Here is some (very specific and long- sorry!) information on what I packed, along with what I had sent or bought after coming and some insight after two years there. In terms of clothes, this probably won’t be particularly helpful for men. Do NOT take this as a packing list for you, but just as a potential guideline. If you’re really not comfortable in dresses and skirts, pants will generally not be a problem, but most teachers do wear dresses and skirts always. Some volunteers brought one small bag, others brought two plus bags stuffed to the gills. Everyone is different, and you know what will help you to be happy and successful here better than I do. If you have a hobby that requires certain things, and you can fit them, bring them! You’ll have lots of free time and will appreciate that you brought those things that help you to fill the time. Please note that the pictures include some items I added after getting to Moldova (either what my parents have sent me or that I have bought here).
What I originally packed: 3 long-sleeved shirts (top left); 7 sleeveless shirts/tanktops (top right); 5 short-sleeved tops (bottom left); 3 sweaters (navy, teal, wine-colored).
What I’ve added: 3 sweaters (sent from my parents), 1 turtleneck sweater (purchased in Moldova), 1 sleeveless button-up shirt (purchased here), 1 long-sleeve shirt (brought back from U.S.).
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): 1 sleeveless top (just didn’t wear it), 1 short-sleeved top (also just didn’t wear it), 2 sweaters (no longer need them/didn’t really fit well).
Notes about tops: I have found that I wear all of the tops I brought pretty evenly. I probably could have used a few more tops for winter, but have mostly solved that now with the ones my parents sent and I purchased here. My school was heated, but not warm, so in the winter, I did not wear my short-sleeved or sleeveless tops at all. They were great for summer (which is very hot!) and spring/fall however.
Pants and Shorts:
What I originally packed: 1 pair tan dress pants; 1 pair black skinny jeans; 1 pair blue straight jeans; 2 pairs longer jean shorts; 2 pairs shorter jean shorts.
What I’ve added: 1 pair skinny jeans (purchased here).
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): all 3 pairs pants (no longer fit), 2 pairs shorter shorts (no longer fit).
Notes about pants and shorts: Many volunteers have either gained or lost a significant amount of weight. The only bottoms that I brought that still fit are the two longer jean shorts. I originally wrote that I could not wear shorts in my traditional village, but in my second summer, I started wearing them around home and occasionally around town (when walking or doing work with my host family in the garden, for example) without a problem. I only wear pants (the jeans I purchased here) on the weekends or after school, but not at school or to community events. That’s a mostly personal decision, and most volunteers are able to wear pants in their communities and work places (but maybe not jeans). I’ve donated all of the pants and the shorter jean shorts to Loot Me, a place volunteers maintain where they can donate any unwanted clothes in decent to good condition and also “shop” for new clothes for free.
Dresses and Skirts:
What I originally packed: 5 dresses; 4 skirts (1 maxi, 3 knee-length).
What I’ve added: 4 sleeveless dresses (2 sent from U.S., 1 purchased here, 1 free from Loot Me), 1 long-sleeved dress (brought back from U.S.), 1 3/4 length sleeved shift dress (purchased here for a wedding), 1 pencil skirt (purchased here).
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): 1 short-sleeved dress (light blue in picture above- didn’t fit well), the maxi skirt (striped- just didn’t wear it)
Notes on dresses and skirts: I wish I had brought more! I wear these every single day (except if I stay at home all day and don’t leave the house). In particular, I wish I brought at least one or two long-sleeved or sweater options, to stay warm during the winter months. I don’t wear the maxi skirt at all- the roads are too dusty/muddy. All of my dresses and skirts hit just above the knees and that is absolutely acceptable, a bit shorter would also be okay for most situations. You may notice this is where I’ve made the most changes- I’ve added 8 new dresses! My 3 short-sleeved knit dresses get the most wear, regardless of season- they’re just so comfortable but look nice!
Cardigans and Blazers:
What I originally packed: 1 blanket sweater, 1 long black cardigan, 1 long tan cardigan, 1 black blazer.
What I’ve added: 1 long black cardigan, 1 shorter camel cardigan, 1 light tan long cardigan.
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): 1 blanket sweater (took back to US- no longer needed), original long black cardigan (was really worn).
Notes on cardigans and blazers: I rarely wore the blanket sweater out and about, but appreciated it at home, especially on particularly cold days. At first I didn’t wear the blazer much, but have worn it a lot in my second year and am glad I brought it.
Other (not pictured):
What I originally packed: 3 pairs exercise/long-underwear-style leggings; 1 pair dressy black leggings; 1 pair dark red fleece-lined leggings; 1 pair black fleece-lined stockings; 2 pairs black stockings; 15 pairs underwear; 10 pairs socks (including 3 pairs thick hiking socks); 3 bras; 4 exercise t-shirts; 1 pair exercise shorts; 1 pair spandex shorts; 1 nightgown; 1 pair sweatpants; 1 long-underwear shirt; 1 fleece sweatshirt; 1 black cami; 2 thin tanktops to wear under things.
