirts with a collar and casual slacks; women should wear below-the-knee skirts and dresses or casual slacks with shirts that do not reveal too much of their chest or back. This means, for both men and women, no tight or see-through clothing that shows underwear lines, no outfits that show the knees when you are sitting down, and no ratty or worn clothing. There are communities in Mali where you are expected to be even more modestly dressed (i.e., covering arms, legs, hair). You are expected to dress appropriately at all times when you are in public. That said, it is fine to dress down when you are relaxing with other Volunteers or while you are at home.
It is very easy and inexpensive to have Malian style clothing made here - if you would like some more American style clothing bring a favorite catalog or magazine (Something relatively conservative, J.Crew, J Jill, etc) and tailors here can usually make things just from the pictures and your measurements. This allows you to wear more traditional Malian clothing, which is best suited for the culture and the climate and save your packing space for other things you cannot get here like good shoes, good underwear and other items.
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
The Peace Corps medical kit contains almost everything you will need, though not necessarily in the brands you are accustomed to. You may want to bring a two-month supply of the following items to use during pre-service training.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Good razor and supply of blades (very expensive in Mali)
- Body lotion
- Special vitamins (multivitamins are provided by the Peace Corps)
- Allergy medication
- Tampons or sanitary napkins
- Two pairs of prescription glasses or contact lenses and solution
- Three-month supply of any prescription medication you take (including birth control pills)
- Nail clippers or nail care kit
- Heat rash powder
You can find almost any kitchen item in Mali. You will not need any kitchen supplies during training, so you may want to have any items you choose to bring sent to you later. Following are a few items to consider bringing.
- Good can opener or corkscrew
- Good frying pan (Non-stick is always nice, and bring a plastic spatula for it.)
- Dry sauce mixes and instant drink mixes (available in Mali but much more expensive)
- Favorite spices (e.g. Mrs. Dash, Italian seasonings, Mexican spices) Miscellaneous
- Sturdy backpacks (Day packs for work and bike rides; medium packs for short trips; large packs for long trips)
- Leatherman, Swiss army knife, or other multipurpose tool
- Alarm clock
- Batteries (Solar batteries may be a good alternative; AAA and C batteries are difficult to find in Mali)
- Two sturdy water bottles (e.g., Nalgene)
- A portable music player (e.g., Walkman/Discman/MP3, etc.) with minispeakers
- Plenty of your favorite music
- Anything from home that will make you feel more comfortable (e.g., pictures, posters, books, journals)
- Camera and film (200- and 400-speed film is hard to find locally) or digital with extra flash cards.
- Shortwave radio
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Loofah sponge
- One or two flat sheets and a pillowcase
- Combination lock (key locks are available in Mali)
- Duct tape (for fixing everything)
- Plastic bags (e.g., Ziplocs) and containers—to protect your camera, tapes, food, etc.
- Good scissors (hair-cutting scissors optional)
- Sturdy sunglasses
- Sturdy but inexpensive watch, preferably waterproof
Additional Items to Consider Bringing
- U.S. and world maps
- Travel games (e.g., cards, chess, checkers, Frisbee, backgammon, Scrabble, Monopoly, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit, Risk)
- Pocket-size French-English dictionary
- Musical instrument
- Digital thermometer
- Solar bulbs or/and solar power panels. With a power panel you can charge your cell or any other low-voltage USB-port devices, such as IPod, Kindle, etc. All you need is sun, and that's plentiful. Check the Nokero and Solio products. Peace Corps Volunteers get a 25%-50% discount on Nokero products when they join Market for Change .
- Notecards, stationery, good writing pens, address book, books of U.S. stamps (Volunteers traveling to the United States can mail letters for you)
- Small toolkit (including vise grip)
- Light, highly compactable sleeping bag
- Eyeglass repair kit
- Your favorite movie on DVD or videocassette (there are DVD players and VCRs at Peace Corps regional houses)
Items You Do Not Need to Bring
- Heavy coat
- A large quantity of clothes (Malian tailors are talented and fabric is readily available, plus you can get used European clothing everywhere)
- Camouflage or military-style clothing
- A lot of language materials
- A lot of cash
- A two-year supply of toiletries
- Pots, pans, kitchen utensils, or cook stove
- Water filter (provided by the Peace Corps if needed)