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Living Conditions in Guyana

Communications

Mail

Mail service between the United States and Guyana is fairly reliable. Air mail letters from the US to Guyana take three to four weeks to arrive, and from Guyana to the U.S., four to five weeks. Surface mail may take months. Please instruct your family and friends to use the address below to mail you letters and packages during pre-service training.

(Your Name, GUY #)
U.S. Peace Corps Guyana
c/o United States Embassy
100 Young & Duke Streets, Kingston
Georgetown, Guyana
South America

Once you move to your site, you are responsible for sending your new address to family and friends.

Phone

Peace Corps does not provide cell phones and therefore it is recommended that you bring a personal cell phone with you, particularly if you would like a higher quality smart phone during your service. In order for it to work in Guyana, you must ensure that it is unlocked in the U.S. and has a slot for a SIM card, which you will purchase in Guyana in order to get a local number. You may also use part of your initial walk-around allowance funds to buy an inexpensive phone in country. A basic phone (no camera, no MP3, no Bluetooth) starts at about US$35. If you choose to purchase a basic smartphone it will cost approximately US$100, and you will need to cover the additional cost on your own. There are two major telecommunication companies (Digicel and GT&T). They both offer pre-paid plans, and you can put credit on your phone (called Top Up) as needed; these phone cards are available in local shops all around Guyana.

Internet

Peace Corps Guyana encourages bringing a computer, but it should be made clear that computers can be easily stolen, so it’s a good idea to purchase personal property insurance if you decide to bring one. There are computers with internet access and printers for Volunteer use at the Peace Corps office in Georgetown. Internet cafes are found in the major living areas (towns and villages) and offer services at a reasonable cost.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training you will live with a Guyanese host family, and the living conditions are dependent on the site. Many homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, and many have televisions and telephones in the coastal areas. In the remote training site, the amenities within these homes are more minimal and will vary. Living with a host family allows for your integration into the community and helps ensure that you live safely and securely in the community. For the first five months of service, all Volunteers are required to live with host families that have been identified by the Peace Corps. It should be noted that each site is unique, and the living options are primarily dependent on two main factors: what is available at site and what meets Peace Corps Guyana’s minimum safety standards. Houses in Guyana typically are constructed from wood or cement block and have two to three bedrooms. Most towns have running water and intermittent electricity. The electric current is 110 volts in most urban areas and 110 volts with some 220-volt outlets in rural areas. The 110-volt outlets use the same type of prongs as in the United States, but the 220-volt outlets have three prongs in the British style.

Living Conditions

Guyana, is the only English-speaking nation in the region, just five degrees north of the equator, and blessed with a consistently warm and tropical climate throughout the year. The country experiences two rainy seasons from December to January and May to June, adding to the lush greenery that covers its landscapes.

Guyana's cultural tapestry is a fascinating blend of Afro- and Indo-Guyanese influences along the coast, complemented by diverse indigenous cultures in the expansive hinterland. Its populace primarily resides in a slender coastal strip stretching from Venezuela to Suriname along the Atlantic Ocean. The interior is characterized by open savannas and forests, harboring small indigenous communities that diligently preserve their native languages. The extensive river network provides opportunities to explore the diverse landscape via minibuses, hired cars, small planes, motorboats, and canoes.

Volunteers play a pivotal role in these communities, often living with local host families to facilitate cultural exchange and integration. Accommodations vary but are invariably safe and comfortable. Housing may feature basic amenities, but the volunteers will have the opportunity to acclimate to local living standards. Disparities in electricity, running water, and sanitation are not uncommon, necessitating adaptability.

Peace Corps Volunteers are renowned for their resilience and resourcefulness in navigating challenges, and they offer a unique opportunity to deeply engage with Guyanese culture, contribute to community development, and establish enduring connections with the local population. By volunteering, you can make a significant difference in the lives of the people of Guyana while experiencing its unique beauty and culture. Overall, Guyana is a unique and mesmerizing country that offers an unforgettable experience to all who visit. Come and be a part of this incredible community of Volunteers who are committed to positively impacting the life of Guyanese through service.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food

One of the pleasures of getting to know another country is eating new food. Your host family will cook for you the first two weeks, and help you learn to cook local dishes yourself. With its mix of cultures, Guyana offers an array of Indian, African, Chinese and Amerindian-inspired dishes, and wonderful local seasonal fruits.

That said, please be aware that your diet will be different than it is in the U.S., and you may find it challenging at first to adapt. Many Guyanese families eat much more rice and bread, and much less meat and fresh vegetables, than you may be accustomed to, and not all products are available in all communities at all times of year. Rural and remote sites, especially, may have limited choices, although you may have the opportunity to grow some vegetables of your own.

Maintaining a vegetarian diet can be challenging since rural communities do not always have access to a wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Soy products are occasionally available in larger towns and are neither commonly eaten nor seen in the villages. You will have an opportunity to speak to currently serving Volunteers about their food adaptation strategies during pre-service training.

Transportation

The main means of public transportation for most Guyanese is the minibus. Trainees and Volunteers also use this mode of transportation. Based on an exchange rate of GY$215 to US$1, the price for traveling around central Georgetown by minibus varies from GY$100.00-200.00 (about US$0.50 – US$1), and special taxi service for the same area costs GY$400 (about US$2). The cost for traveling longer distances and along the coast land varies according to the distance and the location.

Social Activities

Guyana is a culturally rich country that offers diverse social activities that vary depending on the location. These activities usually occur in communities, towns, or the capital city and can provide Volunteers with an excellent opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the local way of life and establish meaningful relationships.

Some exciting activities include attending dramatic productions, concerts, and beauty pageants. However, among the most favored social events are attending local movie theaters, bars, and nightclubs. Weddings, religious festivals, folk festivals, and heritage-week activities representing the six ethnic groups in Guyana are also popular events. Furthermore, one can enjoy delicious food and experience the hustle and bustle of the local market at fairs and barbecues. Overall, Guyana's social activities offer something for everyone and provide a great way to experience the country's rich culture and build lasting relationships with its people.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Maintaining a professional demeanor while serving as a member of the Peace Corps is crucial. This involves being aware of the cultural norms and values of the host community and adjusting your appearance and behavior accordingly. As a Volunteer, it is highly recommended that you adopt a dress code, hairstyle, facial hair, make-up, piercings, and greeting style that aligns with the professional standards of the community and shows respect for local customs. This may mean wearing appropriate and respectful clothing and avoiding anything that may not align with the expectations of your workplace or community.

Men are usually well groomed, and professional dress see men wearing short-sleeve button down shirts and ankle length pants on business days and may add a jacket and/or tie for more formal events. Women usually wear lightweight short-sleeve suit jackets or knee-length skirts with blouses, dresses or long pants or slacks.

Shoulder-length hair and locs are generally acceptable on men, if clean and well-groomed. While tattoos are not uncommon in Guyana, it still has a negative view in some communities, therefore in professional settings, please be prepared to cover all tattoos.