Packing list for Vanuatu
PACKING LIST This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Vanuatu and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, 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 a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Vanuatu. Many Volunteers put a lot of effort into packing for their Peace Corps service because it is hard to predict what and how much you will need. Keep in mind that most Volunteers bring too much, especially clothing. If you can’t live without something, bring it, but remember that you are traveling to a developing country and less is more in many ways. The cultural considerations on the list below are to give you an idea of what you need, but vary for different parts of Vanuatu. It is a diverse country with urban and rural settings. The best thing to do is to prepare for any situation!
Belt (1) Not leather. Even if your clothes fit well, it will be useful if you lose weight! Footwear Everyone in Vanuatu wears sandals or flip-flops. Poor quality ones are found locally. A pair of running/trail shoes may be useful, especially for runners. All weather hiking sandals are good for rainy season and water activities. Bring whatever is most comfortable. Hats & Bandanas Wide brim hats or baseball-type hats are useful for rain/sun. Few are available in Vanuatu. Bandanas are useful and are not easily found in Vanuatu. Raingear A poncho works very well for walking with a backpack. It can rain often in Vanuatu and many people just accept it and get wet. Raincoats are not easily obtainable and most are too hot to wear when it rains. Raincoats are useful when traveling on boats as well. Umbrellas are readily available and inexpensive. Swimsuits (1-2) On the island, Ni-Vanuatu and most Volunteers swim in their clothes. A swimsuit may be useful or more comfortable, especially if you swim often. Women can only wear them in the capital, at resorts, or with a T-shirt and shorts on the island. Underwear & Socks (2 weeks worth) Bring what is comfortable and durable. Some Volunteers give up the practice of wearing underwear; however, those who stick to it appreciate ones from home. Bring socks if you run, are bringing real shoes, or get cold feet. (3-4 pairs, more if you run) “Western”-style Volunteers may wear "western"-style clothing (jeans, etc.) more often in Port Vila. Short skirts and shorts are still not recommended for women. Remember, most of your time will be spent at your site, so pack appropriately. Winter (1 each) Sweatshirt, long-sleeved shirt, fleece/light jacket, sweatpants/warm pants. These may seem odd things to pack for the South Pacific; however, most Volunteers are glad they brought them come June/July. They are expensive and difficult to find locally.
Pants 1) Lightweight, casual pants, if necessary for work. Convertible to shorts. Shirts 6-8) T-shirts will be worn most often. For teaching/holding meetings/church, etc. button-down short-sleeved shirts or polos are appropriate. A long-sleeved button-down may be useful. Shorts (5-7) Durable, quick-dry, convertible to pants. (5-7) pairs of boxers–not available locally.
Dresses 1-2) Casual, loose, long dresses, sleeveless is a plus. Some teachers and professional women wear island dresses, found locally. Roomy but hot! Shirts (4-5) T-shirts or sleeveless (no thin-strap or strapless) shirts will be worn most often with skirts. A button-down shirt or polo may be useful, depending on your profession. Shorts (2-3) Below the knee, quick-dry or board shorts. Ni-Vanuatu women only wear shorts around the house, in the capital, when they go swimming in the sea, or under their island dresses. These are good at night. Skirts (5-7) Loose, calf-length or longer, not see-through, durable. Worn most often with T-shirts. In most places (outside urban areas) women must wear skirts. Slips & Bras Ni-Vanuatu women wear slips (petticoats) under island dresses; cheap ones can be found locally. (5-7) Sport bras or camisole-style bras work well. Bring what is most comfortable in hot weather. NOTE: It is important to bring a good mix of casual and professional clothing. There are a number of secondhand clothing stores throughout Vila and Santo, where it is possible to find a wide variety of clothing items at affordable prices. Everyone in Vanuatu shops secondhand! And remember that you will hand wash all clothes and everything dries poorly when it is wet or humid (most of January through March) so bring enough!
Remember: Vanuatu is a very wet, humid country. The majority of people here still do not have electricity. Volunteers who bring laptops, digital cameras, GPS locators, etc. must find a way to charge them and remove information, as well as store them from the humidity. Electronics are expensive or unavailable in Vanuatu and they are also a potential target for theft. Batteries Many Volunteers purchase solar battery chargers and rechargeable batteries. For those who choose not to purchase solar, it is recommended to bring a good amount of batteries. Local batteries do not last long. It is also recommended to try to coordinate your electronics to use the same type of battery. A good mix of solar and batteries is best in case solar chargers break. The amount of sun energy at sites varies; make certain your solar panel can supply the energy you need (i.e., laptop). Camera Digital cameras are very popular, but bring extra batteries and memory cards. Recordable CDs are a good way to store backup pictures. It is best to bring a camera that takes AA or AAA batteries. Cellphones Cell phones are available at very affordable prices. Some Volunteers choose to bring phones from the U.S. but you must be sure that they are unlocked. Flashlights LED headlamps are the best. Bring extra batteries or rechargeable batteries with a small solar charger. Wind-up torches are also available here. Ni- Vanuatu use kerosene lamps for their homes and waterproof torches for diving at night, etc. Small solar lights are available for sale in Vila. Music Devices Music is important to many Volunteers. Some use external amplified speakers, which work very well and will amuse your neighbors. There is a bacterium, which eats away at CDs, so make copies of originals first. A spare music player is handy in case your first one breaks. They are expensive to replace in Vanuatu, and if it is not used, you can usually sell it to another Volunteer. Plug Adaptors Vanuatu uses Australia/NZ-style plugs. Radio A small battery-operated or hand crank shortwave radio is nice to have. Some Ni-Vanuatu have radios or tape players. Radio reception throughout the country is spotty, but is getting better.
