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Packing Guidance for Madagascar

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.

Madagascar’s climate and temperature vary considerably from one region of the country to another. The island is 1,000 miles long and 350 miles wide, the size of France! The elevation ranges from sea level to 9,436 feet.

In Madagascar, two seasons are recognized: a hot, rainy season from November to April and a cooler, dry season from May to October.

Regions: The east coast experiences the heaviest and most consistent rainfall, with up to 145 inches annually. The west coast is drier. The southwest and the extreme south are semi-desert regions, with less than 30 inches of rainfall annually. The highland regions are much cooler and require warm clothing for winter (June-August). Highland temperatures can range from 85 degrees during a summer day to 40 degrees during a winter night. The coastal regions are hot and humid year-round (highs in the 90s and lows around 70).

In summary, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, with several different climates. Bring a variety of clothing.

The Peace Corps Training Center is located at 4,570 feet altitude, and can get cold, especially at night. Bring warm clothing! You will be able to purchase clothes appropriate to your site’s climate when you are installed in your site. A selection of new and used clothing can be purchased in larger towns across the country. See more details on clothing suggestions below.

As described in the following sections, Peace Corps Madagascar provides Trainees and/or Volunteers with a combination of 1) materials they keep; 2) materials they borrow, and 3) settling-in allowance to make their own purchases.

Materials Volunteers keep

These items are distributed to Volunteers and are not required to be returned to Peace Corps at the end of service.

  • Propane gas cylinder, connector, and tube – for use at site with stove top that Volunteers will purchase with their Settling-in Allowance (see below)
  • Flash drive – for storing training and resource materials
  • Mosquito net

Materials Volunteers borrow and return to Peace Corps

These items are issued to Volunteers for their use during service. Volunteers must return these items when they conclude service. Volunteers may be charged for lost, stolen, or damaged items.

  • Metal trunk – Volunteers may choose to add their own padlock for safekeeping items at site
  • Fire bucket – Provided with sand to extinguish fires at site
  • Bike, bike tools, helmet – Provided upon request to any Volunteer who requests a bike
  • Life jacket – Provided to Volunteers who need to cross a river or body of water to get to/from site
  • Water filter & ceramic filter elements – Provided to all Volunteers to be able to purify water at site
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detector
  • Books or resource materials as required by the Program team

Settling-in allowance

Peace Corps Madagascar allocates a total of MGA 795,000 (roughly USD 200) per Volunteer for settling-in allowance. This allowance may be provided as a lump sum payment (in cash or through the Volunteer’s bank account) to the Volunteer or as a combination of goods and cash or bank transfer. Volunteers are expected to use their settling-in allowance for the following basic furnishings and household items essential to live full-time at site: bedframe, mattress, cook top (gas), table and chairs, and a modest starter set of pots, pans, plates, and utensils. Volunteers should not expect the settling-in allowance to fully establish and decorate their house as they wish. This they will do over time using their living allowance.

Note: Trainees who do not bring a suitable cellphone will be required to use a part of their settling-in allowance to purchase at least a basic cell phone during pre-service training (PST). Trainees will be provided with funds during PST to purchase a local SIM card with a small amount of credit to use for emergencies during PST. Trainees may purchase additional phone credit using the daily walk-around allowance provided during PST.

Settling-in allowance supplement

Peace Corps Madagascar has a limited amount of funding to support a settling-in allowance supplement for the purchase of a basic tablet to ensure that Volunteers who were not able to bring a tablet or laptop to Madagascar are able to produce reports required by Peace Corps and access materials and forms in the Digital Library. Trainees will be offered the choice to opt-in for this supplement during PST.

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.

Apparel at work and during training

Past Volunteers have stated that they brought too many clothes. Remember this as you pack!

Trainees and Volunteers are expected to dress neatly, in clean, wrinkle-free, business casual clothing (while in training and at your place of work). Bring clothing that does not wrinkle easily. Short sleeves are fine.

