I was in Malawi between the 18 of September 2018 and 18 September 2018. The information and prices were correct at the time of writing
For daily distances and a brief description of each day follow this link
All prices are in Malawian kwacha except when the charge was in USD.
When I was there the exchange rate was as follows:
1 GBP = 954.33 MWK
1 USD = 727.15 MWK
1 EUR = 849.49 MWK
I got my visa on arrival at the Songwe border control.
Have the address of a place to stay at the ready. I used the Hakuna Matata Campsite address.
Once you fill in the form you pay 75 USD to the customs officer. I didn’t get a receipt.
Entering the country
Entering the country was quick and very straight forward.
I change my remainder shillings at Kasumulu with one of the men at a sort of shelter by a café on the left of the road just before the border. I got a slightly better rate than the one on the Internet but be ready to barter.
There is at ATMs on the Malawi side of the border but it wasn’t working when I was there.
Standard Bank charges 2900 MWK per transaction but NBS and the National Bank do not charge. Worth shopping around.
The Banks in Malawi only took VISA Card.
Also it was possible to pay in some of the Lodges/Campsites with VISA. Some charged 3% transaction fee like Mayoka Village and others no fee at all like Nkhotakota Pottery. It is also possible to pay with VISA at Shoprite but note that the network is sometimes down so worth having the cash at the ready.
Malawi SIM card
I got TNM (the green one) a their Karonga office. I was told by other cyclists that Airtel network coverage by the lake was poor was the network with best coverage.
The phone showed 3G most of the time but connection was patchy.
Food and drink
Other than in towns where there are supermarkets and a bit more to choose from, there is was not much on the road when I was there.
If you are self catering you will find tomatoes and onions in most places. Sometimes you can also find a variety of green leafs.
Bananas are around 10 to 25 MWK per unit
Tomatoes 25 MWK one piece and a bunch of greens 50 MWK
Sodas 250 MWK smaller bottles (350 ML) TZS. There are bore hole pumps in most villages so I didn’t buy any water.
Meals at lodges/campsites will knock you back around 5000 or 7000 MWK and a beer around 1000 MWK (600 MWK at the supermarket)
On the Road
I found Malawi roads to be generally OK. Off tarmac there is a fair amount of sand so stayed mainly on tarmaced roads.
I found other traffic reasonable but like in other countries in the continent you need to be aware of the hierarchy of the road and be ready to get out of the way of any vehicle bigger than you, including motorbikes.
Please note what follows is the personal experience of one individual and it does not intend to provide any authoritative account with regards to safety in the coutry or account to recommendation to travel there. We are all different, our attitude to risk and our perception of safety is different too.
Always check your government’s travel advice for Malawi before making your decision.
As a solo older female I never felt unsafe during my time in Malawi even in remote places. I found people to be really warm, welcoming and friendly. Children will spot you at a distance, scream azungu and run to the road to see you go past and ask for money.
I got asked for money all the time in Malawi – not only children but also adults. All it took was to ignore them or say no and they left you alone.
As in other countries in this trip each time I stopped someone came over to talk to me and try to engage in conversation. Privacy on the road is not easy!
I have listed where I spent the night at each location and the cost. For the exact coordinates check here.
Karonga – Kapata Lodge – Excellent value for money 8000 MWK for a big double room including breakfast. AC – en suite – western flashing toilets and hot water. Restaurant with big portions but make sure you tell them what you would like to eat with plenty of time. Nice, friendly staff
Ngara – FloJa Foundation – A lovely place to camp. 7USD pppn. The money goes to support their nursery and other work they do with local schools. Drinking water on tap. Andre and Pauline make every effort to make sure you are comfortable. In the evening you can use the school kitchen. You can buy home made bread and freshly laid eggs. The camping spot is a stone throw from the water in a shady, grassy area.
Chitimba – Hakuna Matata – A nice comfrotable campsite. 3500 MWK pppn. Nice showers with hot water. No WIFI. The owner Willie is a real character. Food available, dinners are nice portions and tasty but I found the Bfast too expensive for what it was. Shops selling the basics – eggs, tomates, bread – in the tarmac at the turn off to the campsite Dorm rooms and rooms available.
Livingstonia – Mushroom Farm – A beautiful campsite/lodge. 5 USD pppn also available for the same price are ‘tree house’ tents perched on the cliff with the most stunning views. Hot water and no WIFI. The food is vegetarian and very tasty. A lot of it is grown in their permeaculture gardens and you can have a tour of them. If you are planning to self cater note there is no bread until Livingstonia, although I managed to buy some the Mushroom Farm home made bread. There is a small shop about 1KM up the road selling tomatoes. Filtered water available for drinking.
Rumphi – Adios 3500 K pppn – Hot water and no WIFI. Friendly owner Maria and good value evening meal. A good place to spend one night on the way to Mzuzu
Mzuzu – Joy’s Place A very comfortable place with dorm and individual rooms. Camping is 5USD pppn. Nice powerful showers with hot water and WIFI. Camping is in a grass patch shaded by trees. The owner’s dogs enjoys peeing on my tent and bike!! There is a big supermarket with everything you can dream off 200 mt up the road and very nice indian vegetarian restaurant at the petrol station across from the supermarket. Filtered water available.
Nkhata Bay – Mayoka Village Lodge – A vibrant place built right on the side of the lake. 5 USD pppn + 1% tourist tax – they charged me the same for a dorm bed. Loads of free activities – compost toilets and an opowerful open shower with loads of hot water. They take VISA but charge 3% transaction fee. Filtered water available
Chintheche – Sunga Moyo A beautiful campsite on grass under huge trees right on the lake. 10 USD pppn Camping kitchen with power points – Drinking water from all the taps. Really nice hot water showers
Ngala Ngala Lodge – Another beautiful campsite on grass under huge trees right on the lake. 10 USD pppn – Drinking water from a bore hole tap. Nice hot water showers
Nkhotakota – Nkhotakota Pottery – Camping on sand. When I was there it was very windy and my tent blew away in the night so make sure you choose a sheltered location. 7200 MWK pppn. Kitchen with power. Extensive menu. Community bore hole 5 min walk away
Lilongwe – Stayed with friends
Mchinji – camped at Anazulu Ethnic Lodge Camping 2000 MWK – they will open a room for shower/toilet – not a beautiful spot but OK for one night