Guyana

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Letters from the U.S. usually take two weeks to arrive in Guyana and four to five weeks to arrive in the United States from Guyana. During training, your address in Guyana will be: “Your Name,” PCT, Peace Corps PO Box 101192, Georgetown, Guyana South America. Once you move to your site, you are responsible for sending your new address to family and friends.

Telephones

International phone service to and from Guyana is relatively good. Some Volunteers will have their own landline telephones or easy access to a neighbor’s phone. Other Volunteers will be issued a Peace Corps satellite phone based upon certain site conditions. It is possible to purchase your own cellphone in Guyana. However, be aware that many cellphones purchased in the United States will not work on Guyana’s cellular phone system.

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 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 six 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 safety minimum standards. Houses in Guyana typically are constructed from wood or cement block and have two to three rooms. 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 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 and Diet

Pre-service training will provide you with an introduction to the Guyanese diet. During training, meals with your host family will mainly be Guyanese dishes and will represent an important aspect of your cross-cultural experience. Guyanese food varies greatly depending upon locale, religious leaning, and ethnic background. Guyana has been accurately described as the food basket of the Caribbean. A wide variety of tropical fruits and a smaller variety of vegetables are available. In addition, American standards like peanut butter, pasta, and tuna, while more expensive than local fare, are readily available in coastal sites. While many Guyanese consume a variety of meat, ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary (e.g., labba and other “wild meat”), there are also many vegetarians in Guyana because of its diverse cultures and religions. Vegetarian Volunteers fare well in Guyana with beans, legumes, and eggs as the primary sources of protein. Overall, Volunteers have not reported any major dietary problems but their remarks reflect that there is a much greater variety and availability of foods on the coast than in inland areas. A recipe book created by previous Volunteers will be made available to you and will help guide your food choices.

Transportation

The main means of transportation for most Guyanese is the minibus. Trainees and Volunteers also use this mode of transportation. The price for traveling around central Georgetown by minibus is GY$100 (about 50 cents), and special taxi service for the same area costs GY$400 (about $2). The cost for traveling longer distances and along the coast land varies according to the distance and the location. Many communities are accessible only by river. Corials (paddleboats), speedboats, and jet boats are widely used for this purpose. It is mandatory for trainees and Volunteers who live and work in the riverine areas to use life jackets, which Peace Corps/Guyana provides. Travel among counties is also highly dependent upon the rivers. While the Demerara Harbour Bridge links West Demerara to Demerara and Georgetown, ferry service exists for crossing the Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice rivers and for transport to Bartica and other river communities. Traveling by air is the major form of transportation to areas in the interior of Guyana and to the rest of the world. Approximately six international passenger flights arrive and leave daily. The major airlines that frequent Guyana are Caribbean Airlines, Suriname Airways, Insel Air, Copa Airline, and Liat. There are also about four daily cargo flights.

Social Activities

Social activities in Guyana vary from place to place. A variety of activities, including dramatic productions, concerts, and beauty pageants, are held at the National Cultural Centre, city and town halls, and community centers in villages. Popular social activities include going to the cinema, bars, weddings, religious festivals and celebrations, folk festivals, and heritage-week activities representing the ethnic groups in Guyana. Fairs and barbecues are also popular events.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Your appearance is important to establishing yourself as a professional in your workplace and community. It is important to realize that personal appearance delivers a message, intended or unintended. Cultivating a more refined look, consistent with the look of Guyanese professionals, is advised. Inappropriate dress is something that can set a Volunteer unnecessarily apart from his or her community. Men typically wear short-sleeve shirts and trousers on regular business days, sometimes adding a jacket and/or tie for more formal business events. Women typically wear lightweight short-sleeve suit jackets or knee-length skirts with blouses or dresses, and only occasionally wear slacks. Along with all government buildings, both schools and health centers have strict dress codes for their staff and visitors, typically posted at the entrance. Among the stipulations, short and T-shirts are not permitted and closed-toe shoes must be worn; sandals and slippers are not permitted. For females, spaghetti-strap, sleeveless, or halter/tube tops and dresses are not appropriate in the health and education work settings. Three-quarter length capris are acceptable in some professional settings but typically not at the school or health center. Please note that long leggings or opaque tights should not be worn as a form of pants.