October 24: Packing Lists the Do’s and the I Wouldn’ts

A packing list, an organizers dream!

In my opinion, the more trips you do, the more tricks you learn and the more refined your list becomes. After a couple of trips and refinements I thought I would publish my own packing list that I used for this trip.

Below is the list in its entirety – with italic notes on the modifications I have made for my next trip.

Packing List Summer 2014

Personal Equipment

-Daypack 15 – 30 litres (I wish I had brought a bag closer to 30L for multi-day trips)

-1 Backpack 60 – 80 litres (backpacks make carrying your own stuff much easier)

-Mosquito Net (there are lots around Malawi, including all guesthouses)

-Water Purifier (I have a Steri-Pen and I love it!)

-Special batteries for purifier

-Rechargeable Batteries* with a charger and International Adapter

-Small power transformer if you are bringing electronics that need to run on 120V power so they can accept 220V.

-Outlet converter that fits UK outlets (easily and cheaply available in the market)

-Sunglasses with UV protection (if you wear them at home, bring’em to Malawi!)

-Rain jacket or Umbrella (Only necessary if you are around from November to March)

-Travel alarm clock (If you know you will have access to electricity cell phones suffice)

-Sleeping sheet/ Sleeping bag liner (So happy I did not buy in Canada as they much cheaper in Malawi)

-Small towel – Quick Dry (great for drying hands – I also brought a bigger one for showering)

-sarong (I brought, but it is not necessary as there are many cheap options in Malawi)

-Laundry soap (Buy in Malawi, where you can get small quantities of dry powder or bars)

-Travel clothes line (I bought a tiny travel one, only used it for a game)

-Small empty spray Bottle for quick “ironing” (I brought a plastic one, it got crushed in my bag and I never used it. Most people have irons)

-Water bottle (1 L good for Aqua Tabs & Steri-Pen, Nalgenes are hard to drink from on minibuses)

-Earplugs – if you’re a light sleeper, or if you end up on a bus with really loud music (A MUST!)

-Thermos or sealed coffee mug (Glad I didn’t bring, I don’t use them anyway and you can get them here)

-Portable fan, battery operated (I brought an electric one, and blew the fuse on the first day)

-Multipurpose tool / Swiss army knife (useful)

-Duct tape (great for repairing nets and window screens!)

-Ziplock bags (My favourite way to pack things, also good to carry around snacks -so both big and small)

-Headlamp With extra batteries! (necessary for blackouts and walking to toilets in the dark)

-Money belt (I brought and never used it)

-Passport AND extra photocopies (yep do this!)

-Passport carrier or zip-lock bag to keep it dry and safe (Malawi’s climate is not humid so not necessary)

-Vaccination booklet AND extra photocopies (yep do this!)

-Sewing kit (I wish I had brought for projects, but all rips and tears can be repaired by tailors for pennies)

-$200 for country visas or as emergency cash (not traveler’s checks) (yep do this!)

-Emergency Healthcare Money Set aside at least 50USD (yep do this!)

-The debit card should be on the PLUS network or the Cirrus Maestro network. Make sure to double check with your bank that your card will work in Malawi and ask them about what fees will apply so that you can be informed ahead of time. Many banks charge a $5 fee each time you withdraw money from an international ATM. (yep do this!)

-TD Bank offers an account that waives the $5 withdrawal fees but there are certain requirements that need to be met for this account, you can set up an appointment with them to learn the details. (With a bit of begging and threatening to switch banks RBC offered to credit me back 4 transaction fees a month)

-You also need a VISA credit card that is also on the PLUS network and Interac. (I got a VIsa just for this, but it was not necessary my other credit cards on the Plus network work fine)

-An unlocked cell phone (Very happy I brought this, data is cheap making whatsapp & Viber nice ways to communicate. Although there are many places that unlock phones in Lilongwe)

-Sharp Knife (with a cover is very useful, knives in Malawi aren’t very sharp and hard to carry around)

-Tupperware (I brought one sandwich one, it has come in handy for many small trips)

Personal toiletries

-Sun Screen (* is not available in Malawi) (yep do this!)

-Soap (yep do this!)

-Shampoo (yep do this!)

-Conditioner  (yep do this!)

-Toothpaste (yep do this! Oddly Sensodine is cheaper in Malawi)

-Dental floss (yep do this! It is expensive/hard to find in Malawi)

-Tooth Brushes (Medium toothbrushes are cheaply available)

-Razor and Blades (yep do this!)

-Diva Cup or tampons (yep do this!)

-Nail clippers (yep do this!)

-Hand sanitizer (I brought about 500 ml and am happy I did)

-Loofa (extremely useful for bucket bathes and cleaning dirty feet)

-Small mirror (very useful, most places do not have mirrors)

-Nail polish/remover (not necessary, but nice for hiding dirty toes that just wont come clean!)

-Travel toilet paper (can be found in camping sections is perfect for carrying around in purse)

Clothing Guidelines

-Sun hat and a toque? (up to your taste)

~ 8 shirts including t-shirts and tank tops (that cover the shoulders)  and Long sleeve shirt/sweaters/turtle neck – both casual and for office – it will get cold (Packing conservatively pays off, I wish I had brough workout clothes though)

~ 4 Trousers/ Skirts

-Long (well below the knees) skirt for girls (at the knees in Lilongwe is ok, longer in village)

-At least two pairs of casual pants (comfy pants and jeans are recommended)

-3 cotton bras (yep do this!)

