Long a popular backpacker destination, Malawi also has once-in-a-lifetime beach and safari lodges charging hundreds of dollars a night. There are generally good selections of backpacker hostels and top-end accommodation but fewer midrange guesthouses and hotels. One tip is to consider sharing a bathroom; many budget and midrange options have lovely rooms with a bathroom for every two rooms. Camping offers affordable access to high-end lodges, as many have campsites.

Budget

In national parks and along the lakeshore, many places offer camping as well as self-catering chalets. Decent campsites typically cost US$5 to US$10 per person and are generally well equipped with hot showers and power points, while those costing a few dollars a night have long-drop toilets and bucket showers.

You’ll also find welcoming backpacker hostels all over the country, from the major cities to popular lakeshore destinations such as Cape Maclear and Nkhata Bay. Prices range from less than US$5 to over US$10 for a dorm bed, US$15 to US$35 for a double with shared facilities and US$25 to US$45 for an en-suite double. Singles are available (with a single supplement), as are triples and family rooms.

Cheap hotels are generally much less appealing.

Midrange

Midrange hotels and lodges charge from US$50 to US$100 for an en-suite double, including taxes, often breakfast, and sometimes air-con. Addi­tionally, some backpacker lodges have stylish en-suite doubles at the top end of the budget bracket.

Top End

Standard top-end hotels in the big cities and at beach resorts typically range from US$120 to US$250 for a double room, with in-room facilities such as private bathroom, TV, air-con and telephone, and hotel amenities such as swimming pool, tennis courts and organised activities. As in the midrange bracket, singles are available (with a single supplement), and the price normally includes taxes and breakfast. Then there are the exclusive beach hotels and safari lodges, which charge around US$150 to US$500 per person, though this usually includes all meals and some activities.

It's essential that you book ahead to stay at exclusive park lodges, or at least phone to let them know you're coming, as some are inaccessible without prior arrangement. Remote lodges also often employ people from the surrounding villages, so they may be all but closed with their workforce dispersed if you turn up unannounced. Some park lodges offer 'green-season specials': discounted rates during the rainy season (November to April).