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Crossroads Hotel Lilongwe
Crossroads Hotel Lilongwe - dream vacation

Queens Hwy At Mchinji RoundabtLilongwe

Sunbird Lilongwe
Sunbird Lilongwe - dream vacation

44 Kamuzu Procession Road Off Chilambula Road Po Box 44Lilongwe

Latitude 13
Latitude 13 - dream vacation

43/60 Mphonongo RoadLilongwe

Malawi (Chichewa: Mala?i) is a small, landlocked country in Africa whose eastern border mostly follows Lake Malawi, the third largest lake on the continent. It's described as the "Warm Heart of Africa", referring to the friendliness of the people.



  • Lilongwe - political capital of Malawi and the seat of government
  • Blantyre - economic capital and largest city with an interesting downtown, decent nightlife and music, a range of hotels from the elegant to resthouses, and a vibrant street and market culture
  • Mzuzu - the largest town in the North of Malawi. For most it's just a stop for cash and internet en route to or from Nkhata Bay or further south, and the Tanzanian border.
  • 4 Karonga - charming town not far from the intriguing Misuku Hills and a short distance from Lake Malawi and growing quickly since the 2009 opening of a uranium mine
  • Mangochi - medium-sized town, formerly known as Fort Johnston, and a jumping-off point for the resorts and hostels up the coast of Lake Malawi, on the way to peninsular Cape Maclear
  • Nkhotakota on the shores of Lake Malawi in the Central Region, is where the explorer David Livingston sat down with the Swahili Arab slave traders to attempt to negotiate an end to the slave trade. Nkhotakota was a slave entrepôt, from which slaves were ferried across Lake Malawi to the eastern shore to resume their travel over land to what is now the Tanzanian coast. Nkhotakota is a compact and fascinating town, old in its way and true to the ethnic diversity of this region of Malawi.
  • Zomba - old colonial capital of Malawi noted for its British colonial architecture, the University of Malawi, and the remarkable Zomba Plateau which rises immediately west of the city

Other destinations

  • 1 Cape Maclear - laid back fishing village on the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the southern portion of Lake Malawi. The Cape has excellent, sandy beaches and crystal-clear water perfect for swimming, and is a favourite among backpackers, boaters, and sunseekers. This area, however, is known for having a high level of schistosomiasis and visitors should be well informed.
  • Kuti community Wildlife Park - 90 km from Lilongwe on Salima Road where you will get closer to zebra than anywhere else in Africa.
  • 2 Likoma and Chisumulu Islands - great aquatic life and a back door to Mozambique. These islands are only reachable to tourists by private boat or the public ferry which only runs 1-2 times each week and is the sole means by which locals can ship supplies to and from the islands; Thus, if you take the ferry to or from Nkhata Bay, purchase a deck or cabin ticket unless you want to be fully immersed in the typical way of life of Malawian transporters.
  • 3 Mua
  • Zomba Plateau
  • 5 Monkey Bay - a popular large village as you head up the Lake Road from Mangochi toward Cape Maclear
  • 6 Nkhata Bay - a rocky bay towards the north of the lake - check into one of the lodges and you could be here for a while

National parks and forest reserves

  • 7 Lake Malawi National Park
  • 8 Liwonde National Park — 550 km² of unspoiled forest along the shores of the Shire River. The national park is best approached from the town of Liwonde. A half-hour boat ride up the Shire will show some of the remarkable wildlife of the region, especially hippo's, elephant, and fish eagles.
  • 9 Majete Wildlife Park
  • 10 Mount Mulanje (Mulanje Massif) — is the highest peak south of Kilimanjaro and a favourite among climbers attempting to reach Sapitwa Peak, the tallest of Mulanje's peaks. Its within the Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve
  • 11 Nyika National Park - Malawi's biggest national park is on the 1800m high Nyika Plateau
  • 12 Ntchisi Forest Reserve — stunning rainforest in rural, untouched area

See also: African National Parks



At the end of the 15th century, the Maravi Empire existed on the southwestern shores of Lake Malawi as a kingdom by the Chewa people. The slave trade was introduced in the 19th century when the Swahili-Arabs moved into the area to obtain slavery and ivory. One of the first Europeans to visit Malawi was Dr. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer who was credited with a leading role in ending slavery in Africa.

Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi on 6 July 1964. After three decades of one-party rule by Hastings Banda, the country held multi-party elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution, which took full effect the following year. National multi-party elections in 1999 and 2004 elected president Bingu wa Mutharika. When he died in 2012, Joyce Banda (no relation to Hastings Banda) was elected as the first female leader.


Much of Malawi is plateau, often reaching to 1,000 m (3,000 ft), and the temperature in these highlands is moderate, with the hottest period occurring during the autumn rainy season and the coolest and chilliest in winter. The hottest region in the country is the lower Shire River Valley well south of Blantyre. Temperatures along scenic Lake Malawi are generally warm, but with a cooling breeze, especially in the evenings. Winters (May till July) are dry. The rainy season begins in mid-October to early November and generally runs until March.


Malawi’s people are its greatest asset - friendly, welcoming, colourful and vibrant. It is impossible to visit and not to become engaged with the people, but there are now opportunities to spend time in real villages (including staying overnight) for a first-hand experience of the cultures, traditions and daily life. This is an option pretty much everywhere in Malawi, and one well worth taking.

There’s also much to see of Malawi’s history, beginning with the pre-history remains of the Karonga district and the Stone Age rock paintings near Dedza. The Cultural & Museum Centre at Karonga is well worth a visit. Elsewhere, the colonial period is preserved in buildings dating from the David Livingstone era and the defeat of the Arab slave trade is well documented in the museums of Blantyre. Among other museums around the country are a Lake Museum at Mangochi, a mission museum at Livingstonia and a postal services museum near Zomba

Get in

Entry requirements

Nationals of the following countries do not require a visa to enter Malawi for up to 90 days: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Dominica, Eswatini, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Nationals of Hong Kong do not require a visa for visits of up to 30 days .

Citizens of most other countries may obtain a $50 visa on arrival, but this is not applicable to citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen who are required to obtain a visa in advance, which can be applied for at Malawi's embassy in your country. A six-month, multiple entry visa on arrival can also be obtained, which costs $150, and a twelve-month version of the same visa costs $250.

An E-Visa system exists and some Europeans and Australians are required to use it.

By plane

Malawi has relatively few international flight connections, with most travelers connecting through either Johannesburg, Nairobi, or Addis Ababa to fly into Lilongwe or Blantyre.

By train

There are no international trains to Malawi, although CEAR operates a weekly train from the border town of Nayuchi, next to Northern Mozambique.

By boat

A ferry runs twice a week from Likoma Island to Cobuè and Metangula in Mozambique.

By car

The main road (M1) runs from the northern border (Kaporo) through Karonga, MzuzuLilongwe and finally to Mchinji and is in excellent shape. There is an excellent road from Lilongwe to Mchinji on the Zambian border (120 km).

By bus

From Mozambique, in the south, you can take the bus from Tete (north-west Mozambique) to Zobwe. After crossing, take another bus from the border to Blantyre. This crossing is quite hectic, and it is closed at night, so you should plan to get there early, and try to keep it cool with all the border-hawkers.

Direct buses run from Lusaka, Zambia to Lilongwe, but is best done in stretches) if 14-20 hours on a bus doesn't sound like your idea of a good time. There is also minibus from Mbeya in Tanzania to the border. From the border in Malawi Side, take a taxi to Karonga. From Karonga bus station, take a bus or minibus to other destinations in Malawi. Bus is cheaper than minibus. The easiest way take direct bus from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Mzuzu or Lilongwe.

There are no direct buses from Mbeya to Malawi although scammers in Mbeya bus station will tell you so, and sell you tickets. You must take a bus to the border and walk across.

There has been buses from Blantyre to Harare via Tete in Mozambique. but you will need to get a mozambique visa.

Get around

Compared to its neighbours, the main roads in Malawi are in surprisingly good shape and travel times between major destinations should be reasonable. The volume of traffic is low and most people drive reasonably slowly. Road travel after dark is not advisable as road markings are poor to non-existent and not all cars have headlights. While there are few vehicles travelling at night a very significant number of their drivers will be heavily intoxicated, particularly outside of Lilongwe and Blantyre.

