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Tipping in Malawi

Tipping in Malawi

Tipping in Malawi explained

We are often asked by our travellers to Malawi, “who should we tip, when and how much?”. To help answer this question, and avoid any uncomfortable situations, we have provided below some guidance to outline the points and issues involved.

Tipping in Malawi and the effects on local economy

As is common around the world, tipping in Malawi is completely voluntary and dependant on the quality of the service you have received. At Expert Africa, we believe that good service should be rewarded, but you should also be mindful of the potential impact that tipping may have on the local community.

Tips can make a large difference to those in the service industry, such as waiters, guides and trackers. However there’s a fine line between the right amount to tip and tipping too much: excessive tips can really affect the balance of the local economy.

Consider, for example, the job of the guides within the national parks. Theirs is an important role that requires someone competent and educated with a good knowledge of the area. Such positions are usually filled by those with a high level of education who have generally worked for several years within the parks. Their salaries may be reasonable but not at the high end of the scale.

Then there are the general staff working at the camps, helping out in camp and perhaps carrying guests’ luggage. While their role is still important, they may not have the same level of education as the guides, and their salary is significantly less. Yet if such an employee receives high tips, perhaps up to US$500 a month, he or she may end up earning more than the guides.

As a result, higher than average tips can tip the balance of responsibility and financial remuneration, perhaps tempting guides to leave their jobs for lesser roles that would (with tips included) earn them more. This in turn would be detrimental to the park and its visitors.

With this in mind, please do bear in mind the importance of the work someone is doing for you and tip accordingly.

Who to tip when on safari in Malawi

Before thinking about the amount or how to tip, think about who to tip. Many people work to make your safari a success, including the guides, the back-of-house team and the camp manager.

  • Tipping your guide
  • Your guide is one of the most important people in making your safari a success. Guides are usually tipped separately from the rest of the camp staff, to ensure that they get the tip that they deserve.

  • Tipping the back-of-house team
  • Many people work behind the scenes to make sure your trip runs smoothly, including the chef, waiters, maintenance and housekeeping staff. Most lodges have a general tip box, and the proceeds are usually split equally between this team.

  • Should you tip the managers?
  • Occasionally we’re asked if the managers should be tipped. They’re obviously important to your trip, but as in a restaurant, where you wouldn’t normally tip the manager, we wouldn’t usually recommend tipping camp managers – though there may be exceptions.
In summary, we suggest that you tip your guide separately from the back-of-house team; it would be uncommon to tip your camp manager.

When to tip

Occasionally we are asked when is the right time to tip:

After each activity
At the end of each day
At the end of your stay

As a general rule, always tip once, at the end of your stay at each safari camp or lodge – not at the end of each activity, or every day.

Guides don’t expect you to tip after each activity, and this could create the impression that the guide needs to “perform” for the person giving the tips, which can distort the relationship between them and the other guests. It would certainly make things awkward for fellow guests if you were tipping frequently and they were not.

How to tip

Most lodges and camps in Malawi have a main tip box that is shared out amongst the back-of-house staff, with guides tipped directly. This does vary, however, so do check.

Some camps explain their tipping policy in the camp literature in the rooms. If not, then ask the manager and, if there is a tip box, find out who shares the proceeds. You can then decide whether to put everything in the box, or tip some members of staff directly.

It is common to tip in cash, with the preferred currency in Malawi being US dollars, South African rand, or even euros or GB pounds, as these can easily be exchanged into Malawian kwacha by camp staff. Travellers sometimes ask us if it’s possible to tip by credit card. This is not normal practice, as many safari camps in Malawi do not have credit-card facilities, and even then, you would not be able to tip a member of staff direct.

If you’re very organised, it’s a great idea to bring some envelopes with you, possibly with thank you notes inside them, to prepare individual tips for the staff. Towards the end of your trip you can name each envelope for the individual or group of people you wish to tip, add the appropriate tips, then either hand them to the individuals or put them into the main tip box.

How much to tip

We can only offer advice about this from our experiences in Malawi. Tipping is voluntary but always greatly appreciated and depends entirely on your own experience, moderated by the issues mentioned above.

Having said that, we’d recommend that for good service our travellers tip around:

  • US$5–10 per guest per day for a group guide
  • US$5–10 per guest per day for the general staff
  • To put these figures into perspective, Malawi has the world’s lowest gross national income (GNI) of approximately US$8.20 per person per day. This is a reflection of the average income of Malawi’s citizens.

    In contrast, the equivalent GNI in the UK is about US$118.74, in the United States about US$150.58, in New Zealand about US$109.80 and in Germany about US$125.45.

    In conclusion, although tipping is a sensitive issue, it’s a normal part of Malawi’s service industry so there’s no need to feel embarrassed – just ask if you are not sure. Remember that more affluent visitors can potentially have a big impact on the local community, and that excessive tipping can upset the social and economic balance, so please do bear this in mind when you’re tipping staff during your safari in Malawi.

Our top picks for holidays to Malawi

We'll always tailor-make your Town for you. Here are some of our favourites to inspire you.

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Utaka Cichlid Safari

10 days • 3 locations

Explore two of Malawi's safari parks - Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park - before finishing your trip with some beach time: relaxing, snorkelling and sailing in Lake Malawi National Park.

US$4,340 - US$5,700 per person

Itinerary image

Red Zebra Cichlid Safari

7 days • 2 locations

Explore two of Malawi's highlights, with a safari in rugged, remote Majete Wildlife Reserve before some beach time: relaxing, snorkelling and sailing in Lake Malawi National Park.

US$3,400 - US$4,500 per person

Itinerary image

Hyena Safari

11 days • 4 locations

Mix relaxation and adventure on a safari combining the South Luangwa with Victoria Falls and the beaches of Lake Malawi. These three locations are among the most iconic in southern Africa.

US$8,630 - US$11,910 per person

Itinerary image

Peacock Cichlid Safari

4 days • 1 locations

Snorkel in Lake Malawi’s famously clear fresh water, relax on the beach and explore Likoma Island from the award-winning Kaya Mawa. A chilled luxury add-on to end your safari.

US$3,430 - US$4,480 per person

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