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Packing Guidance for Togo

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.

Togo’s climate varies from tropical to savanna. The southern part of the country is humid, with average annual temperature of 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit). In the north, temperature fluctuations are greater, 17 degrees Celsius (62 degrees Fahrenheit) to 41 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit).

Rainfall in the south of the country comes in two seasons: the first mid-March to late July, the second early September to early mid-November. The dry desert winds of the harmattan blow south from the northeast, which brings with it cool dry weather between November and March. Periodic droughts occur in the north of the country.

Raincoats, umbrellas, and rain boot are available in-country at a local market for purchase, but may not be the quality and/or standard you are accustomed to or available in the U.S. You may want to consider bringing a light weight (breathable) raincoat.

During pre-service training (PST), you will receive items listed below. The items are intended to facilitate your professional work, health and safety while serving as a Volunteer in Togo.

Mobile cell phone and SIM card device: As part of your settling-in allowance, funds will be provided to purchase a pre-selected basic cell phone in-country (estimated value $12). If you prefer, you may bring your own International unlocked phone, not reimbursable by Peace Corps, which you will use with the Peace Corps Togo issued SIM card. Prior to departing the U.S, you will be asked to complete an online survey on Peace Corps Togo’s pre-departure LearningSpace page as to whether you will bring your own unlocked phone or purchase the pre-selected phone, with funds from your settling-in allowance, available in-country.

Tablet: You will have the option to purchase a Peace Corps Togo pre-selected tablet with funds provided in your settling-in allowance. Another option is to bring your own tablet or laptop at your own expense. Prior to departing the U.S, you will be asked to complete an online survey on Peace Corps Togo’s Pre-departure LearningSpace page as to whether you will bring a tablet/laptop or purchase the pre-selected tablet, as with funds from your settling-in allowance, available in-country.

Mosquito net: Togo is a malaria endemic country. In addition to taking your malaria prophylaxis, other preventive measures include sleeping under a mosquito net throughout service. You will be provided with a mosquito net on arrival.

Medical kit. A medical kit containing basic items to prevent and treat minor injury/illness that may occur during service. Items in the medical kit are periodically restocked. Medical kits are to be returned to the medical unit at the end of your service. For additional information on medical kit, scroll down to “Toiletries and Medication” section, below.

Water filter: It is not safe to directly drink tap or well water in Togo. PC provides you with a water filter for water purification at site. Water filters are to be returned to the medical unit at the end of your service.

Motorcycle helmet: A Peace Corps approved motorcycle helmet. You are mandated to wear a Peace Corps approved motorcycle helmet when riding as a passenger on a motorcycle, in accordance with Peace Corps Togo Transportation Policy. You are expected to return the motorcycle helmet at the end of service.

Bicycle helmet: You must always wear a bicycle helmet while riding a bicycle, in accordance with Peace Corps Togo Transportation Policy. During your first six months of service, you may request reimbursement (not to exceed 50,000 CFA) for the purchase of a bicycle. You are expected to return the bicycle helmet at the end of your service.

Cooking stove and gas tank: To facilitate cooking at site, a cooking stove and 2 gas tanks will be provided. The cooking stove is yours to keep but the gas tanks must be returned at the end of your service.

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.

Peace Corps Togo highly recommends that you plan on transitioning to locally available clothing as part of integration into your new community. That said, PST is busy, and it takes time to adjust to feeling comfortable to your new environment, buying at the market, or having clothing tailored.

We recommend that you bring enough clothing for your first three months. During PST, most Trainees wash their clothes on Saturdays with some periodic cleaning throughout the week. Clothes are washed by hand and line dried. Once posted at your site, bear in mind, there are specific dress code expectations that varies by community/region. Once at your respective site, you will be able to observe and conclude the expected dress code.

To better facilitate your integration during your early months at site, the basic rule is to wear traditional tailored African fabric specific to your community or region. Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for professional (work) as well as leisure and recreation.

Professional (work) clothing

Dress, appearance, and cleanliness are of great importance in West Africa. While a “relaxed” or disheveled appearance may be an expression of individuality in the United States, it is viewed as demeaning and disrespectful in Togo. Your appearance demonstrates your level of respect for those you encounter. Being respectful does not require dressing expensively or elaborately. In Togo, people generally take great care to look presentable even if they have very few or old clothes.

