FAQs about Peace Corps in Micronesia
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Micronesia?
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 50 pounds for any one bag. You will be responsible for any charges if your luggage exceeds the Peace Corps’ limits.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (short-wave 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. 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.
What is the electric current in Micronesia?
It is 110 volts and standard US 2 prong. There are electrical surges and power outages that can put a strain on voltage converters and appliances, so a good-quality surge protector is recommended. But remember that not all Volunteers will have electricity in their homes. A variety of batteries are available in Micronesia, but the cost is up to two times what it is in the United States, and the batteries are generally of poor quality.
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 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 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. Please realize that visitors’ actions may have an impact on your reputation or effectiveness in your work. Extended stay visitors should not be staying with the Volunteer as it may cause a stressed situation with your host family.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
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. Additionally, in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
No. Operation of motorized vehicles by Volunteers is generally prohibited, except on vacations outside of Micronesia. We do recommend keeping a valid U.S. driver’s license. Most travel on the capital island is by taxi. Outer island travel ranges from kayaks and small outboard motorboats to lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Micronesian 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; T-shirts from your home, hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away. Presenting gifts can cause a dependency or a “handout” expectation attitude, so making a habit of providing gifts should be avoided.
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 Phase I of pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s skills and interests prior to site assignment. You may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, but keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process, and Peace Corps/Micronesia works hard to create matches between sites and Volunteers that support the developmental needs of a Micronesian community and are a good fit for the Volunteer. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or rural villages, in some cases on outer islands.
Main island sites will be no more than two hours from the state capital, but Volunteers assigned to outer islands may have to travel for more than a day to get to a state 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 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, 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 2502 or 2522.
Can I call home from Micronesia?
International phone service to and from FSM and Palau is very good relative to that in other developing countries. Most Volunteers call home collect or use international calling cards, which can be purchased at all telecommunications offices and certain other locations. Not all host family homes have telephones, but public phones are available at the main telecommunications office.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Cellphone service exists only on Palau, the four FSM state capitals, and the outer island of Ulithi, Yap. Most U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the GSM system and the frequency used here. Cellphones and local SIM cards are sold in both FSM and in Palau.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Many businesses in the state capitals and Palau have Internet access. Because of the lack of telephone and electrical infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers posted to rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to state capitals. Internet access is not available on most outer islands. Before leaving the United States, many prospective Volunteers sign up for free Web-based e-mail accounts, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, which they can access worldwide.
Some Volunteers bring their laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining them. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance. Because of the high value of laptops, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. Heat and high humidity conditions are damaging to most electronic equipment. There is little to no technical support available and replacement parts are usually not available on island. If you bring a laptop, be sure to buy a high-quality surge protector, as electrical lapses and surges are common. Also note that paying for Internet access via your laptop will be your responsibility, and your site may or may not have phone line service.