FAQs about Peace Corps in Liberia

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FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks


[edit] How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Liberia?

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’ 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 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.

[edit] What is the electric current in Liberia?

Liberia used to use 110 volt electricity, but that has changed and now 220 volt is predominant. The wall sockets, however, have not changed, so the USA-style flat-pronged plugs are the norm. There are some European-style plugs with two pins, so Volunteers will see a variety. It may be useful to bring one plug adaptor set, or purchase them locally, if needed.

[edit] How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Traveler’s checks are not readily accepted in Liberia, but may be used in other countries should you plan to travel. Credit cards are not used in Liberia, but may be useful if you travel to other countries. You will need to exercise extra caution in safeguarding them should you choose to bring them, as identity theft and credit card fraud are a problem in West Africa. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. The Peace Corps office will offer you the opportunity to lock up your credit cards or other items of value for safekeeping.

[edit] 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 may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

[edit] 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. Volunteers should 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.

[edit] Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Liberia do not need 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. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

[edit] What should I bring as gifts for Liberia 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.

[edit] 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 after they have completed 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 their 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. Often, Volunteers live in groups with other Volunteers and may even share housing. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital.

[edit] 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, 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; select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at the above number. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.

[edit] What are particular issues for senior Volunteers?

Senior Volunteers might have different questions and concerns than their younger colleagues. Examples of these are:

[edit] Can I call home from Liberia?

Calls to the U.S. are possible but expensive. Internet calls to the U.S. depend on the bandwidth available through the level of your Internet service, but may be difficult. You should not count on this being available.

[edit] Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

There are multi-system cellphones available for purchase in the United States, but they are “locked” to the frequency of a particular provider. To use that phone in Liberia, you would need to have it “unlocked,” but most likely this will not be possible in the U.S. and it may be difficult to find a service to perform that in Liberia. You are encouraged to purchase a cellphone in Liberia (+/- $40) and then to purchase the SIM card from a provider. Volunteers usually get a pre-paid scratch-card and then add to their account as needed. If you do decide to bring your own phone, make sure it is a minimum 3G phone and unlocked so a local SIM will work. Liberia cell providers operate on a GSM network.

[edit] Will there be email and Internet access and should I bring my computer?

If you have your own laptop, a solution that may be of interest is the use of a data card. Several cellphone companies offer Internet service through cellphone technology. You can purchase a data card and it dials a nearby cellphone tower for service. It is slow, but works in most towns (but not between communities). The data card is currently available for $129 and the monthly fee is $59, but this may go up. The bandwidth is around 64/32 kbs. If you have a newer laptop that requires a “smartcard” then you will need to buy a compatible cellphone that can attach to your computer or bring a separate data card reading device. Be aware that electricity is almost 100 percent generator-based and many generators are not compliant with electronic equipment, For this reason you may consider power protection with your laptop.

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