In training and professional settings, shorts are not permitted for either men or women. Women should avoid spaghetti straps, off the shoulder, bare midriff, and low neckline tops as well as yoga pants, leather pants, and skirts above the knee.

Jeans can be worn during some of the Peace Corps trainings. Check what your colleagues are wearing before you wear jeans to work. Generally, jeans may be OK as long as they are not torn or overly faded.

Recommendations for workplace apparel for Volunteers by sector:

  • Health Volunteers should wear clean T-shirts, collared shirts, and/or blouses, together with long pants or skirts below the knee. Mid-calf pants are acceptable for home visits.
  • TEFL Volunteers should wear long pants or skirts below the knee, together with collared shirts or blouses.
  • Agriculture Volunteers should wear durable gardening clothing (shorts are OK as long as they reach just above the knee) while in the field and at outdoor garden workshops. While delivering indoor workshops, wear long pants or skirts below the knee and collared shirts or blouses.

Male Volunteers may wish to bring a collared shirt and tie and female Volunteers may wish to bring a dress or nice pants and shirt for special occasions. You can also choose to have traditional clothing tailored for you once you are at your site.

Madagascar has many shops that sell secondhand clothing in different sizes and reasonably priced. However, if you are very tall, big, or a special size, you may find it difficult to find secondhand or off-the-shelf clothing in Madagascar. Again, however, you can have clothes tailor-made at a reasonable price.

It gets cold in parts of Madagascar so be prepared to bring layers of clothing – for example, a packable down jacket, sweaters, sweatshirts, or hoodies.

Good quality raingear is hard to find in Madagascar; you may decide to bring a good raincoat. You can purchase simple plastic ponchos and other low-quality raingear in country.

Leisure and recreational clothing

  • Bring casual (but presentable) clothes for informal and after-work occasions and sports. Note that shorts and skirts should be knee length or longer.
  • Bring a bathing suit or swimming trunks.
  • Bring clothing that makes you feel comforted and comfortable: sweatpants, flannel shirt, athletic shorts, quick dry material workout clothes, your favorite shirt, etc.
  • Bring closed toed shoes for your Volunteer work.
  • Bring a pair of sturdy sandals (to wear at site, during non-work hours).
  • Bring a pair of dress shoes for special occasions.
  • Bring a pair of sneakers and/or (waterproof) hiking boots for exercise.
  • Bring a pair of flip flops (these are available for purchase in Madagascar, but you will want a pair during PST).
  • If you have large feet, it may be more difficult for you to find shoes to purchase (that fit you well). Bring an extra pair.

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 from Peace Corps/Madagascar:

All medications you take regularly should be documented by your medical provider prior to departure to Madagascar in order to avoid medical non-disclosures. This includes prescribed and over-the-counter medications and supplements.

The Peace Corps Madagascar health unit does not routinely supply Trainees or Volunteers with multivitamins or supplements, and there is limited availability in country. If you have a preferred brand of vitamin, supplement, or probiotic that you plan to take during your service, it is recommended that you bring your own personal supply.

Many Volunteers recommend bringing probiotics to help your gastrointestinal system adjust to the new environment. (Peace Corps will provide them only if you have a documented medical condition which requires them.)

Menstrual pads are readily available, but tampons are much harder to find at some sites. Some female Volunteers choose to use a menstrual cup (i.e., DIVA cup, Lena, Luna Cup) during their service. If that is your preferred method of feminine hygiene, you will need to bring this with you. Peace Corps Madagascar provides a supplemental allowance to eligible Volunteers for feminine hygiene.

Bring a sleep sack or enclosed travel sheet to prevent annoying pests such as bed bugs, scabies, and fleas, which are common in homestay family houses.

We recommend that you bring enough toiletries to last you through PST (3 months).

Voltage

You cannot use US appliances in Madagascar without a voltage converter, because the standard voltage in Madagascar (220 V) is higher than in the United States of America (110 V). Note, however, that laptop and cell phone power cords have built-in converters, so you don’t need a separate converter for them though you will need an adaptor to be able to plug into wall sockets in Madagascar (see “Plugs and Adaptors” below).