The Malawian police force have roadblocks, checkpoints and speeding checks along many of the major roadways and at the airports. By and large, they are looking for illegal activities and bribes. Expect to be stopped on occasion, particularly if you are clearly not local, and asked where you are going. Fines for traffic offences range from 2,000 MK for poor tyres or faulty lighting, to 8000 MK for speeding, to seizure of the vehicle for licensing/registration/insurance offences. Payment is expected to be made to a bursar at the roadside,and a numbered receipt from a duplicate book should be given. If a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a local the police may question the driver or other passengers in a local dialect in order to establish what can be got from you. You should not have any problems if you are polite and have the correct documentation (passport, driver's licence, permission to use the vehicle, etc.) available if they ask. Before using any vehicle be satisfied that all tyres are in good condition, lights are working (including brake lights) and that you have a road warning triangle and fire extinguisher. Do not leave quantities of food or beverages, toys, etc visible in the vehicle as they will be sought in exchange for passage. Allow extra time for journeys to the airport as the police are aware that people in a rush will pay. Speed checks are often carried out on the roads away from major towns (i.e. at the points where the speed limit is due to increase), and urban speed limits can extend well into rural areas, often for 10-12km outside of major towns.

The wearing of seatbelts is mandatory. Local laws dictate that passengers may not have any limb hanging from a vehicle. Despite many local pick-ups having extra passengers in the cargo area visitors should not do so unless the vehicle has the appropriate additional government documentation allowing same.

Malawi experiences fuel shortages, so stock up in neighbouring countries unless you want to queue for a long time (without actually getting anything) or use the black market - with fuel prices being almost double, even triple, usual prices. If staying in the one area for some time attempt to build a relationship with the forecourt staff in one establishment, but be seen to occasionally purchase small amounts from other outlets. Often staff will give preferential treatment to regular customers in times of shortage.

In rural areas be vigilant of children playing and animals, particularly chickens on the road. While small animals may not damage the vehicle they may cause a family to lose a source of income or nutrition and create a very hostile situation when a demand for payment is made.

By bus

  • AXA Bus Malawi

By car

Traffic is a major safety risk. Malawi's road network has improved, but many roads are still in poor condition. The country's car fleet is in poor condition and the traffic culture is uncontrolled. Travelling after dark is not recommended. "Thumbing a van on the back of a van is not a safe option. There is no train service.

Fuel shortages can occur from time to time. Motorists should be prepared by buying an extra can of fuel.

Like many other former British colonies, traffic moves on the left in Malawi with most cars being right-hand drive.

Local car rental companies:

Apex Rent-a-Car Malawi. Sedans, 4x4s, buses. 

SS Rent-a-Car. Saloons/sedans, 4x4s, 16- and 26-seat buses, motorbikes. 

Sputnik Car Hire. 4x4s, buses, trucks. 

Many car rentals in Southern Africa do not allow you to enter Malawi with their cars. You might have the best chances if you rent a car in Zambia.

Car rentals that allow you to enter Malawi:

  • Kwenda, 17 Samantha Street; Strijdom Park; Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa, ? +27 44 533 5717, kwenda@iafrica.com. 
  • Bushtackers, P.O. Box 4225, Rivonia, 2128, Johannesburg, South Africa, ? +27 11 465 5700, bushtrackers@iafrica.com. Allow you to enter Malawi if you ask by email. 

By boat

Travelling by boat is surely the most enjoyable mode of getting around in Malawi. The Ilala ferry runs north from Monkey Bay to Chilumba on Fridays at 10:00, arriving on Sunday at 18:30 and returns southbound on the same route, departing Chilumba on Mondays at 02:00, arriving back at Monkey Bay on Wednesdays at 14:00. Prices are rising with every year, but so is the ferry's reliability.

By train

Malawi has a very limited passenger service, with departures about 1-2 times per week between Blantyre and smaller cities in Southern Malawi. No passenger trains serve the capital Lilongwe. All trains are operated by CEAR.


The official languages of Malawi are English and Chichewa. English is widely spoken in urban areas and by the well-educated upper class, though outside of that, a few words in Chichewa will go a long way. Chichewa is the first language of the majority of the population, and knowing Chichewa will get you by in most of Malawi though in some very remote areas, learning the local tongue might be essential. Locals always appreciate any attempts by foreigners to speak Chichewa and learning at least a few basic greetings would do well to ingratiate yourself to the locals. Tumbuka is the first language for many people in the north of the country. Chiyao is spoken by the Yao people who live mostly in the Southern District of the country. A multi-cultural country, Malawi has over a dozen indigenous ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language. However, even in those areas, many younger people will be bilingual in the local language and Chichewa.