What I’ve added: several pairs of regular and fleece-lined black stockings (sent/brought back from U.S.), 1 pair black dressy leggings (purchased here), 1 set thin long-underwear (long-sleeved top and leggings, brought back from U.S.), 1 pair sweatpants (purchased here), 1 set PJs (shorts and short-sleeved top, purchased here)
Notes on other clothing: I could have used more fleece-lined stockings and leggings. I also wish I brought 2 pairs of sweatpants. I did not need so many socks, as I rarely wear them, or the spandex shorts (deodorant works well to prevent chaffing, FYI).
What I originally packed: 1 pair tall black boots; 1 pair hiking boots; 1 pair running sneakers; 1 pair black shoes with small heel; 1 pair black sandals; 1 pair hiking/walking flip-flops; 1 pair simple black flats.
What I’ve added: 1 pair short black boots (pictured above, purchased here), 1 pair walking sneakers (purchased in Romania on vacation), 1 pair loafer-style flats (purchased here), 1 pair black sandals (sent from the U.S., same as the ones above).
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): the original sneakers (too worn), the black flats (too worn), the black shoes with a slight heel (uncomfortable and didn’t wear), 2 pairs black sandals (they both broke), will get rid of the tall boots once chance of snow is over (they are extremely worn/partially broken).
Notes on shoes: Moldova will be very hard on your shoes. This picture is taken after about one year of wear in Moldova. The two pairs that have the most wear were already fairly well-worn when I came, but even the short boots that are good quality are starting to wear, and I’ve only been wearing them about a month. I replaced the heel on the tall boots, but after 2 Moldovan winters, they are on their last leg. Moldovan roads are dusty (or muddy), rocky, and uneven, plus you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I rarely wear the sneakers, and the hiking boots only a few times. I’ve also found that I don’t wear the flats much, as the seasons pretty much transition from very cold to very hot. The black sandals only made it about one year. My parents brought a replacement pair last summer, but they broke almost immediately, so I’ll need to replace them here. I did not bring winter (snow) boots and do not regret it. I’ve found the tall black boots or my hiking boots suffice just fine. Keep in mind that shoes and clothing are expensive in Moldova and generally poor-quality.
What I originally packed: 1 long down winter coat; 1 warm scarf; 1 winter hat; 2 winter headbands; 1 pair gators.
What I’ve added: 2 pairs thin gloves (1 sent from U.S./1 purchased here), 1 pair heavy winter gloves (sent from U.S.), 2 scarves (1 a gift here, 1 brought back from the U.S.), 1 pair Yak-Traks (provided to all volunteers by Peace Corps).
What I originally packed: 1 light rain jacket; 1 small umbrella; 1 pair sunglasses; 1 breathable baseball hat; 1 swimming suit; 1 plastic frisbee.
What I’ve added: Nothing!
Notes on outdoor/weather gear: I am SO happy I brought a really good winter coat and that it was longer. I do wish I had brought a slightly thinner scarf as mine was a bit too warm (but they’re easy to purchase here). I’ve never used the gators. I wish I had a lighter but still somewhat warm jacket for spring/fall. I’ve only worn the bathing suit once, as where I live opportunities are rare- other volunteers have pools closer by and use them more. Bikini suits are fine, by the way.
What I originally packed: 1 laptop computer; 1 Amazon Fire tablet (only $50!); 1 point-and-shoot Olympus camera; 1 point-and-shoot video camera (Sony bloggie); outlet adapter, 1 USB stick.
What I’ve added: Lumix bridge camera (ordered from Amazon UK), new Microsoft Surface laptop (brought back from the U.S.), external hard-drive (brought back from the U.S.), 1 16 GB USB stick (provided by Peace Corps).
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): old laptop, point-and-shoot Olympus camera (gave it to my site mate since he didn’t have a camera).
Notes on technology: my laptop kicked the bucket one week before I left and I ended up having to take my mom’s clunky Dell laptop. It was larger and heavier than I would have preferred. Peace Corps packing lists will tell you that a laptop is optional. It isn’t. You will need a laptop for many things. During my 2nd winter, my laptop stopped working unless plugged in. I purchased a new laptop when home at Christmas and love that it’s lightweight, thin, has a long battery life, and works well! I love the tablet for reading kindle books- make sure you have a library card in the USA that connects you with free kindle books to borrow! I purchased the Lumix camera after coming here (from Amazon.uk). It’s one of the best purchases I made- I take so many more photos. If you have a smartphone in the United States and can unlock it, most volunteers do so and like that they have a high-quality smartphone. If not (like me), Peace Corps will provide you with a simple smartphone (Peace Corps pays for the monthly fees regardless of whether you bring a phone or get one from Peace Corps, which currently includes 4 GB of data per month). Wifi is affordable on your stipend, and coverage is pretty good in most places. My host family did not have internet, so I purchased it myself- I have a small mobile modem, which I love as I can take it with me anywhere. I currently pay for 50 GB per month at the cost of 300 lei per month ($15 USD), but there are multiple options and price points depending on your needs. I also didn’t bring an external hard-drive and wish I did (I brought one back from the U.S. at Christmas).
