Eswatini

Eswatini flag

Packing Guidance

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.


Overview

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.

Climate

Eswatini is generally classified as subtropical with two main seasons. The country's summer (spanning approximately from October-April) is its rainy season, with over 80% of the country's annual precipitation occurring in the form of severe thunderstorms and frontal rains (Mason 2020). The winter is the country's dry period (Mason 2020). Due to the combined forces of geography and seasonality, Eswatini experiences a wide range of temperatures, between average monthly maximums of 32°C (90°F) (in the country's hottest region) to minimums of 5°C (40°F) in the country's coolest. The existence of distinct climatic zones within the country is due to variations in altitude and proximity to the Indian Ocean.

Given the variation in temperature (sometimes within the same 24 hours) it is suggested that you dress in layers and keep a light raincoat/windbreaker with you if you are going to be outside for most of the day.

The climate in Eswatini will vary depending on where you are living. Many areas where Volunteers are located are hot for better part of the year, so be prepared for weather extremes including heat, rain, cold, thunder and lightning.

Raincoats and umbrellas are available in Eswatini, but may not be the quality you are used to, so we recommend bringing those with you.

Items provided in-country

Peace Corps Eswatini provides the following items:

  • Bicycle: Volunteers may receive funds in which to purchase a bicycle if it is determined necessary for commuting to/from work and the Volunteers home. PC also provides a helmet which will be required to wear, that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards for bicycle helmets.
  • Mosquito net: Eswatini is a malaria endemic country. In addition to taking malaria prophylaxis, some Volunteer are required to sleep under a mosquito net based on where they are located in the country.
  • Medical kit: Peace Corps Eswatini provides all Volunteers with a med kit. See the full list of items.
  • Water filter: The tap and/or well water in Eswatini requires filtration. All Volunteer receive a high quality activated charcoal water filter for water purification.
  • Library of work-related books/computers: The Volunteer Resource Center at the Peace Corps Office in Mbabane is available for Volunteer use Mon-Fri (8-5), including holidays and weekends.
Prohibited items

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.

Weapons

The use of weapons and explosives is not permitted in Eswatini. Use of fire arms by ordinary citizens other than police officers and military personnel’s is illegal in Eswatini. Volunteers are not permitted to use or possess any firearms while at any Peace Corps post.

  • Pepper spray: Do not bring pepper spray. The use of pepper spray by non-police individual is considered a crime according to the local law.
  • Fixed-blade hunting/camping knives: Cooking knives and folding pocket knives are legal/permissible in Eswatini. However, fixed blade hunting or camping knives of any length are considered weapons and are prohibited.

Work supplies

For both the education and health sectors, Peace Corps Eswatini promotes the use of local resources in Volunteers work. This presents a challenge as many schools and clinics have very few resources. Volunteers are encouraged to work with counterparts to identify local solutions to resource constraints. Because of this, we discourage Volunteers to bring job aids from outside of Eswatini that may create conditions that are not replicable after the Volunteer’s departure. Extra USB drives may be helpful to bring with you to share documents and resources with your site upon your departure.

Food

With the exception of high nutrition snack foods such as trail bars or trail mix that you may want for your first week in country to help you transition to the local diet, please do not bring large quantities of food. Part of cultural integration is learning to embrace and share local ways of eating.

Clothing

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation. Peace Corps Eswatini highly recommends that you plan on transitioning to locally available clothing as part of integration into your new community. That said, pre-service training/orientation is a busy time and it takes time to adjust to feeling comfortable to buy at the local market or have clothing made.

We recommend that you bring enough clothes for your first four months in Eswatini. Clothes are washed by hand and line dried. Previous Volunteers have recommended clothes that are adjustable/belted or even slightly small or big (to accommodate any weight loss or weight gain).

Work clothing

Appropriate professional/business 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. We recommend that you bring one or two formal outfits such as a suite and button-down shirt/slacks and tie or blouse/skirt for high-level Government meetings. Please note that a majority of Teachers in Eswatini wear business attire much like those working in a corporate setting in America.

