FAQs about Peace Corps in Zambia

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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 will I be allowed to bring to Zambia?

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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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.

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.

What is the electric current in Zambia?

The local current is 220 to 240 volts, 50 cycles. You will need a transformer to use American appliances here. There are also power surge fluctuations and outages that take a toll on equipment. A solar battery recharger may be useful.

In general, most Volunteers recommend against bringing electrical appliances because 95 percent of Volunteers do not have electricity at their sites. The exceptions are Volunteer leaders in the provincial capital and a few Lusaka-based Volunteers.

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 though it is becoming increasingly difficult to use traveler’s checks in Zambia. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal 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. To allow for more cross-cultural experience, Volunteers are also allocated an additional four days per quarter for in-country travel. Your associate Peace Corps country director must approve all leave. The country director must approve out-of-country travel. 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 cannot provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. 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, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair are not available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Zambia do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle. But this is only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. With the approval of the country director, you may also rent a vehicle for use away from your site during approved leave. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

What should I bring as gifts for Zambian 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 won’t 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 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 ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may be able to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in rural villages, usually within three to four hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites will require a two- to three-day public transport trip 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 ext. 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 1.800.424.8580, select option 2, then ext. 2334 or 2333.

Can I call home from Zambia?

Long-distance telephone communication is available, but it can be difficult at times and it will always be very expensive.

A call from Zambia to the U.S. will cost about $4.00 per minute. Calling cards can be used on private phones with the assistance of an operator and the cost will be considerably less. Many Volunteers use this method when they are in Lusaka or in their provincial capitals. Each of the Peace Corps Volunteer leader houses, situated in five provinces, has a phone, so it is possible to arrange a time to receive a phone call. Most post offices in the major cities have international services but only during their regular hours. Within Zambia, telegrams take two to three days, are inexpensive, and are sometimes the best way to communicate.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Most cellphones from the U.S. are not adapted for use in Zambia. Cellular service (especially SMS) and SIM cards are quite inexpensive , it is free to receive calls, and service is good in most towns and cities. It may be limited in rural areas.

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

Computers and e-mail access are available at the Peace Corps Volunteer leader houses situated in each of the provinces where Peace Corps Volunteers work. Internet access is more difficult because there are only a few Internet cafes around the country. The cost of these cafes varies but tends to be relatively expensive. Internet access is available free of charge in the resource library in the Peace Corps office in Lusaka.