Jamaica

Jamaica 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

Jamaica’s climate is generally tropical and hot year-round with seasonal rains, mainly in October and May. Thunderstorms can bring heavy showers in the summer months and typically align with hurricane season from June to November. The average annual rainfall for the entire island is 82 inches, but variations are considerable between the mountainous and flat savanna regions.

The temperature averages around 85 degrees, rarely exceeding 90 in the day and rarely falling lower than 70 at night. The more mountainous areas can experience lows in the 50’s. Because volunteers arrive on island for training not knowing exactly which region they will be placed, we recommend bringing one lightweight, breathable rain jacket and/or an umbrella and one light sweater.

Items provided in-country

Peace Corps Jamaica provides the following items:

  • Cell phone: All Peace Corps Volunteers are required to carry a phone to use for communication and location reporting. Depending on the circumstances, Volunteers may be responsible for replacing lost, stolen, or damaged phones. More information on exactly which kind of phone can be shared closer to departure.
  • Medical kit: Peace Corps Jamaica provides all volunteers with a comprehensive med kit. Please see the full list of items in the kit before packing any basic medical items such as Tylenol, decongestants, lip balm, masks, Band-Aids, scissors, thermometers, tweezers, hydrocortisone cream, etc.
  • Library books for borrowing: The Peace Corps Jamaica volunteer lounge has an extensive collection of books for Volunteers to borrow during their service. Volunteers may want to bring specific books of their own, but dozens are available for borrow that have been donated by previous Volunteers.
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detector
  • Mosquito net
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.

Clothing

Culturally, Jamaicans place great value in attire and the neatness of physical presentation and consider being cleanly dressed as a sign of respect and pride.

Peace Corps Jamaica staff have identified culturally appropriate clothing as a significant factor in successful volunteer integration. Additionally, due to Jamaica’s tourism industry, a casual manner of dress may result in volunteers being viewed more as tourists and thus result in more unwanted attention.

In a volunteer’s work setting, this likely translates to more formal clothing than they may be used to in the United States or may have expected for an island country. Trainees and Volunteers will likely only wear casual/leisure clothes on weekends and some afternoons therefore it is recommended to pay special attention to bringing enough professional clothing.

Professional dress is a firm expectation of teachers in classrooms throughout Jamaica and is based off guidelines from the national Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education’s dress code will be shared with education invitees before arrival to country.

According to cultural norms, clothing should be clean and pressed. It is recommended to have about two weeks’ worth of professional clothing that can be mixed and matched and for applicants to research videos/information related to cultural norms of Jamaican dress/attire.

Professional clothing

Professional dress is a non-negotiable expectation of teachers in classrooms throughout Jamaica and is based off guidelines from the national Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education’s dress code will be shared with education invitees before arrival to country. Please note that Pre-Service Training is considered a professional environment that is helping all trainees prepare for the Jamaican work setting, so the clothing guidance outlined below is required.

Education Volunteers wear skirts and dresses that fall below the knee and blouses that fully cover the shoulders and are not overly form-fitting. Educators also wear khaki, dress, or “Chino” style pants with collared, button down, short sleeved shirts or blouses. Clothing should be cleaned and ironed. It is recommended to bring a blazer, cardigan and/or short jacket to wear over dresses or with skirts.

Agriculture Volunteers should be prepared for appropriate and professional dress for both office workdays and for field days. For field days volunteers should wear long pants, sturdy closed-toed shoes (or rubber boots) and a lightweight short-sleeve t-shirt. Long sleeve dry-fit / “SPF swimshirts” or button-up shirts are good choices for added sun protection for farm days. For agriculture volunteer’s office workdays, they may wear skirts and dresses that fall below the knee and blouses that fully cover the shoulders and are not overly form-fitting. Volunteers may also wear nice (untorn) jeans, khaki, or “Chino” style pants with collared, polo-style, and/or button down, short sleeved shirts or blouses. Clothing should be cleaned and ironed. It is highly recommended that agriculture volunteers bring a brimmed sunhat or fisher’s type hat with neck coverage for farm days.