Because of the heat in the classroom (for the education sector) and because the health sector often requires biking to satellite work locations, we recommend lightweight, SPF protection, breathable fabrics (please assure they are not see-through).

While clothes may encounter 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 a sign of respect and pride in Eswatini. Dirty or ripped clothing is unacceptable in professional and public environments.

Shorts are normally worn for exercise by adults or by children and students. Shorts are not appropriate in professional work environments. Similarly short skirts and tops that expose the stomach or lower back, low-rise pants, backless dresses, tank tops, and spaghetti-strap tops are considered inappropriate in rural and professional settings. Pants are acceptable for women, although many women in rural and in professional settings will wear long skirts or dresses. You may want to bring casual and comfortable clothes to wear within your home or in urban communities.

Undergarments

Underwear and bras are available locally, but may be of lower quality than you are used to and may not be easily available in your size. They also tend to wear out more quickly due to rough washing and line drying. We recommend you bring at least a six month’s supply (if not more).

Leisure and recreational clothing

  • Leisure: Undershirts, tank tops, lightweight T-Shirts, shorts, yoga pants, and leggings are appropriate for sleep, exercise, and lounging at home.
  • Exercise: It is appropriate to wear shorts and tank-tops for sports and exercise. If shorts are worn for exercise, they should be knee-length or longer. Sports bras and tight fitting leggings should be covered for public exercise.
  • Swimming: Eswatini has many rivers, waterfalls, and dams, and provides ample opportunities for swimming. Swimsuits should be modest, such as knee-length board shorts, one-piece swim suits, and modest bikinis.
  • Sun protection: The sun in the dry season can be very strong. Sunscreen up to 50 SPF is provided by Peace Corps. SPF is also available in stores in towns, although less variety and is somewhat expensive. We recommend bringing a hat and the sunscreen if your preference if you require above 50 SPF. Sunglasses are available locally, but may not be the quality you are used to and may not offer the same protection for UV and polarization.
Shoes

Shoes are available for purchase in the urban shopping areas and at local markets and come both second hand and new. They are available in a large variety of quality and sizes, but may be difficult to first locate. We recommend that you use the below guidance to bring at least one pair of each type of shoe you think you will need to get you started. If your feet are larger than size 12 in either men or women, you may consider bringing more than one pair.

  • Education sector: Closed toed shoes are appropriate for the classroom (closed toes sandals, clogs, flats, etc.). We recommend lightweight, leather or synthetic good quality shoes. Tennis shoes and open-toe sandals are not appropriate for the classroom.
  • Health sector: The health sector requires frequent biking to satellite work locations. We recommend bicycle appropriate footwear such as tennis shoes or durable, fully securing sandals. Lightweight, inexpensive leather or synthetic closed toed shoes are appropriate for higher level work meetings.
  • Shoe polish: The dust, dirt, and mud of unpaved roads and paths is hard on leather/synthetic leather shoes. We recommend that you bring at least one tin of shoe polish of the appropriate color to maintain your shoes and keep them looking sharp. You may also consider purchasing waterproofing (wax/sealer) which is available for purchase in towns.
  • Leisure and recreation: We recommend bringing one pair of shoes for your preferred form of recreation, whether it is running, trail running, bicycling (Peace Corps issued mountain bikes), hiking, water sports, soccer, etc.
  • Rubber sandals: Many EmaSwati (Swati’s) wear inexpensive rubber or plastic sandals while going about their daily activities. These are appropriate for casual public activities such as going to the market or visiting friends in off hours. Having some good quality tennis shoes and sports sandals are recommended. They are inappropriate in professional settings and important public events such as weddings or funerals.

Rainy season

During the rainy season, roads and paths become extremely muddy. Many EmaSwati (Swati’s) wear rubber boots during the rainy season. Although available locally, they may not be the size or quality you may be used to. Please note, it is difficult to find size 10 or larger for men. Although not strictly necessary, you may consider bringing waterproof boots or shoes.

