Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa. Endowed with spectacular highlands and extensive lakes, it occupies a narrow, curving strip of land along the East African Rift Valley. Lake Nyasa, known in Malawi as Lake Malawi, accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s total area.
Most of Malawi’s population engages in cash-crop and subsistence agriculture. The country’s exports consist of the produce of both small landholdings and large tea and tobacco estates. Malawi has received a significant amount of foreign capital in the form of development aid, which has contributed greatly toward the exploitation of its natural resources and has allowed Malawi to at times produce a food surplus. Nevertheless, its population has suffered from chronic malnutrition, high rates of infant mortality, and grinding poverty—a paradox often attributed to an agricultural system that has favoured large estate owners.
Most Malawians reside in rural locations. The country’s few large urban centres include Lilongwe, the capital, and Blantyre, the seat of the country’s judiciary.
Malawi stretches about 520 miles (840 km) from north to south and varies in width from 5 to 100 miles (10 to 160 km). It is bordered by Tanzania to the north, Lake Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the east and south, and Zambia to the west.
However, Malawi’s natural vegetation has been altered significantly by human activities. Swamp vegetation has given way to agricultural species as swamps have been drained and cultivated. Much of the original woodland has been cleared, and, at the same time, forests of softwoods have been planted in the highland areas. High population density and intensive cultivation of the Shire Highlands have also hindered natural succession there, while wells have been sunk and rivers dammed to irrigate the dry grasslands for agriculture.
Capital City: Lilongwe
Currency & banking
Current exchange rate: $1USD = 1,684.29 Kwacha
The $US is the most easily exchanged foreign currency. Some hotels and restaurants will accept payments in $US.
Credit cards and traveller’s cheques aren’t widely accepted in Malawi. Before you arrive, ask your host, hotel or tour operator about the best ways to pay.
ATMs are increasingly common but they often run out of cash. Also, expect long lines at the ATMs, especially at the end of the month or on market days. Many people do all their banking at an ATM including paying bills and buying credit for their mobile phone service.
Malawi is generally a safe country to visit but it’s worth checking your Government’s website for up-to-date info before you travel. In my experience, Malawi is a pretty safe country to drive in, certainly by African standards. Even driving in the centre of Lilongwe or Blantyre is not too stressful – they have the feel of large towns rather than sprawling cities. EU photo licences are acceptable for Malawi for visits up to 90 days. Main roads are usually in good condition but secondary routes will deteriorate in the rainy season between Nov and April and will probably only be driveable with a 4X4 at that time. You should avoid driving at night as there are likely to be various hazards such as wandering animals and unlit vehicles. Police road blocks are common but problems such as bribe extraction are less common than in other African countries and providing you have the correct documents you should be able to pass quickly. Malawi suffers from fuel shortages occasionally and if this happens there will be large queues at petrol stations. The rental company will advise you is this is the case when you visit. If you’re planning to drive in one of the national parks you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle and should make the rental company aware of where you intend to travel so they can ensure you receive an adequate standard of vehicle.
Sixt and Europcar have branches in Lilongwe. Avis has branches in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Tipping is not compulsory but is always enthusiastically received if you are happy with the service and would like to tip. We recommend that you tip your specialist guides for approximately U$5 per guest per day. This is normally given direct to your guide at the end of your stay. It is also a nice gesture to tip the general camp / lodge staff. Here we recommend about U$3 per guest per day. This should be placed in the communal tipping box. To tip Porters, we recommend about U$1.
You can charge your cameras, phones and other electric items in most accommodations. If you bring more than a couple of chargeable items you might consider bringing an extension with extra outlets since the amount of outlets is often limited. We advise bringing extra batteries for your camera since many lodges generate power with solar or generators and power cuts might occur. Solar-generated lodges will often only have power available in the rooms at certain hours of the day, but you can always use the charging ports in the main lodge area.
To get access to the internet on your phone, you can buy internet bundles via a local SIM card by using pre-paid airtime. The procedure of getting the SIM card is as described above (“Phone Network Providers”), and your guide can assist you. Using the internet on your phone is relatively cheap and fast, with speed depending on your location.
In a lot of lodges, WIFI is provided, however, the speed will not be what you are used to at home and the lodges are often remote and do not get a reliable signal. If you don’t want to use this opportunity to completely disconnect, we advise that you get a local SIM with a data bundle or wireless internet stick as mentioned above.
What to pack?
- Take your own toilet paper as many public toilets don’t have any.
- Good quality sunglasses; if you wear contact lenses,
- Sun hat
- Small torch /headlamp
- Good binoculars
- Camera with a zoom lens
Waterproof/dustproof bags to cover your cameras
- Swimsuit as some of the lodges have swimming pools
- A small daypack to keep with you in the car during the day
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen, moisturiser and lip balm
- Basic first aid kit.
- Clothing should be lightweight, loose-fitting and of “breathable” fabrics, such as cotton
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those travelling to Malawi
The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
Additionally, malaria, yellow fever, zika virus, chikungunya virus and dengue fever are a risk in Malawi so avoiding being bitten by mosquitos is advised. Also, ticks can carry diseases so when going through forested areas or long grass protect yourself by wearing long trousers and shirts. Tsetse flies carry diseases and there are no effective repellents so the same precautions as for ticks are the best prevention.
