What to pack? How much stuff to take? What is available in The Gambia? How do I pack for two years? So on and so forth...These are the question you are probably asking yourself right now; so this page have been created by volunteers of PCTG to help you give an idea of what you need to bring and what can be found here. The packing list here has been created by volunteers and trainees to reflect the actual needs of volunteers; it is recomended that you follow the list here over the one provided to you in the staging folder, if any. However, be advised that we try to be as thorough as possible, but no one person will need everything on the list, be very selective. Only bring what you think you will use, use the list only as a guideline. There is absolutely nothing anyone can recommend for you to bring without which you will not be able to function as a volunteer. Peace Corps will provide all medicines and first-aid necessities as well as a Cost of Living (COL) allowance that will be more than enough to live a comfortable life upon. You can buy clothes or have them made by local tailors; you can buy almost all types of foods; you can buy all the toiletries you will ever need in-country. Plus, every single time, every single trainee will say "I don't need this here," of one or more items that they brought with them. So we recommend you wait till you get here and then decide what you will need and either get it here or have somebody send it to you. That being said, still if you can bring some of the "luxury" things listed below, they may help you.
Furthermore, you don't HAVE to bring everything that you want with you. You can mail it to yourself at the Peace Corps office in The Gambia a week or two before you leave the States and you will find it here. And of course your family and friends can send you care packages here as well. The address of the office is:
Your Name, PCT*
C/O Peace Corps/The Gambia
P.O. Box 582
Banjul, The Gambia
*It is very important that you put PCT after your name or your mail may get misplaced. After you swear in as a volunteer, PCV will follow your name.
General Packing List For The Gambia:
Things you must bring:
- 2 pairs of bed sheets - queen size at least
- 2 pillow cases
- A bath towel, hand towels, and washcloth
- Spoon, fork and table knife
Extra things you will be glad you brought:
- Cell Phone with sim-card compatible with West Africa GSM frequencies ("quad band phone, unlocked" is the spec)* Nearly every volunteer has a cell phone. It is a vital means of communication (mostly, texting)
- Flash Drive (larger the better)*
- A flashlight that charges by shaking
- Digital Camera
- Duct Tape
- A phone card so that you can call the U.S. from The Gambia more cheaply (available online from a variety of sources)
- Africa Map
- Mid-Sized Back Pack
- Shoulder Bag*
- Inexpensive, durable, water-resistant watch with extra batteries
- Rain Jacket
- Compact Umbrella*
- iPod / CD player with choice of music
- Travel Speakers
- Large combination lock
- ATM card
- Nalgene bottles (one wide mouthed, one small)
- A mechanical or battery-operated alarm clock
- A small stockpile of batteries. (Available in country but expensive.)
- Good Flash light* and head lamp.
- Combination pad-lock.
- Wide-brimmed sun hat (useful for walking around town and particularly for working in the fields.)
- A couple of small screw-top plastic containers/bottles for toiletries when traveling
- Tooth brush containers
- Photo album from home
Also see the Technologies Informational page.
Most volunteers say they brought too much clothing, and in particular, too much nice clothing. Nevertheless, you will need to dress appropriate for meetings with government officials and for an occasional ceremony. But day to day, you will be living with working people in very hot weather.
The Gambia is a conservative Muslim country. Women usually cover all of their body, and many still cover their necks and heads. To dress in what Americans would consider cool-weather clothing may be considered by many Gambians to be provocative clothing, inviting more unwelcome attention than you will find tolerable. Err on the conservative side when choosing what to bring.
- Professional: Dresses (sundresses) are simple, flattering, and culturally appropriate and provide better ventilation than clothes with elastic waist bands. All skirts and pants should be ¾ length (Capri or calf length) at minimum (don’t show knees but short enough not to drag in the mud or catch in bike spokes).
- Pants with belt loops, wrap tops, anything with forgiving fabric to accommodate fluctuations in weight.
- Tailors in the Kombos (City Area) are good and fabrics are available for custom tailoring; a dress costs about US $10.00, so the best advice is to pack minimal and versatile items and then supplement your wardrobe after receiving your assignment so as to know what you will need. Tailors do work well from patterns or form copying clothing you bring from home.
