Geography and Climate
Peru has three primary geographic regions: coast, mountains, and jungle. The climatic conditions in each of these 3 regions are vastly different depending on the time of year. Coastal sites can experience hotter, drier climates year round with little to no rainfall. The mountain areas are often high altitude sites with cold weather, experiencing a wet and dry season. Jungle sites experience more rain throughout the year and sometimes hotter climates.
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
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
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 cafés are common in Peru, especially in urban and semi-urban areas. Once a Volunteer is placed in their permanent community, they may or may not have access to internet. International telephone service to and from Peru is also relatively good. There are various international phone cards and international phone plans available in Peru. More information about communication options is provided during Pre-Service Training. A Volunteer’s ability to adapt to infrequent and inaccessible communication options is the key to a successful service.
Housing and Site Location
All Volunteers are required to live with a host family during the 11 weeks of pre-service training and for the 24 months of service. Couples will live with the same host family. The home stay experience is often one of the most rewarding experiences for Volunteers. It helps facilitate stronger community relationships, engagement, and integration and improves safety and security during service.
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.
Peruvian diet varies based on geographic location, but in general will include a high-starch diet (potatoes, rice, or cassava) with an option of meat, chicken, or fish. Host families will prepare meals based on what’s available in their areas and Volunteers should be prepared to eat with host families to show respect for their hospitality and culture.
All Volunteers will have access to regular/daily transportation options in their communities; some may be required to walk up to an hour to get access. Volunteers typically take large, double-decker buses that provide for a comfortable experience on long journeys.
Cultural Attitudes and Customs in the Workplace
While Peruvians tend to be hard working and industrious, there is a tendency for activities and meetings to start late, and for everything to take longer than anticipated. The concept of team work and team building might be relatively new for community partners and colleagues. The pace of life in small and rural communities can pose challenges to keeping people focused on the work at hand, and their ability to provide consistent project support and supervision. Time and energy will need to be invested in working with Peruvian community partners to insure that capacity building takes place. Generally, in Peruvian culture, relationship building comes before work results can be achieved so it’s important to consider how to create the best working relationships with different community stake holders.
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.
Peruvians take great pride in being neat, clean, and well groomed, therefore it is of the utmost importance that Volunteers follow the example of Peruvians regarding their attire. As a working professional in the Peruvian culture, inappropriate dress will make Peruvians less receptive. In urban areas, men will dress in slacks and shirts, while women will wear dresses, skirts, or dress slacks. In more rural sites work clothes may be more informal, but professional dress is recommended. Clothing styles vary depending on climate and season. In warmer areas, short-sleeve polo shirts for men and sleeveless outfits for women are acceptable. In cooler areas, Volunteers will need sweaters or jackets. Shorts, miniskirts, casual tank-tops and flip flops are not considered appropriate work attire. Long hair on men, unkempt beards, piercings (except for earrings on women), and visible tattoos are not typically seen in the professional work environment.