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.
The Eastern Caribbean enjoys a tropical climate with consistent warm temperatures year round that average lows of 23 and highs of 31 Celsius (73—90 Fahrenheit) . The climate conditions generally fall into a dry and wet season, with the latter encompassing the hurricane season (June-October).
During the rainy season, humidity can reach 80%. Air quality during the dry season vary, with plumes of Saharan dust affecting the archipelago. The islands of the Eastern Caribbean are, in relative terms, close to the equator, so UV levels are higher than experienced in North America.
Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean provides the following items:
- SIM card for your personal unlocked phone, or a local phone and SIM card. Local phones are flip phones without internet access. We recommend, if a person is able, bringing an unlocked smart phone as it will have greater utility throughout service
- water filter
- mosquito net
- medical kit including bug repellent and sunscreen
- medical testing kits when required
- prescription medications, including supplements, but no herbal or non-conventional medications. You should, however, pack a 3 month supply of your medications.
A modest settling-in allowance is provided after pre-service training to support you in purchasing basic household supplies as you settle into your community.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:
- Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
- 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
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.
Below is guidance on clothing that falls within cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.
A modest range of professional and casual clothing is available for purchase in the Eastern Caribbean in a wide range of sizes, but quality and variety may be limited and items expensive.
Professional dress is important in the Eastern Caribbean.
- Professionals in the Eastern Caribbean, teachers in particular, generally dress in what US Americans might term “business casual” and on occasion a bit better.
- Male teachers wear dress shirts or polos and pants (not jeans). Female teachers wear blouses or polos with trousers, or knee-length skirts and dresses. Tops in school should cover the shoulders.
- There are some occasions where more formal dress—a dress, or jacket and tie—might be expected (induction, graduation, weddings, etc.).
Pre-service training (PST) clothing
- During your PST, you will generally be expected to dress as you would for the classroom—business casual.
- Clothes should be clean and pressed, and in good repair.
- Facilities for laundry will vary among homestay households, but at a minimum Trainees can expect access to a laundry sink, while in some cases, a washing machine.
- Clothes are generally air-dried (which can be tricky during the rainy season).
Leisure and recreational clothing
One of the perks of your service in the Eastern Caribbean is the opportunity to enjoy walks and hikes along our rivers and beaches, in addition to joining in our cultural festivals. You will want to pack athletic wear, swimwear and leisurewear. Pack your favorite brand workout wear, yoga pants, running clothes etc.
- While there is a strong beach culture in the EC, as a cultural norm, swim wear is strictly for the beach. Clothing worn to and from the beach should be modest and torso and shoulders should be covered.
- For exercise, it is appropriate to wear an exercise shirt, sleeveless, short-sleeved or t-back with an exercise short or legging. Exercise bras are generally worn as underwear and not outerwear.
- At home, when living with a host family, clothing should be modest—shorts and t-shirt or sleeveless shirt are appropriate.
- As heavy rains and hot sun are features of the Eastern Caribbean, lightweight rain jackets, brimmed hats, and lightweight long-sleeved shirts can be helpful. For undergarments, cotton is encouraged.
When socializing with friends, dress norms vary. Take your cue from your host family and community members.
Volunteers often have to walk some distance, on uneven ground, in different weather conditions to work and amenities, or to the bus stop. Shoes should be durable and comfortable, except of course for special occasion shoes. It is possible to buy shoes in the Eastern Caribbean, but they tend to be either expensive or of variable quality. American size guidelines are generally used.
- Shoes should generally be closed and low-heeled. Dressy sandals (for women) and deck shoes are acceptable.
- A good walking/running shoe or hiking shoe is recommended, as well as a sandal for day to day wear. A slipper/flip-flop is useful for indoors.
- Our Volunteers observe that good hiking/running shoes are difficulty/expensive to come by.
- Dress shoes, flat or heeled, are appropriate.
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.
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.
Additional guidance for Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean
- Most toiletries (such as shampoo and conditioner for a variety of hair types, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, razors, etc.) can be found locally.
- Persons with a preference for a specific brand of tampons or sanitary napkins should bring along a three-month supply to allow time for Post to source the required brands.
Smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices are in wide use in the Eastern Caribbean, and brand name electronics are available for purchase, but are considerably more expensive than in North America.
- Eastern Caribbean standard voltage is 220V / 50Hz
- Plugs are 3 pin square plugs similar to those in Great Britain. You will need outlet adapters (type G adapter) for your US plugs.
- Mobile phones, cameras and laptops most often operate with inputs of 100-240V 50/60 Hz. Check each electric device you intend to bring.
- If your appliance is 120V/60Hz, you will need a transformer or voltage converter. We do not recommend bringing electric equipment that requires a transformer as this can be costly in the short and long term.
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 difficult to find in-country. These items are not required or even recommended, but they might be something you’d like to have.
Most kitchen supplies are available in the Eastern Caribbean. However, Volunteers have recommended the following:
- Tupperware, a lunch bag/box and a reusable travel cup
- Arts and craft supplies
- Cards or board games
- E-Reader, while others rely on the Peace Corps Volunteer library
- Microfibre/camping towel
- Sheets, pillows and towels are supplied by landlords and available locally, but some Volunteers prefer to bring a set of their own. Note however, that sheet sizes are marginally different and don’t always give the best fit.
- Photos of family and friends
- Small items that make you feel at home.
- Water bottle
- Ear plugs (music can be played very loud)
- Stickers, pencils or other small tokens to share with children in your community
- Volunteers suggest Sharpie or similar type markers