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Packing Guidance for Liberia

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.

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.

Liberia is a humid tropical country with a dry season and a wet season. The temperature averages around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, occasionally exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the day and rarely falling lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Even after the sun sets, Liberian houses hold residual heat for several hours and thus are often warmer inside at night than the outside temperature.

The rains fall between April and November, with peak rainy season occurring between June and October. The high humidity often makes the temperature feel hotter than the actual thermometer reading.

Raincoats and umbrellas are available in Liberia but may not be the quality and durability you are used to. We strongly recommend bringing a lightweight but breathable rain jacket and a sturdy umbrella.

While 70 degrees may seem warm to many in the United States, once you are acclimatized it could feel quite cool. We recommend bringing a thin jacket or hoodie for chilly rainy season nights.

Peace Corps Liberia provides the following items:

  • Samsung Galaxy A series phone: All Peace Corps Volunteers are required to carry a smart phone to use for communication, location reporting, and work activity reporting.
  • Samsung tablet: Peace Corps provides a tablet that is compatible with Peace Corps Volunteer Reporting and Grants (VRG) system. Depending on the circumstances, Volunteers may be responsible for replacing lost, stolen, or damaged electronics.
  • Mosquito net: Liberia is a malaria endemic country. In addition to taking malaria prophylaxis, Peace Corps Volunteers are required to sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Bug hut: While traveling, it is not always possible to hang a mosquito net. Peace Corps Liberia provides a transportable bug hut so Volunteers can sleep safe while away from home.
  • Medical kit: Peace Corps Liberia provides all Volunteers with a medical kit. See the full list of items.
  • Water filter: The tap and/or well water in Liberia is not potable. All Volunteers receive a high quality activated charcoal water filter for water purification at site.
  • Safety equipment: Each Volunteer receives a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, flammable gas detector, and a fire extinguisher.
  • Propane stove: Volunteers are provided with a stove for cooking and a gas canister for their stoves. Volunteers are responsible for refilling the canister during their service, if necessary.
  • Library of work-related books and novels: The Volunteer lounge at the main office in Monrovia has a lending library. Volunteers are encouraged to use it.

When you complete your pre-service training and begin your transition to your site, you will be given a settling-in allowance to support the purchase of basic supplies for your home, such as kitchen items, bedding, simple furniture, etc.

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.

Work supplies

For both the Education and Health sectors, Peace Corps Liberia promotes the use of local resources in Volunteer work. This presents a challenge as many schools and clinics have very few resources. One of the tasks of the Volunteer is to work with counterparts to identify local solutions to resource constraints using what is available. We discourage Volunteers from bringing resources from outside that may create conditions that are not replicable after the Volunteer’s departure.

Fixed-blade hunting/camping knives

Cooking knives and folding pocket knives are legal/permissible in Liberia. However, fixed blade hunting or camping knives of any length are considered weapons and are prohibited.

Food

With the exception of high-nutrition snack foods such as trail bars or trail mix that you may want for your first week to help you transition to the local diet, please do not bring large quantities of food. Part of cultural integration is learning to embrace and share local ways of eating.

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation. Peace Corps Liberia highly recommends that you plan on transitioning to locally available clothing as part of integration into your new community. That said, pre-service training is busy and it takes time to get comfortable buying at the market or having clothing tailored.

We recommend that you bring enough clothing for your first several months in Liberia. Clothes are washed by hand and line dried. This process can be tough on some delicate materials such as sheer fabrics as well as on buttons and other adornments. Thicker fabrics and heavy cotton can require longer to dry, sometimes requiring multiple days during the rainy season, so consider building your wardrobe around lightweight but sturdy materials.

Work clothing

Peace Corps Liberia expects business casual attire during pre-service training. This consists of long skirts or dresses, covered shoulders, modest necklines, and long pants.

Appropriate professional attire for both the education and health sector consists of pants, jeans, knee-length or longer skirts and dresses, and shirts/tops that cover the shoulders and upper arms, waist, and lower back. All dresses and skirts should cover the knees, even when sitting. We recommend that you bring at least one nice outfit such as button-down/slacks or blouse/skirt for high-level meetings.