Malawi has a massive diversity of beautiful landscapes. The highest peaks in Malawi touch 10,000 ft (3,000 m) while the lowest point is barely above sea level. This range of altitudes in a small area help to make the landscape of Malawi one of the most varied in all Africa. It is generally a green, lush country, with plateaux, highlands, forests, mountains, plains, escarpments and dramatic river valleys.

The Rift Valley is the dominant feature, providing the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills, and extending to the south of the country following the Shire River that drains the Lake. The flatter areas of the Rift Valley in South Malawi are home to some important wetlands, including Elephant Marsh, down in the Lower Shire Valley.

To the west of the Lake and either side of the Shire Valley in the south is the Central African Plateau. The transition from Rift Valley floor up to the Central African Plateau is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, such as at Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a protected area of rugged, unspoilt wilderness. The Central African Plateau itself is gently undulating land between 1,600ft (490m) and 5,000ft (1,500m), with the occasional lake (such as Lake Chilwa) and punctuated by more dramatic hills and forests.

It is the widespread highlands and forests that provide the most impressive of the Malawi's varied scenery. Up where the air is fresh and cool are clear mountain streams, heaths, rolling montane grassland and evergreen forests.

The southern part of Malawi has the best known highlands - Mulanje Massif and Zomba Plateau. The former is a massive wilderness plateau of syenite granite rising from the Phalombe Plains. It has a number of peaks, including the highest in both the country and the whole of central Africa: Sapitwa, at 3,000 m (10,000 ft). The tea estates that stretch west of Mulanje as far as Thyolo, are also wonderfully scenic. Zomba Plateau is not as high as Mulanje, but nonetheless impressive. It is slab-like with a gently undulating plateau top which is accessible by road.

The Dedza-Kirk Highlands extend the rise from the Rift Valley on its western edge between Blantyre and Lilongwe. The northern part of these highlands is marked by the Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve and then the Thuma Forest Reserve. South-west of Lilongwe, the Dzalanyama Forest Reserve covers a range of hills at the border with Mozambique. The Dowa Highlands, north of Lilongwe, have their most notable peaks at Dowa and the Ntchisi Forest Reserve.

The Viphya Highlands - undulating hills swathed in evergreen forests - stretch north-south in north Malawi and reach the edge of the Rift Valley. Finally, in north Malawi is the Nyika Plateau, a rolling whaleback grassland plateau unique in Africa. Much of this highest and most extensive high plateau surface in central Africa is gazetted as the Nyika National Park.


For a small country, Malawi has a quite remarkable array of activities to offer visitors. The magnificent Lake Malawi is a haven for boat activities and watersports, as well as having some of the best freshwater diving sites in the world, right in Nkhata Bay. Eight land-based national parks and wildlife reserves offer all type of safaris in a wide variety of natural wilderness environments. Liwonde National Park, along the Shire River, has hippos (including an albino one!), crocodiles, lions, elephants and even leopards (apparently). The mixed terrain and varied landscapes also provide for excellent outdoor activities, including trekking and mountain biking, particularly in the highland areas. Those seeking cultural experiences are also well served by sites of historical interest and simple village visits to meet the ever-smiling Malawians in their daily life. You can visit the Carlsberg factory in Blantyre, climb Mount Mulanje (a series of high hills, mountains - making a good trek), drive up or climb Zomba Plateau, go horseback riding in Kande or Nyika, or just relax on the beaches of Cape Maclear.

Specialist tours/activities include yoga holidays, tea factory tours and art safaris. Pottery classes are available at two centres in Dedza and Nkhotakota. In the summer months of Malawi (September/October) there is the Lake of Stars international music festival on the beaches of Sunbird Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi. This is a good festival, where you can relax in the sun on the beach having a few drinks and listening to some good music. Camping is the prominent form of accommodation, however many people do chose to stay in Sunbird Nkopola rooms themselves, or in rooms or cottages of nearby lodges.



The local currency is the Malawi kwacha, sometimes abbreviated "MK" (ISO international currency code: MWK). The currency is freely convertible (but impossible to get rid of outside of the country).

Coins of Malawi are issued in denominations of 1, 5 and 10 kwacha. Banknotes of Malawi are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 kwacha.

