FAQs about Peace Corps in The Gambia
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
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 dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 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?
The electric current is 220 volts, but electricity is extremely irregular outside Banjul and in rural areas.
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. If you bring extra money, U.S. dollars and traveler’s checks are recommended because credit cards are not widely accepted (though they are useful for travel outside the country and cash advances). Personal checks can be cashed, and if you think you will be doing any banking with U.S. banks, bring a checkbook.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Volunteers accrue 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.
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 such 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 The Gambia do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most local travel is by bush taxi.
What should I bring as gifts for Gambian friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. Small tokens of friendship are sufficient.
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 begun pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s skills and needs in order to make a placement that will be mutually beneficial to the Volunteer and the assigned community.
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; select option 2, then 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, extension 2317 or 2318.
Can I call home?
You will need an international phone card to call the United States. The Gambia’s public telephone company, Gamtel, provides phone service in larger towns and villages throughout The Gambia. In smaller villages, there are coin-operated public phone booths that you can use to reach an AT&T or MCI operator for international calls. There are also many “telecenters” around the country, which may charge a bit more than Gamtel.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Differences in technology make most U.S. cellular phones incompatible with the cellular service in The Gambia. Local communication methods are reliable enough and are more compatible with the Peace Corps’ belief that Volunteers should live modestly at the level of their local colleagues.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Because the availability of electricity is so sporadic in the rural areas where most Volunteers live, it is inadvisable to bring your own computer. Volunteers have access to e-mail and the Internet at the main Peace Corps office and some Volunteers also have access to e-mail at the schools where they teach.