FAQs about Peace Corps in Sierra Leone
From Peace Corps Wiki
|FAQs about Peace Corps|
For information see Welcomebooks
 How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Sierra Leone?
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 [or 100 for countries with cold weather] 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 Sierra Leone?
There is alternating current (ac) with a nominal voltage of 230 and approximately 50 hertz. The frequency is not stable, so look into surge protection if possible. Type D and G plugs are used, so bring converters (and adapters) as needed.
 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. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
 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.
 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.
 Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Sierra Leone 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.
 What should I bring as gifts for Sierra Leone 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 not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed 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 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. Most Volunteers live in small to medium sized towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital.
 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.
 Can I call home from Sierra Leone?
Phone service is not reliable, particularly in the interior of the country. Volunteers can call home fairly easily from larger towns, but it is expensive. Toll free numbers in the U.S. cannot be used in Sierra Leone. Usually Volunteers will schedule calls ahead of time and have the person in the U.S. call Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone international dialing code is 232.
 Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Peace Corps/Sierra Leone will provide you with a cell phone soon after your arrival. Usage charges are based on the amount of minutes used. Phone scratch cards are sold for an average of Le 10,200 (2.50 USD) per card and these basic costs have been calculated into your living allowance. If you choose to bring another phone from the States, be sure it is multi-system and is “unlocked” or it will not work in Sierra Leone.
 Will there be email and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
The climate and environment in Sierra Leone are very hard on electrical equipment. Additionally, if you do bring a laptop or other electronic device, it will be difficult to keep it charged as the electricity in Sierra Leone is of poor quality and intermittent, if available at all. Electronic devices, especially computers, are also seen as valuable items and may increase the risk of theft.
There is Internet and email access at a few places in Freetown and other larger towns. You are free to bring a laptop, but be aware of the challenges.