Jamaica

Jamaica flag

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Mail from the United States usually takes two to four weeks to arrive. Packages can take from up to six weeks to arrive. During pre-service training (PST), trainees are not allowed to receive mail or packages. Once you become a Volunteer and are at your site, you will have your letters and packages sent directly to your new local/community address.

Telephones

Volunteers are required to maintain a reliable cell phone during service. You are mandated to participate in all Peace Corps Jamaica communication activities, especially those related to your health and safety. Therefore prior to arrival, Trainees are strongly encouraged to arrive with an internationally unlocked LTE compatible smartphone that can accommodate a SIM card. Trainees unable to arrive with an unlocked smartphone will be provided with a phone and handled on an individual basis.

Digicel and FLOW are the two major cell phone in-country providers. On arrival in-country, Peace Corps/Jamaica will provide each trainee with a Digicel hybrid SIM card, which is a part of an All Staff/PCV Closed User Group (CUG). The SIM card will be loaded with some minutes outside of the CUG and 3KG of data. This will allow for unlimited local monthly text messages. More on this will be provided upon arrival. Additional credit may be purchased at many retail outlets (gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) throughout the island.

Internet

If you bring a laptop, it is recommended to insure it and bring a power surge protector. Broadband internet service is available in Jamaica and you will likely have the option of choosing from several internet service providers based on your site location. You may also connect your laptop to the Volunteers’ Wi-Fi Internet service at the Peace Corps office. Although most host families during training have WiFi service, some do not and it is not guaranteed you will have WiFi access at your assigned home. This may be a paradigm shift for individuals who are accustomed to constant service; we recommend that you not rely on internet during training, and that you let your friends and family know that your primary focus during this time will be on integration. There are internet cafés available in most cities/towns in Jamaica; however, much of training will be spent in sessions in rural Highgate. The Peace Corps training center has WiFi but it can be inconsistent. All volunteers will have access to WiFi at their 2-year service site, whether it be by using the host families service, purchasing it themselves through their living allowance or traveling to a nearby internet café/community center.

Housing and Site Location

Being placed at a site involves a lengthy, systematic process in order to ensure safety, security and productivity.

All Volunteers have indoor plumbing, however at times there are interruptions in service. However, the water is usually not heated, so be prepared for the adjustment to cold showers as you gradually become immersed in the Jamaican way of life and work. Laundry is often washed by hand in a sink or washtub.

Electricity exists island wide, except in very remote areas. The electrical system in Jamaica is operates on a 110V supply voltage and 50Hz. Very few Volunteers go without a refrigerator or other electrical appliances, and many Volunteers may even have amenities such as cable television.

All Peace Corps Jamaica Volunteers must live in a host family setting for the duration of their service, as this provides added security. Housing will vary and may include an independent small home on a family compound, a private entrance to a space attached to the family home, or in a room within a home with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Please come prepared to live in any of these kind of housing arrangements.

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.

Food and Diet

A common Jamaican diet includes chicken, curried goat, fish, pork, beef, rice and peas (red beans), ackee and saltfish, yam, green banana, boiled or fried dumpling, callaloo, cabbage, vegetable salad, pumpkin/pepper pot/chicken foot/bean soups, and other fruits and vegetables. Your host families will be more than happy to explain the different foods and preparation methods.

For those who are vegetarians or vegan, it is quite possible to maintain a healthy diet while living in rural Jamaica, although the variety may be less than you are used to. There is usually at least one vegetarian restaurant in most cities and towns. Fresh fruits and vegetables are everywhere in Jamaica and, when in season, can be purchased at reasonable prices.

Please note that during training breakfast and dinner for all seven days per week will be provided by your host families and you will receive an allowance for your lunch.

Transportation

The government is making progress in improving the urban transportation system, introducing more buses to address overcrowding, especially during peak hours, and getting them to operate in a timely manner. Rural travel options range from large buses, minibuses, route taxis/private taxis, to pickup trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. It may be necessary for you to walk or bike some distances in hot, mildly humid, or rainy weather. Improved stamina, weight reduction, and overall improvement in general well-being are beneficial side effects reported by Volunteers in Jamaica. The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with funding for a supplement to purchase a bicycle on a case-by-case basis for work-related purposes. Volunteers are required to wear a helmet at all times while riding bicycles. These helmets are issued by Peace Corps/Jamaica.

Social Activities

Activities available for entertainment will depend on where you are assigned and how creative you are. Among the possibilities are reading, walking, writing letters, photography, swimming, socializing with friends, taking classes, doing arts and crafts, going to movies or plays, watching videos or television, watching or participating in sports (such as dominoes, netball, swimming, hiking, football, and cricket), listening to music or a shortwave radio, going to the beach, playing indoor games (e.g., cards or dominoes—the national pastime), and playing musical instruments. The majority of Volunteers state that they have changed their socializing habits once they arrive in Jamaica. This is especially true when it comes to going to bars; it is culturally unacceptable to spend time drinking in bars in Volunteers’ communities, which can be a big change for some individuals.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

In Jamaica, being appropriately dressed is essential for integration, showing respect, establishing and maintaining professional credibility and being seen as separate from tourists. Experience has shown that Volunteers may arrive with a preconceived idea of island attire and not realize the significance Jamaicans place on dress. Volunteers will be viewed by the community as professionals and are expected to dress accordingly.

Staff will review the cultural nuances of dress in the Jamaican context early and trainees are requested to arrive in professional attire and plan on wearing this for your entire pre-service training. Resources will be shared with invitees early on with details and pictures of the appropriate professional and casual clothing.

Please refer closely to Packing Guidance for more details.