The time it takes mail to arrive in Peace Corps countries varies and can range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. During pre-service training, packages or letters for Volunteers can be sent to the Peace Corps Office. Once in country, Volunteers will receive instructions on how to receive mail in their community of service.
Cell phone coverage is becoming more prevalent worldwide. If serving in an area with unreliable coverage, Volunteers will rely on Peace Corps staff and local community members to find the best cell phone reception in the community. Depending on their country of service, Volunteers may bring an unlocked cell phone from the U.S., purchase a local cell phone upon arrival, or be given a cell phone by Peace Corps staff in country. The Peace Corps does not provide insurance for personal items, so Volunteers should obtain personal insurance coverage for devices brought to country.
Many Volunteers find that bringing a laptop is useful to them; however, there is always the risk that these computers may get lost, stolen, or damaged. Internet access may not be readily available in every area where Volunteers are placed. In most cities, Volunteers are able to access email at Internet cafes or other establishments with Wi-Fi. The resource center in the Peace Corps office(s) have computers with Internet access for work-related use and often also have Wi-Fi access. Volunteers should not expect Internet service to work consistently or at high speeds during training or in communities of service. Some Volunteers may have Internet access regularly, but this is not a guarantee.
Housing and site location
Peace Corps staff works with host agencies and local leaders to locate appropriate sites with living conditions that meet selection criteria established by the Peace Corps. In some countries, Volunteers will have homestay experiences for part or all of their service. In other countries, Volunteers may live in independent housing for their entire service. Privacy in the home or community may be scarce at times. Access to amenities such as electricity and running water varies by country and community. Some Volunteers will draw water from a nearby well, while others will have running water. Bathrooms range from pit toilets or latrines—separate from the house—to flush toilets inside the house. Some communities may not have access to electricity at all; others do, but may experience regular power outages.
Living allowance and money management
Volunteers receive a monthly, in-country living allowance in local currency. To mitigate the socioeconomic disparity between Volunteer and community—a disparity that sets the Volunteer apart and could present cultural hurdles—this allowance is sufficient to live at the level of those in the Volunteer’s community. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation, entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. Some Volunteers choose to bring additional money for vacation travel, while other Volunteers budget travel expenses within their living allowance. For international travel, credit or debit cards are often preferable to cash. However, in some countries this may not be the case. If you choose to bring extra money, bring an amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. Check with your bank regarding service fees for international transactions.
Food and diet
Food options may vary drastically depending on the country and community of service. Some countries and communities may have a meat-heavy diet, while others may rely more on fruits and vegetables. Volunteers may have to modify their diet to what is available in the host community. Volunteers may also have to navigate the new experience of eating a limited variety of ingredients or eating the same type of meals repeatedly, especially when living with a host family. Volunteers with non-medical dietary restrictions may be able to maintain a healthy diet after becoming familiar with local food options, but this may require some flexibility and willingness to explain dietary needs to others in a culturally sensitive manner. In some countries, eating meat is reserved for special occasions, such as receiving a Peace Corps Volunteer. During pre-service training Peace Corps staff will work with you to discuss dietary norms and develop strategies to address possible challenges. The Peace Corps recognizes that Volunteers may have specific religious dietary needs. Connect with a Peace Corps recruiter to discuss possible strategies for adapting and coping with the various potential dietary challenges.
Transportation access and regulations vary greatly depending on the country of service. Volunteers are prohibited from operating motor vehicles overseas, except under limited circumstances and with the Country Director’s authorization. Many Volunteers get around on foot or by riding a bike. Volunteers must wear a Peace Corps-provided bike helmet when riding a bike. If this policy is violated, disciplinary action--including administrative separation--may be taken. Any disciplinary action would be at the discretion of the Country Director.
There are often modes of public transportation—like buses or taxis—that Volunteers can use. In all countries, during pre-service training, staff will thoroughly review appropriate modes of transportation along with rules and regulations of use. For Volunteer safety and security, it is important to carefully follow guidance from Peace Corps staff about approved modes of transportation during training and of service.
Successful sustainable development work is based on the relationships built by respectfully integrating into the host country community and culture. The specific activities that are an integral part of daily life will vary by country and community. For more information about social activities in a specific country, please visit the country pages.
Professional service, dress, and behavior
The Peace Corps is a professional service organization. To demonstrate respect for local attitudes and cultural norms, Volunteers are expected to behave and dress in a culturally appropriate manner both on and off the job. In most of the countries where the Peace Corps serves, acceptable behavior and attire is demarcated along gender expectations and norms. For some Volunteers, based on personal identities, life experience, or ideas about relinquishing independence, these adjustments may be difficult. However, adjustments to behavior and appearance are fundamental as a means of showing respect for the local culture and to maintain Peace Corps’ good standing in the community. These adjustments are also critical as a means of integration into the community.
See more information about Intercultural Competence (IC), and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) training and expectations during Peace Corps service.