What is Peace Corps Volunteer Travel Like?
I served two full years living in China as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English to high school students. Many people choose the Peace Corps for one big reason: travel. The idea of being funded to travel around the world to a new location where you can essentially travel.
What’s great about Peace Corps is you get to volunteer in magnificent countries around the world for two years AND you get to travel to neighboring countries to visit too. When people want to travel for less money, this is one of the ways they do it.
But what is it Peace Corps Volunteer Travel truly like? I can only speak for myself, so any RPCVs reading this, feel free to chime in in the comments.
It varies with each volunteer, but I guarantee you many of them will say they’ve seen so much more of the world through travel than they ever did in the US. There are some major benefits to travel being a Peace Corps Volunteer, which I will explain below, but know that when you’re traveling on the Peace Corps’ dime and time, everyone’s experience will be different.
Different Countries Mean Different Rules
Now, I definitely can’t speak for other volunteers serving in other countries, but I know each country of service has a different set of rules. Typically, they are based on the cultures, safety precautions, time given to travel, etc. For instance, in China, we had 24 days a year to travel and when we requested time to travel, we didn’t have to worry too much about getting vaccines to combat viruses unless we were traveling somewhere where some diseases may have been present. Some countries will require you adhere to a specific set of rules when traveling.
Peace Corps Staff’s First Priority is Safety
The staff will make sure that your corps volunteer travel is the best possible ever, but if it poses a safety issue for you, they may not let you go. This is dependant on the country politics, diseases that may exist in other countries you want to visit, or simply the area is not safe for tourists/volunteers. The PC staff has an obligation to keep you safe so you can go home to family and friends unscathed, so if they tell you that you shouldn’t be going, then you shouldn’t be going. Don’t get frustrated, just realize they are looking out for you.
Peace Corps Gives You A Travel Stipend
I can’t say how much money that is because it varies for each country of service, but Peace Corps will allot you a certain amount of travel dollars so you can travel and see new places. It’s not likely to be an outrageous amount, but it will be based on the standard income levels of the area you are living in. But bundle that with any money you try to bring with you for travel-related purposes, and no doubt you will have enough to cross some big adventures off your bucket list.
Request Your Travel Time
24 days a year of travel is a lot, especially for teachers in China because they have significant periods of time off during the holidays. But if you’re in Peace Corps, you’re going to definitely have to request your time to travel with your PC staff. They do this so they know where you are in the case that you get into trouble. It can seem like a hassle, but it’s really for your own safety.
You Can Request Cultural Travel
So let’s say you have 0 days left on your travel time balances and one of your students or colleagues wants to take you to a festival or their hometown. In some cases, you can request additional time off for the purpose of cross-cultural understanding purposes. If you’re going somewhere and doing or learning something that improves your knowledge of the country you are serving in, it can be considered cultural leave and your PC staff may approve your travel.
Travel to Neighboring Countries
One of my favorite things about Peace Corps Volunteer travel is that you have the ability to travel outside of your country of service to neighboring countries. For example, living in China, you have the ability to go to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, literally the options are endless! What a great way to get to the other side of the world and see new cultures. I supposed many other countries of service are this way, but like I said every country of service varies.
Travel is Probably Cheap
Living in China, one American dollar was equal to six Chinese dollars. Meaning everything was hella cheap there, even travel. Getting a nice capsule hotel hostel can be as cheap as $8 a night. A bowl of noodles would be $1.50, and souvenirs are inexpensive too! Attractions, even more so. Check with your country of service and see what their exchange rate is, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Peace Corps Volunteer travel is one of the easiest ways to travel on a budget and without spending too much money. You also have plenty of time to travel without a pesky 8-5 job getting in your way.
*The volunteer featured in this photo with me is Aubrey Zhang who runs her owns her own custom jewelry shop called Fenna and Fei.