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Packing Guidance for Philippines

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.

In packing appropriate clothing and materials, consider that the climate in the Philippines is tropical and maritime. It is characterized by relatively high temperatures, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. It is similar in many respects to the climate of countries in Central America.

There are two major seasons: the rainy season, from June to November; and the dry season, from December to May. Temperatures are somewhat cooler from December to February and the hottest from March to May when humidity is very high.

Typhoons have a great influence on the climate and weather conditions of the Philippines. A great portion of the rainfall, humidity and cloudiness are due to the influence of typhoons.

Peace Corps/Philippines provides the following items upon arrival:

  • Mosquito net

Please note that Peace Corps Philippines will send a more detailed suggested packing list to all Invitees when the time comes. The above information gives you a general idea of the things that you may need and would like to bring should you decide to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines.

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.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps/Philippines:

Do not bring spices for cooking. Spices could be construed as an agricultural product and importation restrictions may apply. Bringing short-wave radios are not permitted as there are legal restrictions related to the use of short-wave radios in the Philippines.

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.

Work clothing

In the Philippines, work clothing is more conservative. Flowing skirts and dresses (with a cardigan, if sleeveless), capris, polo shirts, blouses, blue jeans, slacks, and khaki pants can all be considered typical work attire of Volunteers. For field work (i.e. Coastal Resource Management Volunteer field work in coastal areas or in the sea), swimwear such as tank tops, rash guards, shorts, and board shorts are appropriate.

Volunteers should expect to dress up for more formal occasions during their service, including their Swearing-in ceremony and local festivities at their site. Formal attire for events of high-importance could be a Barong Tagalog (pineapple fiber dress shirt that you can get when you arrive in-country), a button-down long-sleeved shirt and tie worn with khaki pants or slacks for men, and a nice dress or skirt and top for women.

Nearly every size of clothing is available in the Philippines; however, the larger the size, the more difficult and expensive it can be to find. Women’s and men’s size XS-M are widely available, but anything larger might be difficult to find and quite expensive. You may consider bringing extra clothing you may need during your service if you wear sizes other than XS-M.

It is important to note that appropriate dress for Volunteers is very much site-specific. It will be critical to observe community members and look to your counterparts, host family, and co-workers as examples. Community integration and the respect that you will receive in the workplace will be influenced by the way you present yourself, which includes not only manner of dressing but overall appearance and hygiene as well.

Leisure and recreational clothing

For daily life around town and with your host family at home, Volunteers may dress in casual, but still modest, clothing.

You can find almost anything in the Philippines. Below are some clothes that you will find useful for daily life and various activities that you can either bring with you or get in-country:

  • Casual cotton T-shirts with modest necklines, shorts that extend to mid-thigh or knee, leggings, sundresses, skirts, basketball shorts
  • One modest bathing suit for water activities within your host community (a two-piece for vacation, if you wish), water-friendly shirts and shorts, a quick-dry bathing towel
  • T-shirts and workout pants to the knee or longer for exercise wear
  • Jacket and/or sweatshirt to wear on plane rides and on air-conditioned buses
  • Hats, bandanas, sunglasses, belt (not leather), ear plugs (if you’re a light sleeper)

Footwear for work can range from open- and close-toed flats to sandals with back or ankle straps. In the Philippines, any shoes or sandals that do not have a back or strap around the ankle are considered house slippers or flip-flops and are more appropriate for leisure wear. Flip-flips are also appropriate for work that involves water activities. For formal settings or special occasions, shoes with heels and dress shoes can be worn. Larger shoe sizes (12 or larger for men, 9 or larger for women) might be more difficult to find in the Philippines.

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 for Peace Corps/Philippines:

Some items may be personal for each Volunteer. Volunteers may bring a starter kit of travel-size toiletries that can be refilled. Consider bringing a supply of certain items that you would prefer to have from home or are more expensive or limited in supply in-country. For example, tampons and condoms larger than XL are not readily available. Eco-friendly and reusable menstrual products are socially acceptable, but they are not readily available. These products are very rare and difficult to find. The most common menstrual products in the country are disposable and are sold in almost every store in a Filipino community. Volunteers may consider bringing a reusable menstrual cup (Diva, Moon, or other brands) from the U.S. You may also want to invest in some reusable cloth pads. Hair products that do not cater to “fine-straight” hair may be limited, and foundation/powder for skin complexions other than “fair” may be difficult to find.

Humidity and insects (which abound in the Philippines) are potential hazards to electronics. Keeping them dry in plastic and away from insects are good ways to protect your equipment. Volunteers may sign up for the Peace Corps insurance to insure your valuables. Use your best judgement in what you see useful in your everyday life in the U.S. to decide what may be useful for you in the Philippines.

Volunteers who have brought their smartphones, laptops, or tablets have found them helpful. If you are bringing your own smartphone, it is recommended that it is unlocked and can be used with prepaid SIM cards.

  • Laptops (HIGHLY recommended. Peace Corps monitoring and evaluation programs that Volunteers will use to report their activities during service do not run with the Chrome browser -- i.e., no Chromebooks)
  • Smart phone (If you bring one, make sure it is unlocked and you are comfortable with if it does not survive your service)
  • Kindle, Nook, or tablet for e-reading
  • Earbuds or headphones (multiple high-quality pairs)
  • MP3 Player, iPod, music playing device (music is a big part of life in the Philippines)
  • External hard drive for backing up files and file sharing with PCVs (2T is recommended)
  • USB or Flash Drive
  • Headlamp
  • Camera: Your choice of camera will depend on how you see yourself using it. The Philippines is a photographer’s paradise with beautiful landscapes and people who love taking photos and selfies. Common choices of cameras that PCVs use: Waterproof for diving, DSLR, a smart phone. If you are already a camera/photographer hobbyist, bring all your equipment. Just be prepared to take very good care of it and to always keep it in a safe place (consider waterproof bags or carrying cases). Carrying an expensive camera will draw attention to you and is seen as a status symbol.

Based on your interests and personal preferences, there may be additional items that you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having that might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but they might be nice to have.

If you enjoy cooking, there is no need to bring anything for the kitchen. You will have time to assess what will be necessary for your individual cooking and kitchen needs when the time comes.

If you want to ride a bicycle to and from work or around the community, a bicycle helmet is required. Removable front and back lights and bike locks are also useful. Biking is the main mode of transportation of Volunteers assigned in remote and rural areas of the Philippines, but not all sites are safe for biking. You can easily buy a good-quality bike in the country and even in a major city close to your site. However, it’s difficult to find stores outside of the cities that sell high-quality bike accessories.

Snorkeling gear such as masks (prescription masks, if you wear glasses), snorkels, booties, and fins can be purchased in-country or rented at an affordable price.

Volunteers may consider bringing “pasalubong” for their pre-service training host family and their host family at their permanent site. Pasalubong are small, inexpensive gifts (oftentimes food goods) that can serve as souvenirs, an expression of thanks, or a sign of friendship or honor. It is also a good idea to bring photos of your friends and family that you can show to members of your community.