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Packing Guidance for Vanuatu

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 general, Vanuatu has a sub-tropical climate, characterized by hot and humid summers and breezy and cooler winters.

  • Vanuatu’s hottest month is January, with daytime temperatures reaching the high 80s with high humidity, cooling down to the mid-70s at night.
  • The coldest month is July, with maximum daytime temperatures around 80°F and little humidity, cooling down to the mid-60s at night.

While the majority of clothing you bring should be lightweight fabric suitable for hot weather, a fleece or hoodie and a pair of sweatpants will be useful for the occasional chilly winter night.

Rainy season runs from November-April, though it may rain at any time throughout the year. Raincoats and umbrellas are available in Vanuatu but may not be the quality you are used to. We recommend bringing a lightweight but breathable rain jacket. Sturdy and collapsible umbrellas are handy for blocking both rain and the strong sun.

During pre-service training, and prior to Volunteers moving to the communities where they will serve, Peace Corps Vanuatu provide Volunteers with the following essential items:

  • Mattress, sheets, pillow, blanket
  • Mosquito net
  • Life jacket
  • Water safety kit (for Volunteers that need to travel over water for more than two hours to get to their site)
  • Solar-powered lamp
  • Satellite phone (for Volunteers without adequate cellular network at site)
  • Basic phone and SIM card
  • Personal alarm device (to attract attention)
  • Clothes washing materials: brush, bucket, string, clothes pegs, and initial supply of laundry soap
  • Work-related books and novels: The Volunteer Resource Centre at the Peace Corps office in Port Vila has a lending library

Peace Corps also provides Volunteers with a “settling in allowance” to support Volunteers to purchase items that they may need to get settled into their new house after pre-service training. Volunteers typically use this money to buy:

  • Pots, pans, and other kitchen supplies
  • Small stove and gas cylinder
  • Additional bedding
  • Large plastic storage containers

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.

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation. Keep in mind that you will be hand-washing your own clothes and hanging them to dry on a clothesline. In cloudy weather, thicker material may take a very long time to dry. It is highly recommended to prioritize lightweight and durable clothes.

There are numerous secondhand (thrift) shops in all the major towns and even smaller islands of Vanuatu that sell a wide range of clothes at a reasonable price for both work and leisure.

Pre-service training (PST) and work clothing

PST is a good time to practice wearing and getting used to work-appropriate island clothes. While Vanuatu dress code is informal, the clothes worn to work must be clean.

  • Short-sleeved collared shirts (polo or button-down)
  • Casual, short sleeve blouses (not sleeveless)
  • Lightweight pants
  • Casual, loose-fitting calf-length skirts or dresses

Volunteers often have outfits made from local fabric for both formal occasions (weddings, church services) and work settings.

Leisure and recreational clothing

When staying with host families and in informal settings in the community, Volunteers usually wear:

  • Knee-length shorts (basketball shorts or board shorts are most common)
  • Calf-length skirts or lava lava (sarong)
  • T-shirts (not sleeveless)

Culturally appropriate swimwear consists of the following, which are also readily available at low cost in local secondhand stores:

  • Knee-length board shorts or a lava lava (sarong)
  • Rash-guard t-shirt (or regular t-shirt)

Other clothes packing tips

  • 1 hoodie or fleece and 1 pair sweatpants (or similar) for chilly nights
  • 1-2 pairs lightweight long sleeve shirts and/or pants to protect against mosquitos in the evenings
  • 1 breathable rain jacket
  • Hat for sun protection
  • 3-4 pairs of wicking sports bras (these are also used underneath t-shirts while swimming
  • 2-3 pairs of bike shorts (or similar), which are often worn underneath skirts or lava lavas
  • Underwear and bras: Consider bringing enough for the two years of service as you may not be able to get your preferred style, size, or quality in country.

Good quality footwear is not widely available in Vanuatu. You will be doing a lot of walking over different terrain from rocky coral beaches to muddy jungle paths. We recommend you bring the following:

  • 1-2 pairs of good flip flops
  • 1-2 pair of sports sandals (for longer walks and these may also be worn with work wear)
  • 1 pair of reef shoes
  • 1 pair of running shoes / sneakers

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.

Most toiletries (such as shampoo and conditioner for a variety of hair types, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, razors, etc.) may be found locally in Vanuatu.

Voltage/plug type

Vanuatu runs on 220V-240V, and the voltage frequency is 50 Hz. If your device is only made for 100-120V (as is the case in the U.S.), we recommend you do not bring it.

The majority of electrical sockets, outlets, and plugs are Type I. You may wish to bring a few plug adapters with you, though these are also available locally.

Access to electricity

Most rural communities in Vanuatu do not have electricity and rely on solar panels or generators. While Peace Corps provides a solar lamp, a headlamp is also useful while at site. Rechargeable batteries (AA and AAA) are also helpful.

Access to electronics in Vanuatu

Quality and prices of electronics available in-country range from very high end and expensive to very simple and cheap, depending on where it is purchased from. Most electronics are purchased from Computer World in Port Vila. Volunteers who have brought their own smart phones, laptops or tablets in the past have found them to be helpful.

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 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.

Household items

  • 1 set of lightweight, 100% cotton sheets in dark color
  • Heavy duty duct tape
  • Bungee cords/zip ties in various sizes
  • Plastic storage containers and zip-top style bags of assorted sizes
  • Packaged mixes (sauce, soup, drink pix) or favorite spices (though many available in-country)
  • Good quality can opener
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Headlamp

Visiting other Volunteers

Volunteers like to visit each other on other islands. In these cases, Volunteers find it helpful to have:

  • Backpack or duffel (with rain cover) for 3-4 day trips
  • Extra absorbent micro-fiber towel
  • Lightweight sleeping bag

Personal interests

You will have a lot of free time at site! Items to pass the time alone or with others may include:

  • Small games, cards
  • Small musical instruments
  • Sports or yoga equipment
  • Snorkel mask
  • Music: Consider downloading a preferred app to your device while in the U.S.

Anything specific to where you are from to share with friends and family during training and at your site: Knickknacks, calendar with photos of U.S., stickers, postcards, coloring books, etc.