Volunteers must dress appropriately, professionally, and respectfully throughout their service. Wearing revealing clothing and/or dressing in an unkempt manner would diminish the respect community members have for you and would make your work much more challenging.

Culturally, clothing that should be avoided in nearly all contexts includes shorts, short skirts, and other revealing clothing -- neither men nor women may wear clothing that exposes their midriff, back, chest or underwear -- and dirty, torn, and/or disheveled clothes. (Exceptions may include the beach, inside your own house, when jogging/exercising, and when doing hard manual labor.)

Be sensitive to the fact that village attire and city attire differ, as does attire for a classroom versus a farmer’s field. Volunteers should maintain a clean, neat, and culturally and contextually appropriate appearance always Appropriate professional attire for the education, agriculture-when teaching in a formal classroom setting-and health sector consists of long pants, khaki, jeans, dresses and/or skirts, and shirts/tops that cover the shoulders and upper arms, waist, and lower back. All dresses and skirts should cover the knees, even when sitting. Comfortable, breathable fabric such as cotton and linen are more comfortable than synthetic fabrics like polyester. Loose-fitting pant generally have a more comfort feel than jeans. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants will help protect against mosquitoes in the evening.

We recommend that you bring at least one nice outfit such as button-down/slacks or blouse/skirt for high-level meetings and local ceremonial events. You can have appropriate outfits made in Togo. Local tailors are available to make outfits using readily available African or Western fabric.

Because of the heat in the classroom (for the education and agriculture sector) and because the health sector often requires biking to satellite work locations, we recommend lightweight, breathable fabrics, provided they are not see-through.

Leisure and recreational clothing

Leisure: Undershirts, tank tops, shorts, yoga pants, and leggings are appropriate while you are at home.

Exercise: It is appropriate to wear shorts and tank-tops for sports and exercise. If shorts are worn for exercise, they should be knee-length or longer. Sports bras and tight-fitting leggings should be covered for public exercise.

Swimming: Togo has a long coast of beautiful beaches, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. Swimsuits should be modest, such as knee-length board shorts, one-piece swimsuits, and modest two-piece suits.

Sun protection: The sun can be very strong, and the regular use of sunscreen is highly recommended. Sunscreen is provided in your medical kit; however, you may consider bringing a three-month supply of your preferred brand. Sunglasses are available locally but may not be the quality you are used to and may not offer the same protections such as UV and polarization.

Recommendations

Keep your program in mind, as different programs have different needs. An agricultural volunteer might consider packing more work/hiking shirts, boots and gloves. An education or health volunteer might pack more professional clothing. Regardless of your sector, most of the time you will be in business casual in clothes that look professional, are comfortable, breathable, washable and can quickly be dried. Below are just recommendations.

  • Everyday clothes (two weeks’ worth):
    • T-shirts and collared shirts/dresses/blouses: A mix of long-sleeve and short sleeve and different lengths depending on your preference and program
    • Pants and shorts/skirts
    • Underwear and tank tops/bras
    • Socks
  • Workout clothes (1-3 sets depending on your preference)
  • Formal clothes (1 set)
  • A pair of good jeans
  • Hats and/or bandanas, handkerchiefs, scarfs
  • Hair ties, clips, and barrettes
  • Comfort clothes
    • 3-5 of your favorite t-shirts (these might take a while to dry so choose wisely)
    • Sweatpants/pajama pants
  • Prescription/non-prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses (highly recommended to bring a back-up pairs if you can)
  • Windbreaker or rain jacket/poncho. Umbrellas can be purchased here.
  • A favorite hoodie and/or sweatshirt shirt for cool evenings
  • Bathing suits

During your Peace Corps service, you will do a lot of walking and standing. Thus, the shoes you bring in-country should be durable, sturdy, and comfortable. During the rainy season, roads and paths become extremely muddy. Although rubber/rain boot are available in-country, they may not be the same quality as in the U.S. If you do decide to bring rainy season footwear, avoid insulation or linings material. The material should be comfortable for walking and biking.

