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.
Timor-Leste is a tropical country. Temperatures are in the mid-to-high 80’s year-round at the coast, with slightly cooler temperatures in the mountainous interior. Most Volunteers choose to bring tops with short sleeves and layer when necessary. Volunteers in the lowlands and the coastal regions may never reach for a sweater or jacket, but those in the mountains will frequently need a warmer layer.
You will arrive just before the rainy season, which runs from November through April. The rains can be heavy, and tracks and roads can get muddy. If you have a small, portable umbrella, you may want to bring it. Umbrellas are available locally, but good quality ones can be quite expensive. Thin rain ponchos are also easy to find in local shops, but if you prefer a thicker or sportier rain jacket, you may want to bring one.
Consider wearing a hat, polarized sunglasses, or light layers to protect against the sun. Lightweight pants or a long-sleeved layer are also helpful protection against mosquitos, which can carry dengue and malaria.
During pre-service training or prior to moving to your site, Peace Corps Timor-Leste will provide you with the following items:
- Phone with SIM card (the cost of a monthly phone plan is included in your monthly stipend)
- External battery
- Mosquito net
- Insect repellent
- Sunblock body lotion with SPF 30-35
- Water filter
- Bicycle and helmet (if requested)
- Life jacket (dependent on site)
You can borrow books from the Peace Corps library, and limited camping and sporting equipment is available from the Volunteer lounge.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:
- Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
- 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
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.
Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation. When considering your clothing choices, consider items that are interchangeable between categories and that can mix and match well to get the most flexibility out of the items you bring.
The dress code for schools and offices is dress-casual and conservative. Pants or skirts (past the knee) are expected in the workplace, paired with collared dress shirts or blouses. Short-sleeves are acceptable and recommended for the heat, however low-cut or sleeveless tops are not considered appropriate for work unless covered with a wrap or sweater. In general, choose materials that are lightweight, breathable, and faster to dry. Jeans are not considered business wear. Volunteers should dress very conservatively at least through training and the first months at their permanent site, until they fully understand what is acceptable to wear at their workplace. While professionals are not expected to wear a different outfit every day, their work clothes should be clean and tidy. One Volunteer recommended bringing an adjustable belt—either no holes or one you’re comfortable piercing—in case of weight fluctuations.
In smaller towns or rural areas, there may be an occasional celebration, such as a wedding or the inauguration of a new house, in which everyone from that family or town participates. Older people often dress in traditional clothing—locally woven tais, or printed kabaya or kambatik—for such events and perform traditional dances and rituals. You may also be invited to wear tais at a community gathering, but this will often be borrowed from your family or can be purchased in country.
In this Catholic country, the local church is another locus of social activity in the community and many Volunteers attend church with their host families. Most work attire is sufficient, but Timorese often dress a bit fancier for such events. Nice slacks and a shirt or a lightweight dress are appropriate. Timorese women might accessorize with earrings and men with wristwatches.
One important note is that Timorese wear black clothing while they mourn the death of a close family member. While it would be acceptable for you to wear a black top or a black bottom, if you are dressed in a fully black outfit or dress, you may be offered condolences.
Leisure and recreational clothing
In your leisure time, you may find yourself visiting with neighbors, walking in the community, or heading to a beach. Even during leisure time, Timorese dress modestly, wearing skirts or shorts to the knee (i.e., board shorts or basketball shorts) and t-shirts or tank tops with wider straps, and usually do not wear body hugging attire. Swimming attire is typically shorts and a t-shirt for either gender, and revealing swimwear should be avoided or covered up while in Timor-Leste. A rash guard and board shorts is acceptable. For sport classes such as Zumba or yoga, leggings, gauchos, or capris and loose t-shirts or tank tops are common, and some Volunteers use long-sleeve athletic tops to prevent sunburn. Volunteers also recommended using quick-dry underclothes in the heat.
Notes on purchasing clothes locally
All small towns have a market day and secondhand clothing is widely available. The clothing shops in Dili have a limited selection. If you are above a size large, however, you might find it difficult to find clothing locally. Sports bras and other sporting attire can also be difficult to find or expensive.
Notes on laundering
You will likely be washing all your own clothes by hand and line drying them. You might also have limited choices in detergents, which may be harsher than you are used to. This brings a few considerations: durability of fabrics, ease of maintenance, speed of drying (important in the rainy season), and visibility of your clothes to families and neighbors. We recommend that you try handwashing your clothes before you get to Timor-Leste to see if that helps you narrow down your clothing choices.