Toiletries and medications

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 Eswatini

  • Hair: Salons and barbers in Eswatini specialize in African hair. Outside of the urban towns, it is difficult to find salons and barbers who have experience with hair from other parts of the world. For those Volunteers who do not wish to use local salons and barbers, some have found it helpful to bring rechargeable clippers/trimmers, hair cutting scissors, and/or razors in which to cut their hair.
  • Menstrual Products: Pads and tampons are widely available in Eswatini. The Medical unit provides free generic pads and tampons upon request. However, if Volunteers have the very specific menstrual product they need or prefer, they should bring their own supply. Some Volunteers that prefer using reusable products such as washable cloth pads and menstrual cups should bring them.
Electronics

Voltage

Eswatini runs on 240v. Most phone and laptop chargers are compatible with both 120v (US standard) and 240v. Electronics sold in Eswatini are 240v compatible. Make sure in advance of bringing any electronics from the US that they are compatible with 220 - 240v. Electronics that are only 120v compatible may burn out, catch fire, or become damaged if they are plugged into 240v. Small travel voltage converters are available for purchase online, but are generally low amperage and will not support high amperage electronics such as hair dryers or kitchen appliances. Please note that electricity costs are very high in Eswatini, so Volunteers are encouraged to limit their daily use of electric items.

Power surges

The electrical grid in Eswatini is extremely unreliable with frequent power outages and power surges. EmaSwati often use mixed sources of power (gas/diesel generators and electricity) in which to power their homes/businesses. Because of this we recommend using a surge protector when plugging in your electronics. Multi-plug surge protectors are available in Eswatini but may be more expensive than what is available in the US. Before buying a surge protector, make sure that it is 240v compatible.

Access and reliability

Access to electricity varies greatly at Volunteer sites. Some Volunteers will have electricity in their homes in which to charge their personal electronics, while others may have to use a “pay for service charging booth” in their community or travel to the nearest town in which to recharge devices. Many Volunteers find extra batteries, battery extenders, and/or solar chargers very useful for keeping phones and other small electronic devices charged.

Because power in Eswatini is unreliable, we recommend you bring at least one rechargeable headlamp and/or rechargeable lantern. Candles, flashlights, and rechargeable LED strips are widely available in Eswatini. You may also consider solar lamps.

Electrical plugs and sockets

Plugs and sockets in Eswatini/South Africa type D, M, and N. Plug adapters for US electronics are available for purchase in Eswatini, but can sometimes be low quality. We recommend bringing a universal type D plug adaptor and a type D plug adaptor that is USB compatible helpful. But each Volunteer will be given a few local adaptors upon arrival to support charging your US electronics.

Personal devices

Peace Corps Eswatini does not require Volunteers to bring laptops, external hard drives, tablets/ e-readers, smart phones or other devices. Many Volunteers find personal laptops, smart phones, and tablets convenient for entertainment and work. As mentioned above, if Volunteers are unable to bring a personal phone or laptop/tablet, PC will provide an allowance for you to purchase one.

Other items to consider

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you want to bring with you. The following list has been compiled from Volunteer feedback. Note: These items are not required or even recommended but may be nice to have.

Arts and crafts

There is a limited supply of art and craft supplies in Eswatini. Art and craft-making can be an excellent hobby and way to bond with community members and youth. Hard to get art supplies include: good quality scissors, paintbrushes, drawing/sketch paper and paints.

Books

The Peace Corps Eswatini Volunteer Resource Center has a small lending library of novels and educational textbooks for Volunteers. Some Volunteers prefer e-readers to paper books. The Volunteer Resource Center and Volunteer Training Center has internet available to support downloading, but it would be recommended that you download reading material onto your personal devices before you depart.

