Backpacking in Malawi – the top ten travel essentials!

Bananas growing in Lucangazi Jacquie Ryan
Bananas growing in Lucangazi Jacquie Ryan

1 – Vaccinations

They prevent illness. Some need to be taken a few weeks before you go. First of all is the injections that you need, you need to get jabs for are:

Tetanus,MKS Photo (Flickr)

Hepatits A,

Hepatits B,


Meningococcal Meningitis,



For a few days before you go and when you are there you will need to take tablets for Malaria. It is always recommended to bring precaution medicines, such as antihistamine, and medication for upset stomach. It is best contact your pharmacist for advise on these.


2- What to Bring?!

No matter where you go you should bring a diary, holidays are great, travel is an amazing experience. Many of us think we can remember everything but we are not elephants. A travel diary, taking notes each evening is the best way to remember a trip. It is nice to look over at later in life, and bring back memories.



chiaralily - Travel Diary (flickr)
chiaralily – Travel Diary (flickr)

It is also a good idea to bring a torch. It gets dark at about 6pm, so if you are delayed in getting back in the evening or even for reading if you are staying in a dorm, the torch is a great little aid.

Cameras and phones are great. You want to capture as much as you can there is some real beauty to this country by the lake and right through the country from the rubber plantations to Elephant Mountain. If you get you phone unlocked its very cheep to get a sim card and this will reduce your cost of booking weekends and contacting home.

Elephant Mountain Malawi Jacquie Ryan
Elephant Mountain Malawi Jacquie Ryan

3 – Passports and Visa

According to the Malawi tourism website, a visa may not be required, one of the biggest mistakes made by travelers is not making sure that your passport is in date. You should have at least 6 months on your passport from the date you return when undertaking any long distance trip.

For tourist visits, visas are NOT required by citizens of most Commonwealth countries, the USA, Japan, most European Union countries and certain other countries.

It is also important not to loos your passport while on vacation, so it is good to have a safe place to hold it on a daily basis, you can get travel purses that are good value and great for keeping your valuables, flight tickets and passports together.

plain-me select shop 男裝世 (Flickr)
plain-me select shop 男裝世 (Flickr)


4- Clothes

For two to three weeks, you will need shorts and t shirt, pants and some long sleeve tops. Depending on the time of year you travel you will need rain gear. The evenings can get cold so it is advisable to have warmer cloths. It is worth noting that although there is no longer clothing restrictions, it is advisable for girls to cover their legs when entering the markets etc. This can be easily done using a chitenge. There can be purchased cheaply and are commonly worn. The colors are bright, and you can get them made into little bags or cushions after your trip.

Freslka - Chitenje (flickr)
Freslka – Chitenje (flickr)


5-Types of baggage

As much of the terrain is rough there is not need for wheely bags, they do not work. A simple backpack is much more efficient. Travel around this region is far from glamorous so you need a bag that you can throw anywhere.

ActiveSteve Stuffing Bags for final Shuttle (Flickr)
ActiveSteve Stuffing Bags for final Shuttle (Flickr)


6-The Day Bag

The day bag is the most important bag, this bag stays with you from when you leave the lodge in the morning until you return at night. This bag is your life line. It should contain:

Robert Pitkin (flickr)
Robert Pitkin (flickr)

A bottle of water

Your Diary

A pen

Your Camera

Some Food

Sun Cream

Wet Ones

Some Money (not all of your money)



The currency in Malawi is Kwacha. €1 will currently get you 521.5 Kwatcha. The currency was changed in 2012 and there are new notes and coins. On leaving the airport you are only allowed to have a certain amount of Kwatcha in your possession equivalent to about €15, for this reason it is advisable to change it before hand.

Rob Flickenger (Flickr)
Rob Flickenger (Flickr)



Rooms in Malawi are not expensive you would be estimating it at about €20 – €30 per night for a good room. If you are staying in a hostel make sure it is reputably.

Kande Beach Gate - Jacquie Ryan
Kande Beach Gate – Jacquie Ryan

Staying in Kande Beach can work out at about €10 per night for dorm rooms! There are many activities to do in this area, such as horse riding and sailing. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman stayed here in the series ‘A Long Way Down’

Dave Malawi (Flickr)
Dave Malawi (Flickr)


9-Local Food

Chicken and goat are regular on the menu. Other must haves are Chambo, which is endemic to Malawi. You cannont say you have been to Malawi without at least trying Chambo. There are plenty of fresh bananas in the market and a treat in the form of a pink banana has to be had.



10-Have Fun!!!

Malawi people are proud and fun. They are always willing to dance and show you how to. The aim is to have fun.

Malawi Children Dancing Jacquie Ryan
Malawi Children Dancing Jacquie Ryan

Malawi Children dance


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