Close-toed shoes are most commonly worn in the workplace, although women can sometimes wear dressier sandals. Casual sandals and flip flops are not appropriate for schools or offices, especially government offices. The terrain can be hilly, rocky, or muddy, and you may need to walk to and from work, so choose shoes that are durable, waterproof, and comfortable to walk in. Don’t wait until you get here to break in your shoes. During the rainy season, some Timorese will wear a casual, easier-to-clean pair of shoes or flip flops while walking to work, then change into a nicer pair of shoes for the office.
Simple flip flops are readily available in markets, and are commonly worn for leisure activities. Current volunteers have recommended bringing a sturdy hiking sandal, as well as a dress shoe for special events, and even cleats if you are a soccer player.
In general, the selection of shoes will be more limited than you are used to, and finding replacements or a preferred sports or running shoe will be difficult. If you wear shoes above a size 40, you will find it difficult to purchase shoes in Timor-Leste at all. Volunteers recommend bringing a back-up pair of your go-to shoes or be creative about how you can mix and match your shoes to your wardrobe.
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.
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.
Additional guidance for Timor-Leste:
You will be able to purchase most personal hygiene and toiletry items locally, such as shampoo, conditioner, body soap, razors, and toothpaste. Be sure to bring enough supplies to get you through your first 2-3 weeks. If you use any specialty products, however, you may want to bring a larger supply.
During pre-service training, the PCMOs will provide you with a supply of feminine hygiene products. After you begin your service, you will have the option of continuing to receive supplies through the PCMO or receiving an allowance to purchase them locally. The PCMO can also provide a menstrual cup if desired. If you have strong personal preferences about the products you use, you may want to bring a larger supply.
If you wear hearing aids, bring extra batteries as they are very difficult to find in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste uses 220 voltage and a variety of plugs. The most common are the Indonesian style and less common are the Australian/ Singaporean style of plugs. You may find it helpful to have a universal travel adaptor, especially one with surge protection, but cheap ones can also be found locally.
Volunteers who have brought their laptops or tablets have found them helpful. We will have some virtual learning during pre-service training, however we can provide a device during the training period if required.
Peace Corps will provide you with a dual sim smartphone, however some Volunteers choose to bring their personal smartphone to post. If you to bring your own phone, please ensure it is unlocked before leaving the U.S. Volunteers are responsible for purchasing their phone plan with their monthly living allowance. Post does not recommend purchasing an international sim card because it’s very expensive and the quality of service support in Timor-Leste is varied.
Peace Corps will provide you with a power bank with an integrated solar charger during Staging, so please plan to carry that with you to Timor-Leste.
Items like USB drives, external hard drives, or Bluetooth speakers can be considerably more expensive in Timor-Leste.
Based on your interests and personal preferences, there may be additional items you will want to bring. This list is compiled from what different Volunteers have said they enjoyed having and may be hard to find in country. Note: These items are not required or even recommended, but might be nice to have.
Travel or sport equipment
- Good water bottle
- Sturdy and waterproof backpack
- Flashlight or headlamp to walk to outdoor toilet at night
- Bandana or other face covering to wear when traveling on dusty roads
- Multi-purpose tool or pocket knife, carabiners
- Sports equipment: hacky sack, Frisbee, soccer ball, yoga mat
- Camping gear or sleep sack
- Work gloves
- Quick-dry towels and washcloths are handy, but towels can be purchased locally
- Compact mirror
- Sewing kit
Crafts or games
- Craft materials: cross-stich materials, knitting needles and yarn, embroidery materials, coloring books, etc.
- Games: cards or Uno (can sometimes find locally), specialty dice
- Journal for reflection
Gifts for your pre-service and site host families
Many Volunteers have brought small, inexpensive gifts to give to their training- and long-term host families. Previous suggestions have included:
- Wall calendar with photos of America
- Candy, snacks, or chewing gum
- Special teas or spices
- Toys for children: jump ropes, coloring books, noisemakers, glow sticks
- Beauty products: hair clips, nail polish
- Rosary Blessed by the Pope
- Clothes: t-shirts or hats
- Picture frame and/or photos of you