- Should be Comfortable and Personal.
- Bring what you would wear on the hottest days in US summers (e.g. worn-in T-Shirts and long board shorts.)
- Clothes get dirty, so bring stuff that can be washed frequently without falling apart. Clothes here take a beating since they are washed by hands.
- Bring lots of underwear! 20 pairs or more.*
- Bring at least several sports bras (quick-drying, cotton material is best.) Dark colors are easiest to keep clean looking.
- Pajamas – lightweight covering, light colored to protect against mosquitoes (for sitting outside with host family/walking around village at night). Boxer shorts (minimal PJ’s for sleeping at friends’ houses or Peace Corps house.
- Kombo clothes: Bring cute clothes for going out – there are opportunities to go dancing, occasions to feel pretty, so be ready for them! Jeans. Travel-sized toiletry bottles. Disposable razors, 2 swimsuits (bikinis are fine, this country caters to European tourists at beach resorts.)
- A couple of button-up dress shirts at the minimum.
- Long but light pants (it gets hot here)
- Shorts (must cover knees)
- Underwear* (15 Pairs – but be advised - it pays to go commando.)
- For the City area, couple of changes of dressy clothes will come in handy for going out and attending official functions. (Meaning long sleeve button up shirts with slacks or jeans).
- For the village, rule of thumb is: don’t show knees and you perfectly fine. However, if you happen to be teaching in a class or working at a clinic or any other organization then, of course, you will need dress a little more appropriately. Generally T-shirts and jeans with flip-flops are appropriate enough.
- Pants that zip-off into shorts can be very helpful and considered professional attire.
- A few warmer shirts/tops/fleeces for “cold” season.
- Swimsuit (Shorts)
- A good razor
For Men & Women:
- Flip-flops* (high-quality, Havaina, Teva, you can buy the cheap ones here)
- Sturdy sandals (Teva, Birkenstock, and Chaco)
- All-purpose shoes for walking, hiking, and biking (tennis shoes)*
- Workout shoes if needed
- Nice Pillow!!!*
- Good Towels.*
- Earplugs, good ones with a high noise reduction rating. Absolutely necessary.
- Collapsible hand fan.
- A nice small (thin) blanket (it gets cold but never too cold)*
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- At least a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you take, to last you until the medical office can order refills
- Good scissors*
- Skin lotion*
- Two pairs of eyeglasses, if you wear them; also bring a repair kit
- Any favorite brands of shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, etc (you can buy all of these things in country at a higher cost)
- Deodorant (There is a very limited selection and it is very expensive so bring as much as you can - you will be here two years)*
- Lip balm (provided in the Peace Corps medical kit, but you may prefer your own brand)*
- Face wash (skin care – Nozema, oxi pads, platex wipes a “must have”)
- Gold Bond/ Baby powder/summer eve (you will get heat rash and these really help!) Many PCVs say this is a "must".
- Sun Screen/Bug Spray (Available from the Medical Office but may not be what you like.)
- Hand-sanitizer (Bring lots and in many different sizes)
- Astringent Face Wash
- Appointment book*
- Folders with pockets*
- Colored pencils and sharpener*
- Note cards
- Women’s magazines – good inspiration for women’s group activities and products.
You will be lacking protein. Bring anything that can help with this. Multivitamins and fiber supplements are available form the Medical Office.
- Packaged mixes (Power aid/Gatorade Aid, flavor drink mixes, powder soup mixes)
- Good can opener - there are none of the quality you are used to in the local stores
- Small plastic food container, Tupperware (high-quality, you can store other things in these as well)*
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Rubber spatula
- Plastic Ziploc bags
- Parmesan cheese (grated and packaged; it’s very expensive here, so if you like it bring your own)
- Dried fruit, raisins, Craisins, anything with nutrients
- Freeze dry food
- Cliff bars or other energy bars(you cannot buy these here and there will times you will stuck someplace without food)
- Granola Bars/Protein bars
- Tuna, chicken and salmon packets
- Small Rubbermade bins
- Pot holders
- Vegetable Peeler
- Ziplock bags
- Good knife*
- Travel mug*
- Diamond Stone / Knife Sharpner
Miscellaneous suggestions and add-ons
- Portable solar power battery charger (these expensive but very useful here. You can charge your MP3, cell phone, and rechargeable batteries. It is worth the money), and/or
- Battery powered phone charger - for those times when there is no sun and/or you can't get to a town with electricity
- Small gifts for your new family if you want, but $10 or less (Stickers, postcards, extra pictures of your American family). Crayons, markers, pencils. (You do not have to buy anything in the States, when you come here you will be taken to the market get some culture gifts for you host family.)
