FAQs about Peace Corps in Samoa

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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 will I be allowed to bring to Samoa?

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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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 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. Volunteers who choose to go with the airline allowances over the Peace Corps allowances do so at their own risk and expense. In some cases, they may end up getting more through, but in other cases, they may end up getting charged excess fees. Technical and reference books and other heavy printed material you may not need right away can be sent ahead by surface mail for $1 (U.S.) per pound. Allow three to six months, and pack securely.

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. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/ airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.

[edit] What is the electric current in Samoa?

240 volts. Anything electric from the United States must have a transformer to change the local 240-volt, 50-cycle electricity to 110-volt output safe for appliances.

The power brick part of many electronic show they accept 110-240 volts and 50-60 cycle input. That means you don't need a transformer only an adaptor for the different shaped plug. However, when you arrive, you can take a pair of pliers and twist the conductors on the plug from this shape (I I) to this one (/ \). This won't work on polarized plugs though.

[edit] How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. Volunteers receive a modest living allowance that is paid out in the local currency. Often Volunteers wish to 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.

Traveler's checks must be converted to Samoan tala at Western Unions or banks in Samoa. Businesses in country do not accept traveler's checks.

[edit] When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding pre-service 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 or travel assistance.

[edit] Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, you will receive insurance application forms 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. On the other hand, who wants to live two years of their life in another country with out a camera or a watch?

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

Volunteers in Samoa do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this is only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

Peace Corps volunteers in Samoa can also rent and drive cars in country after taking a vacation day and making a request of the country director. You may also which to rent cars while on vacation in another country. However, an International Drivers License is still not necessary.

[edit] What should I bring as gifts for Samoan friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement, but you will want to bring things to give your family at the end of training. 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; T-shirts or hats; pens, pencils, markers, crayons and coloring books; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; picture frames; 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 their pre-service training. This gives the 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 will have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions.

However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but will usually be within 30 minutes to an hour from the nearest Volunteer.

[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, 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 the Pacific country desk staff by calling 800.424.8580, extensions 2522 or 2523.

[edit] Can I call home from Samoa?

Peace Corps Volunteers can call the United States from the Peace Corps office or from the hotel that you will stay in when you arrive. Following your initial arrival, you will be able to call home as there are several vendors in Apia that sell calling cards, which you can purchase to make calls from Samoa to the United States. Remember, that calls, especially collect ones, from Samoa to the U.S. are expensive.

Most volunteers have local cell phones. The cell phone providors frequently offer deals (such as call American for 10 minutes and the next 30 minutes are free). Dial-up internet is available wherever there is a phone line and is sufficiently fast for Skype.

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

There have been recent changes to local cellphone service and there are currently two service providers. You can bring a SIM-card-ready phone from home or purchase one inexpensively in-country. Service is pre-paid, fairly inexpensive, easy to acquire, and text-ready. However, most Volunteers find that they have to cut back on cell phone time, and usually text message or make extremely brief calls to each other to stay in touch. Most Volunteers regularly receive calls from overseas with very little trouble.

Volunteers who have brought phones from America have discovered that they will not work in Samoa. Even phones that claim to be the correct GSM region have failed to work. iPhones have not worked as cellphones in country. It is cheap and easy to buy a phone in country. Furthermore, you will most likely loose or break at least one phone while in country.

[edit] Should I bring a laptop computer?

Yes, if you have a laptop, you should bring it because you will find many opportunities where it would be very useful in your service, no matter where you live. You will need it for entertainment and work related matters. The majority of volunteers have laptops in-country and use them religiously. You should consider purchasing a chill pad for your computer to prevent heat-related issues from arising.

[edit] Will there be e-mail and Internet access?

There are several Internet cafés where you can access the Internet. Internet services are becoming more widely available. Internet is even available in the computer centers of some rural villages and schools. Peace Corps/Samoa has a shared Volunteer computer with internet access for limited hours during the day. Depending on where you live, you might be able to get dial-up internet.

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