Uganda

Uganda flag

Packing Guidance

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.


Overview

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.

Climate

Uganda is sunny most of the year with temperatures rarely rising above 29 degrees (84 degrees Fahrenheit). The average annual temperature is about 26 degrees Celsius (78° Fahrenheit). The rainy season is typically from March through May and October through November.

All regions of Uganda experience rainy season, therefore it is recommended that you bring a light and breathable raincoat. Additionally, raingear is available for purchase in Uganda, however, it may not be the quality you are used to. It is recommended that you also consider bringing an umbrella and rain boots.

While 70 degrees may seem warm to many in the United States, once you are acclimatized it may feel quite cool. We recommend bringing a warm jacket or hoodie for chilly rainy season nights.

Items provided in-country

Peace Corps Uganda provides the following items:

IT department

  • Cell phone (not a smart phone) for voice and SMS communication and location reporting. Depending on the circumstances, Volunteers may be responsible for replacing lost, stolen, or damaged phones.
  • A tablet or laptop, if needed. Peace Corps will provide a device to support Volunteer utilization of online work and learning tools to any Volunteer who needs one. Depending on the circumstances, Volunteers may be responsible for replacing lost, stolen, or damaged devices.

General services department

  • Blankets, pillows
  • Solar lamp
  • Bicycle helmet, and an allowance for Volunteers to purchase a bicycle if needed.
  • Padlocks
  • Smoke detector
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Mosquito screens for windows, if needed.

Medical

  • Mosquito net: Uganda is a malaria endemic country. In addition to taking malaria prophylaxis, Peace Corps Volunteers are required to sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Bug repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Medical kit: All Volunteers get a fully stocked med- kit upon arrival in country
  • Water filter: All Volunteers receive a high-quality activated water filter for water purification at site.
  • Personal protective equipment (alcohol-based hand sanitizer, face masks, wipes)

Programming

  • Office supplies (unless you are specific about a certain type of pen/notebook…basics are available in country)
  • Library of work-related books and novels: The Volunteer Resource Center at the main office in Kampala has a lending library. Volunteers are encouraged to take and share for personal use (there is also a large supply of e-books).

Sector specific resources

Education

Education Volunteers are provided with curriculum books used for lesson planning and preparation. Additionally, locally authored readers are provided for every education Volunteer.

Agribusiness and Economic Development (AED)

AED Volunteers are provided books and resources on entrepreneurship, business, nutrition and financial literacy during Pre-Service Training (PST) and In-Service Training (IST). These come in both hard copy and soft copy.

Health

Health Volunteers are provided with books and resources on working with youth and an assortment of books that enhance capacity building of community health workers during In-Service Training.

Prohibited items

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.

Clothing

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation. Peace Corps Uganda highly recommends that you plan on transitioning to locally available clothing as part of integration into your new community. That said, Pre-Service Training is busy, and it takes time to adjust to feeling comfortable buying at the market or having clothing tailored. Additionally, the variety and styles of clothing available in Uganda are less than those in the United States, so if you have types of clothing you prefer, bring multiples.

We recommend that you bring enough sets of clothing for your first four months in Uganda. Clothes are washed by hand and line dried. Most Trainees wash their clothes over the weekend with some spot cleaning throughout the week. Make sure to bring clothes that you feel good wearing, as having an appropriate outfit that you enjoy wearing may help boost your confidence in a new environment!

Pre-service training (PST) (and other training)

PST is a professional training environment, and you will be required to dress professionally. Dress code during PST is very strict and you are expected to maintain a professional appearance during training hours; if your clothing does not adhere to the professional guidelines, you will be asked to change. This includes wearing slacks (for men), dresses or skirts (for women) below the knee, shirts/blouses that cover your mid-section and shoulders. Please see further guidance below on what is expected of you.

Work clothing

Professional attire

The most important must do of your packing list! The way you represent yourself is of utmost importance in Uganda. The way host country nationals will perceive you and initial respect is based on you respectful and professional appearance. You will wear professional clothes every day during Pre-Service Training and every day to work when you get to your site (majorly for Education Volunteers). When choosing clothing, remember that you will be hand washing them. Choose wrinkle-free options, if possible, as ironing is an important part of the daily routine in Uganda. Many PCVs recommend quick-dry clothing.

