This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Paraguay and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later, and you can purchase most essentials locally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a 100-pound total weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Paraguay.
The standard for work attire in Paraguay is neat and professional, but not fancy. This (business casual) applies during both pre-service training and Volunteer service. Volunteers working in different professional capacities will need different sets of clothing, although, in general, Volunteers should be prepared to have a couple of good business casual-type outfits. In general, when packing, think in terms of comfort, versatility, and durability. Also remember that almost all Volunteers wash their clothing by hand. White clothing, unless stain resistant, is impractical because of the effort it takes to keep it clean, especially with the dust and heat. However, clothing that is light colored but not white will help with keeping cool.
Since there are extremes in weather, separates that coordinate well and that can be layered on or off as needed are useful. Remember that it gets really hot in the summer and, although it does not usually freeze in the winter, homes in Paraguay are not insulated and are drafty—imagine going camping in 40 degrees Fahrenheit weather.
Thick-soled shoes are best purchased in the United States because of price and quality, and men’s sizes over 10 1/2 and women’s sizes over 9 are difficult to find in Paraguay.
Business casual clothing is recommended to all volunteers for presentations and special events. For both men and women, simple, non-flashy clothing will open more doors and minds. Also, Paraguayans wear traditional embroidered clothing called ao po’i for formal occasions, as well as business casual, which is very popular with Volunteers in Paraguay. Most Volunteers buy at least one ao po’i item of clothing during training.
Do not pack anything precious or expensive that you could not reasonably part with.
Note about clothing: Paraguayans, regardless of economic status, highly value cleanliness and looking neat and “put together.” Culturally, the way Paraguayans see clothing/dress as is a reflection of respect towards those around you.
- Pants: At least four pants you can wear for anything, every day in a semi-professional setting. This includes comfortable nice jeans (nothing faded or with rips/holes), synthetic quick dry business casual pants, lightweight slacks, etc. Capri pants are also a great option for warmer months.
- Outdoor work clothes: Sturdy pants, tee shirt and long-sleeved breathable shirt that will protect you from the sun and can get dirty.
- Lounge clothes: Two sets; these will be your pajamas, overlap with your exercise clothes, and around the house clothes. Long underwear bottoms and tops are great for layering in the winter. Leggings and yoga pants are popular around-the-house clothing for Paraguayan women.
- Exercise clothes: Many Volunteers find exercise an important part of their routine (yoga, P90X, running, etc.) and some even end up sharing this as part of their work starting an exercise group. A minimum of two sets is recommended, but many of your exercise clothes might be multi-purpose, so you might even bring more. Breathable sports shirts can double as everyday shirts in casual settings especially in hot summer months. For women, running leggings and capris are more appropriate than shorts for wearing in public. For men, longer shorts like soccer shorts are better for public wear.
- Shirts: Ten to 15 shirts are recommended. This includes a combination of formal and informal shirts.
- For women: Two to three nice short-sleeved or sleeveless (but thick-strapped) professional blouses, and one to two long-sleeved professional blouses, two cardigans, a few thick strapped tank tops for everyday use and for wearing with skirts or layering, exercise and lounge shirts as listed above, and three to four nicer but casual t-shirts for informal settings, two long-sleeved casual shirts for winter, one or two lightweight breathable long-sleeved shirts for sun protection.
- For men: Three to six nice short sleeved shirts (a combination of polos and button downs), two nice long sleeved button downs, two long sleeve shirts for cooler weather, one or two lightweight long-sleeved shirt for sun protection, a combination of exercise, lounge and every day t-shirts.
- A few shorts: You can’t wear them in training, in the Peace Corps Office, or in formal settings, but you can wear them around your house or after people get to know you for informally visiting neighbors. Knee-length shorts are more appropriate for wearing in public.
- Skirts and dresses (for women): Skirts and dresses are much cooler than wearing pants and can be dressed up for formal occasions, so bring one or two of each. All should be knee length or longer. Hiking skirts or skorts are highly versatile.
- Warm clothes: Three pairs of warm socks, a scarf, a winter hat, a warm vest (optional), a warm coat (very important), gloves, long underwear and/or thermal wear top and bottom (one to two pairs), and three sweaters or sweatshirts for layering (one being nicer for special winter occasions).
- Underwear: Ten to 15 pair of underwear, both cotton and quick dry material. For women: five to 10 bras (including sports bras). five to eight pair sports socks.
- Paraguayans highly value cleanliness in dress and appearance, including their shoes, and tend to be impeccable about washing/cleaning their shoes. Bringing shoes that are darker-colored and easily washed will be useful.
