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Packing Guidance for Albania and Montenegro

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

Albania and Montenegro experience four regular seasons. Typical weather for each season is as follows: cool, sunny and more frequent rain in the spring, hot and dry in the summer, wet and humid in the fall, and cold with frequent snow in mountainous regions in the winter. While Albania occupies a relatively small geographic area, weather can very drastically throughout the country due to the wide topographical range.

The climate varies from continental in the mountainous north, to Mediterranean in the southern and coastal areas. The coastal part of the country typically has a long, hot and dry summer season and a mild, humid winter, with shorter fall and spring periods. The climate of the inland mountainous regions on the other hand is continental, especially in the north. These regions have extreme seasonal temperatures: severely cold winters with heavy snowfalls and hot dry summers with occasional heavy rains.

Items provided in-country

Peace Corps/Albania and Montenegro provides the following items:

  • SIM Card: You will be given a sim card, which you can use either in your personal cell phone, if you bring one, or a phone that staff will provide upon your arrival. Please note, if you bring a smart phone, please be sure it is unlocked from its carrier! The PC provided SIM has a monthly phone plan, including talk minutes, text messages and data.
  • Water filter.
  • Medical kit, including bug repellent and sunscreen.
  • Funds for female hygiene products, if applicable.
  • Fire extinguisher and smoke/carbon monoxide detector.
  • Bicycle helmet, upon request.
  • Mosquito net.
  • Books available to borrow. The Volunteer Lounge at the main office in Tirana has a library. Volunteers are encouraged to take and share for personal use.
  • Peace Corps Volunteers Albania and Montenegro cookbook.
  • Settling-In Allowance to support Volunteers’ need to settle into their communities after Pre-Service Training. Volunteers commonly use this money for buying kitchen utensils, bed sheets, pillows, blankets, etc.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms

Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Work supplies

Peace Corps Albania and Montenegro promotes the use of local resources during Volunteer service. This presents a challenge as many schools and local organizations may have limited resources. One of the jobs of the Volunteer is to work with counterparts to identify local solutions to resource constraints using available means. Because of this, we discourage Volunteers bringing job aids from outside that may create conditions that are not replicable after the Volunteer’s departure.

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.

Work clothing

Albanians and Montenegrins typically make great efforts to dress professionally in work environments. As a Volunteer your goal is to be a role model for other colleagues, youth, and community members. Younger Volunteers have found it helpful to maintain a higher level of professional dress to help establish credibility on the job. You should dress appropriately, usually business casual, and occasionally more formally for ceremonies, like the Swearing-In ceremony or celebrations and events organized by your host institution and community, or for high-level meetings.

Appropriate professional attire for both the education and health sector consists of long pants, jeans, long skirts, or long dresses, and shirts/tops that cover the shoulders and upper arms, waist, and lower back. All dresses and skirts should cover the knees, even when sitting. Shorts are normally worn for exercise, or by children and students rather than adults, and are not appropriate in professional environments. Similarly, short skirts, tops that expose the stomach or lower back, low-rise pants, backless dresses, and tank tops and spaghetti-strap tops are considered inappropriate in rural and professional settings.

While clothes may have quite a bit of wear and tear due to rough washing, transportation, and manual labor, great care should be taken to be neat, clean, and presentable. Being neat and cleanly dressed is perceived and expected of professionals. Albania has plenty of shops where you may purchase clothes (new and used/second hand) throughout service. Clothes are available in a variety of styles and price ranges in larger cities and towns, while more rural locations will have a more limited selection or none at all.

Leisure and recreational clothing

Given the mountainous terrain, Volunteers often hike or take long walks in the countryside. There are also often opportunities for other outdoor activities, including jogging, biking, and sports. For all of these activities, typical active wear is appropriate, however this should be modest in more rural communities outside of larger cities.

Albania and Montenegro experience a wide range of weather throughout the year, from cold, rain and snow in higher elevations, to heat during summer. Also, you will be doing a lot of walking during training and service, so bring durable, warm, and comfortable walking shoes appropriate for colder, wet, and warmer seasons (e.g., sturdy sandals and walking shoes or boots).

The use of slippers at home is a common practice used by families. You may be offered slippers when entering a home, but we recommend you pack at least a pair for your use while staying with your host family.

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps/Albania and Montenegro:

Most salons and barbers in Albania and Montenegro do not have experience working with textured hair. Some Volunteers to seek haircuts from fellow Volunteers, while others choose to groom themselves. You may consider rechargeable clippers, hair cutting scissors, or razors.