"Hard" foreign currencies (forex) will also be accepted by almost everybody, particularly for larger purchases. In order to reduce cost of living, expats living in Malawi could consider specialized FX transfer by companies focusing on global reach such as the ones found at MTC.com. If you bring foreign currency into the country and break the law by exchanging on the black market, in Lilongwe this is by using the people standing outside Metro (opposite Spar/Shoprite), they can give you an extra 40-50 kwacha (use that as a general idea of how much you should get) to the US dollar, pound or euro. Get the taxi to stop on the drive from the airport.

You can swap Malawian kwacha to Zambian kwacha at the border, either at the banks or on the black market too.

Larger foreign notes are favoured and can get much higher rates. At times, it can be easier to not even go to the black market and simply make purchases with the foreign currency.

Credit cards: Mastercard and Visa and are accepted by larger hotels and large supermarkets.

You can withdraw cash using a Mastercard or Visa card at many ATMs of the Standard Bank, Ecobank, National Bank of Malawi. Ecobank ATMs have no withdrawal fee for overseas cards.

Travellers' cheques can no longer be used.


Traditional Malawian food revolves around one staple, maize, served in one form, nsima (n'SEE-ma). Nsima is basically a type of thick porridge, rolled into balls with your right hand and dipped into a variety of stews known as relishes. Those who can afford them eat relishes of beef, chicken or fish, but the many who can't make do with beans, tiny dried fish (usipa), pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa) and other vegetables. At breakfast, nsima can be served watered down into a soup, maybe with a little sugar. Local restaurants will serve nsima and relish for less than MK500.

Food options in the major cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre are good. Fast food — to include burgers, pizza, and fried chicken — is very popular in Malawi. For sit-down meals, ethnic eateries (thanks to a significant ex-pat population) are popular. In many restaurants, pork products are not served to accommodate the Muslim population.

Outside the larger cities, however, you might be a little underwhelmed with food options. Along the major roadways, you will find "tuck shops" featuring packaged cookies or Take Away Meals — meat pies or sausage rolls, for instance — which may or may not satisfy you.

Finally, in terms of hygiene outside the major cities, you are unlikely to find a proper washroom with running water. You will probably be given a bowl of water, a piece of soap, and a (damp) towel. Therefore, some travellers bring small bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap with them.


Soft drinks

A traditional local drink worth trying is maheu, a somewhat gritty and vaguely yogurty but refreshing beverage made from maize meal. Factory-produced maheu is sweet, comes in plastic bottles and is available in a variety of flavours including banana, chocolate and orange, while home made versions are usually unflavored and less sweet.

The variety of soft drinks in Malawi is very popular - there's Coke, Sprite, Tonic, Ginger Ale, Soda Water, Cherry Plum, Cocopina and the very tasty, sugary Fantas (coming in Orange, Grape, Exotic, Passion and Pineapple flavours). These are manufactured by SOBO, the glass bottles are on a deposit system. Expect to pay MK50 extra per bottle unless you bring some 'empties' with you.


The only beers you will generally find are brewed in Blantyre by Carlsberg, and its products are available in restaurants and stores throughout the country. A normal Carlsberg is known as a 'green', but the company also produces Special Brew, Stout, Classic, Elephant, Light and Kuche Kuche. You can also buy imported drinks such as Heineken, Kronenbourg, Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer and some ciders in certain bars. Malawi also produces its own spirits - notably Malawi Vodka, Malawi Gin, Malawi Rum, Gold Label Brandy and the cane spirit Powers. Malawi Gin & Tonic is a very nice, popular expat drink in the country.


Western-standard hotels can be found in BlantyreLilongweZomba and Mzuzu, as well as along the shores of Lake Malawi. The Lake Malawi resort hotels cater primarily to international tourists.

There are Backpacker Hostels in many places in Malawi with dorm beds from US$10 per person.

There are high-level five-star resort hotels in some rural areas charging western prices.


Malawi's largest tertiary education structure is the University of Malawi which is made up of Chancellor College in ZombaBlantyre Polytechnic in Chichiri, and College of Medicine. Bunda College of Agriculture and Kamuzu College of Nursing in Lilongwe. There is also Mzuzu University in the northern part of Malawi.