Education sector: Closed toed shoes and professional or dress sandals are appropriate for the classroom. Flip flops, athletic slides, and shower shoes are not.

Health sector: The health sector requires frequent biking to satellite work locations. We recommend bicycle appropriate footwear such as tennis shoes or durable, fully securing sandals.

Agriculture sector: Closed toed shoes fitted for mud, rain conditions.

Recreational: Bring one pair of your preferred form of recreational shoes, whether it is running, bicycling, hiking, water sport, playing soccer/basketball/volleyball/walking etc.

Recommendations

  • A pair or two of good sandals (Chacos, Reefs, Tevas, Keens) that are good for mud, water, biking, and walking.
  • Sneakers/running shoes (especially if you exercise)
  • A pair of shoes/boots, flats or sandals that can be used for formal events if necessary but also casual and work as well.

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.

Recommendations

Bring the toiletry items that are important to you, the items that might be hard to find in-country and that might be expensive to send later on.

  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap
  • Lotion
  • Face wash and facial creams
  • Deodorant, especially if you prefer roll-on or stick
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • Tampons (three-month supply) and/or menstrual cup
  • One sturdy hairbrush or wide-toothed comb
  • Shaving/groom items
  • Manicure/pedicure items
  • Three-month supply of any medications, to last through pre-service training; copy of prescriptions.
  • Other:
    • Hair products for those with natural hair
    • Make-up products
    • Acne treatment
    • Cologne/perfume
  • Baby wipes (for sweat and dirt)

Hair dressing in Togo: Salons and barbers in Togo specialize in African hair. In Lome, you can find salons and barber shops that can cater to non-African hair styles. You also have the option to have other Volunteers attend to your hair needs, haircut etc. Though the following can be purchased in-country, the quality or preferred choice may not be available. Thus, consider bringing rechargeable clippers/trimmers, hair cutting scissors, razors, and other grooming accessories/hygienic product that meet your grooming needs.

Voltage (v)

Togo runs on 220v. Most phone and laptop chargers are compatible with both 120v (US standard) and 220v. Electronics sold in Togo are 220v compatible. Make sure in advance of bringing any electronics from the US that they are compatible with 220v. Electronics that are only 120v compatible may burn out, catch fire, or damage the battery if they are plugged into 220v. Togo uses the Type C electrical plug. Although these can be easily purchased, consider bringing 1-2 plug adaptors that will convert from plug Type A or B (used in US) to Type C (used in Togo).

Power surges

The electrical grid in Togo is unreliable with frequent power outages, power surges, or mixed sources of electricity, such as gas or diesel generators. We recommend using a surge protector when plugging in your electronics. Surge protectors are available in Togo but may not be of the same quality and/or standard as compared to the U.S. When buying a surge protector, make sure that it is 220v compatible. If possible, consider bringing a surge protector that can plug into Type C electrical plugs.

Access and reliability

Access to electricity varies greatly at your site/community. Some site/community will have electricity while others will not. Many Volunteers find extra batteries, battery extenders, and/or solar chargers very useful for keeping phones and other small devices charged. To facilitate the frequent lack of electricity at your site/community, you may consider bringing a rechargeable headlamp and/or rechargeable lantern. Regardless of the power source available at your site/community, a key reminder is Peace Corps core expectation #3: Serve where Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service.

For all electronics, keep in mind that the heat and dust of Togo can be very hard on them! Consider durability and lower cost over fancier models that may not last. Also, while some Volunteers do prefer Apple products, MacBook and the like are less available here and thus more difficult to have serviced should they break.

Recommendations

You will need a way to easily access the internet, email, and call features; it is ideal to have both a phone and a laptop/tablet. Many of your work partners at site and in-country friends will use WhatsApp to communicate. While there are options to buy a phone and a tablet in-country, these electronics are not as fast or familiar as what you might be used to. Phones provided by Peace Corps are not smartphones and tablets do not currently have Microsoft applications, which are usually needed to complete tasks. Therefore, if you have a preference and can afford to, it is recommended to purchase these items in the States. They do not need to be brand new; older models work just fine. Android, Windows, iOS are all acceptable, but note that the majority of Togo uses Android and Windows.