Luggage, Backpacks, and Bags
Luggage: 1 large Timberland rolling duffle bag (I found it for about $50 at TJMaxx); Osprey Aura AG 65L backpacking pack; High Sierra rolling carry-on (has backpack straps as well); Osprey Sirrus 24 Day pack.
Notes about luggage: Peace Corps pays for two checked bags, plus you will be able to bring one carry-on and one personal item. You technically can pay for an additional bag, but keep in mind you will have to lug everything around on your own, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Most importantly, be mindful of weight! When we came, the airline was very strict about carry-on and personal item weight. As the duffle bag was bigger and could fit a lot, I put my heavier items (shoes, etc.) in the 65L pack- it was harder to carry, but I was able to get both bags pretty full without going over the limit. I recommend doing a practice pack a couple weeks before you actually pack if you can to see how much stuff/how much weight you can get in your bags. I’m hoping to return with only large bag, so I took my 65L pack home at Christmas.
Other bags and backpacks:
What I originally packed: Columbia school backpack; Everlane tote bag; Cross-body smallish handbag, floral handbag (not pictured), woven over-the-should bag (not pictured).
What I’ve added: 1 medium-sized packable duffel bag (purchased from another volunteer), 1 “bunica” bag (plastic woven bag, given to us by Peace Corps), 1 cooler bag (parents brought from the U.S.), 1 black over-the-shoulder purse (brought back from U.S.).
What I’ve gotten rid of (as of April 6, 2018): tan cross-body bag (the strap broke).
Notes about other bags and backpacks: Some volunteers use backpacks everyday for work-related purposes. I generally use my tote bag. I use the backpack (or my Osprey day pack) for weekend or several day trips to the capital on weekends or when we have trainings, as it is easier to bring on the rutiera, our main form of transportation, than my carry-on bag. A small duffle bag could be useful for this purpose as well. I rarely use the packable duffel bag or Osprey day pack. My new cross-body bag is actually better than the one I originally brought as it is small but fits my Lumix camera.
All Other Stuff
Toiletries: I brought quite a bit, you can get by with less. Things that are hard (but not necessarily impossible to find here): dry shampoo, which you’ll use a lot (example: in the winter, I get to bathe about every four days. I discovered you can find dry shampoo at Forchette in the mall); facial products if you’re picky about what you use; face sunscreen (Peace Corps will provide you with one tube of regular sunscreen); makeup if you’re particular about brands (I rarely wear makeup here and when I do I only wear mascara, so I’m not really sure about accessibility. Moldovans do love to wear lipstick!); tampons with applicators (Peace Corps now provides these), electric toothbrush head replacements, good chapstick. The number of things I use on a daily basis (or even weekly basis) are pretty slim: because I was bucket bathing for awhile, I started using 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner (Heads and Shoulders), I also use toothpaste and deodorant daily. That’s about it. Obviously, some volunteers make more of an effort and many have better bathing situations.
Desk/Art/Personal Supplies: I brought a lot- markers, good paint, good watercolor paper, and sharpies are particularly hard to find, as well as sticky notes. I like to paint and therefore brought watercolor paints and paper, not everyone will need that. Education volunteers, in particular, will want to bring good markers (think Mr. Sketch markers). Crayola colored pencils don’t exist here, so if you’re partial, it’s a good idea to bring them. Also, stickers are hard to find and kids love them. English Education volunteers will be provided with a good pair of scissors, some decent markers (but in limited colors), masking tape, and some colored chalk when they do practice school, and you’ll be able to keep them. I also brought a leather-man style tool, and find it very useful. Definitely bring photos/postcards/etc. from home! You’ll also get folders, notebooks, and pens at every Peace Corps training and will end up acquiring quite a bit.
Everything Else: I brought a small, easily packed blanket. Not at all necessary, but it’s something that makes me feel at home. I brought my own towel and am glad I did- the towels you can purchase here are pretty poor quality. You can purchase practically anything you need here, so don’t worry too much. Mostly focus on things that will be expensive and poorer quality here: footwear, clothing, and electronics. I feel like I brought more than I needed, but I’ve also used almost everything I brought. Winter will be very cold and your workplaces may not be heated well (or, in very rare cases, at all). Summer will be very hot and humid and AC/fans don’t really exist. Neither does ice in drinks. Moldovans really do take how they look and dress very seriously. You’ll want at least one particularly nice outfit for things like weddings, the first day of school, and other important events. Male volunteers, especially those that work in schools, probably have a bit more wiggle-room in terms of how they dress, but female volunteers, especially in smaller villages, need to look put-together and professional every day (not fair, but that’s how it is). Female volunteers will want to bring at least one scarf that can be worn on their head as well, as you will almost definitely visit a monastery or church at some point, and your head will need to be covered (and you will need to wear a skirt or dress).
Okay, that’s it! I’m sorry this is so long, but I wanted to be sure to include notes, etc. Feel free to contact me with any questions!