Stay safe

Malawi has been known for years as "The Warm Heart of Africa", and Malawians are known for their friendliness and hospitality. Malawi is not known as a particularly dangerous travel destination for western tourists and expatriates. Muggings and robberies have occurred in the larger cities, most especially Lilongwe, as well as in some notorious places along the main tourist routes. It is advisable to avoid walking alone at night. If you go out for the evening, make sure you know how you're going back home. Car-jackings happen occasionally so be sure to keep windows shut and doors locked during evening and night journeys (though night driving is not advised - most cars have broken headlights and Malawians tend to walk in the middle of the road at night) and exercise reasonable caution you would anywhere. Roads are less safe because many drivers are unlicensed and inexperienced and many vehicles are not inspection-ready; there is also the factor of drunk driving, especially in the evenings, so be cautious. However even half the taxi drivers you will get at night will be drunk.

There are a lot of pickpockets operating in nightclubs and bars. Just exercise caution, don't bring too much money and cameras, etc.so don't bring hordes of cash with you.

Homosexuality is prohibited by the law, and LGBT couples should exercise discretion when travelling to Malawi. It took a presidential pardon to release a gay couple who were arrested for homosexuality and sentenced to 14 years of hard labour.

Swimming in water bodies can be dangerous for crocodiles and hippos.

Stay healthy

As with its neighbouring countries malaria can be a problem. The lake is freshwater and is prone to bilharzia, especially in the Cape Maclear area. Symptoms of bilharzia can take months to surface. If you think you've been exposed to it you can get a very cheap pill from the local pharmacists that will kill it before it even shows its face. It's a good idea to take care of this before leaving Malawi, as it will be much more expensive back home.

The adult HIV prevalence in the country is at 14% or 1 in 7 adults. Do not have unprotected sex. Do not use injecting drugs.

Tap water in major cities like LilongweBlantyreZomba and Mzuzu is generally safe. Ask at the lodge/house you're at. Travellers with weaker stomachs should avoid this drinking water. Bottled water is plentiful in all the major shops.

Dogs, cats and other animals can spread rabies.


Malawi has both patriarchal and matriarchal ethnicities and cultures. In the cities, men tend to be more respected than women, but the reverse might be true in the rural villages depending on ethnicity. Whites tend to be well-respected, a holdover from colonial times, but this is largely a Malawian's way of being courteous. Accept their hospitality. They are an exceptionally friendly people.

Malawians, especially those from very rural areas where they don't see many whites, can be quite curious when they do come upon a white traveller. To a Western mindset, this might be interpreted as unnecessarily staring at you or talking about you in front of you. Be prepared to be greeted by kids yelling mzungu, mzungu! and to answer lots of questions about yourself. Even relatively mundane items like mechanical pencils can draw a crowd of onlookers.

Malawians are in general extremely courteous, and a part of that courtesy is shaking hands, speaking softly, and referring to travellers and others with respect. Malawians avoid rudeness. It is common for Malawi men to hold hands when they've gathered together to chat, and this shouldn't be given a sexual interpretation when it is encountered.

Culturally, women should not wear shorts or mini-skirts, especially when travelling outside the lodge or camp. A woman in shorts or a short skirt is considered to be provocative, as well as rude. Many female visitors wear wraps that are available in the stores and markets of major cities. These are generally made of bright, colored patterns and can be extremely attractive. Low-cut tops on women, while discouraged, are not nearly as provocative. Men in the cities tend to wear slacks and not shorts, as shorts are generally worn only by school-age children, so when a man wears shorts it can be viewed by Malawians as rather silly.

Finally, when meeting a Malawian — even to ask a question — you should always say hello and ask how they are. Properly greeting a Malawian is very important. They are uncomfortable with the Western notion of simply "getting to the point." Courtesy is a must, at all times, because not to be courteous is to show disrespect.



The countries two main mobile gsm providers are Airtel and TNM. For 3G TNM has better coverage with Airtel only really covering the largest cities. SIM cards are available for 200 MK.


Skyband provide public WiFi hotspots around airports, restaurants, hotels, conference areas, cafes, sports clubs, bars, pubs and general public areas. Credit is purchased with vouchers in denominations of 25MB, 50MB, 100MB, 200MB and 500MB at hotspot locations. The price is high when compared to a data bundle with a mobile provider.


Go next

  • Tanzania
  • South Luangwa National Park — Kiboko Camp and some other travel agencies run roundtrip safaris from Lilongwe to this fantastic national park in Zambia.
  • Mozambique

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.