Because of the tremendous heat in the classroom (for the Education sector) and because the Health sector often requires biking to satellite work locations, we recommend lightweight, breathable fabrics, provided they are not see-through. A professional wardrobe of wrinkle-free fabrics will save you the extra effort of needing to iron your work clothes.

Women Volunteers often wear long skirts, dresses, or loose linen pants in professional settings. Male Volunteers have found that dressier-looking lightweight hiking pants can be more comfortable in the heat and easier to wash than formal slacks. Some Volunteers appreciate the durability of jeans for rugged outdoor work, while others find them too hot and too difficult to wash by hand.

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. Being neat and cleanly dressed is a sign of respect and pride in Liberia. Dirty or ripped clothing is unacceptable in professional and public environments. Shorts are normally worn for exercise, or by children and students rather than adults and are not appropriate in professional environments. Similarly, short skirts, tops that expose the stomach or lower back, low-rise pants, backless dresses, and tank tops and spaghetti-strap tops are considered inappropriate in rural and professional settings. Pants are acceptable for women, although many local women in rural and professional settings will wear long skirts or dresses.

Undergarments

Underwear and bras are available locally but may be of lower quality than you are used to and may not be easily available in your size. They also tend to wear out more quickly due to rough washing and line drying. We recommend you bring at least a six-month supply, if not more. Some Volunteers bring an extra supply of undergarments to put away in reserve for their second year of service.

Leisure and recreational clothing

Leisure: Undershirts, tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, yoga pants, sports bras, and leggings are appropriate for sleep and lounging at home. Women Volunteers often wear bike shorts around the house and then tie a lappa (traditional cloth) around their waist as a sarong when going outside the house. Basketball shorts are also a popular option. Local women commonly wear form fitting tank tops around the community but are more modest about showing their legs in public.

Exercise: It is appropriate to wear shorts and tank-tops for sports and exercise. If shorts are worn for exercise in the community, they should be knee-length or longer. Shorter shorts are acceptable for exercising at home. Sport bras and tight-fitting leggings should be covered for public exercise.

Swimming: Liberia has many rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and beaches, and provides ample opportunities for swimming, so pack a swimsuit. Bikinis, one-piece suits, and board shorts are all acceptable.

Sun protection: The sun in the dry season can be very strong. Sunscreen is provided by the Peace Corps as part of a Volunteer’s medical supplies. We recommend bringing a lightweight sun hat and good polarized sunglasses. Both of these are available locally but may not be the quality you are used to and may not offer the same protections, such as UV protection and polarization.

Shoes are available for purchase in Monrovia and at local markets, both second-hand and new. They are available in a large variety of quality and sizes but may be difficult at first to locate. We recommend that you use the guidance below to bring at least one pair of each type of shoe you think you will need to get you started. If your feet are larger than size 12 in either men or women, you may consider bringing more than one pair.

  • Education sector: Closed-toed shoes are standard in the classroom. Flip flops and shower shoes are not appropriate for the classroom, though sport sandals are acceptable.
  • Health sector: The Health sector requires frequent biking to satellite work locations. We recommend bicycle-appropriate footwear such as tennis shoes or durable, fully secure sandals. Inexpensive leather or vegan leather closed-toed shoes are appropriate for higher-level work meetings.
  • Shoe polish: The dust, dirt, and mud of unpaved roads and paths is hard on leather/vegan leather shoes. We recommend that you bring at least one tin of shoe polish of the appropriate color to maintain your shoes and keep them looking sharp. You may also consider waterproofing wax/sealer.
  • Leisure and recreation: We recommend bringing one pair of shoes for your preferred form of recreation, whether it is running, trail running, hiking, wading in the water, playing soccer, etc. Many Volunteers find sport sandals like Tevas or Chacos durable and comfortable during their free time, as well as acceptable in schools and some other professional contexts.
  • Rubber slippers: Many Liberians wear inexpensive rubber or plastic slippers while going about their daily activities. These are appropriate for casual public activities such as going to the market or visiting friends in off hours. They are inappropriate for professional settings and important public events such as weddings and funerals but wearing them when appropriate will help you integrate and prolong the life of your work and leisure footwear.
  • Rubber boots/galoshes/waterproof shoes: During the rainy season, roads and paths become extremely muddy. Many Liberians wear rubber boots during the rainy season. Sizes and quality are limited in local markets, so consider bringing rainy season footwear. Because it is very warm in Liberia, try to avoid boots with insulation or linings. Keep in mind it should be something you feel comfortable walking or biking in.