- Short wave radio for listening to BBC, VOA, and other new stations*
- Biking gear such as gloves, toe clips, bike seat for comfort (helmets and repair tools are provided by the Peace Corps. You may be biking a lot so these items are useful)
- Small or medium-size daypack without frame
- Disposable camera for times when you don’t want to wreck your camera
- Film if you bring a film camera (available in The Gambia, expensive and are not the best quality)*
- Magazines and catalogs with pictures of clothing you might want to have copied by tailors in The Gambia
- Art supplies (markers, paper)*
- Softball glove (Peace Corps/Senegal has an annual tournament with other West African countries)
- Books (Identification books – plants, animals) (There are many of these types of books floating around the office, the transit house and with volunteers).
- Sudoko, crossword, board games, etc. if you enjoy these
- Protective cases for everything! (The dust and heat will kill your electronics if not in a case)
- Rechargeable batteries
- Bungie Cords*
- Hand towels, wash clothes, and lufas
- Converter for plugs (the one that comes with all of the options)* - The Gambia uses the British-type 3-pronged plug
- Surge protectors*
- Small battery operated fan
- Many types of tape (scotch, masking) *
- Teacher Kit (rubber bands, stapler, makers – Mr. sketch, and sharpies, push pins, paper clips, pens, pencils, glue, single hole punch, and folders) Don’t skimp really think about what you will want for the next two years.
- Teaching materials (Inflatable globes, electronic copies of lesson plans or resources, favorite teaching books, calculator, children’s books that can be translated) Don’t skimp really think about what you will want for the next two years.
- Bags (You can’t have enough bags. Here are some suggestions – Nylon drawstring, reusable canvas bag, book bag/backpack, daypack, duffel bags)
- Small two-person tent can be nice to have for traveling and sleeping outside and in the bush.
- Bring extra money with you. You can buy many things here, it is just expensive on a volunteer budget. You should bring at least $200 to help get settled and to buy a cell phone if you don't bring an unlocked quadband phone with you. You will also want extra money if you plan to travel.
- Almost every volunteer and Gambian has a cell phone. You can buy an unlocked quadband cell phone in the States, or pay twice as much money to buy one here. You will want one.
- If you have room bring…clothes line, clothes pins, soap box, stuffed animal, nail polish and remover, a tent and sleeping pad, voice recorder for language classes and mailing home tapes.
- The dress clothes for staging should be clothes you will wear in country. In other words, don’t bring specific clothes for staging.
- The luggage restrictions that the Peace Corps gives can be wrong, since airlines change theirs frequently. Check with the airlines for up to date information. And you can always pay for extra weight.
- The Peace Corps will transport your luggage.
- Bring money for stamps. Buy a lot of stamps when you get here because they are hard to get during training.
- You will be glad you have some U.S. stamps too, for that moment when someone you know is heading home for holiday or at the end of their service.
- Light colored clothes are hard to keep clean. Dark clothes make you very hot, so you have to find a good balance. Brown, green, blue, gray, purple, and red, are good.
* These are available in The Gambia, however, the quality may not be the best and you may prefer your brand names; also the cost may be considerably higher here than in the States particularly on a PCV budget. Almost everything on this list can be mailed to yourself before you leave the States or have people mail that stuff to you. Remember you will be in training for two and a half months and you won’t have a need for a lot of the things listed here, especially since Peace Corps will handle a lot of the things for you during training. So take this into consideration before you start buying and packing things. People have shown up to The Gambia with nothing but a hiking back-pack with a few clothes and toiletries and survived for twenty-seven months. It also comes down how you think you will live and how you want to live. We can’t stress this enough, you can have people mail you the stuff you need after you get to your post and learn what your needs are. Good luck and have fun packing and DON’T STRESS.
