The Gambia

Packing List

This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in-country 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. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in-country.

Baggage & weight limit: The Peace Corps limits the size and weight of baggage and will not pay to transport baggage that exceeds these limits. The allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds per bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers.

Items with an asterisk (*) are available in The Gambia; however, they may be low-quality, not your preferred brand, or may be too expensive for the average Volunteer budget. 

General Clothing

Most Volunteers say they brought too much clothing, and in particular, too much nice clothing. Nevertheless, you will need to dress appropriately for meetings with government officials and for an occasional ceremony. But day to day, you will probably be living and working in a rural village in very hot weather.

Notes for Everyone on Clothing: 

  • Light-colored clothes are hard to keep clean. Dark clothes make you very hot, so you have to find a good balance. Brown, green, blue, gray, purple, and red, are good. 
  • The dress clothes for staging should be clothes you will wear in-country. In other words, don‘t bring specific clothes just for staging.

Women

    The Gambia is a conservative Muslim country. Women usually cover all of their body, and many still cover their necks and heads. To dress in what Americans would consider warmweather clothing may be considered by many Gambians to be provocative clothing, inviting more unwelcome attention than you will find tolerable. It is recommended that you err on the conservative side when choosing what clothes to bring.

    Professional:

    • Dresses (sundresses) are simple, culturally appropriate, and provide better ventilation than clothes with elastic waist bands. All skirts and pants should be three-fourth length (Capri or calf length) at a minimum. It is not culturally appropriate to show knees, but capri and calf-length pants are short enough not to drag in the mud or catch in bike spokes.
    • Pants with belt loops, wrap tops, anything with forgiving fabric to accommodate fluctuations in weight. 
    • Keep in mind that tailors in the kombos (city areas) are good and fabrics are available for cheap custom tailoring (a dress costs about $10 USD), so the best advice is to pack minimal and versatile items and then supplement your wardrobe after receiving your assignment. Local tailors work well from patterns and excel at copying clothing you bring from home or show them in clothing catalogs.
    Village Attire:

    • Should be comfortable.
    • Clothes get dirty, so bring clothes that can be washed frequently without falling apart. Clothes here take a beating since they are washed by hand.
    • Bring lots of underwear! 20 pairs or more.*
    • Bring at least several sports bras (quick-drying, cotton material is best.) Dark colors are easiest to keep clean looking.
    • Pajamas–lightweight covering, light-colored to protect against mosquitoes (for sitting outside with host family/walking around village at night). Boxer shorts (more comfortable PJ‘s for sleeping at other Volunteers‘ houses or Peace Corps‘ transit house).

    Kombo (City) Clothing:

    • Bring a few outfits for potentially going out–there are opportunities to go dancing and occasions to feel pretty! 
    • Jeans
    • Two swimsuits (bikinis can be appropriate, but only at some of the tourist hotels; The Gambia caters to European tourists at beach resorts).

    Men

    General:

    • At least a couple of button-up dress shirts, preferably three or four
    • T-Shirts*
    • Long but light pants (since it gets hot here)
    • Shorts (must cover knees)
    • Underwear* (15 pairs or more)
    • Pants that zip off into shorts can be very helpful and considered professional attire
    • A few warmer shirts/ tops/ fleeces for ―cold‖ season
    • Swimsuit (shorts)

    Kombo (city) clothing:

    • A couple of changes of dressy clothes will come in handy for going out and attending official functions. (Meaning long sleeve button-up shirts with slacks or jeans).

    Village Attire:

    • Rule of thumb is don‘t show knees and you are perfectly fine. However, if you happen to be teaching in a class or working at a clinic or any other professional organization then you will need to dress more formally. Generally T-shirts and jeans can be considered appropriate for day-to-day village work, but in a classroom you will want a button-up shirt and slacks. 

    Shoes

    • Flip-flops* (high-quality, for example, Haivaina or Teva; you can buy cheap flip-flopsvin-country)
    • Sturdy sandals (Teva, Birkenstock, and Chaco are good brands)
    • All-purpose shoes for walking, hiking, and biking (tennis shoes)
    • Workout shoes, if needed 

    Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

    • Three-month supply of any medications, to last through pre-service training; copy of prescriptions
    • If you wear glasses, bring two pairs (contact are not recommended due to elevated rates of eye infections and contact solution is hard to find)
    • Good scissors*
    • Tweezers
    • A good razor
    • Skin lotion*
    • Any favorite brands of shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, etc. (you can buy all of these things in-country at a cost)
    • Deodorant (there is a very limited selection and it is very expensive so bring enough to last two years)*
    • Lip balm (provided in the Peace Corps medical kit, but you may prefer your own brand)*
    • Face wash/skin care products (e.g., Noxzema, Oxi pads, astringent)
    • Talcum powder (e.g., Gold Bond, Summer‘s Eve) for heat rash
    • Loofah(s) (a type of sponge)
    • Sunscreen/bug spray (available from the PC medical office but it may not be the brand you like)
    • Hand-sanitizer (bring lots and in many different sizes)
    • Tampons
    • Soap box
    • Nail polish and remover 

