Packing list for Samoa
From Peace Corps Wiki
There are some suggestions for packing, generated by Volunteers serving in Samoa. 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 items sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. As mentioned earlier, Volunteers who choose to go with the airline allowances over the Peace Corps allowances do so at their own risk and potential expense. Remember, less is often more, and you can get almost everything you need in Samoa. Use this list as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list!
Keep in mind also that what you bring probably will not make it back to the U.S., so don’t bring anything you would be heartbroken to lose.
Clothes should be lightweight, easily washable, quick drying, and the less ironing, the better. Cottons or cotton blends are cooler and more comfortable than nylon or other synthetics. Synthetics do not breathe, hold in moisture, and create breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi. Don't bring leather items (e.g., shoes or journals) because they get moldy quickly. "Business casual" clothes in the U.S. and in Samoa are slightly different. Business casual clothes for Samoa take into account the ever-present heat, humidity, and sweating. Modesty and neatness are important. Business casual clothes, especially closed-toe shoes, will probably be used only at staging or be tucked away for potential vacations to colder-weather climates. Lightweight U.S. business casual clothes and nice sandals can be useful to Volunteers assigned to offices and for church functions until they have a few Samoan outfits made.
For work and formal occasions, women wear puletasis, which are a fitted blouse and long skirt, while men wear button-down shirts with a lava lava (wraparound skirt). For other everyday use, especially in the villages, a neat T-shirt and lava lava are worn. Please note that clothes can be made or purchased inexpensively in-country. (A lava lava ranges from around $3 to $10 (U.S.) and puletasis start around $30 and go up depending on the quality of fabric and style.) Also, there are a few secondhand stores where clothes can be purchased cheaply ($1 to $3). Therefore, when trying to make the luggage weight limits, do not stress over clothing, less in terms of clothing is the way to go.
Following are some suggestions for both men and women:
- Two pairs of flip-flops (inexpensive ones can be purchased in-country).
- One pair of sport sandals (e.g., Teva, Keen, Old Navy, etc.) or reef shoes.
- One pair of comfortable sandals (good for more formal occasions; dress shoes and close-toed shoes are not necessary as they are rarely, if ever, worn in-country).
- One or two pairs of running/walking shoes.
- One pair of boots (recommended only for avid hikers and for those in professions who feel they may need them, such as carpentry, metal working, or fieldwork).
- A few pairs of socks (for use with running shoes and boots; they are not really needed on a daily basis with flip-flops and sandals).
- One or two belts (not leather).
- Five to six pairs of modest shorts (knee-length preferable; cargo shorts work well; a few pairs of biker shorts are useful for wearing under lava lavas; Umbro-type shorts are good for wearing over swimsuits, especially for women).
- One long-sleeved shirt for breezy evenings.
- Warm clothes—if you plan to travel to New Zealand or Australia (some Volunteers have these shipped to them when they need them or they can be purchased cheaply at secondhand stores in Samoa).
- Athletic clothing appropriate for your sports and leisure preferences. Rash guards are recommended for surfers and integrated coastal management initiative (ICM) Volunteers.
- Two or three towels (the quality is not the same as in the U.S.; one chamois-type towel is convenient for carrying around in your backpack when traveling).
- Good sun hats are a must here. The sun is very strong.
- Umbrella (these are preferable to rain jackets, which get too hot, and can be purchased cheaply in Samoa).
- Bring a few work outfits. Summer dresses or mixed tops and bottoms are best. Dresses and skirts should be at least knee-length (mid-calf to ankle-length are better).
- Women rarely, if ever, wear pants in Samoa, especially in professional and village settings. They do sometimes wear them under lava lavas and in informal settings (e.g., playing sports, going to a beach picnic, or shopping in Apia). A pair or two of lightweight pants (such as capris or khakis) and/or a pair of jeans (if you normally wear them in hot, humid weather) should prove sufficient for informal occasions. Business casual dress pants are not worn and unnecessary to bring along.
- Four to six T-shirts for around the house and non-work occasions (dark colors are recommended as they do not show the dirt and stains as much).
- Nicer T-shirts, which cover the shoulder, for casual work situations and running errands, are also useful to mix and match with skirts and lava lavas.
- Tank tops are not worn in most professional settings and many villages, but a couple of them may come in handy for the beach and other informal occasions.
- Two-year supply of underwear and bras. Bras wear out very quickly here. Cotton sports bras work best; avoid synthetic fabrics. Boxers work well under lava lavas. (Packing half of the underwear and bras in a sealed bag and opening after a year helps to preserve the elasticity from being eaten away quickly by the humidity.)
- One half slip or one long slip (for white puletasis).
- One or two swimsuits (one-piece recommended; no bikinis unless you plan to vacation off-island).
- One or two outfits for going out to restaurants or nightclubs occasionally in Apia or while on vacation.
- Two or three light- to medium-weight pants (khakis or similar type). Men wear lava lavas here all the time so do not worry about pants too much.