Access to medical care in Malawi is very limited, especially outside of Lilongwe, the capital city and Blantyre. The health care provided by the country’s medical facilities remains of poor quality.
General medical facilities throughout Malawi are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the developed countries. Facilities in rural areas are basic and emergency services are limited. You should carry basic medical supplies. Many medical facilities expect to be paid up-front for treatment. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation.
Only eat food that is cooked and served hot. Eat fruits and vegetables that you have personally washed in clean water or peeled yourself. Never eat food sold by street vendors. Only drink boiled water that is sealed and has been filtered and disinfected. Prefer carbonated drinks, hot coffee or tea, and pasteurized milk.
Most visits to Malawi are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself from muggers and bag-snatchers. Most thefts from visitors take place around the main bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Avoid walking around quiet areas, especially after dark. Leave valuables and cash in a hotel safe, where practical. Keep copies of important documents in a separate place Report any thefts to the police as soon as possible.
You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies, remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local security authorities and/your tour operator.
Be cautious if over-friendly people approach you offering to act as guides or selling goods, or who claim to know you and ask for a lift. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers; people have been robbed after eating drugged food.
House burglaries, including by armed gangs, do occur though crime rates are low by regional standards. There has been an increase in break-ins in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Limbe, including violent assaults on residents. Review your security systems and watch out for anything unusual.
- Don’t leave items such as laptops and briefcases in unattended vehicles
- Don’t display jewellery or electronics when walking
- Remain vigilant when using public transportation or walking along deserted streets
- Avoid walking and driving at night
- Taxi and minibus operators have robbed their passengers and stranded them far from their destination. Avoid taking taxis or minibuses that have only one or two passengers, and ensure that your personal belongings are secure at all times when using public transportation.
- You face severe penalties for using or carrying illegal drugs, including cannabis. Penalties include long prison sentences in local jails.
- Proof of identity
You must always carry your passport or a copy of your passport and visa or immigration permit with you.
- Other laws. In Malawi, it’s illegal to:
- buy or export uncut precious stones
- import ivory
- import pornography
It’s illegal to photograph:
- government buildings
- military installations
Currently, laws banning same-sex sexual activity have been suspended, however, this could change.
Malawi Police: 997 – In case of an accident including car accident, robbery attempts, violence, gang related issues, call this number.
Malawi Ambulance: 998 – In case of an accident or life threatening illness, condition, you should call this number.
Malawi Fire department: 999 – In case of a fire, you should call this number for assistance.
Major public hospitals emergency numbers
- Mzuzu Central Hospital: 01 320 099
- Lilongwe Central Hospital: 01 751 109
- Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital: 01 874 333
- Zomba Central Hospital: 01 526 266
Current Weather Forecasts
Malawi is situated in the tropics and receives good rainfall. It has a Dry season from May to the end of October, and a Wet season from November to April. In the Wet season, many roads deteriorate and a 4×4 is essential. In October, at the end of the Dry season, temperatures rise and relief comes only when the rains start.
Malawi – Month-by-Month
These are the wettest months, characterized by torrential downpours in the afternoon. Afternoon temperatures are around 29°C/84°F and the humidity is high.
Rain is dwindling and so are the temperatures. Daytime temperatures still reach 27°C/81°F but evenings and early mornings can be chilly.
This is the end of summer and the rain has stopped. Temperatures are relatively cool, typically 16°C/61°F in the morning and 26°C/79°F in the afternoon. Nighttime temperatures start to drop.
The average morning temperature is 14°C/57°F. Bring warm clothing for the cold morning game drives in open vehicles. Afternoons will be more pleasant, with temperatures around 25°C/77°F. Nyika Plateau with its high altitude is much colder.
he heat gradually builds, and the first rains bring relief from very dry conditions. Daytime temperatures will be around 29°C/84°F in September and 31°C/88°F in October, the latter being the hottest month. Peak temperatures can be much higher.
This month is unpredictable – the rain starts in the afternoons. Temperatures are between 20°C/68°F in the morning and 31°C/88°F in the afternoon.
(a) Tourist Visa
This is issued to persons intending to enter Malawi for visits or residence or business. It is valid for 3 months and can only be used once.
(b) Transit Visa
This is issued to persons intending to transit through Malawi for a period of seven days and can only be used once.
(c) Official Visa
This is issued to persons holding official/service passport on government official vi sits to Malawi. It is valid for 3 months and can only be used once.
(d) Courtesy Visa
This is issued to persons holding either official/service or ordinary passport e. g a person on a visit invited by the Government of Malawi if he or she is not entitled to a diplomatic visa. It may also be issued to other persons considered to be desirable on grounds of international courtesy. This visa is valid for 3 months and can only be used once.
Follow this link to apply for an e-Visa
Check you eligibility for an e-Visa
The standard voltage is 240 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Which power plugs and sockets in Malawi?
In Malawi, the power plugs and sockets are of type G. Check out the following pictures.
Type G: this type is of British origin. This socket only works with plug G.
|Type G: This socket has no alternative plugs|