FAQs about Peace Corps in Ecuador
From Peace Corps Wiki
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Ecuador?
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 and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches (length + width + height). The larger piece of checked luggage may not exceed 62 inches, and both pieces together may not exceed 107 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag. Keep in mind that with the exception of the initial trip to the training site, you will be responsible for transporting your luggage around Ecuador.
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 Ecuador?
The current is 110 volts, 60 cycles, the same as in the United States. Some towns, however, do not have electricity.
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. ATMs are widely available in larger towns and cities.
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 special situations that have been approved by the country director. 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.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The 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 personal property 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, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Ecuador 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 trucks and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Ecuadorian 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?
During the fourth week of pre-service training, trainees attend a “site fair” at which available sites (e.g., the coast, the highlands or sierra, the Amazon Basin region or oriente, and possibly the Galápagos Islands) are described. Although Peace Corps staff must assess your technical and language skills and finalize site selections with your counterparts prior to making a site assignment, you will have an opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. 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 usually are within two or three hours from the nearest fellow 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, extensions, 2516, 2515, or 2525.
Can I call home from Ecuador?
Telephone service from Ecuador to the United States is generally quite good, and all of the major calling card services are available (i.e., AT&T, Sprint, and MCI). Most communities have a telephone office where you can call the United States collect or pay for the call on the spot. Very few Volunteers have phones in their homes, but many have neighbors with phones. (Note that it is not a good idea to use a neighbor’s phone with the promise to repay the phone owner later.)
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
There are two major cellular phone companies in Ecuador that provide service in most of the large urban areas. While coverage is expanding, some Volunteer sites are in areas that do not have cellular service. Costs are decreasing as a result of competition, so some Volunteers buy a local cellphone (most U.S. cellphones are not compatible with the Ecuadorian system) and purchase prepaid cards for service. Keep in mind that cellphones are very much in demand and that theft is an issue for any Volunteer who has a cellphone.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Because it is a major tourist destination, Ecuador is well supplied with Internet cafes. In fact, there are so many of them in Quito that prices are quite low as a result of the intense competition. In addition to e-mail services, most Internet cafes offer phone call alternatives such as Net2Phone. Peace Corps/Ecuador neither recommends nor discourages bringing a computer, but it should be made clear that computers are easily stolen, so you should purchase personal property insurance if you decide to bring one.