Consider packing:

● One pair of sturdy sandals

● One pair of sturdy trail/running/athletic shoes

● One pair of dress shoes

● One pair of waterproof boots or galoshes

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.

Toiletries and medications

If specific toiletries/skincare items are important to you, bring your favorite brands from home and bring plenty of it! It is very difficult and expensive to get imported toiletries in Liberia. Basic toiletries such as bar soaps, toothbrush/toothpaste, shea butter, etc. are available in local markets.

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 Liberia.

  • Hair: Salons and barbers in Liberia specialize in African hair. Outside of Monrovia, it is difficult to find salons and barbers who have experience with other types of hair. Volunteers who do not use local salons and barbers sometimes seek haircuts from fellow Volunteers, while others choose to groom themselves. You may consider rechargeable clippers/trimmers, haircutting scissors, and/or razors. Hair ties and bobby pins can be difficult to find in Liberia.
  • Menstrual products: Pads and tampons are available in Monrovia, but not elsewhere. Upon request, the medical unit provides menstrual cups to Volunteers.

Voltage

Liberia runs on 220v. Most phone and laptop chargers are compatible with both 120v (U.S. standard) and 220v. Electronics sold in Liberia are 220v compatible. Make sure in advance of bringing any electronics from the U.S. that they are compatible with 220v. Electronics that are only 120v compatible may burn out, catch fire, or damage the battery if they are plugged into 220v. Small travel voltage converters are available for purchase online, but are generally low amperage and will not support high amperage electronics such as hair dryers or kitchen appliances.

Power surges

The electrical grid in Liberia is extremely unreliable with frequent power outages, power surges, or mixed sources of electricity, such as gas or diesel generators. Because of this we recommend using a surge protector when plugging in your electronics. Surge protector multi plug strips are available in Liberia, but may be more expensive than what is available in the U.S. Before buying a surge protector, make sure that it is 220v compatible.

Access and reliability

Access to electricity is limited in Liberia and varies greatly at Volunteer sites. Some Volunteers will have electricity in their homes, others will have a pay for service charging booth in their community, while others may have to travel to the nearest town to recharge devices. Even when wired for electricity, many communities experience frequent and sustained power outages, especially in the dry season. All Volunteers should be prepared to not have access to electricity for at least a portion of their service. For this reason, power banks will be useful for keeping phones and other small devices charged. Many Volunteers find that solar chargers are of limited use since they require sustained time in a sunny spot and may be stolen while charging outside a Volunteer’s house. For nighttime use, we recommend you bring at least one rechargeable headlamp and/or rechargeable lantern. Candles, flashlights, and rechargeable LED strips are widely available in Liberia.

Outlets

Outlets in Liberia are not sourced from a single country. It is common to find U.S., French, and U.K. outlets—sometimes in the same room. Plug adapters are available for purchase in Liberia, but are sometimes low quality and may present a fire hazard if they fit poorly. We recommend bringing at least one high quality adapter or adapter set that is compatible with U.S., French, and U.K. plugs/outlets.

Personal devices

Peace Corps Liberia issues smartphones and tablets to all Volunteers and makes shared office computers available for quarterly reporting requirements. That said, most Volunteers find bringing their own laptops, personal smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and other personal devices useful and convenient for work and personal use. Given how hard the climate is on electronics and how difficult it is to find repairs or replacements, if you choose to bring a personal device, we recommend bringing used or inexpensive ones. Some Volunteers find that their own smartphone has a higher quality camera than the PC-issued phone and thus occasionally use it for photography but don’t carry it around all the time. While locally available, you may consider packing a few backup screen protectors of the correct size for your devices.

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. This list is compiled from what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having and may be hard to find in country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but might be nice to have.

