FAQs about Peace Corps in Senegal
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Senegal?
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 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 in Senegal?
It is 220 volts, 50 cycles.
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 preferable to cash, but cannot be used in all locations. 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. An extended stay of over two weeks at your site is strongly discouraged and requires advance permission from your Peace Corps supervisor and the approval of the country director.
The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, travel, or medical assistance. We strongly suggest that visitors consider obtaining insurance with emergency evacuation coverage from a company such as international SOS Assistance Inc. (PO Box 11568, Philadelphia, PA 19116; 800.523.8930 or 215.244.1500).
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage or reimbursement for the loss or theft of 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 are cautioned not to ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, expensive watches, radios, cameras, and computers are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and satisfactory maintenance and repair services are for the most part not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Senegal do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating pri-vately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Senegalese 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 after they have completed their pre-service training. This gives 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 may 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 other 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 12-to-16-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, 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; select option 2, then extension 2317 or 2318.
Can I call home from Senegal?
Yes. International calls to most countries can be dialed directly. To call the United States, first dial “00” and wait for a continuous tone (different from the regular tone). Then dial “1” plus the area code and the number. If you prefer to call through an operator, dial “16.” Calls can be made at businesses known as telecenters and at cabines téléphoniques (phone booths). At a telecenter, a clerk will present you with a bill after you have completed the call. At a cabine téléphonique, you will deposit coins during the course of the call.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Cellular phones are widely used in Senegal but do not function in all parts of the country. Volunteers are allowed to purchase their own cellphones but are advised to purchase them in Senegal after ensuring that cellphones will work at their sites. Note that the cost of cellphones and service is the personal responsibility of the Volunteer.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There is e-mail and Internet access at the many Internet cafes that have sprung up in Senegal, particularly in regional capitals. The cost varies from the equivalent of around $1.50 an hour to $3.50 an hour. We discourage you from bringing a computer to Senegal because most Volunteers do not have electricity in their homes, and security and maintenance of personal computers cannot be guaranteed. If you nevertheless bring a computer, it is imperative that you purchase personal property insurance because the Peace Corps does not reimburse trainees or Volunteers for the loss of personal items.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Senegal and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Senegal.
We recommend that you bring a minimal amount of clothing. Although ready-made imported clothing is expensive in Senegal, local tailors can produce custom-made pants, shirts, and dresses for less than the cost of ready-made equivalents in the United States. Making use of these tailors will free up some packing space for other things and ensure that your clothes are suitable for the climate. Likewise, toiletries such as toothpaste, shampoo, razor blades, and deodorant can be found in Senegal, so bring only enough to last you through the 11-week training period. Also bring items that will make you feel a little like your old self in a completely new and strange home.
Remember to bring 18 photos with you for purposes such as visas and ID cards. These photos need not be expensive; those taken in a photo booth will suffice. Two final bits of advice: When packing, choose items that are modest, not ostentatious, and if in doubt, leave it out.
- One pair of jeans (expensive to buy locally), but because of the extreme heat, most prefer to wear khakis
- Loose cotton tops—some sleeveless and some with sleeves to protect bare shoulders from sunburn
- One light jacket and a few sweatshirts, sweaters, or flannel shirts (after you have been in Senegal a while, 60-degree evenings and mornings will seem very cold)
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Underwear—cotton is best; even better is travel underwear made of fast-drying material (like Ex Officio)
- One or two pairs of shorts (but note that they are inappropriate to wear in most contexts)
- For women, several skirts or dresses, below knee length (short skirts are inappropriate except for at a few places in Dakar)
- For men, two or three pairs of lightweight pants (cotton or cotton blend)
- Two or more dressy outfits for more formal work or social occasions
- One or two hats or caps for sun protection
- Two or three pairs of socks; Volunteers wear sandals most of the time, but you will need them for other shoes
- One pair of sturdy sandals and sandals such as Birkenstocks, Mephistos, or Tevas for daily wear
- Casual shoes with closed toes, such as sneakers or running shoes
- Dress shoes
Note: Many volunteers have clothing made out of beautiful and colorful African material, which is made in Dakar. If you take favorite designs or even patterns, the tailors can copy them.
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- One bath towel (when it wears out you can buy a local one that is not as plush but does the job)
- Two pairs of prescription eyeglasses and one pair of prescription sunglasses, if you wear them
- Contact lens solutions (although dust is a real problem, some Volunteers wear them; note that the Peace Corps does not recommend their use or provide replacements)
- Sunglasses—the darker, the better
- Hair conditioner (it is expensive in Senegal, so most Volunteers do without it)
- Tampons (very expensive in Senegal)
- Soft-drink mixes like Kool Aid or Tang (some Volunteers use them to cover the taste of chemically treated water)
- Canteen or unbreakable thermos to carry clean water
- Your favorite recipes
- Plastic food storage containers with airtight lids
- A box of zip lock bags, which come in handy
- Coffeepot, if you prefer real coffee over instant
Miscellaneous Essential Items
- Camera (preferably inexpensive) and film
- Swiss Army knife and small whetstone
- Daypack or sports bag for weekend trips (suitcases are very inconvenient)
- Pictures of your family and friends to share with Senegalese in friends
- One or two bathing suits for beach or pool swimming
- Watch—inexpensive, rugged, waterproof, and dustproof (cheap ones are available locally)
- Battery-operated shortwave radio and a supply of batteries (radios are available locally for around $40)
- Small cassette player and cassettes (prerecorded and blank cassettes are available locally, but the former are not of great quality)
- Three or four bandannas
- Scissors for cutting hair
- U.S. stamps—to send letters to the States with people going home
- One set of fitted and flat sheets—double size is best (good, inexpensive flat sheets are available in Senegal)
- Battery-powered alarm clock
- Calendar or schedule book
Nice to Have but Not Essential
- Books (the Peace Corps office has many, but additions are always welcome)
- Light sleeping bag (many Volunteers use them as portable mattresses)
- Musical instrument, if you play one and can tolerate possible damage to it from the climate
- Games, e.g., Frisbee, Scrabble, playing cards
- Sports equipment, e.g., football, softball and mitt, tennis racket (some cities have courts)
- Flashlight (standard metal ones are available in Senegal); if you bring a Maglite, do not forget to bring extra bulbs
- Solar calculator (available locally)
- Small stapler and staples
- Warm blanket (some find one comforting)
- Mini-cassette recorder to send messages home
- Sunscreen, at least SPF 15 (non-hypoallergenic varieties are available in Senegal)