FAQs about Peace Corps in Suriname

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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

How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Suriname?

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. Take valuable items in your carry-on to prevent theft en route. Sharp objects should be placed in your checked bags to avoid confiscation at security checkpoints. 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.

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. Most flights to Suriname transit through Port of Spain, Trinidad. No camouflage of any type is permitted in the country. Make sure that any garments, travel items, tools or other items are not in your carry-on bags. If your bags are searched by customs officials, the items will be confiscated.

Peace Corps Suriname uses Carribean Airways to transport PCVs to country. The current limit (12/2008) on flights orginating from outside of the Carib community is 2 checked bags at 50 lbs each.

What is the electric current in Suriname?

Both 110 volts, 60 cycles (the U.S. standard), and 220 volts can be found in houses in Suriname. (Often the electrical outlets are very near to each other and easily confused, so you need to be aware of which outlet to use.) Most Volunteers have electricity in their houses; those in communities with generators or solar panels may have it for only a few hours a day. We recommend that you bring only small, battery-operated appliances that can also be plugged in. Small adapters are needed for U.S. plugs; these are inexpensive and easy to purchase in Suriname.

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 are accepted in various hotels and businesses in the capital, but can rarely be used in other locations in Suriname. It is not uncommon for a bank fee between 1 percent and 5 percent to be added to the amount of the purchase. Traveler’s checks are difficult to cash, but they are handy when traveling outside of Suriname. 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 as long as their stay does not interfere with your work.

They are not allowed to visit you during PST and for the first three months of your service. This restriction allows you to focus on learning the culture and effectively integrating into your community. Extended visitor stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps cannot 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 in the invitation kit and at Staging, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Many Volunteers do decide to buy insurance policies to cover expensive items such as computers, cameras, and such. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage. In many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

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

What should I bring as gifts for Surinamese friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement, but if you wish to bring something, a small token of friendship will be appreciated. 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.

You should definitely bring gifts for your homestay. These families are opening up their lives to you, it will be a well received gesture. If you are staying in a rural, interior village, good gifts are fishing hooks, perfume, costume jewelry, soccer balls, flash lights, hair accesories, school supplies, etc. If you are staying with a family in town, the above stuff is probably better.

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

If feasible, you will 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 towns or in rural villages and are usually one to three hours from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour journey 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, 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 2515, 2516, or 2525.

Can I call home from Suriname?

International phone service to and from Suriname is relatively good. The Surinamese phone company has offices in major cities (i.e., Paramaribo, Brokopondo, Albina, and Nieuw Nickerie), which offer direct lines to the United States. Additionally, you may be able to call the United States from some private phones in the major urban areas. The phone company recently introduced calling cards, which can be used with both regular phones and cellphones for local and international calls. Currently, all volunteers recieve cell phones and can call home using phone cards. Service is limited in some areas, but the majority of volunteers have service

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Peace Corps/Suriname will provide cellphones to ALL volunteers, regardless of thier assignment. However, phones do not work in all sites. It is not recommended that you bring your own cellphone as not all cellphones will work in Suriname. They can be purchased locally and are relatively inexpensive.

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

There are numerous Internet cafes in Paramaribo, Nieuw Nickerie, and other semiurban areas. Some Volunteers are placed at sites where a computer is not necessary for their job. At some sites a computer could prove more of a hindrance than a help. That said, many Volunteers do bring laptops with them. Note that the Peace Corps cannot be responsible for any loss, damage, or theft of computers brought by Volunteers. The Peace Corps office in Paramaribo provides computers with Internet connection in the Volunteer Resource Center.

The Peace Corps has strict guidelines regarding Volunteer-created and maintained blogs and websites. These policies are outlined in the Volunteer Handbook and will be reviewed during pre-service training.