General Electricity and Technologies Information:
Electricity in The Gambia is mostly limited to the area around the capital, Banjul. However, some large towns elsewhere in the country do have electricity for several hours a day. Some organizations such as health centers and NGOs also have diesel generators. Regardless, a volunteer should NOT expect to have continuous or any access to electricity at all, even if one’s posting is in the area around the capital. Electricity service, while fairly dependable in recent months, still invariably encounters problems that leave vast areas without power, sometimes for days and weeks. A volunteer coming to The Gambia should take this into account when deciding on what kind of technologies to bring along.
Having said that, a fair number of volunteers, particularly ICT volunteers use technologies such as laptops in The Gambia on a daily basis, since their postings tend to be at the least with an organization that has access to a diesel generator. Furthermore, many non-ICT volunteers even those posted up-country, in rural villages also posses similar technologies, as one can usually find a way to charge laptops, portable DVD players, cell phones and iPods, even if it requires biking a considerable distance.
Some volunteers also find it useful to invest in solar technology, which is available in-country at relatively affordable prices. For example, a simple five to ten watts set up for a bulb and a charger for cell-phones and iPods may cost as little as US $100.00. A volunteer who wants to scrimp and save may be able to cover this cost from the Cost of Living allowance provided by Peace Corps/The Gambia but you can also bring it with you. Larger setups of fifty to a hundred watts to run lap-tops and portable DVD players can cost as much as US $500.00. Such set-ups will probably require a volunteer to supplement their allowance from their own funds.
However, should a volunteer only choose to bring an iPod, and since sun is never the problem in The Gambia, an iPod portable solar charger will be sufficient (available from its manufacturer).
Cell-phones or mobiles are the preferred mode of communication in The Gambia. While landlines exist, however, their extent is limited due to their physical nature. Even mobiles, however, have their coverage limits. Currently there are three mobile service providers that cover some parts of the country very well, while most parts have limited or sporadic coverage. The trainees will be provided more information once they arrive in country and they will have the opportunity to purchase mobiles at some point during training, either their first week in country or at the end of training. The cheapest mobiles here cost anywhere from US $50.00 to US $90.00, depending upon the promotional events. A prospective volunteer may choose to purchase a mobile that can take a SIM card and is compatible with the GSM frequency of West Africa in the States as the same phones will be much cheaper in the there than in-country. (Ask for an unlocked quadband cell phone that takes a SIM card.) A good source may be eBay or other similar sites. Please see a list of the most commonly used phones is The Gambia below:
1. Nokia 1100 *
2. Nokia 1110 *
3. Nokia 1110i *
4. Nokia 1112 *
5. Nokia 1600
6. Nokia 5310
7. Nokia 6600
8. Nokia 8210
10. Samsung RS 660
*Almost universally used by all volunteers as they are the cheapest mobiles on the market here and they are not too extravagant so as to not give the appearance of being rich foreigners, a common misconception held by many host nationals.
Personal Music Players and Radios:
The most form of personal music players that volunteers choose to bring are iPods, MP3 Players, and CD/MP3 Players. As mentioned above should one choose to bring an iPod, it is highly advisable that they also invest in a compatible solar charger available from its manufacture. As for MP3 players and CD/MP3 Players, it is best bring the battery powered devices along with as many batteries as one may wish to do so. While there are batteries available here the quality tends to be extremely poor (on a CD player it may be possible to play maximum of two to three songs on brand new batteries). Brand name batteries such as Duracell and Energizer are also available; however, their cost is very high considering the Cost of Living allowance provided by Peace Corps.
As for radios, a volunteer may bring a full shortwave radio with AM/FM functions to receive the local radios as well as BBC and VOA. However, such radios can be purchased in The Gambia for as little as US $5.00.
Other Considerations about Technologies:
One more thing that you should consider is the effect of high humidity during the rainy season on the technologies you bring. Humidity can cause long term problems in sensitive devices such as laptops and iPods, however, this has not been a major concern for volunteers who possess such technologies in The Gambia. Furthermore, some preventative measures can be taken to make sure it doesn’t become a problem.