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.
- 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 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.
Malawi Car Rental –
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.
Charging electronic devices
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 complete disconnect, we advise that you get a local SIM with a data bundle or wireless internet stick as mentioned above.
- 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