Travel Advice ( Malawi )

Travel Advisory from Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium


Getting to Malawi
For intercontinental flights from Europe, Kenya Airways,, KLM, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines offer good options to Malawi, with routes involving an aircraft change at their respective national hubs ( Nairobi, Johannesburg, and Addis Ababa ) Regional links beteen Malawi and Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are provided by Air Malawi and the various national airlines of those countries. Such connections can sometimes be used in conjunction with a European airline, flying from Europe to these countries. Malawi-based air charter companies also link Malawi to its neighbours. There are road routes  into Malawi fromTanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.
Border posts will be closed from 18:00 hours and reopened at 07:00 in the morning.
Visitors requiring a Visa may find this difficult to obtain at border posts and are advised to obtain the documentation in advance. Requirements for vehicle documentation should be checked before travelling.

Best time to visit Malawi  ---   April - November.
For most people the dry ( winter ) season is most attractive ( i.e.  April / May to October / November ) However, some of the best birdwatching can be had from November to April, and the orchids of Nyika are best seen from December to March / April. In the hottest month ( usually November ), maximum temperatures will be around 30 °C . In the coldest month ( probably July ), maximum temperature will be  in the low 20 °C. On the uplands ( e.g. Zomba, Nyika and Viphya ) it can be cold at night. The hottest area, all year, is the lower Shire Valley. 

Passport & Visas
A full valid passport is required for entry into Malawi. For tourist visits, Visas are NOT required by citizens of most Commonwealth countries, the USA, Japan, mostof the European Union and certain other countries.
Please make sure you confirm the current status of Visa requirement, before your make any bookings.

Duty Free
International Travellers over the age of 18 may import duty free :
200 Cigarettes or 225 gram of tobacco.
1 litre of spirits
1 litre of beer
1 litre of wine
Plus a resonable  quantity of consumable goods to meet the traveller's immediate need in Malawi.

Malawi's unit of currency is the Kwacha ( MK ; Malawi Kwacha internationally, K locally ). The Kwacha divides into 100 tambala. Practically speaking, only the Kwacha is used. Banks in the townsare open weekdays between 08:00 am to 13:00 pm. Mobile banks operate along the lakeshore and in more remote  areas. Travellers Cheques or foreign ( hard ) currency notes are widely accepted. Avoid black market currency traders. There is no limit to the amount of foreigncurrency imported but it must be declaired and accounted for on departure. Only MK 300 of local currency may be exported. There are 24-hour ATM's in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. Only local currency is dispensed and that is limited to approximately the equivalent of £ 85, EURO 110, USD 140 in any period of twentyfour hours.

Malawi time is GMT+2 .

Immunisation against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatits. As is recommended, " Yellow Fever immunisation " ( Yellow Fever Certificate ) is required  by visitors, entering from Yellow Fever Zone. There is a risk of Malaria, and prophylactics should be taken well before travelling. Seek up to date advice from your medical doctor. There is a risk contracting Bilharzia if bathingin some parts of Lake Malawi, but the risk is negligble nearthe main beach hotels. The infection is relatively easily treated once diagnosed. Malawi is a high risk area for AIDS, and casual sex contacts must be avoided. Remember Condom is no guarantee for protection against the virus,

Malawi is considered a safe country for tourists and Malawians are rightfully known for their friendliness. However, usual precaution should be taken as would be advised for tourists anywhere.

Food & Drinks 
Excellent fish dishes are widely available but especially near Lake Malawi. Most hotels and safaricamps serve " Western type of dishes" , perhaps game and occasionally local food, such as maize meal porridge. Soft drinks are available everywhere. Beers ( Carlsberg , produced in Malawi ) is most common, spirits such as Malawi Gin and South African wines are resonably priced and commonly available.

For drinking, bottled water should be used in preference to tap water.