- Sandals: Women in Paraguay often wear dressy sandals for events or professional situations. Sandals such as Tevas, Keenes, or Chacos are good to bring as well, but are not appropriate for a professional setting. Bring both; a sturdier sandal and one or two pairs of dressier sandals. Keep in mind that comfort is important since much of your travel will be by foot, and in many cases on uneven terrain. Plastic shower flip flops are great for using around the house and in the shower and can be bought very cheaply and readily in Paraguay. Men in Paraguay always use closed toed shoes in professional settings such as schools or giving presentations and in social settings such as festivals or birthday parties, but may wear sandals in informal settings.
- Running/exercise shoes: One or two pairs.
- Closed-toe shoes: For walking long distances, and to wear in the winter. Durable/of high quality to withstand lots of wear and tear. Waterproof hiking boots might come in handy, but are not necessary and may be more weight and hassle than they’re worth. Paraguayans typically use rain boots (available in all shops and hardware stores) when working in wet conditions.
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Bandanas or handkerchiefs: (optional) Three
- Feminine products: Some Volunteers really like using a menstrual cup for environmental and cost reasons. Others bring brands or styles of feminine products that are hard to find in Paraguay. Only applicator-free tampons, pads, and panty liners are available locally, of varying quality.
- Prescription medication: A three month supply of any you use to last you until the Peace Corps orders refills.
- One week to one month's worth of toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, deodorant, toothpaste. There are plenty of pharmacies and general stores close to the training center where you can stock up on toiletries upon arrival. If you use a specific brand of shampoo, conditioner, and makeup for your hair and skin type, one to three months’ worth of supplies is recommended. Products for specific hair types like Afro/curly hair are hard to find in Paraguay. Keep in mind that products can also be shipped to you during your service. If you have sensitive skin, gums, or hair, or ones that require special treatment, the Peace Corps Medical Team can often help you find these items here.
- Shaving razor with extra cartridges (quality razors are very expensive here)
- Sunscreen: only if you have a favorite brand or want a specific SPF; the Peace Corps provides SPF 30
- Special toiletries: If you have a favorite lotion, face wash or other product it’s nice to bring down a little to pamper yourself once and a while. But in general, most toiletries are available here (just not the same brands).
- Toiletry bag (optional, the hangable fabric ones work great and are very useful)
- Contact solution: Hard to find in Paraguay and is expensive
- Two pairs of eyeglasses: If you wear them
- Dietary supplements: Other than multivitamins which are provided by the Peace Corps
- **The voltage in Paraguay is 220/240, so be sure that all of your devices can either handle this or bring a converter. It’s usually not necessary except for electronics that use a lot of energy at once, such as an electric razor or blow dryer, but the battery life of your electronics might be affected without it or chargers equipped for the voltage. The standard outlet in Paraguay is the two circular pronged “European” outlet, but many of them can also accommodate the two pronged “US” plug, but not the three pronged plug (You can find an inexpensive adapter from three to two prongs at most hardware stores in Paraguay). A high quality surge protector will save your gadgets from unstable electricity spikes.
- Laptop computer: With useful software including virus protection and Microsoft office or other similar programs. Note: a tablet is not an adequate substitute (partly because it is necessary to use the volunteer reporting form program that you will download in country). It’s a good idea to back everything up and leave a copy at home.
- External hard drive (recommended by Volunteers) with protective case
- Kindle: And all accompanying cords and chargers (optional, the Peace Corps has a great lending library for paperbacks and technical books as well)
- MP3 player: spare charger, headphones and a small portable speaker
- Smart phone/other small Wi-Fi device: (Optional) Some Volunteers find that this is useful for internet access while traveling and for calling the states via apps like Skype. Some volunteers use their Peace Corps SIM card with their personal phone, but this could put you at risk
- Camera: And all accompanying cords and chargers
- USB flash drive (you will receive one in PST), but bring extra with plenty of storage space.
- Protective cases for electronics that protect computer, smart phone, hard drive, etc. during travel and from dust, sand and moisture.
- Optional odds and ends: Mac projector connector plug (the Peace Corps office lends projectors for Volunteer activities), USB extender, rechargeable batteries (regular batteries are easily available in Paraguay), extra headphones and cords and chargers for your devices (available in Paraguay but good quality ones are expensive)
- Day pack/book bag: For weekend trips, and for day to day use – durable and of high quality to withstand lots of wear and tear.
- Fanny pack, Purse, Mini Book Bag or Small Travel Bag w/ zipper (optional)
- Large backpack for longer trips (one with an internal frame is recommended) – durable and of high quality to withstand lots of wear and tear.
- For suitcases: ones with wheels (aka not duffel bags) are easiest to maneuver while traveling. Be prepared that wheels might break over course of two years.
