Peru

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

In general, airmail takes about two weeks to and from Peru. During training, you can receive mail at the Peace Corps:

Cuerpo de Paz - Peru
"Your Name," PCT
Via Lactea 132
Surco,
Lima, Peru

Once you are sworn in as a Volunteer, you will be assigned a regional post office box in a city convenient to your site, or will be asked to use your host family’s address as your mailing address

Telephones

International phone service to and from Peru is fairly reliable and accessible to most Volunteers. Volunteers are can purchase cell phones and a basic calling plan. If you would like to bring an iPhone or other smartphone, consult with your carrier to determine your options.

Internet

All major cities and many smaller communities in Peru have Internet centers. You may or may not have access to the Internet at your site, but if not, you will be able to access the Internet and send and receive emails in your regional capital for a reasonable hourly rate. Most Volunteers bring laptops and find that they come in handy. However, if you bring your laptop, the Peace Corps strongly encourages you to insure it.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training, you will live with a Peruvian family near one of the training facilities. Sharing meals, conversation, and other experiences with your host family is an important step in developing the skills and attitudes that will help you integrate into your Peruvian community. 

Following training, Volunteers are required to live with a hist family during their first 12 months of service in order to develop their cultural competency. After that, if appropriate housing is available Volunteers may request to live independently.  Living with a family may require adjustments that some North Americans find difficult, given our cultural values concerning privacy and personal space. Living with a Peruvian family allows you to quickly integrate into the community and greatly enhances your safety and security. In addition, your language and cross-cultural skills will be reinforced daily. 

Assignments may be in a city, a mid-sized town, a small town, or a rural village. Housing is usually made of cement or adobe blocks, sometimes covered with stucco. Roofs are made of tile, corrugated tin, or thatch. You will have your own room, which may be within the larger house or a separate room within a family compound. You will likely have electricity and occasional running water, although not all Volunteers do. The electric current in Peru is 220 volts. You will have access to either indoor plumbing or a latrine.

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

Your diet will vary according to your site location. While each region has its traditional foods and specialties, potatoes, rice, and pasta are part of the diet everywhere. Many Volunteers have most of their meals with their host family. Others make arrangements with another family, rotate among families in their community, or prepare their own meals. It can be challenging to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet during Peace Corps service because of community customs. Nonetheless, many Volunteers have been able to maintain a vegetarian diet successfully, and one Volunteer has even prepared a vegetarian cookbook using locally available Peruvian ingredients.

Transportation

Public transportation varies widely, depending on the site. Volunteers living in or visiting cities use taxis, minivans, and three-wheeled "mototaxis." Communities where Volunteers live have regular public transportation to and from the community, at least once a day. Roads are often unpaved, and the buses may be slow and unreliable. Most Volunteers are within an hour (by foot or regular ground transportation) from another Volunteer’s site, and all Volunteers are within three hours by bus from another Volunteer site. As a Volunteer, you will be responsible for arranging your personal and work-related travel and for transporting personal belongings, supplies, and project-related equipment to and from your site. For Volunteer safety, the Peace Corps requires Volunteers use certain carriers that have good safety records on long-distance bus routes. Your living allowance is calculated to cover your transportation needs. Bus travel in Peru is often long and arduous. It is not uncommon for Volunteers to be 14 to 18 hours from Lima. Roads are often dusty, and significant elevation changes and temperature fluctuations are common. Volunteers must be willing and able to adjust to such conditions. Volunteers in Peru may not operate motor vehicles during their service, including motorcycles. Volunteers in Peru may not be passengers on motorcycles. Riding on a motorcycle is grounds for administrative separation. In some areas, both urban and rural, conditions are difficult for bicycle riders. Streets and roads are bumpy and narrow, and unexpected hazards (e.g., potholes and uncovered manholes) are commonplace. Motor vehicle operators show little respect for bicycle riders. In some sites, however, Volunteers find that bicycles are an excellent means of transportation, especially when their jobs require them to be at multiple locations. The Peace Corps provides bicycles to Volunteers, who need them for transportation to their worksites. Volunteers must wear Peace Corps-issued helmets when riding bicycles and are responsible for bicycle maintenance and repair.

Social Activities

Most social activities revolve around daily and special events in the community, including religious holidays and processions. Volunteers are often invited to join family and community events such as birthday parties and sports activities, or just to chat over coffee. Integrating into your community is the key to an enjoyable and rich experience as a Volunteer. By building solid relationships— through both your work assignment and interaction with Peruvian neighbors and other community members—you will have greater opportunities to participate in social activities. You will need to develop a keen awareness of Peruvian culture and customs. Many celebrations and other social events include significant alcohol consumption. In the interest of safety, you will have to exercise careful judgment when under social pressure to drink. The Peace Corps prohibits the use of all illegal drugs, including marijuana, by Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees. The government of Peru, with the support of the United States, has taken a strong stand against the illegal cultivation of coca and the use of illegal drugs. It has passed stringent anti-drug laws that mandate stiff prison sentences for possession and use of drugs.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Most Peruvians take great pride in being neat, clean, and well-groomed, and Volunteers should follow the example of Peruvians at their worksites and in their communities. During training, and occasionally as a Volunteer, there will be times when it is appropriate for men to wear jackets and ties and for women to wear dresses or slacks and a blouse. In classroom and office settings in cities and larger towns, attire should be professionally casual—skirts or slacks for women, slacks and button-down shirts with collars for men. Work clothes at field or rural sites will be more informal— men and women may wear jeans and boots. It is best to bring a variety of clothing that can be layered. Shorts are generally worn only in the home, at the beach, or in other informal settings, not on the street. Visible piercings, other than pierced ears or tiny nose studs on women, are strongly discouraged and may make the Volunteer an unwanted source of attention. The same goes for visible tattoos. It is preferable that male Volunteers not have ponytails, long hair, or beards, but if so, hair must be neatly groomed, and beards must be neat and trimmed.