Traveling in Malawi on a budget.

¿How much money do you need to travel through Malawi ?

Malawi often appears as a "backpackers paradise" in Africa, a "great country for beginners with this continent". We wouldn´t say that, after traveling in eastern and southern Africa for 8 months, with a low budget.

True that you can manage to find cheap lodges in Malawi (specially if camping) but prices nowdays are getting higher and similar to Zambia, Zimbabwe or other Southern Africa countries (and they can´t rival with the quality-price of those in South Africa, Namibia or Botswana). 
Most of the places are "camps for foreigners" (and many owners are also foreigners), where in average camping is 4 €, dorm 7-9 €, double room 15-20 €.
There are also a few local lodges but only in commercial towns, much cheaper, you find a double room, selfcontained, for 10 €!

The distances are quite short, there are public vans and buses, but you need time as transport is slow (50 km/h). Prices are correct (around 1-2 €/h), but many local people complain often about the price, always getting higher. Vans travel super-packed, super, you will see. Not the best transport we experienced in Africa, far way. Take it easy!

 Food is really limited!
A camp restaurant or tourist restaurant offers dishes in average from 2.500-3.000 K (5-6 €), not that cheap. In a local restaurant it´s from 2 €, but you find them in commercial towns mainly and around bus station or center. 
Near the lake, where travellers stay, not always many big shops and supermarkets. Prices are correct but not so cheap compared with Tanzania. In small markets they sell "3 tomatoes", "3 oranges"... piece by piece...
We mainly cooked or prepared sandwiches.

Malawi is quite small, not so diverse, we didn´t find the landscape so great. No more forests. Still very undevelopped, good place to see rural Africa life. But the conditions are tough for the people, houses, transport, water, food... we didn´t see so many happy and smiling people.  

Not famous for the wild life, just a few game parks openning recently.
Malawi is more about the lake, the "rasta" and "reggae" atmosphere created around its shores, with "backpackers camps", between Southern and Eastern Africa.

Sorry, we were quite disappointed with Malawi, but we managed to travel a cheap way.

The currency is Malawi Kwachas.
In january 2015, during our trip,  the average and official exchange rate was: 1 €=555 Malawi Kwachas
But, for us was bad because we used the ATMs as in other Africa countries, so, our rate was: 1 €=492 K.
Better rate if changing money!

This was our budget in Malawi,  for 2 people:
 9 days/ 9 nights

  • Accommodation: 37.000 K ( 75 €)
          3 nights dormitory (alone)
          5 nights room (low season, big discounts)
          1 night couchsurfing.
  • Food/drinks (shops): 15.000 K (30 €)
  •  Transport: 24.800 K ( 50 €)
  • Insurrance:  5 €

Total: 162 € for 2 people for  9 days/9 nights

Average budget /day in Malawi: 18 euros for 2 people.
Average budget /month in Malawi: 540 euros for 2 people.

Warning: as we said, ATMs in Malawi give a very bad exchange rate.
There´s a hidden extra comission (only country in Africa where we experienced such a bad rate using ATMs).
Better rate changing money!

You will find banks and ATMs for international cards in the main towns, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu, in banks like Standart. 
Limit: maximum amount 40.000 K, around 100 $ but you should be able to withdraw 5 times/day. 

Warning with ATMs in smaller towns:there are banks and ATMs but international cards not always work well (better with Visa than Master) and if they do very limited withdraw. 
Carry enough cash!

Payment by card is not avalaible usually, except in some places in the 3 main towns of Malawi. It´s very undevelopped.