- Swimsuit: You will wear them at Volunteer events; Paraguayan women usually wear shorts and t-shirts to swim. Men wear swim trunks or shorts.
- Rain gear: Rain jacket with a hood, a rain cover for your backpack, and a few waterproof stuff sacks. Some Volunteers like using rain pants; others think they are unnecessary. Many /volunteers like bringing a good quality umbrella and rain boots, or a type of heavy water proof boot. Lower quality rain boots can be bought in Paraguay
- Baseball cap: Or another easily packable hat. Straw hats can be purchased in Paraguay
- Multi-tool: pocket knife, Leatherman or something similar
- Sleeping bag: It’s useful when it gets cold, and visiting other Peace Corps Volunteers. A sleeping pad is nice, but not necessary. A yoga mat could also double as a sleeping pad.
- Yoga mat (available here but harder to find)
- Pillow: Not a necessity by any means, but may be more comfortable than what you’d have available in Paraguay. (Pillows can also be purchased locally.)
- Set of sheets: To fit a double-sized bed (optional, can be purchased locally, but of lesser quality)
- Water bottle: Water is usually safe to drink in Paraguay and a water purifier is not necessary
- Headlamp: LED for longer battery life. Can also bring flashlight, both come in handy.
- Duct tape: This is considered a must by many Volunteers
- Quick dry towel: Volunteers love the extra-large camping towels and some even bring two
- Photos: Photos of your family, friends, and home (a good conversation starter)
- Map: to use for decoration and to show friends/neighbors where you’re from and where that is in relation to Paraguay
- Decorations: Pictures, posters, a little something to help you feel at home
- Gifts: Magnets, calendars, snow globes, hard candies, children’s books in Spanish, or coloring books and crayons
- Pocket games or other hobby materials: UNO, Bananagrams, cards, checkers, chess, small water color sets, paintbrushes, crochet hooks, etc.
- Ear plugs (for sleeping)
- Sharpies of various colors or quality markers/pens. You can buy office and art supplies locally, but usually not much variety and are of lower quality or more expensive.
- Watch (athletic watch, nothing flashy or expensive)
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Sealable “Ziploc” baggies of various sizes: they are essential for keeping out bugs, ants, etc. (these can be found in Paraguay in the bigger supermarkets)
- Spices or special foods: To cook using flavors from home, some Volunteers like to bring their favorite seasoning packets or mac-and-cheese sauce packets, spices like cinnamon, curry, hot chili powder, ginger powder, or a black pepper grinder. These can be found at bigger super markets in Paraguay
- Musical instrument: If you play or want to learn to play one. Guitars can be bought fairly easily here. Harmonicas, ukuleles and other small instruments are popular with Volunteers since they’re fairly easy to pack.
- Some other kind of hobby that you enjoy or to be learned in Paraguay
- A few luxuries to get you through the toughest days (a special food or treat, you’re favorite good-smelling lotion, a tv series to binge on, etc.)
- Optional athletic gear depending on your interests and if you have space: tent, climbing gear, Frisbees, soccer shoes (anything soccer-related can be found here), hacky sack, workout bands
- Because of weather and scheduling, some weeks you’ll only be able to do laundry once a week, so pack enough to easily make it through one week for all seasons. In the winter you can re-wear clothes similarly to how you would in the US, but in the summer most clothes (jeans included) have to be washed after one use.
- At the end of training, the final closing event is Swearing In. This event is often attended by the US Ambassador and local officials, so one very nice outfit including shoes should be considered for this occasion.
- A useful tip is to pack small items (like socks and underwear, but also office supplies and food items) in Ziploc bags. That way your luggage is more organized, and you have a starting supply of Ziplocs when you get down here.
- During staging you will be expected to use business casual wear so make sure to have two sets easily reachable in your luggage for the first two days.
Things not to pack:
Anything you wouldn’t wear in the states. You’re still you, so don’t bring a lot of clothes you’re not comfortable wearing. Some people pack as if they're going to be camping for two years, and while it’s nice to have dry-fit clothing and pants that are cool and dry quickly, keep in mind that most Paraguayans don’t dress like that. Inexpensive clothing is readily available around the country and even in many small communities clothes can be made or tailored.
Large amounts of lotion/sunscreen/common medicines, etc. Unless you’re brand loyal, you can buy it all down here. Sunscreen, bug spray, multivitamins, painkillers, cold medicines, floss, OTC allergy meds, antibiotic cream, Band-Aids, any other general first aid supplies, condoms, and many other things are available free-of-charge at the Peace Corps office, but there’s usually only one variety of each, unless you talk to the doctors about a special need for another brand.