Arts and crafts

Art and craft supplies are largely unavailable or expensive in Liberia, but can be an excellent hobby and way to bond with community members and students. If there is an art or craft that is near and dear to you, you may want to consider bringing some supplies. Crayons, yarn, crochet hooks, and sewing thread are locally available.

Books

The Peace Corps Liberia Volunteer Lounge has a lending library of novels and educational textbooks that are available to Volunteers. Many Volunteers prefer e-readers to paper books due to the weight of transport, but in sites with limited current it can be difficult to charge e-readers, and the humid climate can be hard on electronics in general.

Camping

There are many camping opportunities available in Liberia although they are not as developed as traditional campgrounds in the U.S. For those who enjoy camping, you may want to consider bringing a rainfly and footprint large enough for your Peace Corps-issued Bug Hut (two persons), a sleeping pad, high quality water filter, and a lightweight sleep sack. Consider additional camping gear based on what you would normally use. Keep in mind that you are prohibited from bringing fuels or other flammable materials. The Peace Corps medical kit includes insect repellant.

Cooking

Many Volunteers find comfort and connection in cooking for themselves and others. Traditional Liberian kitchens are very different from kitchens in the United States. Cooking is typically done in pots rather than pans, food is cut while being held in the hand rather than on cutting boards, and meals are heated over charcoal, wood fires, or gas burners rather than stove tops—although most Volunteers use a two-burner gas range similar to a stove top. For Volunteers who love to cook, consider bringing a good quality pan, spatula, cutting board, decent chef knife and sharpening rod, and any other “essential” cooking utensils.

Food

Traditional Liberian cuisine consists primarily of rice with a soup or gravy See Living Conditions for additional detail.

  • Seasoning: Liberia is home to a galaxy of local spices collectively known as “country spice” that are delicious and can be fun to explore in both Liberian and foreign cuisines. Herbs and spices from other parts of the world are expensive and difficult to find outside Monrovia. Some Volunteers choose to bring an assortment of dried spices for a taste of home.
  • Snacks and supplements: High-nutrition snack foods such as granola or protein bars can be difficult to find and are expensive, but many Volunteers supplement their diets with locally available peanuts and peanut butter. Snacks like chips, cookies, and crackers are widely available. Vitamins and nutritional supplements are widely unavailable outside of Monrovia.
  • Spicy foods: Liberia loves spicy food. Dried hot pepper and pepper sauces are abundant, inexpensive, and delicious.
  • Coffee: Instant coffee is widely available and popular in Liberia. Ground coffee is difficult to find outside of Monrovia and is very expensive.

Gardening

Many Volunteers take up gardening as a physical outlet and to produce herbs and vegetables that are harder to come by in rural and regional settings.

  • Greens: Liberia has abundant cooking greens, such as sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, and collards, but other fresh greens like lettuces, arugula, and kale are harder to come by.
  • Herbs: Herbs such as basil, oregano, green onions, parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, turmeric, ginger, and sage grow well in the Liberian climate, but are almost non-existent in the market.
  • Vegetables: Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, bitter eggplant, and squash (known locally as pumpkin) are available seasonally.
  • Seeds: Seeds are hard to find in Liberia and often have low germination rates. If augmenting your diet with home-grown goods appeals to you, consider bringing a selection of seeds.
  • Tools: Most gardening implements are available locally, but hand trowels, pocket knives, and clippers can be hard to find.

Games

Ludo (similar to Sorry) and checkers are the unofficial board games of Liberia. Scrabble, Monopoly, and chess are locally available in Monrovia but not the rest of the country. Packing other games such as cards, Uno, Settlers of Catan, or other card or board games can be fun and engaging ways of connecting to your community—just no gambling!

Gifts

While by no means required, a small gift can be a nice way to make early connections with host families and community members. Calendars of American scenes, coffee table books, pictures of yourself in the U.S., hard candies that can withstand the heat, and small knick knacks are very much appreciated.