- Three or four short-sleeved collared shirts (polo or button up-types)
- One short-sleeved, white dress shirt can come in handy for church functions, although you can get one in-country or may be given one by your host family.
- Four to six T-shirts for around the house and non-work occasions (dark colors are recommended as they do not show the dirt and stains as much).
- One tie for formal occasions (primarily for church-related functions). These can be purchased in-country.
- Two-year supply of underwear. Cotton boxers are recommended and bring plenty as they are hard to find here. (Packing half of the underwear in a sealed bag and opening after a year helps to preserve the elasticity from being eaten away quickly by the humidity.)
- Undershirts are handy for wearing under white church clothes, but otherwise are not worn often.
- Two dark-colored swimsuits (loose-fitting trunks are recommended; no Speedos) Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
You can find most toiletries and necessities in Samoa, but if you prefer certain brands, bring them with you. Deodorant is widely available in-country, but the quality varies, so you may want to bring some extras with you or have some mailed later on down the line. Tampons are available in the capital, Apia, but at prices slightly higher than in the United States.
Lotion, baby powder, and leave-in conditioner are useful. Lotion often has SPF in it; plus, with the sun you will be getting, it will keep your skin from getting leathery. Baby powder absorbs moisture. Diet, stress, and humidity can result in thinner hair, so leave-in conditioner will help keep sunned hair moist and healthy; it can also be a de-tangler. These items can be found in Samoa, but usually at higher prices than in the U.S., and the quality varies.
Shaving in Samoa can sometimes be dangerous. Rainwater tanks are happy homes for bacteria like strep. Moving water is less likely to have these bacteria. Shaving with water from tanks can also result in boils. It can be challenging to find good-quality razors in-country, and replacement blades for U.S.made razors can be costly. Consider bringing an ample supply. Papaya, which are plentiful in Samoa, work as a mild depilatory.
Contact lens solution, for those authorized in advance by the Office of Medical Services to bring along contacts, is available in-country, but very expensive, so bring lots of extra solution with you. Alcohol gel solution is nice, especially if you wear contacts. This will help prevent eye infections, especially for Volunteers living in villages, where hand soap is not always available.
Individually wrapped antiseptic/antibacterial wipes (like those you would get at a restaurant) are great to keep in your pocket or purse, as hand soap is not always standard in bathrooms, kitchens, etc.
Volunteers can get sunscreen from the Peace Corps medical officer, but if you have a favorite brand bring it. Waterproof sunscreen is also recommended.
Quality hair ties and clips can be difficult to find here, so bring plenty of extras if you use them.
Most items can be found in Samoa, but are generally expensive and/or of poor quality. Food items (fresh fruits and meats cannot be brought through customs) should be double bagged and air tight. Ants and humidity can get into almost anything.
- Tupperware (useful for storing food. GladWare can be purchased in Apia, but higher-quality Tupperware is expensive.)
- Specialty cooking items and utensils (basic cookware can be bought in Samoa)
- A good kitchen knife, and perhaps a knife sharpener (be sure not to pack them in your carry-on bags)
- Vegetable peeler
- Nonstick skillet
- Spices are generally available here, but if you have a favorite mix bring it. Specialty spices are hard to find, and spices overall can be pricey.
- Can opener
- Ziploc bags (various sizes)
- Favorite recipes and/or cookbook
- If you drink coffee, bring a small French press and a couple bags of your favorite brand. Most coffee here is instant, and the "fresh-ground" is not quite up to Starbucks’ quality.
- For tea drinkers, there is plenty of standard black tea, but green, oolong, and herbal teas can be hard to find.
- If you are a big fan of chewing gum, bring a few packs of your favorites, but be sure to bring the kind in plastic containers, rather than paper wrappers, as the humidity can cause gum to mold.
- Drink mixes (e.g., Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, iced tea mixes, etc.), though some are available locally.
- Dried fruits like raisins, dates, and cranberries are around, but hard to find and expensive; fancier items like dried apricots are rarely available.
- Peanuts are readily available, but any other kind of nut can be expensive and hard to find. If nuts are essential to you, ship some yourself or ask someone to send you care packages every now and then.
- Rechargeable batteries (AA and AAA) and charger. This is practically a must. Batteries go quickly here. The ones you can purchase at the markets are not of the same quality, so they do not last very long. (Some Volunteers suggest IC3 rechargeable batteries, which can be purchased at RadioShack or Target. They charge in 15 minutes, and can be recharged thousands of times.)
- Converter and adapter for 220V (same as New Zealand). Converters are used to convert U.S. electronic devices, which run on 110V to 220V. Adapters are used to plug items into the walls not to convert the voltage. Check all of your electronics so you know which ones need converters.
- Laptop computer. Computers are a great tool, and one with a DVD player is even better. You can rent DVDs here or borrow from other Volunteers. There are computers available in the Peace Corps offices, so it is not necessary to purchase a laptop specifically for coming to the Peace Corps.
