Packing list for Malawi

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This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Malawi and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You can always have things sent to you later. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Malawi.

The three key qualities for clothing in Malawi are dark colors, many pockets, and easy to wash and care for. Overall, dress conservatively. Remember that it does get cold so bring warm clothes. Rainy season means just that—you will get wet and splattered with mud. We recommend quick-drying, breathable clothes.

General Clothing

  • Lightweight, all-weather jacket
  • Hooded sweatshirt or fleece
  • Sleeveless dresses and shirts (note that Volunteer teachers cannot wear these in the classroom)
  • Swimsuit (one piece)
  • Bandannas or handkerchiefs
  • Sun hat (baseball cap)
  • Good-quality raincoat
  • Small umbrella
  • Durable, easy-to-wash pants
  • Shorts and other clothes like drawstring pajama pants for lounging around (doctor’s scrubs are ideal)
  • Women can and do wear trousers for traveling and in the cities
  • Teachers need lightweight dresses/skirts that go below the knee (no slits above the knee, and not tight-fitting)
  • Cotton slips (waist to knee and waist to ankle)
  • Men do not need full suit, just a tie and a button-down shirt for special occasions
  • Very durable, practical clothes (not nice, dressy clothes)
  • Some nicer clothes for in town (dancing, restaurants)
  • Lots of underwear, bras, socks
  • Heavy-duty sports bra
  • Belt
  • Money belt
  • shorts (longer, knee-length shorts for women) for biking
  • Sturdy work gloves (if you garden)

Overall advice: do not bring a lot. Just three to four outfits for staging and beginning of training.You can find just about everything in the markets. Malawians dress very conservatively, and will expect the same from you!


Durable shoes are an essential investment

  • Teva or Chaco sandals
  • Sneakers and/or hiking boots (Boots are handy for rainy season)
  • Shoes (close-toed and good to stand in all day; for anyone who teaches)
  • You can get flip-flops in Malawi
  • Dress shoes

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

  • Favorite brand of tampon
  • Face/hand/body lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo (just a 2-in-1 to get through training)
  • A few toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste (just one for training)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Multivitamins
  • Short supply of razors and blades
  • Two pair eyeglasses if needed
  • Hair-cutting scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Lip balm
  • Prescription drugs (three-month supply)


  • A sharp kitchen knife
  • Rubber spatula
  • French press (if you appreciate good coffee)
  • Kitchen towels
  • Send foodstuff to yourself before leaving: specialty/herbal teas; Kraft Mac & Cheese powder; Cliff, Luna or other energy bars.

Miscellaneous But Important Items For Serious Consideration!

  • Sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
  • Lightweight, travel, waterproof tent w/ground cloth
  • Leatherman/Swiss Army knife
  • Compact sleeping bag for cold weather
  • Laptop
  • Bungee cords or backpack straps
  • Fitted and flat twin sheets, or double if you need
  • Flashlight or headlamp with extra bulbs
  • Shortwave radio
  • Solar-powered rechargeable batteries with recharger
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Headlamp (very popular among PCVS!) and/or wind-up flash light
  • Converter and adaptors (220V here. Small multi converters/adapters work well.)
  • Good dictionary
  • U.S. stamps (so you can send letters home with travelers)
  • Flash drive!! We provide a 2 gig version, but you may want more of your own.
  • Camera (digital is easiest, real film can be developed in major towns but is very expensive)
  • Field guide for flora and fauna of sub-Saharan Africa
  • Seeds for herbs and vegetables
  • Battery-powered alarm clock
  • A couple of thirsty towels
  • English dictionary, Thesaurus
  • Sunglasses
  • Some zip-lock baggies
  • Watch - think cheap
  • Jewelry - like the watch
  • Personal money (you can keep it in the safe at the Peace Corps office)
  • Games (Scrabble, cards, chess, Frisbee, etc.)
  • iPod, mp3 player, Zune. Recordable audio function is great for capturing sounds of village life. Please note that erratic energy, heat, humidity, sand and dust will do a number on all electronic devices (computers, iPods and cameras).
  • Musical instrument (harmonica, guitar, etc.)
  • A few novels (to swap after reading)
  • Hobby materials like sketching pads and pencils
  • Day pack
  • Luggage (should be tough, lightweight, lockable, and easy to carry)
  • Hiking backpack
  • Sharpies
  • Crayons, markers, colored paper, colored pencils and cheap paint sets
  • Children’s books
  • GRE prep materials
  • Unbreakable French Press
  • Misc pictures from home and calendar showing scenes of the US

Bug spray with DEET