Dusty little Karonga is the first place you’ll come across if making the journey down from Tanzania and while it won't enrapture you, it suffices for an overnight stay or to check your emails, stock up on cash and have a close encounter with a 100-million-year-old dinosaur. Karonga has the proud title of Malawi’s ‘fossil district’, with well-preserved remains of dinosaurs and ancient humans. Its most famous discovery is the Malawisaurus (Malawi lizard) – a fossilised dino skeleton found 45km south of the town. See it at the Culture & Museum Centre Karonga. If you do decide to stay, opt for Sumuka Inn or Safari Lodge Annex.
Apart from the Mbandé Cafe, eating options are slim, but there's a Standard Bank and National Bank of Malawi, internet at the museum and the locals are friendly.
Super Sink Buses leave at 8pm for Lilongwe. Alternatively, head to Mzuzu (MK1600, four hours) from where AXA City Trouper buses also leave for Lilongwe and Blantyre. Minibuses go to numerous destinations, including Songwe (MK1200, 45 minutes) and Mzuzu (MK1600, four hours). Taxis to the Tanzanian border go from the main bus station and cost MK1200.
If you’ve got a 4WD you can cross into northern Zambia via Chitipa in northern Malawi. It’s four hours from Karonga to Chitipa on a rough dirt road (there’s no public transport but you might be able to get a lift on a truck). After going through customs it is another 80km or four hours’ drive to the Zambian border crossing at Nakonde.