Malawi

Malawi flag

Packing Guidance

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.


Overview

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

Climate

Malawi has two main seasons, namely the cool dry season between May and October with mean temperatures of around 13°C in June and July and the hot wet season between November and April with temperatures between 30° – 35°C. Invitees are encouraged to keep those conditions in mind as they choose which clothing to bring.

Raincoats and umbrellas are available in Malawi. We recommend bringing a lightweight but breathable rain jacket.

Items provided in-country
  • Medical kit, including anti-malarial, bug repellent and sunscreen
  • Funds for female hygiene products, if applicable
  • smoke/carbon monoxide detector.
  • Bicycle and helmet
  • Mosquito net
  • Sector-specific reference materials
  • Peace Corps Volunteers Malawi cookbook
  • Water bucket and filter
  • Flashlight and potable solar lamp
Prohibited items

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms
Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Clothing

Most Volunteers do laundry on a weekly basis. Both professional and casual clothing options are available in Malawi for a broad range of sizes, both through stores and tailoring; options and quality will vary.

Work clothing

  • Professional dress is a firm expectation of teachers in classrooms across Malawi, including Peace Corps Volunteers. At work, female teachers wear dresses and/or skirts that cover their knees.  Tank tops or spaghetti strapped tops are not permissible.  Male teachers wear long or short sleeved collared shirts with khaki or dress pants.
  • Invitees should note that this standard of dress is also expected during pre-service training.
  • There are some occasions (professional, holidays, weddings, swearing-in) that invite more formal attire, such as a fancier dress, a jacket, or a tie.

Leisure and recreational clothing

  • Outside of the workplace, more casual attire is appropriate. In the home, Volunteers often wear t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, jeans or casual pants and casual skirts or dresses. In the community, Volunteers should wear loose-fitting clothes that are at least knee-length. Tank tops with broad straps are appropriate (spaghetti straps are not), though covered shoulders are recommended. Tight fitting clothes (including yoga pants) and gym clothes are not appropriate.
  • If desired, there are many opportunities for exercise, both independently and as a part of a group or team. Volunteers who plan to participate in such activities should plan accordingly following the guidelines above. For swimming, Malawi typically wears modest swimsuits (one-piece or trunks).
  • Given Malawi’s periods of heavy rains and hot sun, rain jackets, brimmed hats and lightweight long-sleeved shirts can be helpful. For undergarments, cotton is encouraged for this reason.
Shoes

In workplace settings, professional, close-toed shoes are the norm. Many teachers in Malawi wear heels, but flats are acceptable. Volunteers walk and stand a good deal in their workplac. Shoes should be comfortable and durable.

In casual settings, sandals, sneakers, and other comfortable shoes are acceptable.

Volunteers do a lot of walking and have many opportunities to participate in hiking or athletic activities in Malawi. Durable, comfortable walking shoes (like sturdy boots, sneakers, or sandals) are encouraged.

Both professional and casual footwear options are available in Malawi

Toiletries and medications

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

Additional guidance for Malawi

  • Most toiletries (such as shampoo and conditioner for a variety of hair types, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, razors, etc.) can be found locally in Malawi.
  • Pads and tampons are available in Malawi. The Medical unit provides free pads and tampons on request.
Electronics

The electric current in Malawi runs 220-240 volts, 50 cycles when it is on. Malawi uses a type G plug. Most modern electronic devices (phones, laptops, etc.) are dual voltage, but you must verify this before charging/running it in Malawi or it could be damaged. Travel converters are available on sites like Amazon if needed, but should be avoided if possible, and are generally not going to be reliable for the long term for things like hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, etc.

Electricity is not common in sites where Volunteers live. Peace Corps will provide a solar device for cell phone charging and basic lighting. Some Volunteers have chosen to bring their own travel solar chargers.

Other items to consider

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. This list is compiled from what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having and may be hard to find in country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended but might be nice to have.

Cooking

Most kitchen supplies are available here. However, past Volunteers recommend the following:

  • Can opener
  • A good quality sharp knife
  • Tupperware, a lunch bag/box, and a reusable travel cup
  • Resealable plastic food storage bags
  • French press (for coffee drinkers who prefer not to drink instant coffee)
  • A good quality garlic press

Personal recreation

  • Arts and craft supplies
  • Journal
  • Card or board games
  • Books (some Volunteers recommend an e-reader)
  • Portable musical instrument

Household goods

  • While sheets, pillows and towels are easily available in Malawi, some Volunteers choose to bring their own.
  • Small items that make you feel at home.

Other recommendations

  • Photos of family and friends at home
  • Small gifts to share with your Host Family
  • Ear plugs (at holidays and events, music can be played very loud)
  • Stickers, pencils or other small tokens to share with children in your community