Household goods

Pillows, bedsheets, towels and other household goods are available in Liberia, but the comfort and quality is often far below what is available in the United States. Fitted bedsheets are difficult to find. Microfiber towels dry much more effectively in the rainy season than a traditional cotton bath towel though are difficult to find locally. It can be very difficult to pound nails into the cement walls of Liberian houses, so bringing removable sticky hooks can be useful. Some Volunteers enjoy having a hammock at their site.

Music

Many Volunteers who play a musical instrument find comfort and connection by bringing an instrument with them to Liberia. Please be aware that the climate can be very hard on musical instruments and they may be attractive to theft. If you consider bringing a musical instrument please do not bring something of high monetary or sentimental value. Many Volunteers use a portable Bluetooth speaker to play music in their home and with community members.

Personal items

Showing photos of your home and family can be an excellent way to connect with your new community and work partners. Consider bringing photos to decorate your house and to show to locals. You can also consider bringing other sentimental or personal items that help keep you grounded and connected to your sense of home and self, but please do not bring anything that you could not live without in case of loss or damage.

Photography

Many Volunteers take excellent photos on their smartphones. For avid photographers who want to pack your camera equipment, understand that it may present a temptation to theft and may be damaged in the excessive heat, dirt, and humidity. Please consider how you intend to use your camera equipment, especially when taking photos of people. “Extractive” photography is highly discouraged by Peace Corps Liberia and can create conflict when photos are taken without the subject’s consent. Please seek consent before photographing others.

Sports

Liberia loves sports! Primarily football (soccer), but also basketball, volleyball, and kickball. Monrovia even has a squash club. Sports can be a great way to connect with your community and students. Footballs and basketballs are available locally, but other types of sports equipment can be harder to find, such as frisbees, baseballs/gloves, badminton, yoga mats, etc.

Travel

Many Volunteers travel within Liberia and internationally over the course of their service. Peace Corps Liberia recommends that you secure checked baggage during international flights with TSA-approved locks. You may also consider using locks on luggage while using local transportation. Other helpful items include a large backpack for multi-day trips around the country, tote bag, small-mouthed water bottle (easier to drink from on bumpy roads), and a debit or credit card if you intend to travel outside of Liberia.

Packing suggestions

Here is a list of items Volunteers have brought; none are required by Peace Corps, so consider luggage limits and what you already own that could make your time in Liberia more comfortable and enjoyable. Be realistic with what you’re likely to use and don’t interpret this list as essential for your service (if you’re not a person who plays frisbee, don’t bring a frisbee).

Electronics:

● Laptop

● Bluetooth speaker

● Bluetooth or corded headphones

● Rechargeable headlamp

● Rechargeable or solar lantern

● USB flash drives

● Inexpensive wristwatch

● Extra screen protectors for your personal phone (if bringing)

● Rechargeable fan (especially helpful for sleeping in heat)

● USB adapter, if necessary for your laptop

● Power bank (many people use two)

● E-reader

● Power/ outlet converter

● Rechargeable hair clippers

● Portable projector for showing movies

● Small gaming console

● External hard drive with movies/TV shows/e-books

Recreation:

● Home workout gear (resistance bands, yoga mat, downloaded videos, etc.)

● Hammock

● Frisbee

● Table tennis set

● Polarized sunglasses and sun hat

● Musical instrument that can withstand dirt/heat/humidity

● Art supplies

● Card games or other small games (Farkle, Monopoly Go, Uno, Dutch Blitz, etc.)

● Hammock

Miscellaneous:

● Multitool

● Removable sticky hooks for hanging things

● Duct tape

● Umbrella and raincoat

● Cross body bag/hip pack

● Large backpack for travel around country

● TSA luggage locks

● Favorite pillow

● Quick-dry towels

● Favorite office supplies/good quality pens and pencils

● Mementos from home—photos, etc.

Kitchen:

● Chef’s knife and small cutting board

● Sauté pan

● Spatula

● Veggie peeler

● Can opener (local ones are poor quality)

● Zip top bags

● Favorite spices

Leave at home:

  • Half the clothes you packed—you don’t need as much as you think you do, and clothing is easily available in Liberia
  • Solar panel—not feasible to use at many sites, and good solar options are available in Liberia
  • Blazer/sport coat/tie—locally tailored fashions are common for formal events
  • Irreplaceable items