Camping

There are many camping locations available in Eswatini although they are not as developed as US camp grounds. For those who enjoy camping, you may want to consider bringing a rainfly and footprint, a sleeping pad, high quality hand pump water filter, 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. Traditional Eswatini kitchens are very different from kitchens in the US. Cooking is typically done in pots and pans, food is often cut while being held in the hand rather than on cutting boards, and meals are heated over charcoal, wood fires, or gas burners rather than electric stove tops. Volunteers will be given a two-burner gas range similar to a camping cook stove to use for daily cooking. For Volunteers who love to cook, you may want to bring with you a good quality pan and knives, knife sharpener and small cutting board.

Food

Traditional Eswatini cuisine consists primarily of rice with a soup or gravy. See Living Conditions for additional detail.

  • Seasoning: Herbs and spices from other parts of the world are expensive and difficult to find in Eswatini. Some Volunteers choose to bring an assortment of preferred dried spices.
  • Snacks and supplements: High-nutrition snack foods such as granola or protein bars can be difficult to find or are expensive, but many volunteers supplement their diets with locally available peanuts and peanut butter. Snacks like chips, cookies, and crackers are widely available. Vitamins and nutritional supplements are widely available.
  • Spices: Dried hot pepper and pepper sauces are abundant and inexpensive.
  • Coffee: Instant coffee is widely available and popular in Eswatini. Ground coffee is available in larger supermarkets in town, but is expensive.

Gardening

Many Volunteers take up gardening as a physical outlet and to produce herbs and vegetables that are harder to come by in the rural community.

  • Greens: Eswatini has abundant cooking greens such as cabbage, spinach lettuce and kale.
  • Herbs: Herbs such as basil, oregano, green onions, parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, turmeric, ginger, and sage grow well in the Eswatini climate.
  • Vegetables: Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, bitter eggplant, and squash (known locally as pumpkin) and sweet potato are available seasonally.
  • Seeds: Seeds are easy to find in Eswatini and they germinate well.
  • Tools: Most gardening implements are available locally, but hand trowels, pocket knives, and clippers can be hard to find.

Games

Scrabble, monopoly, and chess are locally available in Mbabane/Manzini, but are less known. Other games such as cards, Uno, or other card or board games can be fun and engaging ways of connecting to your community. Please remember, no gambling!

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 life, books (even coloring books), pictures of yourself in the US, packable shopping bags, and small knickknacks are very much appreciated.

Household goods

Quality pillows, bedsheets, towels and other household goods are available in Eswatini, but can be somewhat expensive. Volunteers may bring a set of towels, sheets and a blanket (thin) from home or a sleeping bag (lightweight and compactable), wrinkle release spray, travel hangers, shower bag, etc. Consider packing any “can’t do without” household items. Peace Corps will provide a package of kitchen items for cooking/eating and bed linens.

Music

Many Volunteers who play a musical instrument find comfort and connection by bringing an instrument with them to Eswatini. Please be aware that musical instruments may be attractive to theft. 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. Please see the section on Electronics before selecting a rechargeable speaker.

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 a small photo album with prints as internet connectivity is not always reliable. Consider bringing other sentimental or personal items that help keep you stay 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 (nature/wildlife, portraits, video’s, etc.) to guide on what to bring.

Sports

EmaSwati loves sports! Primarily football (soccer), but also basketball, netball and cricket. Sports can be a great way to connect with your community and students. Sporting venues and sports equipment may be hard to find in the rural communities. Footballs and basketballs are available locally, but other types of sports equipment can be harder to find, such as Frisbees, baseballs/gloves, badminton, etc. (which you may choose to bring, this could be a great way to connect with host family children).

Travel

Many Volunteers travel within Eswatini and internationally over the course of their service. Peace Corps Eswatini recommends that you secure checked baggage during international flights with TSA-approved locks. You may also consider bringing lockable cables for securing bags to the top of vehicles while using local transportation. Other items you may consider are a backpacking backpack, / day pack, small-mouthed water bottle (easier to drink from on bumpy roads), and a debit or credit card if you intend to travel outside of the country.

Other

  • Durable water-resistant watch
  • Mini projector
  • If one wears contacts, bring at least a 6-month supply
  • Solar-powered rechargeable batteries, light
  • Favorite snacks
  • Supplements
  • World map