There is enormous variation in the time it takes for mail and packages to arrive at Volunteers’ sites, ranging from two to three weeks in the south to even longer in the north. In any case, advise your family and friends to number their letters for tracking purposes and to write “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes. Sending packages to Mozambique can incur high customs fees that are the responibiltiy of the Volunteer to pay. Due the costs that you may incur, we strongly suggest your friends and family do NOT send you packages via FedEx, UPS, or DHL. We recommend shipping mail via USPS. Your address during pre-service training will be as follows:
Your Name, PCT
Long-distance communication via telephone is generally available but is expensive. Cellphone service is available in most of the country. Some U.S. smartphones work in Mozambique, but they must be ‘unlocked’ first before bringing them here. You cannot get the phone unlocked from Mozambique, so please check with the phone’s manufacturer to ensure its compatibility with the network in Mozambique. Volunteers often purchase simple cellphones locally for $50-$100 and use the phones to receive phone calls and send text messages. Peace Corps Mozambique does not issue cellphones to Volunteers but provides a local SIM card upon arrival in country. Many volunteers use low-cost services such as Google Voice and Skype to contact families and friends, as it is generally a better connection than cellular service.
Most Volunteers do not have access to public computers at their sites, so Volunteers are encouraged to bring a laptop or tablet. There are several Internet service providers in Mozambique and most providers are accessible via cellular phone with Internet capabilities or USB internet keys almost anywhere in the country.
Housing and Site Location
During the thirteen weeks of Pre-service training, all trainees live with a host family. After Swearing-In, most Volunteers live in urban or semi-urban environments, while a few may live in more rural settings. These areas generally have populations that average 10,000-20,000 people. Living conditions vary by site, and Volunteers should prepare to be flexible. The provincial and district capitals all have electricity, with varying levels of coverage (the current is 220 V). Your private house will be located within a reasonable distance to a general market and stores where you can buy the basic necessities, such as bread, batteries, rice, soap, spaghetti, beans, and pots and pans. Volunteers may live in a cement house with a tin roof or a reed house with cement walls and floors and tin roof. The toilet, bath, and cooking facilities may be indoors or outdoors. Only a few Volunteers have running water. Note that American concepts of privacy and personal space are not necessarily shared by Mozambicans, and adapting to a more communal lifestyle and lack of privacy will require considerable flexibility on your part.
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. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
Food and Diet
The climate in Mozambique allows for the production of many seasonal fruits and vegetables, but your site location will determine which fruits and vegetables are available to you and when. At some times of the year you may find only onions, tomatoes, and bananas in your local market. Packaged and canned goods—imported from South Africa, eSwatini, Malawi, or Zimbabwe—are more expensive than local products. Canned and boxed products, whether Mozambican or imported, can be found in provincial capitals and some district capitals. Dried fish is available at most sites, and fresh fish is available along the coast. While it is possible to be a healthy vegetarian in Mozambique, your diet will lack the variety you may be used to. Rice, beans, bread, eggs, and pasta will be your main foods at home, and you will usually be able to get eggs, some vegetables, beans, rice, bread, and fried potatoes at restaurants.
Crowded buses and taxis provide most of the transportation in urban settings. Rural transportation ranges from minibuses and pickup trucks to bicycle taxis, boat taxis, or simply lots of walking. Large buses run between most of the provincial capitals. Although Mozambique has invested heavily in restoring its main roads and bridges, travel conditions are still poor, especially off the main paved roads and during the rainy season. Public transportation is not always on schedule or reliable—it can take two hours of riding, waiting, and changing buses to get to a town that is only 25 miles away. You may have to walk a few miles from your home to get to your work site or to get to town to shop for supplies, go to the post office, and so on. Peace Corps Volunteers are also given the option of purchasing a bicycle; Volunteers must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. A helmet will be provided by the Peace Corps/Mozambique medical office.
Needless to say, recreation varies among sites and the preferences of individual Volunteers. You might enjoy visiting the friends and families of your students, colleagues, or community neighbors and improving your conversational skills in Portuguese or a local language in a neighborhood hangout. You may enjoy watching soap operas, making or listening to music, going to a discoteca on weekends, traveling to different sites and provinces, shopping at markets, attending traditional cultural events, growing a home garden, cooking, reading, or writing letters. Many Volunteers find that reading for pleasure becomes very important, so be sure to bring your favorite books (paper or electronic) to enjoy and share with other Volunteers. Also, bring pictures of your family, friends, and hometown to show to fellow Volunteers and Mozambican friends. Consider bringing portable musical instruments, sports equipment, or games you like to play. Soccer, basketball, and volleyball are popular sports among students and community members. If you are an avid runner, for safety reasons, you may not be able to enjoy the freedom of running whenever and wherever you want, but you will be able to find ways to get the exercise you need.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
You will be assigned to a school, a health clinic, an international NGO, or a community or faith-based organization and will be expected to dress professionally at work, as Mozambicans do. A foreigner who wears ragged, torn clothing is less likely to be taken seriously. Although different work sites may have different dress codes, professional clothing for men means button-down shirts, slacks or good jeans, and casual, comfortable closed-toe shoes. For women it means dresses, skirts or slacks with blouses, and dress shoes or closed sandals. For men, short/well-groomed hair is considered professional and most volunteers prefer to remain clean-shaven, as beards should also be well-groomed. Earrings and other piercings are not always acceptable for men. For women, especially in the central and northern provinces, expect professional dress to cover the shoulders and knees. Sleeveless blouses and shorts or skirts that fall above the knee may not be acceptable. Shorts, dirty jeans, and flip-flops are unacceptable at work for either gender. Outside of work it is acceptable to wear tank tops and shorts, depending on the site, so bring some casual clothes in which you feel comfortable.