Zambia

Zambia 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

Zambia has a temperate climate with distinct rainy and dry seasons. While there is some local variation, generally Zambia experiences three distinct seasons:

May – August: Cool and dry with temperatures ranging from the low 40s to upper 70s Fahrenheit.

September – October: Hot and dry with temperatures between low 60s to mid-90s Fahrenheit.

November – April: Rainy season with temperatures between the upper 50s and mid 80s Fahrenheit.

Items provided in-country

Peace Corps Zambia provides the following items:

  • Bicycle, bicycle helmet, and repair tools
  • Mosquito net for your bed
  • Small solar light that can charge a cell phone
  • Water filter
  • Medical kit
  • Wash bucket
  • Tablet (upon request), to access online learning courses, training materials and to produce quarterly reports. Volunteers are welcome to bring their preferred device. The Peace Corps cannot provide technical support and will not reimburse Volunteers for any needed repairs.
  • Simple cell phone
  • Fire bucket and shovel
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detector (two-year PCVs)
  • Fire extinguisher (Response PCVs)

Volunteers are provided a settling-in allowance to purchase necessary housing supplies and equipment for their initial site assignment. This allows you to be involved immediately in your community with freedom to manage your own affairs. Volunteers are encouraged to purchase items available locally and to restrict their purchases to genuine needs. Supplies and equipment purchased with the settling-in allowance become your personal property.

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.

In general, Zambia has more conservative clothing standards than Volunteers may be used to in the United States. Volunteers should avoid any clothing that ends above the knees or that exposes the shoulders. As a Volunteer, you are expected to dress appropriately, whether you are in training, traveling, or on the job. Education Volunteers spend much of their time in schools, so it is advisable to bring clothing that is comfortable, professional, and modest. Footwear appropriate for considerable standing, walking, and biking is also a necessity.

Pack light and only bring clothes that you feel will be difficult to find in Zambia. Most clothing items can be found at local retail clothing stores, thrift stores, and local street vendors selling salaula (second-hand clothes) throughout the country. Pack versatile clothing that can handle prolonged periods outdoors and regular handwashing. It is advisable to pack a few warmer outfits for the colder months (May-August) such as jackets, sweatshirts, and long-sleeved t-shirts.

Tailoring is common in Zambia, as is the vibrantly colored local fabric called chitenge. Volunteers often tailor chitenge into a wide variety of outfits that they wear at swear-in, in their communities, and throughout their service.

General clothing

  • Sturdy cotton shirts in dark colors; avoid white or light-colored garments that stain or discolor easily.
  • Pants with elastic waists, wrap tops or skirts, or anything with forgiving styles to accommodate possible fluctuations in weight; some Volunteers lose and/or gain weight.
  • Comfortable, breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen are more comfortable than synthetic fabrics like polyester but may be more difficult to wash and dry. Loose-fitting pants are generally cooler than jeans.
  • Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants will help protect against mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Underwear, socks, and bras: consider bringing enough to last the two years of service because you may not be able to get your preferred style, size, or quality in-country.
  • Hoodie, sweater, or fleece for chilly nights.
  • Lightweight rain jacket for the rainy season.
  • Hats or baseball caps (for sun protection)

Work clothing

  • Appropriate professional attire for both Education and Health sector Volunteers consists of long pants, jeans, long skirts, or long dresses, and shirts/tops that cover the shoulders and upper arms, waist, and lower back.
  • Work dress is more relaxed for the Environment and Agriculture Volunteers; however, Volunteers should avoid wearing shorts or tank tops while working. Spaghetti straps are not appropriate unless covered with a sleeved shirt, coat, or jacket. All dresses and skirts should cover the knees, even when sitting. We recommend that you bring at least one nice outfit such as button-down/slacks or blouse/skirt/pants for professional meetings.

In Zambia, shorts are normally worn for exercise, or by children and students rather than adults and are not appropriate in professional environments. Volunteers should wear shorts only at home, when exercising, or when doing work where Zambian counterparts are also wearing them. Pants are acceptable for women, although many women in rural and professional settings will wear long skirts or dresses.

Leisure and recreational clothing

Leisure: Undershirts, tank tops, lightweight t-shirts, shorts, yoga pants, and leggings are appropriate for sleeping and lounging at home.

