FAQs about Peace Corps in Niger

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How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Niger?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. 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 authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with combined dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total, with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave receivers 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 Niger?

It is 220 volts, 50 cycles (the European standard). Note, however, that only Niamey and larger towns have electricity. Volunteers should not bring electric appliances unless they are battery or solar powered.

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 wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are the safest, but not always the most convenient, ways to bring money. Credit cards can be helpful for ordering plane tickets to Europe or the United States online, but they are virtually useless for travel in Niger and the surrounding region. Some high-end restaurants and hotels in major West African cities (not Niamey) do accept credit cards—Visa is the best bet. Although you will find places to cash traveler’s checks, the process can be a hassle. Fees are high, and in some countries you have to show the bank your receipt of purchase. Generally speaking, cash is easier to exchange. If you bring traveler’s checks, euros are preferable to dollars. The Peace Corps office has a safe where you can store money and other valuables upon arrival in Niger.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). 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 require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Do not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available. The Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for such losses.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Niger do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.

What should I bring as gifts for Niger 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. Items can also be purchased locally.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until they have completed about half of their pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers are assigned to rural villages or small towns and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 12-hour drive from the capital. There is at least one “veteran” Volunteer based in each of the regional capitals, and six Volunteers are currently based in Niamey.

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 nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.

Can I call home from Niger?

Yes. International calls can be made from Niamey and most larger towns, but telephone service is expensive and is not always reliable. Cellphone coverage is increasingly available throughout Niger.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Some Peace Corps/Niger sites have cellphone coverage and a few Volunteers own cellphones. The U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the Niger cellphone system, but you can purchase inexpensive cellphones locally.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

E-mail access is available at the Peace Corps office in Niamey and at the regional offices. It is also available at private telecenters in most larger towns. The connections, however, are still slow, of limited capacity, and very expensive, so Internet access, while possible, is problematic. Because of the lack of electricity in villages, computers are not useful for Volunteers assigned to rural areas. Community and youth education sector Volunteers, who are normally stationed in small towns with access to electricity, may want to bring a laptop.