Car hire is possible from most centres and at the airports, but standards of vehicles vary and hiring may seem expensive. Most of the main roads are tarred but narrow. Potholes may be expected in any road and speeds should be kept low. However, the general quality of roads is good by African standards. Driving is on the left. Expect to find people and animals on any road. Driving at night is to be avoided. Breakdowns are traditionally indicated by placing bush or tree branches at the side of the road behind the vehicle., but red triangles are strictly needed. Petrol is widely available but tanks should be filled when opportunity occurs as soon as the indicator falls below half. An International Driving Licence is required although national driving licences will probably be accepted  if a photogrph is included. In recent times, regulations regarding speed limits and the use of safety belts have been more rigorously enforced. On-the-spot fines can be collected by uniformed police. Routine roadblocks may be encountered especially near borders, but should not entail a stop of more than a couple of minutes.

Public Transport
There is a good network of inexpensive public buses throughout Malawi. 

Domestic Air Travel
Air Malawi's domestic network provides regular links between Lilongwe and Blantyre. Air charter companies serve the main tourist destinations in the country.

If using light aircraft for domestic transport, there is likely to be a limit of 10 - 12 kg per person.

There are five National Parks and four Wildlife Reserves, including one freshwater National Park ( at Cape Mclear ). All types of safari are available, not only 4 x 4 driving but also walking and by boat. Most game viewing is in small groups. Horse riding safaris are expected to be re-introduced.

Organised activities for travellers to Malawi include: Climbing, hiking, cycling, birdwatching, angling, game viewing, horse riding, mountain biking, quad-biking, yoga, art-safaris, pottery.
On Lake Malawi: kayaking, scuba diving, sailboarding, parasailing, diving, snorkeling, water-skiing, sailing and cruises.
Many of the larger hotels and main towns offer the usual range of sports from tennis to golf. One hotel has a spa.

Small supermarkets are found in towns and larger villages. Large supermarkets and European style shops are almost exclusively found in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Markets and roadside vendors are popular with travellers. Attractive souvenirs are the excellent wood carving widely available , and straw goods together withwork by local artists. The standard of craftwork varies but at its best is quite outstanding. In the markets , bargaining is expected. Traditional Chief's chairs are popular.

Shops and offices open and close earlier in the day, than is the custom in Europe or North America.

Dress is generally informal. Swimwear and very skimpy clothing should be confined  to the beach resorts. For safaris " Natural " colours should be worn in peference to light / bright colours. In the upland s, especially in the winter ( April - September ), it can be cool in the evening and sweaters may be needed. It can be very cold on morning- or night safari drives. 

Supply is based on the 220 / 240 Volt system, using British type, square bayonet three-pin plugs.

TV & Radio
There is a national TV station. In addition, many city centre hotels receive international satelite channels. There are English language  radio broadcast s but little of interest to the foreign traveller.

The telephone system is fairly reliable . Sim cards for local mobile phone networks are widely available and relatively cheap and easy to use. Most hotels and offices are readily reached by e-mail. The postal system tends to be slow. International courier DHL, operates in Malawi.

Laundry is usually available at hotels and lodges or in bigger safari camps. Dry cleaning is less easy to obtain and standards may vary.

Any camera equipment is best brought into the country and care  should be taken to avoid its exposure to extremes of heat. Most Malawians will not mind being photographed but itis common courtesy to ask for permission first.

Public Holiday
Following days are public holidays: 1 January; 3 March; 1 May; 14 June; 6 July; 2 nd Monday in October; 25 - 26 December; Also Good Friday and Eastern Sunday. If a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then the next Monday becomes a holiday. Muslims festivals may also be celebrated in some areas.

Language Guide
While English is an official language , and is widely understood, a number of indigenous languages are also spoken. The most common is Chewa ( or Chichewa - the language of the Chewa tribe ). Here are a few Chichewa words and phrases:
Hello  --  Moni
Godbye  --  Tsalani Bwino
How are you ?  --  Muli bwanji ?
What is your Name ?  --  Dzina lanu ndani ?
My name is ....  --  Dzina langa ndi.......
I come from.....  --  Ndikuchokera ku.....
How old are you ?  --  Ui ndi zaka zingati ?
Excuse me  --  Zikomo
How much ?  --  Mumagulitsa bwanji ? 
How much is this ?  --  Bwanji ichi ?
Thank you  --  Zikomo
A Chichewa language course by Celia Swann, complete with audio disc, can be purchased from the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium UK office.

Tour Operators