Personal devices

Peace Corps Albania and Montenegro does not require Volunteers to bring laptops, external hard drives, tablets, smart phones or other devices. The Peace Corps Albania and Montenegro issued loaner phone and shared office computers are adequate for all work and reporting requirements. That said, many volunteers find laptops, personal smart phones, tablets, and other personal devices convenient for entertainment and work. Be aware that technology draws attention while in public. Keep in mind that electricity shortages and power outages may happen throughout service.

If you’re thinking about buying a laptop before your service, keep in mind that Peace Corps service may be very hard on the device and that a top-of-the-line model may sustain damage. An inexpensive, entry-level product will serve you well in an environment that is potentially challenging to the health of your equipment. You may think of getting a laptop that carries a worldwide warranty. Power spikes and old electric circuits make using electronics riskier than in the US. We recommend using a surge protector that is compatible with European 220 Volt/50Hz two-prong plugs.

Power Converter

Albania and Montenegro use the European two-prong plug (220 Volt/50Hz), so a standard 210-240 to 120-Volt converter is necessary to use any of your US appliances. Laptops and some other electronic equipment are usually compatible with both voltages, but other items like speakers or CD players often are not. Be sure to check your equipment for the voltage specification. You may find more information here: https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plug-voltage-by-country/. Also, you may check the types of plug and sockets in this site: https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets. Regular batteries are available locally, but can be expensive and may not last long.

The Internet is widely available. Most cafes, even those in smaller sites, have free WiFi. Also, the SIM cards we will provide you upon arrival have a considerable amount of data, renewable monthly.

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having that might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but they might be nice to have.

Arts and crafts. Common art and craft supplies are available in Albania although more expensive than in the US. Arts and crafts may be a hobby and way to bond with community members and students, still if there is an art or craft that is near and dear to you, you may want to consider bringing some supplies.

Books. The Peace Corps Albania and Montenegro Volunteer Lounge has a lending library of novels and educational textbooks that are available to Volunteers.

Camping. There are many camping opportunities available, though they are not as developed as traditional campgrounds would be in the U.S. For those who enjoy camping, you may want to consider bringing a rainfly and footprint large enough for your Peace Corps issued Bug Hut (two persons), a sleeping pad, and a lightweight sleep sack. Consider additional camping gear based on what you would normally use. Keep in mind that you are prohibited from bringing fuels or other flammable materials.

Cooking. Many Volunteers find comfort and connection in cooking for themselves and others. For Volunteers who love to cook, consider bringing a good quality pan, small cutting board, decent chef knife and sharpening rod, and any other “essential” cooking utensils.

Food. The availability of some vegetables and fruits is seasonal, but prices for locally grown produce are low. Imported produce is usually available year-round at higher prices. Local produce in the summer is fresh and tasty. See Living Conditions for additional details.

Snacks and supplements: High-nutrition snack foods such as granola or protein bars are available, though might be more expensive than in the U.S. Snacks like chips, cookies, chocolate bars and crackers are widely available.

Spices: Most spices are available. However, if there is a particular spice you use a lot, you may consider bringing it with you.

Herbs: Herbs such as basil, oregano, green onions, parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, ginger, and sage are available in the market, and most of them grow well in the Albania and Montenegro climate.

Gifts. While by no means required, a small gift can be a nice way to make early connections with host families and community members. Calendars of American Scenes, coffee table books, pictures of yourself in the US, and small knickknacks are very much appreciated.

Music. Many Volunteers who play a musical instrument find comfort and connection by bringing an instrument with them. If you consider bringing a musical instrument, please do not bring something of high monetary or sentimental value. Many Volunteers enjoy having a small, portable Bluetooth speaker to play music in their home and with community members.

Personal items. Showing photos of your home and family can be an excellent way to connect with your new community and work partners. Consider bringing other sentimental or personal items that help keep you grounded and connected to your sense of home and self, but please do not bring anything that you could not live without in case of loss or damage.

Photography. Many Volunteers take excellent photos on their smart phones. For more avid photographers, consider bringing your camera equipment, but understand that it may present a temptation to theft. Please consider how you intend to use your camera equipment, especially when taking photos of people. Please seek consent before photographing others.

Sports. Albanians and Montenegrins love sports! Primarily football (soccer), but also volleyball and basketball. Sports can be a great way to connect with your community and students. Footballs and basketballs are more available locally, but other types of sports equipment can be harder to find, such as Frisbees, baseballs/gloves, badminton, etc.

Travel. Some Volunteers travel locally and internationally over the course of their service. You may consider having a backpacking and a debit or credit card to help with this.