To prepare you for working in the community, and to encourage community integration, we ask you to dress professionally during training sessions. Trainees should wear business casual attire. Trainees tops should have sleeves and not be low cut or midriff. Trainees should not wear shorts to training sessions. Bathroom sandals or flip flops are not appropriate outside of your room (refer to the packing list and staff guidance and appendix on professional dress in this guide). Dress code may change for field activities. After training hours, you can dress casually for comfort, but should maintain modesty and appropriate attire when going out into the community.

While clothes may have quite a bit of wear and tear due to rough washing, transportation, and manual labor, great care should be taken to be neat, clean, and presentable. Being neat and cleanly dressed is a sign of respect and pride in Uganda. Dirty or ripped clothing is unacceptable in professional and public environments, and clothes must be ironed.

Shorts are normally worn for exercise, or by children and students rather than adults and are not appropriate in professional environments. However, for Agribusiness and Economic Development Volunteers, long shorts can be worn during field work. Similarly, short skirts, tops that expose the stomach or lower back, low-rise pants, backless dresses, and tank tops and spaghetti-strap tops are considered inappropriate in rural and professional settings. Pants are acceptable leisurewear for women, although many women in rural and professional settings will wear long skirts or dresses.

Undergarments

Underwear and bras are available locally but may be of lower quality and less variety than you are used to and may not be easily available in your size. They also tend to wear out more quickly due to rough washing and line drying. We recommend you bring at least a six-month supply, if not more.

Leisure and recreational clothing

  • Leisure: Undershirts, tank tops, lightweight T-Shirts, warm sweatshirts or hoodies for rainy season nights, shorts, jeans, yoga pants, maxi dresses and leggings are appropriate for sleep and lounging at home. Clothing for a night out (does not necessarily need to be knee length for women)
  • 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 with a long shirt.
  • Swimming: Swimsuits should be modest, such as knee-length board shorts and one-piece swim suits.

A note on facial hair: For men who do not keep facial hair, you will be expected to maintain a clean, shaven face and neck. For men who keep facial hair, you will be expected to keep your beard/mustache trimmed short, and maintain a clean, shaven neck.

A note on tattoos and some piercings: You will be expected to keep tattoos and some piercings covered where reasonably possible.

Shoes

Shoes are available for purchase in Kampala and at local markets and come both second hand and new. They are available in a large variety of quality and sizes but may be difficult at first to locate. We recommend that you use the below guidance to bring at least one pair of each type of shoe you think you will need to get you started. If your feet are larger than size 12, you may consider bringing more than one pair.

  • Education sector: Closed-toed shoes and professional sandals are appropriate for the classroom. We recommend lightweight, inexpensive leather shoes. Tennis shoes and sandals are typically not appropriate for the classroom.
  • AED and Health sectors: These sectors require frequent biking to field work locations. We recommend bicycle appropriate footwear such as tennis shoes or durable, fully securing sandals. Professional leather, closed-toed shoes are appropriate for higher level work meetings. Occasionally, for the AED Volunteers a pair of gumboots may come in handy during field work, and are widely available throughout the country
  • Shoe polish: The dust, dirt, and mud of unpaved roads and paths is hard on leather shoes. We recommend that you bring at least one tin of shoe polish of the appropriate color to maintain your shoes and keep them looking sharp. You may also consider waterproofing wax/sealer. Shoe polish is available for purchase in Kampala and larger towns, though you may be unable to find the correct color match for your shoes.
  • Leisure and recreation: We recommend bringing one pair of shoes for your preferred form of recreation, whether it is running, trail running, cycling (Peace Corps-issued Mountain bikes, not road bikes), hiking, playing soccer, etc.
  • Rubber flip-flops: these are generally considered inappropriate for professional settings and important public events such as weddings and funerals. They are mainly used for bathing or showering. These can easily be purchased in Kampala and in local towns.

Rainy season

During the rainy season, roads and paths become extremely muddy. Many Ugandans wear rubber boots, or “gumboots”, during the rainy season. Although available locally, they may not be the same sizes (difficult to find larger than men’s 10) and the quality may not be the same as in the US. Although not strictly necessary, you may consider bringing waterproof boots or shoes. Keep in mind that it is very warm here, so if you decide to bring rainy season footwear, try to avoid anything with insulation or linings. Keep in mind it should be something you feel comfortable walking or biking in.

Toiletries and medications

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 Uganda

Most toiletries are available in Uganda and you will have shopping opportunities during training. You should bring enough toiletries for a few weeks. Only bring bigger quantities of things you are brand-specific about: razors, hair ties or product (such as conditioner), and make up.