-8 pairs of underwear (cotton ones that you would be willing to hang in a family’s livingroom!)

-Good cotton socks (yep do this!)

-Slip Women (useful if your skirts are at all see-through)

-1-2 scarves (not necessary in Malawi, but warm ones for June-August would be nice) 

-2 Sleep clothes Men and Women Bring something light to sleep in. (I brought long pants, I wish I had brought shorts too)

-Shoes: (all necessary, but can dress shoes and flip flops can be easily bought cheaply in Malawi)

  • Sandals/ dress shoes for the office
  • One pair of comfortable, durable shoes (running / walking shoes)
  • Flip-flops

-Bathing suit (choosing something conservative goes a long way!)

-Sweater/sweatshirt/fleece (Definitely needed for Malawian winter)

-Slippers (I wish I had brought for the chilly Malawian winter)

Other Items to Consider Bringing

-USB storage device/external hard-drive (for work and movies, music, TV shows etc.) (bring a small one to transfer files as well to help prevent virus issues between computers)

-Personal laptop computer (mine is small, light, not flashy and has a long battery-life it is perfect! I also brought a mouse, great for editing and spreadsheets!)

-Ipad/Kindle (So happy I brought, it holds many books and light allows you to read when power is out)

-Comfort Food Recommended: drink mixes (lemonade, etc. to flavor water), candy (chocolate

will melt), dried fruit, protein bars. (bring some things you love, flavoured tea is very expensive in Malawi)

-Games, etc. For downtime and for playing with children (not useful in Lilongwe, but maybe in villages)

-Frisbee, football, jacks, play dough, markers, hacky sack, deck of cards, crossword puzzles (cards were useful)

-Pictures of home (not useful, Google images is enough)

-Pictures of your family and friends (I don’t bring them, but some people may find it useful)

-Pictures of life in Canada including pollution, homeless people, cities, farms, etc. (Google is fine again)

-Journal and/or Notebook (both are useful)

-Small gifts/ Project prizes

  • Pencils, pens, small notebooks, erasers, sharpeners
  • Crayons, colored chalk
  • Coloring books or children’s books
  • Stickers or rub-on tattoos for kids

-is nice to have some nice pens to maybe give to a District partner, or maple syrup to share with a host family (I have brought pins, tea, and maple syrup in the past. They found maple syrup weird and not useful, pins are maybe a bit weird for them to use, tea they mostly drink Malawi black tea so also maybe not the best gift. Giving money, food, or your personal items seems to be the most popular)

Medical/First Aid Kit

-Personal Medications Bring sufficient prescription medications for the entire duration of your trip (Yep, can be hard to get)

-Malaria Prophylaxis (yep, necessary)

-Regular first aid kit items

-Thermometer  (yep, necessary)

-Sunscreen Minimum SPF 30,  (yep, necessary I also brought a face cream with sun screen so I don’t need to put sticky sun screen on my face each day)

-Multi-vitamins (not necessary in Lilongwe, in villages yes)

-Lip balm/salve Must contain sunscreen (yep, it is really dry in Malawi – lotion is also useful)

-Fabric or Elastoplast bandages (yep, also love the special blister ones for ankles)

-Anti-nauseant (i.e. Gravol, Dramamine) (only necessary if you get car sick)

-Calcium supplement (I didn’t bring, I did not think it was necessary)

-Paracetomal / Ibuprofen (very useful, but you can get here if you run out)

-Antihistamine (i.e. Benadryl) Important for allergic reactions and inflammation from mosquito bites, etc. (useful)

-Laxative (i.e. Ex-lax, Soft-lax, Sennekot) (can be useful)

-Fiber pills (useful)

-Anti-Diarrhea Medication (i.e. Immodium) (can be useful, especially if you travelling while your sick)

-Oral Re-hydration Salts (i.e. Gastrolyte) (very useful!, you can make it too, but having sealed ones to carry around is good)

-Antifungal cream (I brought a spray, it is useful during very heavy rains for feet)

-Yeast Infection treatment (i.e. Canestan) (can be useful)

-Anti-itch/Anti-sting cream (i.e. Polysporin) (useful)

-Antiseptic solution (i.e. Betadine, Hydrogen peroxide) (useful)

-Swabs (i.e. cotton balls) (I brought both, useful)

-Vaginal Yeast infection cream (the varied climate and medication can make you more susceptible) (can be useful)

-Vaseline (super useful for a variety of things, but easy to buy in Malawi)

Anything you bring when you are travelling that you don’t see above?


4 responses to “October 24: Packing Lists the Do’s and the I Wouldn’ts

  1. Hey Megan, Great list! I was planning to do something similar at the end of my trip (though mine will be slightly different since I live in a big city so I can buy many things I didn’t expect to). Plus it never gets cold here! I definitely agree about having a bigger backpack for weekend trips, but it seemed silly to bring three backpacks so not sure how to solve that one (unless you’re willing to carry around a medium sized one daily, but I love my little one for heading to work on a minibus!).


    • Cool it would be interesting to see the differences. Lilongwe is a capital city, so you can get almost everything on my list. But the prices for some items are way higher than in Canada (and some lower) and some are just tricky to buy in your first week! I carry a purse to work, so I wish I had just gone with a second bigger backpack 🙂


  2. I don’t think I’ll be travelling yo Malawi any time soon, but I still loved reading the list! Helpful, the notes gave a great sense of your time there and I love how you seemed to think of everything.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s