Plugs and adaptors

In Madagascar power plugs and sockets are of type C, D, E, J and K. In order to plug your US laptop or phone charger into a socket in Madagascar, you should bring a type C adaptor plug with you for use during training. Inexpensive adaptor plugs are also readily available for purchase in Madagascar.

Cell phones

All Trainees and Volunteers in Madagascar are required to have a working cell phone to communicate with Peace Corps staff. We highly recommend that you purchase a carrier-unlocked smartphone in the US to bring to Madagascar. This will ensure that you have a working phone very early during PST. If you decide not to bring a phone from the US, you may be able to borrow an old “brick” (non-smart) phone from the Peace Corps office during PST, but you will be required to purchase a phone immediately after swearing in. As noted above in the “Items Provided in Country” section, you may choose to use a portion of your settling-in allowance for this purchase.

Laptops and tablets

To access online resources and online training and to facilitate report and grant writing, we also strongly recommend that you bring a laptop computer (that can read USB, as most devices in Madagascar are not USBC compatible). Please consider buying insurance for your laptop (and any other valuable you bring to Madagascar) as Peace Corps cannot take responsibility in case of theft or damage. If you are unable to bring your own laptop, Peace Corps Madagascar has limited funds available to provide funding to support a Settling-in Allowance Supplement for the purchase of a basic tablet to ensure that Volunteers who were not able to bring a tablet or laptop to Madagascar are able to produce reports required by Peace Corps and access materials and forms in the Digital Library. Peace Corps Madagascar now uses a digital platform as an integral part of the training, which requires a laptop or tablet. Our training center is equipped with wifi to which Trainees will have limited access during PST.

Internet access

Most Volunteers purchase and use data with their cell phones. There are three main cell phone providers in Madagascar, and Volunteers tend to choose the provider that is most reliable at their site, allowing fairly consistent access to the Internet using their cell phone data. Cell phone data is inexpensive compared to the USA, however, it can add up quickly.

  • External hard drives (with movies or music to share)
  • Solar kit: containing a solar panel, cables, solar power bank. The Voltaic V88 brand costs $250 and offers a 20% discount to Peace Corps: https://voltaicsystems.com/programs-discounts/. A bulkier, more expensive, and harder to use solar kit can be found in Madagascar
  • Solar lamps for your room (also available here)
  • Power bank (preferably rechargeable by small solar panel. This is highly recommended as you might experience frequent power cuts, and probably will not have electricity at your permanent site)
  • Headlamps – this is useful for PCVs who don’t have electricity and need to walk to get to the shower or bathroom at night

Previous Volunteers have suggested bringing small gifts for host families, that could include:

  • Coloring books for children
  • Magazines from the USA
  • Souvenirs from your state/city/home

Kitchen

  • French press
  • Favorite food items like granola bars, comfort food, beef jerky, powdered drink mixes
  • For Volunteers who love to cook, consider bringing a good quality pan and any other “essential” cooking utensils
  • Madagascar has many spices, but you may wish to bring a favorite spice

Miscellaneous

  • Bedsheets (one set of queen-sized sheets). Good quality sheets are expensive ($50 a set) in Madagascar, and hard to find
  • Sturdy water bottle
  • Compact multi-tool (all-in-one pocketknife, can opener, screwdriver, etc.)
  • Watch
  • Bungee cords or backpack straps
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra bulbs and batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Basic sewing kit
  • Sunglasses
  • Gardening gloves
  • Games (Scrabble, cards, chess, Frisbee, etc.)
  • MP3 Player/ iPod/I-touch/I pad/ (and speakers you can hook up to it!)
  • Musical instruments (harmonica, guitar, etc.)
  • A few books (to swap after reading), and/or an E-reader preloaded with books.
  • Hobby materials like sketching pads and pencils
  • Quick dry travel towel
  • Photos from home (nice to keep loved ones in mind and good way to show scenes of American culture with Malagasy friends)
  • Journal
  • Home exercise equipment (yoga mat, resistance bands, etc.)