Menstrual products: Period Underwear/Tampons/Diva Cup/Pads (pads are available in most supermarkets; you can find OB tampons in Kampala, although they are expensive)

Electronics

Voltage

In Uganda the power plugs and sockets are of type G. The standard voltage is 240 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Electronics sold in Uganda are 240v compatible. Make sure in advance of bringing any electronics from the US that they are compatible with 240v. Electronics that are only 120v compatible may burn out, catch fire, or damage the battery if they are plugged into 240v. Small travel voltage converters are available for purchase online, but are generally low amperage and will not support high amperage electronics such as hair dryers or kitchen appliances. During all of Pre-Service Training you will have access to electrical outlets to charge devices.

Power surges

The electrical grid in Uganda can be unreliable with frequent power outages, power surges, or mixed sources of electricity, such as gas or diesel generators. Because of this we recommend using a surge protector when plugging in your electronics. Surge protector multiplugs are a must for any volunteer, and are available in Uganda, but may be more expensive than what is available in the US. Before buying a surge protector, make sure that it is 240v compatible.

Access and reliability

Access to electricity varies greatly at Volunteer sites. Some Volunteers will have electricity in their homes, others will have a pay for service charging booth in their community, while others may have to travel to their nearest road-town to recharge devices. Many Volunteers find extra batteries, battery extenders, and/or solar chargers very useful for keeping phones and other small devices charged.

Because power in Uganda is unreliable, we recommend you bring at least on rechargeable headlamp and/or rechargeable lantern. Candles, flashlights, and rechargeable LED strips are widely available in Uganda.

Personal devices

Peace Corps Uganda does not require Volunteers to bring laptops, external hard drives, tablets, smart phones or other devices. However, it is recommended to bring a device if you have one. Peace Corps Uganda provides a cell phone (not a smart phone) for voice and SMS communication and location reporting. Peace Corps Uganda will also provide a device such as a tablet or laptop to any Volunteer who needs one to support Volunteer utilization of online work and learning tools. Many volunteers find personal laptops, personal smart phones, tablets, and other personal devices convenient for entertainment and work. Many volunteers find that having portable battery packs, or powers banks, are helpful to charge phones, laptops and other devices; be mindful of individual device electrical capacity and charging needs. Be sure to check that all your devices are working properly and have secure cases and screen protectors, as these are difficult to find in local markets. Given how hard the climate is on electronics and how difficult it is to find quality repairs, if you chose to bring a personal device, we recommend bringing used or inexpensive ones. Replacement parts and devices can be expensive and may be available in Kampala.

Other items to consider

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 the common activities that 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.

Arts and crafts

Art and craft supplies are largely unavailable or expensive in Uganda, but can be an excellent hobby and way to bond with community members and students. There are also many local crafts, though finding the materials or guidance may be difficult. If there is an art or craft that is near and dear to you, you may want to consider bringing some supplies.

Books

The Peace Corps Uganda Volunteer Resource Center and Regional offices have books and technical resource materials that you can borrow, though you may not be near these places regularly. Public libraries are uncommon in Uganda. If your preference is e-materials/resources, they are readily available as well, and portable e-readers are a great way to ensure you have access to many books at once

Camping

There are many camping opportunities available in Uganda although they are not as developed as traditional camp grounds would be in the US. For those who enjoy camping, you may want to consider bringing a rainfly and footprint, a multi-tool like a leatherman or swiss army knife, a sleeping pad, high quality hand pump water filter, and a lightweight sleep sack. Many volunteers also bring and enjoy hammocks from home. Consider additional camping gear based on what you would normally use. Keep in mind that you are prohibited from bringing fuels or other flammable materials.

Cooking

Many Volunteers find comfort and connection in cooking for themselves and others. Traditional Ugandan kitchens are very different from kitchens in the United States. Cooking is typically done in pots rather than pans, food is cut while being held in the hand rather than on cutting boards, and meals are heated over charcoal, wood fires, or gas burners rather than stove tops – although most Volunteers use a two-burner gas range that is similar to a stove top. For Volunteers who love to cook, consider bringing a good quality pan, small cutting board, vegetable peeler, decent chef knife and sharpening rod (knives in Uganda are usually dull as the cutting style is different), and any other “essential” cooking utensils. Make sure you have all the necessary parts for whatever cookware you bring!