It is also important to think of the longevity and reparability of items. It is worth looking into purchasing personal articles insurance on your high-value electronics if you can. Protecting your items with appropriate cases is a good idea. The heat, rain, humidity and dust can be very hard on electronic devices. If possible, having backups is a good idea. This is not limited to back-up devices, but also cords, chargers, cables, headphones, etc., particularly for Apple products. Remember that the country runs on 220V so check to make sure your devices and chargers can handle the input voltage. Pack accordingly and remember things can possibly be purchased here and can be sent later on however, both can be expensive and take a while.

  • Smartphone (unlocked and can accept local sim card)
  • Laptop/Tablet
  • Headphones
  • Chargers (and backups)
  • Cables (and backups)
  • Plug converters and/or power strip
  • Power banks
  • USB flash drives
  • Hard Drive/SSD (1-5 TB); many Peace Corps volunteers use these to download and share media, such as movies, TV shows, eBooks, etc.
  • Other:
    • E-reader
    • Camera
    • Backup screen protectors
    • Backup cases
    • Mini solar panel/power bank combo

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

Photos of family, friends, social events (from the U.S.)

Showing photos of your home, family and friends can be an excellent way to connect with your new community and work partners. Consider bringing a small photo album with prints as internet connectivity is not always reliable. Consider bringing other sentimental or personal items, not too expensive, that help keep you grounded and connected to your sense of home and self, but please do not bring anything that you could not live without in case of loss, theft or damage.

Photography

Many Volunteers take excellent photos on their smart phones. For more avid photographers, consider bringing your camera equipment, but understand that it may present a temptation to theft, loss or damage. Please consider how you intend to use your camera equipment, especially when taking photos of people. “Extractive” photography is highly discouraged for it can create conflict when photos are taken without the subject’s consent. Please seek consent before photographing others.

Travel

You may have the need to travel within Togo and internationally over the course of your service. We recommend that you secure checked baggage during international flights with TSA-approved locks. You may also consider bringing lockable cables for securing bags to the top of vehicles while using local transportation.

Recommendations

These are miscellaneous items that have been recommended by previous volunteers, items that they found to be both useful and/or comforting in-country not just during PST but throughout their entire service.

  • You may want to bring extra money, credit cards and ATM cards for your time in-country and your potential travel plans. There are ATMs in larger cities where you can withdraw money depending on the card company.
  • Small day pack for shopping and larger backpack/duffle for traveling
  • Sturdy water bottle (1-2)
  • Quick-dry towels
  • Watch and extra batteries if necessary (something that is rugged and water resistant is recommended)
  • Rugged Bluetooth speaker
  • Swiss army knife or multi-tool
  • Money belt or pouch that can be concealed under clothing or worn on the waist to carry money and other valuables
  • Rechargeable headlamp, lanterns or flashlights (solar powered, USB, etc.)
  • Pictures from home
  • Various stationery items
    • Scissors
    • Stapler
    • Favorite pens/pencils/markers/crayons
    • Duct tape, packing tape, binder clips
    • Journal
    • Wall calendar/Day planner
  • Favorite games (Deck of cards, UNO, chess, Codenames, Avocado Smash! Bananagrams, etc.)
  • Spikeball, frisbee, football, soccer ball, hacky sack, etc.
  • Musical instruments (ex: harmonica, guitar, banjo) *bring extra strings*
  • Hobby items (ex: crayons, sketch book, sewing/crochet needles, paints, sticky tax for hanging pictures, and maps)
  • Small pillow, pillowcases, queen flat, and fitted bed sheet
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • A good kitchen knife
  • Small sewing kit
  • Small packable snacks and powdered drinks from home that can provide comfort during PST and during the initial months at site; Gatorade-type powder can be very useful in the hotter months
  • Your favorite spices or sauce packets. Local markets may have bay leaves, chili peppers, garlic, anise, and peppercorns. Other spices such as curry, oregano, etc., can be bought in Lomé. Seasoning packets for pasta are highly recommended, as are burrito/taco spices.
  • Inflatable camping pad
  • Small camping chair
  • Hammock
  • Posters/Maps
  • One or two physical books
  • Ziploc bags, at least one box of various size