I previously detailed the essential items I brought to Burkina Faso, and now as a follow-up I’ve detailed a few things that you should definitely NOT bring. Pro tip: if you aren’t sure about some things, set them aside and give a bag to a friend or family member who can send it over later if you decide you really want it. I did this and found that a number of the things I thought would be essential were in fact not necessary once I got here.
- As many shirts as you think – I brought a ton of shirts, but only wear these: five casual button ups, four polos, and three t-shirts (and two of those shirts were made/bought here). And as a cultural aside, plenty of Burkinabe wear the same outfit two days in a row. Embrace this.
- As many pants as you think – I brought too many of these as well, but only wear two quickdry pants, one pair of khakis and a pair of jeans.
- >1 Sweatshirt/Fleece – I’m one of those people who are perennially warm, so take this with a grain of salt, but I brought one light fleece, and that has been plenty for me even on the coldest nights during “cold season.”
- >3 shoes – Bring a good pair of sandals, one pair of dressier shoes, and running shoes if you run. That’s it. Sneakers, additional dress shoes, and simple shower sandals are everywhere here. I brought a couple pairs of sandals, plus a couple pairs of casual shoes and they just sit unused.
- Shorts – By shorts, I mean shorts that you plan on wearing outside of your house/courtyard as they’re culturally a no go. But do bring a couple pairs of running or lounge shorts to hang out in when you’re at home. And do bring a bathing suit (who knew you’d swim in Burkina Faso?)
- Sewing kit – Every Peace Corps packing guide includes one of these, but one out of every five business I pass by is a tailoring shop. So unless you really like to sew, you can avoid this one. If something rips or tears, just swing it by the shop and have it fixed on the cheap. Plus, practice your language skills.
- Power converters – I found that all of my electronics’ (and I brought a lot) power adapters were already dual voltage and will work just fine with simple (and cheap!) power adapters. It’s unlikely you’ll need one of those expensive converters unless you plan on bringing your hair-dryer (and in that case we’ll need to talk). Check out your gear and see if you need one before assuming you need one.
- Too much “backpacking stuff” – Yes, you’ll probably be living in a small village in Africa, but no matter how remote your village things are more normal here than you’d think. Don’t get too crazy with the gear. There’s no need for expensive, heavy duty backpacking backpacks, UV water filters, fancy watches, or tools (besides a knife or leatherman). And while I’m a full supporter of quickdry type clothing, get the those that won’t make you look like you’re on a safari. The manner of dress here is much more western than you’d think.
- Most over the counter medications – your Peace Corps medical kit will have most everything you could want (and will be so full that you won’t be able to re-close it). Obviously bring your prescription stuff if you’re supposed to, but no need to bring pepto, immodium, asprin, daily vitamins, band-aids, hand sanitizer, condoms, lip balm, etc.
- Too many toiletries – training is in a large regional capital (Koudougou), so you’ll be able to find things like toothpaste, soap, q-tips, etc. Bring enough to get you through training, but no more unless you just can’t live without something.
- Hair product – basically a total waste with the combination of your bike helmet and lots of sweat.
- Don’t waste precious packing space with food besides a few granola bars and some Gatorade mix. Mail yourself a box with some snacks before you go.
- Small US denomination currency – Want to bring some US currency just in case? A good idea actually, but don’t bring small bills. Money exchangers don’t like anything less than a twenty.