FAQs about Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean
- 1 How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to the Eastern Caribbean?
- 2 What is the electric current in the Eastern Caribbean?
- 3 How much money should I bring?
- 4 When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- 5 Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- 6 Do I need an international driver’s license?
- 7 What should I bring as gifts for Caribbean friends and my host family?
- 8 Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- 9 How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- 10 Can I call home from any of the island nations?
- 11 Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- 12 Will there be e-mail and Internet access?
How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to the Eastern Caribbean?
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 limits. The Peace Corps’ authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined linear 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 80 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 (shortwave 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. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in the Eastern Caribbean?
It is 220 volts. If you have U.S. electronic items, then you must use a step-down transformer. The islands experience power surges and occasional power cuts, so bring along a good surge protector.
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 should cover their expenses. Often, Volunteers bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (which begin to accrue once you swear-in as a Volunteer). 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. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from the country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. Given an increase in lost baggage during transit, we strongly encourage trainees to purchase insurance before departing from the U.S. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided during your two-day staging event, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage. Moreover, satisfactory maintenance and repair services may not be available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in the Eastern Caribbean do not need an international driver’s license. Peace Corps trainees and Volunteers are prohibited from driving. Most urban and rural travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from mini-buses to a lot of walking. Some of the routes are well-covered by public transportation, so unless it is late at night, you will be able to board a bus.
What should I bring as gifts for Caribbean friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. 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; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites after the first three weeks of PST. Phase Two of PST takes place on the island nation of assignment and lasts four weeks. During the entire training period and for two weeks after swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will live with a homestay family.
Once Volunteers are sworn-in, they are required to live with the same homestay family for an additional two weeks. After this time, Volunteers can get help from community partners, host family, or their associate Peace Corps director in identifying a suitable home or apartment of their own. Some Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages; others may live in the capital, but the farthest they will be from another Volunteer is usually 20 to 30 minutes. All housing must meet Peace Corps’ site selection criteria for safety.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services 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 Peace Corps/Washington by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2517.
Can I call home from any of the island nations?
Direct dialing service is available on all of the island nations. Simply dial 1+ area code + the number. Fixed line telephone services are provided by Cable & Wireless, while three cellular carriers now operate on most of the islands. U.S. phone cards do not work here so do not bring them. You can purchase local “smart-phone” cards for local or long-distance calls.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
You may bring your cellphone as long as it is compatible with the Eastern Caribbean system. This means that it must be either GSM or TDMA. It may be easier to buy the phone and service together in-country once you are assigned to an island in the Eastern Caribbean. You are encouraged to purchase a cellular phone plan that services your island of assignment. Please note that if you bring your own cellphone, you still may have to pay up to $75 (U.S.) to get it unlocked so that you can use it in the Eatern Caribbean.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access?
The Eastern Caribbean is modernized and computer technology is common. Each Peace Corps office is equipped with a computer for use by Volunteers, which offers Internet access. This access is limited to two hours per person per month. If you currently use e-mail, be sure to bring along all important addresses with you. Internet and e-mail access will be difficult during training, but there are Internet cafés in towns and villages that you can use in your free time.
If you decide to bring your own computer, we recommend you insure it. Internet access is available from home and is fairly inexpensive. Volunteers sometimes find it helpful to have a computer for work.