- Digital camera. This is preferred to a regular camera as film is expensive and gets moldy in the humidity; developing photos is also expensive. There is no need to purchase a digital camera, but they can be nice to have. Samoans (even ones you do not know) love their picture taken and will ask you to take theirs. With a digital camera, you can delete unwanted pictures without wasting film.
- Silica gel packs. For anything electronic, especially computers, get some of these (camera shops often carry them). These will help keep your electronics from getting ruined in the humidity. Gel packs also help keep moisture out of wood-based musical instruments.
- Cassette, CD, or MP3 player and speakers.
- Battery-powered AM/FM radio and/or shortwave radio. (available here, but expensive).
- Blank CDs (and/or cassettes, if bring a cassette player). These are useful for making copying other CDs, digital photos, work documents, etc. (these are available here, but expensive).
- USB key. Very useful for transferring documents and sharing photos; also great for traveling due to their compact size.
- Flashlight. Volunteers suggest Mag-lite brand as they outlast the humidity pretty well. Avoid cheap plastic ones.
- Headlamp. Some Volunteers find these very useful.
- Travel alarm clock
- Small bag for weekend or overnight trips
- Swiss army knife/Leatherman tool (remember not to pack this in carry-on)
- Wristwatch (water-resistant)
- Locks for luggage
- One or more boxes of pens (pen quality is poor here)
- Sharpies, magic markers
- Sunglasses with strong UV protection
- Favorite music
- Sturdy water bottles (e.g., Nalgene)
- Games, cards, Frisbee, hobby equipment, etc.
- Arts and crafts supplies
- Musical instruments
- Address book
- English Bible to read at church (avoid leather covers)
- Paperback English dictionary and thesaurus
- Duct tape
- Putty (to use for mounting pictures)
- Basic tools (available here, but expensive); Allen wrenches very useful for bikes
- Lightweight quilt (believe it or not, once you acclimate it can actually get chilly at night)
- Dryer sheets (keeps stored clothes from smelling of mildew)
- Bed sheets (twin or double twin size; available in-country, but expensive and different quality than in the U.S.)
- Pillow (available in-country, but quality varies). Avoid foam pillows; the ants love them.
- Snorkeling gear (consider a rash guard if you plan to spend a lot of time in the water; it also helps protect you from getting sunburned and coral scrapes)
- Travel sewing kit
- Safety pins
- Calendar/daily planner
- Books. Mail them via M Bag at the post office before you leave (even a month or two before, which should arrive by the time you swear in). The Peace Corps office has a large library of books for you to use as well.
- Magazine subscriptions
- Pictures of your family, friends, and home (very important—your new Samoan friends will want to see what your family is like)
- Toys for kids (quantity, not quality; available at local dollar stores in the U.S., e.g., crayons, coloring books, balls, playing cards, board games, etc.)
- Maps (e.g., world, USA, your state). These are perfect teaching tools; oftentimes free at AAA)
- Picture frames (make great gifts for a host family)
You will probably exchange gifts with your host family at the end of training. Expensive gifts are not necessary. Suggested items include inexpensive perfumes and T-shirts or hats with logos (e.g., Nike, FUBU, Adidas, basketball teams, USA, your state, university names, etc.) or that have to do with “The Rock.” American items like flags, posters, pens, and pencils are wonderful. Taped action movies/DVDs are quite popular. A tourist book or wall calendar of where you live is always fun to give.
Care Package Considerations
Of great interest is how to get care packages here, and whether they will actually arrive. The mail varies greatly even from where you send it in the U.S. The following are some tips to getting mail here a little more quickly and smoothly.
- Mail comes twice a week so there is no point in ever having something shipped next day or express mail.
- The smaller the box, the better. Up to 12x12x6 seems to do well getting here. The larger the box, the more time it seems to take, the more beaten up it is, and the more appealing it is to others.
- Be sure a customs form is filled out with it. Otherwise, it gets held up.
- Be sure “Western Samoa” is on the label, and the U.S. post office is clear on where it is going. Postage should not be domestic rates; otherwise, it may go to American Samoa, where it is sent back to the U.S. or never arrives.
- It is good to write, “God is Watching,” or “God Bless this package,” on the box. Just a safety precaution. Boxes usually get here, but just in case.
- If it is valuable, insure it.
- Faster is not always…well, faster. Air mail packages can get here in three weeks or three months. If someone wants to send you something timely (e.g., for a birthday or Christmas), he or she should send it very early, air mail or not. Note that Christmas time is horrible for sending packages. If your loved ones want to send a Christmas gift, be sure they send it early or let them know you are okay if it arrives in February or later.
- Pack well. Anything that can rattle around in the box can get broken. If the smallest box available still has air spaces, candy makes great packing material (hint, hint). Avoid using styrofoam peanuts; Samoa is a small country and trash accumulates quickly.
- Don’t panic! Mail usually arrives just fine, it just takes a while.