FAQs about Peace Corps in Burkina Faso
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Burkina Faso?
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 allowance 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 Burkina Faso?
If you have electricity at your site, and it works, the current will be 220 volts, 50 cycles. Voltage sags and surges are very common and place a real strain on power supplies and voltage transformers or regulators. The Peace Corps does not provide transformers or regulators to Volunteers. For battery-powered appliances such as tape players and radios, we suggest “D” batteries, since these are readily available in local markets. Many Volunteers use rechargeable batteries with a solar charger, which is a good alternative to disposable batteries.
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 will cover your in-country expenses and normal vacation costs. Some Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel outside the region. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. All banks require proof of purchase (i.e., receipts) to cash traveler’s checks. 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. Visitors are discouraged from spending extended periods (more than a few weeks) in-country, and you will have to take vacation time if hosting visitors requires you to take time off from work. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance. Because an evacuation in the event of a medical emergency can cost more than $25,000, all visitors should plan to buy medical evacuation insurance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. You are encouraged to purchase insurance if you are bringing valuable items with you. You will be provided with application forms at staging.
If you prefer, you may also contact your own insurance company. 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 Burkina Faso 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 buses and minibuses to bicycles and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Burkina Faso 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 late in 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, 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 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, 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.
Can I call home from Burkina Faso?
International phone service to and from Burkina Faso is quite good. The national telephone company, ONATEL, has offices in all of Burkina Faso’s administrative towns. Calls to the United States are expensive, so most Volunteers prearrange to receive calls from home or limit calls to giving call-back information so that the receiver can return the call. U.S. calling cards cannot be used in Burkina Faso at this time, and calling collect is not possible.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. They can be purchased inexpensively in Burkina Faso. Most American cellphones do not work in Burkina Faso.
Should I bring my computer?
The decision whether to bring a laptop computer depends on your own needs. Among the factors to consider are that computers are not required for Volunteers’ work; that the Peace Corps does not provide technical support or insurance for personal computers; you may not be assigned to a site with electricity; and computer access is available at private Internet cafes (and, for work-related purposes, the Peace Corps office). However, most Volunteers who have brought laptops with them—primarily education Volunteers—have been happy with their decision and have used their computers for both personal and work-related purposes.
For more information on computers, please see the memo on electronic equipment later in this document.