FAQs about Peace Corps in Armenia
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Armenia?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those 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 100 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.
Because of heightened security since the events of September 11, 2001, do not pack items such as scissors or pocketknives in your carry-on luggage.
What is the electric current in Armenia?
It is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Because power surges and cuts can put a strain on voltage converters and appliances, make sure that what you bring is of good quality. The Peace Corps does not provide transformers. We recommend tape players that use “D” batteries because “C” batteries are a little harder to find. “AA” and watch and calculator batteries are easy to find.
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. Often, Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are not widely accepted in Armenia, but you can obtain cash (in dollars or drams) from ATM machines in the capital if your ATM card has a Visa logo. 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 Armenia do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles. Urban and rural travel is by bus, van, or taxi.
What should I bring as gifts for Armenian 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 assigned to individual sites during pre-service training. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages. Some live in a town with other Volunteers, and most are within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require an eight- to 10-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, 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 your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2423.
Can I call home from Armenia?
International phone service to and from Armenia is good relative to that of other developing countries. However, at times (especially on weekends and holidays) the phone system is easily overwhelmed, and phone service may be disrupted. You may want to bring AT&T, MCI, or Sprint calling cards to minimize costs of international calls. You can purchase international calling cards in Yerevan and in towns/cities.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. Differences in technology make U.S. cellphones incompatible with the Armenian system, so only cellphones purchased locally will function in Armenia. While some Peace Corps staff members are equipped with cell phones to attend to emergency calls. the Peace Corps does not provide Volunteers with cellphones, Some Volunteers choose to obtain them locally on their own.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
A growing number of businesses offer Internet access in the capital and some of the larger cities. Because of the weaker infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers posted to rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before leaving the United States, many people sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, which they can access worldwide. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests that you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am, as it is easier to access in Armenia than other services.
Some people bring laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the computers themselves. Note that you probably will not find the same level of technical assistance here as you would at home and that replacement parts can take months to arrive. Also note that having Internet access via your laptop is only a remote possibility because very few Volunteers have adequate telephone lines in their homes or in their place of work. The Peace Corps office in Yerevan has three computers available for Volunteers to conduct project research. If you bring a laptop, be sure to buy a high-quality surge protector; power lapses and surges are common. Volunteers who have computers also significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.