Silica Gel/ Otter Boxes/ Dry Bags
Not readily available in Vanuatu. Dry bags are useful when walking to keep important things protected from rain and humidity. USB Flash Drive (Memory Stick) (2-4) Very useful for transporting documents between offices and islands and storing photos. They are available in-country but are expensive.
Towlettes Great to have and not available in Port Vila. Baggies Good to keep things dry. Bring many different sizes. Some baggies of varying quality are found in local stores. Books The Peace Corps resource center has books for pleasure and for work. Most Volunteers who bring books do not take them back to the U.S.; they circulate them among Volunteers during service. You may want to bring certain books that you want to read. There is not a “real book” store in Vanuatu, although there are a couple of stores that sell books. A few places sell very expensive books and dictionaries. Teachers may want a grammar book. There is also a collection of ebooks that Volunteers share with each other. Earplugs Great for light sleepers or for sleeping through the sound of roosters. Eyewear (1-2) Good-quality sunglasses are very useful here, but may be ruined, so use your discretion. Bring two pairs of prescription eyeglasses (if applicable).
Thank-you gifts for counterparts and training family are appreciated and it’s difficult to find good quality, cheap things here. Consider inexpensive watches, playing cards, soccer balls (with needle), etc. But don’t stress out too much about this. There are things available in Vila that would be appropriate for gifts as well.
It is not necessary to bring pots or pans, dishes, or silverware. You can purchase pots and pans in Vanuatu. Most spices are available but expensive. Bring your favorites, but keep them in their original containers or they will be confiscated by customs. Rubber spatulas, good can openers, and paring knives are recommended, but cheap ones are available. Nalgene bottles with measurements on the side work well for measuring cups. French press/garlic press optional.
Good world, U.S., and South Pacific region maps are good ideas, especially for schools or to show people. Make sure your maps are laminated; they are available in Vanuatu but are expensive. An atlas is also a nice reference tool. Pictures It is nice to have pictures of your family, friends, house, street, city, etc. Ni-Vanuatu love to look at pictures and people and things from all over the world.
Plain bed sheets are available in Vanuatu, as well as thick and thin blankets, although fitted sheets are not. The Peace Corps issues a mattress to each Volunteer at the beginning of training. Mattresses in Vanuatu are approximately 2-inch thick foam pads, twin-sized. Trainees are also given plain sheets and a pillow. A silk cocoon or sleeping bag liner is also nice for traveling in-country because it is lightweight and dries quickly.
A Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool is useful for many Volunteers. They are not available in Vanuatu. Hammers, etc. are available here.
These must run by batteries or solar energy (watches with alarms or alarms on cellphones can suffice).
Watch Durable, inexpensive, waterproof/resistant. Insect repellant tends to disintegrate plastic watch bands. Backpacks A sturdy backpack (with rain cover) or duffel bag for three- to four-day trips and a day pack. Most Volunteers use backpacks whenever they travel.
Basic supplies are available here: pens, paper, notebooks, etc. The quality may not be what you're used to. Consider a startup supply of pens, a small stapler, a calculator (very expensive here), quality scissors, and duct tape. This also depends on your job assignment. Stickers are great for teachers to bring. Water The water is, for the most part, clean and drinkable; you will not need a water filter here. Drinking bottles are helpful; bottles with measurements on the side are good for cooking.
== PERSONAL HYGIENE & TOILETRY ITEMS ==
Feminine Protection The Peace Corps provides applicator-less tampons and pads during your service. Otherwise, the selection in Vanuatu is limited and expensive. Bring a start-up supply. General Good tweezers, hair-trimming scissors, nail files, and clippers. Prescription Medicines Bring a six-month supply of all prescription medicines you require. Shower Items Soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrushes, etc. are available in Port Vila. The selection is not the same as in the U.S. and the price may be higher. Bringing a startup supply is a good idea. If you need something specific, bring it. Biodegradable camp soap is good for you and the environment. Toothbrush Holder Occasionally needs cleaning, but keeps the critters off. Towels (1-2) Quick-dry towels work well, but may still mold. Inexpensive towels are available here.
Guitar Cheap ones are available. Hammock Expensive and very limited supply here. Many Volunteers like the nylon variety, and bring them from home. Snorkeling Gear Available, but expensive and of low quality. Mask and snorkel suggested; flippers and reef shoes optional. PEACE CORPS | VANUATU WELCOME BOOK 40
Upon Arrival Toilet tissue, toiletry items, sewing kit, hangers, clothesline, etc.
- Peace Corps-
Issued Mattress, thin blanket, pillow, sheets, mosquito net, life jacket, insect repellent, medicines, first aid supplies, clothespins, vitamins, bucket, lamp, and more!