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Living Conditions in Liberia



Mail may be sent to: [your name] Peace Corps Volunteer, P.O. Box 707 Monrovia, Liberia. Letters may be received at the above post office box number. Parcels may also be sent, but delivery is not reliable. If parcels are sent it is recommended to keep the tracking number for reference. Expensive items have been pilfered from parcels. Mail typically arrives in the capital in three to five weeks.


All calls are made by cellphone. The cellphones in Liberia are not “locked” into a particular provider, as they are in the United States. They use SIM cards, so if you bring a phone with you, please be sure it is multi-system and is “unlocked.” Calls to the U.S. are possible, though some Volunteers will not have service in their houses. Internet calls to the U.S. depend on the bandwidth available through the level of your Internet service, but may be difficult.


Internet access is limited throughout Liberia. If you have your own laptop or smartphone, you may be able to use a data SIM card. Several cellphone companies offer Internet service through cellphone technology.

Housing and site location

Volunteer housing is provided by the host country; the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health collaborate with local school authorities, community leaders, and partner organizations to secure housing. Liberia uses 220 volt electricity, however there are several electronic stores at which you can purchase transformers for 110 volt appliances. The wall sockets, however, have not changed, so the U.S.-style flat-pronged plugs are the norm. There are some European-style plugs with two pins, so Volunteers will see a variety. It may be useful to bring one plug adapter set, or purchase them locally, if needed. The majority of Volunteers serve without electricity and running water. Some Volunteers invest in small solar panels for electricity. Water will be from nearby pumps and will have to be carried to your house. Your workplace will be within walking distance of your home, but it might be a long walk! Dependent on community need, the Peace Corps makes every effort to cluster Volunteers within reasonable distances of each other in order to promote collaborative efforts, maximize safety and security, and minimize isolation. You must be prepared to accept the living conditions to which you are assigned as you will be living under the same conditions as the people with and for whom you work. The Peace Corps inspects all potential housing and surrounding communities to ensure they meet consistent standards for health and safety.

Living allowance and money management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in United States dollars that is sufficient to live at a level comparable with host country counterparts. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home, so it will be important to budget funds. Volunteers will receive a settling-in allowance to purchase the basics they need, such as bedding, dishes, etc. 

There are not many bank branches upcountry, some counties do not have a bank branch at all, and some areas do not have ATM machines. Volunteers will likely have to travel some distance to banking facilities in another town. Liberia is a cash economy, and U.S. credit cards attract high withdrawal fees. There are a few retailers in Monrovia who will cash a U.S. personal check for a fee. In villages and towns, most daily transactions use Liberian currency.

Volunteers’ accounts with the banks are U.S. dollar accounts and banks will dispense same. However, Volunteers can convert U.S. dollars to Liberian currency from the local money changers. They are ubiquitous and offer competitive rates.

Peace Corps alternative to banking is the use of mobile money. Mobile money is a service provided by telecommunication companies in Liberia and can be linked to your bank account. It allows users to transfer money from their bank account to their mobile money wallet and vice versa. Purchases can be made directly with mobile money in many retail outlets. Volunteers can also withdraw either U.S dollars or Liberia dollars from their mobile money wallet to make cash transaction.

Food and diet

In Liberia, rice is the staple. Other favorite foods include plantains, fufu, and dumboy. The latter are paste balls made out of various root vegetables and have the consistency of tapioca. The typical meal is a sauce called “soup” or “gravy” poured over rice. These can be thick, spicy stews of vegetables with meat and/or fish, or more of a broth with meat and vegetables.

Meat is not trimmed the way Americans are accustomed, so there are frequently bones or cartilage. The variety may be beef (“cow meat”), chicken, or “bush meat” (usually game). Fish may be fresh, dried or smoked. If meat or fish are not available, peanuts are always a good source of protein.

There are not a lot of vegetarians in Liberia, so most cooked dishes will have meat in them. Strict vegetarians and vegans will be challenged.

Pineapples, bananas, papaya, coconuts, and mangoes are grown locally.

It can be challenging to eat a well-balanced meal during some seasons and the variety of foods may be limited. Most types of food are available in large grocery stores in the capital but are quite expensive: Western-style foods will be rare additions to a Volunteer’s diet.


Transportation is a challenge in Liberia. Most roads are not paved, so travel is slow, and some roads become impassible during the rainy season. Volunteers will most often travel around the country in shared-ride “bush taxis,” which are most often Nissan Sunny sedans packed with six passengers. Most of these vehicles are old and driven in rough conditions, so breakdowns are common. Some Volunteers will be in sites where cars are not an option. In these cases, the Volunteers are authorized to ride a limited distance as a passenger on a motorcycle taxi wearing their Peace Corps-issued helmets. Volunteers transiting around the capital will most often use shared-ride style taxis during the day. If Volunteers wish to purchase a bicycle, helmets will be provided and Volunteers will be instructed on the bicycle safety policy. 

Social activities

In Liberian villages and towns, personal relationships are forged more by time spent with each other than by doing any particular activities. Friends, neighbors, and street sellers will invite you to sit with them as you walk by, and spending a few minutes with people goes a long way toward earning trust and respect. Ignoring people or not greeting them with a handshake is considered rude. In Liberian society, people keep their friendships with members of the same sex; it is strange to have close friendships with members of the opposite sex. Male Volunteers will likely spend time with their male friends at street kiosks, local football games, or video centers. Female Volunteers will likely spend time with female friends in their homes or at the market. Religious functions, having a drink at a restaurant or bar, or going to night clubs are also common Liberian social activities. Peace Corps/Liberia hopes to model non-traditional gender roles for both men and women, and staff can provide guidance on how this can be done without jeopardizing safety or treading upon local customs and morays.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior

Being neat and cleanly dressed in a culturally appropriate manner is a sign of respect and pride. Worn, dirty, or ripped clothing is unacceptable. While clothes may have quite a bit of wear and tear due to rough washing, transportation, and manual labor, great care should be taken to be neat, clean, and presentable. Long hair and long beards are not normal for men in this society. Shorts are normally worn by boys or students rather than men. It is appropriate to wear shorts for sporting events or around the house and yard; otherwise, pants or jeans are appropriate. Short skirts, tops that expose the stomach or lower back, low-rise jeans/pants, backless dresses, spaghetti-strap tops, and shorts (outside of sporting activities) are considered inappropriate for females. If shorts are worn for exercise, they should be longer shorts— preferably to the knee. Pants are acceptable for women, although most women will wear skirts or dresses. All dresses and skirts should cover the knees, even when sitting. For women, inappropriate dress could attract unwanted attention and even harassment. Visible tattoos and body piercing may attract unwanted attention and commentary. Earrings and nose rings on men may create concerns among supervisors and counterparts.