    Work

    • Calendar*
    • Appointment book*
    • Folders with pockets*
    • Pens*
    • Journal*
    • Art supplies (markers, paper, colored pencils and sharpener)*
    • Note cards
    • Women‘s magazines--good inspiration for women‘s group activities and products
    • Voice recorder for language classes and mailing home tapes (Devices are available that make an iPod into a voice recorder as well) 
    • Teacher kit (For example, rubber bands, stapler, markers, Mr. Sketch, Sharpies, push pins, paper clips, pens, pencils, glue, single hole punch, and folders. Don‘t skimp-- really think about what you will want for the next two years.)
    • Teaching materials (e.g., inflatable globes, electronic copies of lesson plans or resources, favorite teaching books, calculator, children‘s books that can be translated. Again, don‘t skimp.)

    Kitchen

    • Multivitamins and fiber supplements are available from the medical office. Consider bringing anything to supplement protein.
    • Packaged mixes (Power aid/Gatorade, flavor drink mixes, powder soup mixes) 
    • Good can opener 
    • Small plastic food container(s), Tupperware (high-quality, you can store other things in these as well)*
    • Favorite spices*
    • Measuring cups and spoons
    • Rubber spatula
    • Plastic zip-close storage bags
    • Parmesan cheese (grated and packaged; it‘s very expensive here, so if you like it, bring your own)
    • Dried fruit, raisins, dried cranberries, anything with nutrients
    • Freeze-dried food
    • Energy bars (you cannot buy these in The Gambia and there may be times you may be stuck somewhere with little food options)
    • Granola bars/protein bars
    • Tuna, chicken and salmon packets
    • Small Rubbermaid bins
    • Pot holders
    • Vegetable peeler
    • Good knife*
    • Travel mug*
    • Diamond Stone/knife sharpener 

    Miscellaneous

    • Laptop (optional)
    • Portable solar power battery charger (these are expensive but very useful here; you can charge your MP3 player, cellphone, and rechargeable batteries. It is worth the money), and/or battery powered phone charger (for those times when there is no sun and/or you can't get to a town with electricity)
    • Short-wave radio for listening to BBC, VOA, and other news stations*
    • Converter for plugs (the one that comes with all of the options; The Gambia uses the British-type three-pronged plug)* 
    • Surge protectors*
    • Small battery-operated fan
    • Things to pass the time (e.g., long books on an iPod or in hard copy, Sudoko, crossword puzzles, etc. if you enjoy them)
    • Small gifts for family if you want, but $10 or less (for example, stickers, postcards, extra pictures of your American family, crayons, markers, or pencils). (You do not have to buy anything in the U.S.; when you arrive in-country you will be taken to the market to get some cultural gifts for your host family.)
    • Biking gear such as gloves, toe clips, bike seat for comfort (helmets and repair tools are provided by the Peace Corps. You may be biking a lot so these items are useful.)
    • Water bottle
    • Small or medium-size daypack without frame 
    • Disposable camera for times when you don‘t want to risk taking your digital camera
    • Extra memory cards for your digital camera
    • Film if you bring a nondigital camera (film is available in The Gambia, but is expensive and not the best quality)*
    • U.S. stamps (for mailing letters with people traveling to the United States)
    • Magazines and catalogs with pictures of clothing you might want to have copied by tailors in The Gambia
    • Softball glove (Peace Corps/Senegal has an annual softball tournament with other
    • West African countries)
    • Plant and animal identification books (There are also many of these types of books floating around the office, the transit house, and with Volunteers)
    • Protective cases for everything! (The dust and heat will kill your electronics if not in a case)
    • Rechargeable batteries and recharger
    • Blank CDs with cases (for burning pictures)*
    • Bungie cords*
    • Many types of tape (scotch, masking) *
    • Sheet sack (fold and sew a queen-sized sheet up the side, making a sleeping sack for those times when you have to sleep somewhere you did not expect to)
    • Bags (You can‘t have enough bags. Here are some suggestions: nylon drawstring, reusable canvas bag, book bag/backpack, daypack, duffel bags)
    • Small two-person tent (nice for traveling and sleeping outside and in the bush)
    • Sleeping pad for tent
    • Clothesline and clothespins 
    • If you plan to travel to other countries for vacation, you may want to bring extra money to suit your travel plans; credit cards or traveler's checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in larger cities, and most towns so you may want to bring an ATM card to access a bank account in the U.S. 
    • Small gifts for host family and friends (not required); knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away