Micronesia Packing List: Expats, volunteers and tourists
In May 2018 I moved to Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia. This isn’t the kind of destination where you can just throw in your credit card and go, knowing everything will work out if you’ve forgotten anything important. Here, everything I need to buy comes with a minimum $15 AUD spend on delivery. All luxuries must be brought with you or imported from Amazon to a PO Box. This isn’t a deal-breaker of a problem, but it prompts you to put some thought into your packing.
I didn’t get a packing list before moving to Chuuk, so there were a few surprises of things that aren’t available here. For example, as a world-class diving site I thought I’d be able to buy snorkelling gear but the only two snorkel sets I’ve seen had a 500% mark-up compared to the sets we eventually purchased in Guam. My second big mistake was assuming there’d be ground coffee in a country so close to PNG - rookie error!
Chuuk is hot and wet, there are limited shops, you have to dress more conservatively than usual, and anything that breaks can take weeks to replace through the mail. So let’s get real about what you actually need to bring with you when moving to Chuuk.
1-2 check-in bags (I came with just one!)
1 carry-on backpack to be used for short-term travel during your time here
In your carry-on you’re going to want to make sure you have some USD already, because you can’t change your money here. Land with as much cash as you can arrange. The one ATM in Chuuk that allows foreign bank cards is known to break for weeks at a time, so come prepared.
Note: I work in a modern office and while I have picked up some local clothes, I’m not bound by the strict cultural dress codes some volunteers may be. Most things fall below my knee and cover my shoulders, but I am free to wear pants and sometimes wear sleeveless or dresses that hit just above the knee.
When you’re paying $5 AUD and up per load of laundry, you want to ensure you have at least a week’s worth of clothes to wear at a time. I recommend 7 bottoms and 7 tops. It’s important that your clothes are made from natural breathable materials! I wear a lot of linen, bamboo and organic cotton.
Linen pants, they’re lightweight, moisture-wicking, conservative and are easy to handwash and hang dry (I’m wearing a variation of other fabrics but if I could start over, I’d pack 7 pairs of linen pants)
Linen shirts, same goes as above - you want to wear linen! (I recommend the brand Seaside Tones)
A few dresses that fall below the knee
Plain t-shirts that can be worn with local traditional skirts, over your swimwear, to bed, with exercise clothes, and I wear them with my linen pants to work (I recommend Dorsu)
One-piece swimsuit, or opt for a bikini with a singlet over it
Bike shorts, to go over the above swimsuit and under dresses or skirts
Exercise leggings that cover your knees (I recommend Miakoda)
Singlets for exercise or under your open linen shirts
At least 7 pairs of undies, I have 15 pairs and I only wear Boody because they’re moisture-wicking and so lightweight, I swear this keeps me 5 degrees cooler
1 pair of conservative pyjama pants, 1 pair of short pyjama pants for daily-use (this gives you the flexibility to cover-up if you’re going to share a room with someone Chuukese)
Sandals, I recommend Indosole for not degrading in the weather
Sneakers, for hiking and exercising
A hat, because they don’t sell those here
Sunglasses, because they don’t sell polarised sunglasses here (I recommend Pala)
Handbag / Daily work bag
For men: Tim has five button-ups, a large collection of plain t-shirts, cargo shorts that hit below the knee and one pair of chino’s. He wears thongs or sneakers, and brought his own hat and accessories.
You want to bring all your toiletries. There are no toxin-free or cruelty-free products in the stores. I’ve linked my favourite brands.
Simple makeup (Foundation, lip balm, mascara)
Tweezers & nail clippers
Anything else you use like hair dye, bleaches, etc
Nice sheets, I brought a towel, hand towel and face washers but I wish I’d saved that space and instead brought a set of bamboo sheets because towels are available, but sheets have to be ordered off Amazon
A good pillow, if you have the privilege of a second bag and still have room you’ll want to BYO pillow from home
Microfibre filter bag
Shopping & produce bags
2x Insulated water bottles
Stainless steel straw
Greens powder and/or a multi-vitamin, fresh produce isn’t readily available
B12 & D3 supplements, because all of us should be taking these
Birth control of your choice (condoms aren’t sold in stores)
All your specialised medications including glasses or contact lenses
Of course, you need to pack your laptop, phone and camera as usual. Chuuk has low levels of theft so you can bring these valuables with you.
Kindle because there is no public library or book exchange to find new books
Belkin International Travel Surge Protector to protect your devices from surges of electricity which can and do damage people’s electronics
Extra cords, chargers, phone cases, memory cards, etc.
Bring a realistic amount of back-ups for anything electronic to save you the wait time if something breaks and you have to order it online (there are no Apple products for sale in Chuuk)
Hard drive loaded with TV and movies
Hairdryer or straightener etc. if needed
Chocolate & other snack foods (go hard)
Nuts & seeds, a nut butter would be great if you have the weight room
Good pens (like this)
Snorkel, rashies & reef shoes
If you’re allergic to conventional cleaning products, you want to sacrifice some bag space to BYO laundry powder & castile soap to start then order some more off Amazon because you won’t find anything toxin-free on island
What not to bring
Shorts or mini skirts
Warm clothes, except what you need on the plane
Anything leather or polyester
All the supplements you might need, because they’re easier to source from Amazon than some other things that could take up that bag space
Umbrellas, they can be found here
Notebooks & office supplies, they can be found here
And that’s my list. Leave your “should I or shouldn’t I bring this” questions in the comments and I can give you an idea of local availability.
If you don’t have travel insurance provided by your employer, don’t forget to sort that out. Worst-case scenarios can and do happen all the time. The best I’ve found for Australians is Covermore who are guaranteed to cover you without looking for loopholes in your policy.