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 US, 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 PST.
(Your Name, GUY 30)
U.S. Peace Corps Guyana
c/o United States Embassy
100 Young & Duke Streets, Kingston
Once you move to your site, you are responsible for sending your new address to family and friends.
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 $35 USD. If you choose to purchase a basic smartphone it will cost approximately $100 USD 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.
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 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 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.
Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America. It combines a somewhat Caribbean-flavored culture on the coast, with a mixture of Afro- and Indo-Guyanese influences; and an Amazonian culture in the vast, forested hinterland. Most of the population lives in a long narrow strip along the Atlantic Ocean stretching from Venezuela to Surinam. The open savannah and forests of the interior are dotted with small indigenous communities, some of which still preserve their own language. The country is crisscrossed by myriad rivers, and transportation to and from your site may involve a mix of minibus, hired car, small plane, motor boat, and canoe. Large towns have power lines, communication infrastructure and running water, while many rural villages rely on solar panels and community wells. Cell phone and internet service is sporadic although usually available along the coast. Volunteers in remote locations will be issued satellite phones for emergency communication, and will have access to internet when they travel out of their communities once or twice a month to shop and bank.
Volunteers who serve successfully in Guyana are open-minded, flexible, emotionally mature and resilient. They are self-starters, who can deal well with ambiguity and isolation and be proactive in an unstructured work setting. They are culturally competent and show respect by following cultural norms.
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.
One of the pleasures of getting to know another country is eating new food. Your host family will cook for you the first 2 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 US, 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 PST.
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 varies from GY$100 - 200 (about 50 cents – US$1.00), 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, Copa Airline, Fly Jamaica, American Airline and Liat. There are also about three daily cargo flights.
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.