There are some occasions (professional, holidays, weddings, swearing-in) that require more formal attire, such as a fancier dress, a jacket or a tie. A long-sleeved, button-down shirt with a tie ( in lieu of a jacket) when coupled with dress pants is also appropriate for these formal events. We recommend one or two more formal outfits, including shoes, for these occasions.

Trainees should expect to launder their clothing by hand or may be able to use a washing machine once per week. Your host family will assist in showing you how to wash by hand if you are not familiar with this method. Laundering may vary whether by hand or washing machine, however limiting the use of the washing machine is necessary to limit water and utility costs.

Clothing will be available in country but the variety will not be as diverse and the prices will be higher that in the United States. Trainees may also find it difficult to find the time due to pre-service training sessions to travel to a shopping center so it’s highly recommended to bring what you need for training.

Leisure and recreational clothing

For exercise, Volunteers may wear knee length shorts, loose t-shirts, and yoga pants. Short running shorts are not advised.

For swimsuits, Volunteers may wear modest one or two-piece styles, as well as knee-length shorts. Thongs or speedos are not culturally appropriate.

Given Jamaica’s heavy rains during rainy season and hot sun, a light/breathable rain jacket, umbrella, rain boots, wide-brimmed hat and lightweight long-sleeved shirts can be helpful. For undergarments, cotton or natural fibers is encouraged.

Shoes

In workplace settings, professional, close-toed shoes are the norm. Many Jamaican teachers wear heels, but flats and low wedges are acceptable. A simple piece of advice is to either wear shoes with an open toe or open heel, but you’ll rarely see both. Volunteers walk and stand a good deal in their workplace footwear, so shoes should be durable, comfortable and take the elements into account. Agriculture volunteers may find workboots or rain/water boots helpful to have.

In casual settings, sandals, sneakers, rain boots, and other comfortable shoes are acceptable.

Volunteers do a lot of walking and also have many opportunities to participate in hiking or athletic activities in Jamaica. Durable, comfortable walking shoes (like sturdy boots, sneakers or sandals) are encouraged.

Both professional and casual footwear options are available in Jamaica for a broad range of U.S. sizes. Options and quality may be limited so it is important to approach such shopping with an open mindset.

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 Peace Corps/Jamaica

Most toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and razors can be found locally. Volunteers may find it helpful to bring a 2–3-month supply of toiletry items to get them started in country. Post recommends a three-month supply of feminine products.

The Jamaican climate can be hot, especially during pre-service training. Post highly recommends bringing a supply of adequate deodorant that prevents body odor under this climatic condition.

Electronics

Jamaica operates on 120/240V supply voltage, and 60Hz. No adapters are necessary for U.S. electronics to operate here.

Volunteers who have brought their smart phones, laptops or tablets in the past have found them to be helpful. If you bring a personal phone that is unlocked it can accept a Jamaican SIM card which you may find useful here.

Flash drives are quite expensive in Jamaica, and although not required, some volunteers have found it useful. Many volunteers recommend PC products, as Apple products are not always compatible with local hardware.

A headlamp or flashlight is highly recommended by Volunteers placed in rural communities.

Other items to consider

Based on your interests, hobbies, and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of some items that Volunteers indicated might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required but they may be nice to have depending on your interests.

  • Bed linens (queen size): You can find linens in Jamaica but the affordable linens are low quality. High quality are much more expensive than in the U.S.
  • French press, collapsible tea kettle, camping percolator, or coffee grinder (instant coffee is most common in rural areas): Our coffee-loving trainees recommend brining an initial pound of coffee to get started.
  • Iron (or do not recommend bringing many cotton or linen clothing)
  • Durable water bottle
  • Cooking supplies such as specialty spices, a paring knife, can opener and vegetable peeler
  • Running or trail shoes
  • Sturdy backpack or duffel bag for day trips
  • A re-usable tote bag for grocery shopping, etc.
  • Crafts, art supplies, colored pencils
  • Musical instruments
  • Journals
  • Beach towel
  • A nice-smelling soap
  • Small wireless speaker