Recreational: 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 leggings should be covered for public exercise.

Shoes

Volunteers in Zambia regularly bike on uneven and unpaved roads and paths. It is important that Volunteers pack comfortable shoes that are easily washable. During the rainy season (December – March), it can be wet and muddy every day. Closed-toed shoes are suggested in professional settings.

Education, Health, and Response Volunteers should have at least one pair of nice closed-toed shoes for work in the classroom and clinic.

Agriculture and Environment Volunteers may want to bring a sturdy pair of sandals and/or boots for field work.

Additionally, inexpensive flip-flops and rubber gum boots can be found by Volunteers in-country, although sizes often run smaller than those in the U.S.

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.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. PCMO Zambia does not recommend contact lenses in-country because of the dusty environment and difficulty of maintaining them.

Electronics

Voltage

Zambia runs on 230v. Most phone and laptop chargers are compatible with both 120v (US standard) and 230v. Electronics sold in Zambia are 230v compatible. Make sure in advance of bringing any electronics from the US that they are compatible with 230v. Electronics that are only 120v compatible may burn out, catch fire, or damage the battery if they are plugged into 230v. 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.

If you wish to bring rechargeable hair clippers/trimmers, hair dryers, or other electronic appliances ensure they work on 230v.

Access to electricity at site

No two-year Volunteer sites are wired for electricity. If Volunteers wish, they can bring a portable solar panel with them or purchase a solar set-up in-country. Peace Corps Zambia will provide all Volunteers with a small solar light that can charge a cell phone.

Outlets

Most outlets in Zambia are of the UK variety (Type G), although outlets from different parts of the world can be found as well. Volunteers should bring at least one sturdy power adapter with them.

Personal devices

Peace Corps Zambia does not require Volunteers to bring laptops, external hard drives, tablets, smart phones, or other devices. The Peace Corps Zambia issued tablet and shared office computers are adequate for all work and reporting requirements. That said, many Volunteers find laptops, personal smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices convenient for entertainment and work. Given how hard the climate is on electronics and how difficult it is to find repairs, if you choose to bring a personal device, we recommend bringing used or inexpensive ones.

Additionally, if a Volunteer chooses to bring a smartphone, please ensure it is unlocked and supports a physical SIM card, as eSIM is not yet locally supported in Zambia. Peace Corps Zambia will assist Volunteers in setting up their local SIM when they arrive in-country.

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 Volunteers participate in while in Zambia 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 might be nice to have.

Luggage

While not necessary, Volunteers may want to consider bringing a large hiking backpack (60L-70L) in place of one piece of normal luggage. Having a large backpack will make travel much easier as many Volunteers live some distance from any paved roads.

Camping

There are many amazing places to backpack and camp in Zambia. Camping supplies can be purchased in the capital (Lusaka); but can be more expensive than in the U.S. Volunteers who love the outdoors and are interested in camping should consider bringing their own tent, sleeping bag/pad, and other camping supplies.

Gardening

Many Volunteers across all four sectors start their own personal gardens while serving. Gardening tools can easily be purchased in-country. While seeds can be purchased in-country, many Volunteers prefer to bring their own seeds, as options can be limited.

Personal interest and hobbies

Almost everything a Volunteer needs can be found in-country even if the quality and branding is different than what they expect. Volunteers should consider their own personal interest when packing. Volunteers who have hobbies that use specific tools or instruments should consider bringing them from the U.S. For example, Volunteers who are passionate about drawing and painting might want to bring their own supplies. This depends on the individual but should be considered carefully to prevent overpacking.

Suggestions from currently serving Volunteers

  • Lightweight cargo pants
  • Rain paints, jacket, suits, boots
  • Leggings for Volunteers to wear under chitenge wraps and while biking
  • Work gloves (especially for Agriculture and Environment volunteers)
  • A pair of waterproof boots and more socks than you think you will need
  • A good simple pocketknife
  • Saddlebags for bikes
  • Braided phone charging cables
  • Insulated water bottle(s)
  • Packing cubes to organize clothes while traveling
  • AA/AA batteries for smoke detectors and pulse oximeters (which are found in the PC medical kit) - battery costs are covered in monthly living allowance, yet may not always be readily available in more rural communities