So you booked your flight to Africa and are ready to take in all the sights and sounds that this wonderful continent has to offer. You’ve told all your friends and family about your trip, so what’s next? Preparing to travel anywhere can be a stressful task, but journeying to Africa can present its own set of distinct challenges, especially for any first-timer. Here is some practical advice for traveling to Malawi, a small country in southeastern Africa known as “the Warm Heart of Africa.”
Malawi’s geography is varied- mountains, rolling hills, flat plains, rainforest, marshlands and forests comprise the landscape of this beautiful country. Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and holds over 1,000 species of colorful cichlid fish. It’s about the size of Belgium and is what sets Malawi apart from other landlocked African nations.
With fresh water and dense vegetation comes the arguably most-hated bug on the planet, the mosquito. Malaria is a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that causes fever, headaches and can be deadly if left untreated. Symptoms typically begin around 10 days to 2 weeks after one is bitten by a mosquito carrying malaria (not all mosquitoes are carriers of malaria.)
The good news is that prophylactic therapies can reduce the risk of malaria. I strongly suggest going to your doctor or local travel clinic for a prescription. Some common ones are Doxycycline, Chloroquine and Malarone. Some anti malarial drugs cause sensitivity to light, stomach cramps and diarrhea, so it is best to consult with your doctor about all possible side effects.
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice for traveling to Malawi. Most African countries require visitors to have all the common childhood vaccines such as Hepatitis B, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio. But there are vaccines like Hepatitis A and Meningococcal Meningitis that are not administered during childhood, so there is a high likelihood you have not had them unless you have visited Africa before. I recommend calling your pediatrician (if the practice is still around) and asking about what vaccines you have already gotten. Most insurance companies will cover Hepatitis A 100% if you wish to be immunized, but will not cover it if you tell them about your upcoming travel plans (interesting.) For Malawi it is not necessary to get vaccinated against Yellow Fever, but www.cdc.gov is a great resource to check out before you schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Because you never know what could happen while away from home, it is best to get travel insurance for the time you will be out. World Nomads is a hassle-free company with competitive rates and thorough coverage for a variety of travel-related emergencies.
Besides your underwear, pants, shirts and shoes, here are other items you may want to pack for Malawi.
-Comfy travel products for the long flights like the DBH Travel Pillow
-Hat, sunglasses, water-resistant SPF sunscreen
-Extra camera or special equipment
-Voltage transformer and converter (Malawi uses Great Britain plugs.)
-Plastic bags for wet or soiled clothes
-Loose, light-colored, cotton clothes for safaris. Check out ScotteVest for ideal safari clothes.
-Powder laundry detergent (most hotels do not have washers or dryers on site, so you may have to wash from time to time)
-Flashlight (some hotels run on generator power and lights will turn off in the early evening)
-Anti-diarrhea medication. Because diarrhea doesn’t discriminate and can put a damper on your trip (no pun intended)
-Old clothes or extra clothes, and I don’t mean over packing. Malawi is a poor country and every little bit helps. Giving away used or old clothing/shoes to others is a great way to do something good for someone in need while freeing up room in your suitcase for all the wooden carvings you will be buying. I gave the majority of my unwanted clothes away to hotel staff, drivers and people I met on the street. I guarantee you that nothing you offer will be turned away.
When browsing at the local crafts market, be aware that the price a shopkeeper tells you is about 30% to 50% more than you can bargain for it. Don’t feel pressured to pay for something if you think you’re being scammed. Also, expect several shopkeepers to be persistent in trying to sell you something. I suggest you tell all of them that you are looking at everything before you commit to making a decision. I never felt unsafe at any time, but it’s always a good idea to be stern and polite when telling someone you are not interested.
A small token of appreciation is always welcomed by Malawians, but it is not mandatory nor is it expected. Safari/hiking/tour guides are typically given a tip separate from the tip you should leave for the hotel staff ($5-$10 per day per person, so a couple staying at a hotel for 3 nights should leave about $30-$60 in tips. Tips get equally distributed to every hotel staff member at the end of each month.) The average monthly salary in Malawi is about $50 per month.
Lilongwe- Crossroads Hotel
Ntchisi- Ntchisi Forest Lodge
Chelinda- Chelinda Lodge
Makuzi- Makuzi Beach Lodge
Nkotakhota Game Reserve- Tongole Wilderness Lodge
Liwonde National Park- Mvuu Lodge
Zomba Plateau- Sunbird Ku Chawe
Blantyre- Protea Ryalls
Majete Wildlife Reserve- Mkulumadzi Lodge
Did you find this advice for traveling to Malawi useful? Leave us a comment below!
A special thanks to the Malawi Tourism Board.