Food

Traditional Ugandan Cuisine consists of various vegetables, potatoes, yams, bananas and other tropical fruits. The main dishes are usually centered on a sauce or stew of simsim (sesame), groundnuts, beans or meat. The starch traditionally comes from posho (maize meal) or matooke (steamed and mashed green banana) in the South, or millet bread in the North and East. Posho or millet is cooked up into a porridge for breakfast.

  • Seasoning: Uganda has local delicious spices available and can be fun to explore in both Uganda and foreign cuisines. Herbs and spices from other parts of the world are expensive and difficult to find. Some Volunteers choose to bring an assortment of dried spices, seasoning and condiments (like cilantro, siracha, taco seasoning, etc.) for a taste of home.
  • Snacks and supplements: High-nutrition snack foods such as granola or protein bars can be difficult to find or are expensive, but many volunteers supplement their diets with locally available nuts and nut butter. Snacks like chips, cookies, and crackers are widely available. Vitamins and nutritional supplements are widely unavailable outside of Kampala.
  • Coffee: Instant coffee is widely available and popular in Uganda. Additionally, Uganda grows a lot of coffee locally. If you love your coffee, please carry a French Press (a plastic or stainless steel one, glass breaks easily!), as they are not widely available in Uganda.

Gardening

Many Volunteers take up gardening as a physical outlet and to produce herbs and vegetables that are harder to come by in rural and regional settings.

  • Greens: Uganda has abundant cooking greens, such as sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, nakati and collards, but other fresh greens like lettuces, spinach, and kales may be harder to come by. Keep in mind that each region has many local greens that host country natives will want you to taste, which you may in turn want to grow.
  • Herbs: Herbs such as basil, oregano, green onions, parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, turmeric, ginger, and sage grow well in the Ugandan climate, but are almost non-existent in the market.
  • Vegetables: Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, bitter eggplant, and squash (known locally as pumpkin) are available seasonally.
  • Seeds: Seeds can be hard to find in Uganda and often have low germination rates. If augmenting your diet with home-grown goods appeals to you, consider bringing a selection of seeds.
  • Tools: Most gardening implements are available locally, but hand trowels, pocket knives, and clippers can be hard to find.

Gifts

While by no means required, a small gift can be a nice way to make early connections with host families and community members. Calendars of American Scenes, coffee table books, pictures of yourself in the US, items local to your hometown, and small knickknacks are very much appreciated.

Household goods

Pillows, bedsheets, towels and other household goods are available in Uganda, but the comfort and quality may be far below what is available in the United States. Many volunteers like having a microfiber towel for bathing. Consider packing any “can’t do without” household items. Peace Corps Uganda generally provides basic beddings such as blankets, pillows in addition to a modest settling in allowance that could be used to procure other required household items specific to each Volunteer. Your host organization/school provides a bedframe, table and 2 chairs. Fitted sheets are not common in Uganda, and your size of bed will be unknown until you visit your site.

Music

Many Volunteers who play a musical instrument find comfort and connection by bringing an instrument with them to Uganda. Please be aware that the climate can be very hard on musical instruments and they may be attractive to theft. If you consider bringing a musical instrument, please do not bring something of high monetary or sentimental value. There are several traditional musical instruments in Uganda that you may be interested in learning how to play. Many Volunteers enjoy having a small, portable Bluetooth speaker to play music in their home and with community members, as well as for educational or work-related purposes. Please see the below section on electricity before selecting a rechargeable speaker.

Personal items

Showing photos of your home and family 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 to place around your house 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 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. Please consider how you intend to use your camera equipment, especially when taking photos of people. “Extractive” photography is highly discouraged by Peace Corps Uganda and can create conflict when photos are taken without the subject’s consent. Please seek consent before photographing others.

Sports

Ugandans love sports! Primarily football (soccer), but also basketball, and netball. Sports can be a great way to connect with your community and students. Footballs (soccer balls) and basketballs are available locally, but other types of sports equipment can be harder to find, such as frisbees, baseballs/gloves, badminton, etc. You might consider bringing any packable exercise equipment that you would want to use regularly, such as resistance bands or a yoga mat.

Travel

Many Volunteers travel within Uganda and internationally over the course of their service. Peace Corps Uganda recommends 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. Other items you may consider are a backpack, small mouthed water bottle (easier to drink from on bumpy roads), and a debit or credit card if you intend to travel outside of Uganda. You will also need to bring your personal passport for leisure travel, as your Peace Corps provided passport is for official business only.