Violent robberies and petty crime, such as pickpocketing, mugging and bag-snatching, occur. Tourists are particularly targeted on Kenyatta Drive, walking between the Old Town and the Capital City, at the main bus station in both Lilongwe and Blantyre as well as at the main ports for the Ilala ferry. Avoid walking alone at night. Con artists are active in major cities and tourist destinations such as Blantyre, Cape Maclear, Nkhata Bay, Senga Bay, Mzuzu and Zomba.

Do not show signs of affluence. Muggings have resulted in the loss of travel and identification documents. Carry copies of your passport identification page and other travel documents and place the originals in safekeeping facilities.

Residential break-ins and carjackings are prevalent throughout the country. Organized robberies and attacks by gangsters occur and may target foreigners. Carjackings often occur when a vehicle is stopped, for example, when waiting to enter at a compound vehicle gate, at intersections, or in traffic.

In Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, as well as in BlantyreZomba and Mzuzu, there are reports of a gang of men attacking women wearing pants, leggings and short skirts. The women are stripped and robbed. Women travellers in these areas should avoid wearing close fitting clothing and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Contact the Mountain Club of Malawi for security advice before climbing Mount Mulanje.


Political demonstrations and strike activity occur and can turn violent, especially in the capital Lilongwe. Exercise a high degree of caution, avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.

Road travel

Traffic drives on the left. The traffic-related death rate is high. Poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles, and inadequate street lighting make driving dangerous. Potholes, pedestrians, animals, abandoned vehicles, and vehicles travelling at night without lights also pose risks. Avoid driving outside cities after dark. Emergency roadside assistance is very limited.

Armed carjackings, particularly of four-wheel-drive vehicles, have occurred. You should not resist if threatened by carjackers. Always wear seat belts. Keep windows closed and doors locked and never leave your personal belongings in a vehicle.

Hitchhiking or taking matola (informal lifts in the back of open vehicles) is considered dangerous.

Public transportation

Public transport is limited in rural areas. There are regular flights and bus services between BlantyreZombaLilongwe and Mzuzu. Travel by minibus between cities is not recommended, as they are overcrowded and poorly maintained.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Exercise great caution, especially on buses, at bus stops, and while hiking, or when approached by persons who wish to befriend you, help you, or become your tour guide. Do not accept food or drink from strangers as it could be drugged. Do not leave your luggage unattended.

Tourist facilities are limited outside of major centres.

Hikers on Mount Mulanje are advised to employ a locally registered tour guide.

Reserves and safaris

There are inherent risks associated with viewing wildlife (both marine and on land), particularly on foot or at close range. Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife and avoid leaving the vehicle unless it is deemed safe to do so by professional guides and wardens. Use only reputable and professional guides or tour operators, and closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.


Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).


Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.


Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

African trypanosomiasis

African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a tsetse fly. Tsetse fly bites are painful and if the disease is left untreated it is eventually fatal. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from bites especially in game parks and rural areas during the day. Avoid wearing bright or dark-coloured clothing as these colours attract tsetse flies. There is no vaccine available for this disease.


Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly.  Onchocerciasis often leads to blindness if left untreated. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from blackfly bites, which are most common during the daytime and close to running water. There is no vaccine available for onchocerciasis although drug treatments exist.



  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.


Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are below Western standards. Medical evacuations to South Africa are required for serious conditions. Cash payment is expected and may be required before any service is provided.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

It is illegal to purchase uncut precious stones and they may not be exported.

It is prohibited to import ivory, drugs and pornographic material. A licence is required to import firearms and munitions for the purpose of hunting. Contact the High Commission of the Republic of Malawi for specific information regarding customs requirements.

It is illegal to talk on a mobile phone while driving.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Photography of government buildings, airports, bridges, churches or synagogues, and military installations is prohibited. It may be culturally offensive to photograph people, and it is recommended that their permission be obtained first.

Penalties for drunk driving and speeding are severe in Malawi.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.


As in many African countries, Malawian culture is generally conservative and respectful of elders. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour. Respect religious beliefs and social conventions to avoid offending local sensitivities.


The local currency is the Malawi kwacha (MWK). Credit cards are not widely accepted outside major hotels. Foreign currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks and exchange houses. There are very few automated banking machines, even in tourist locations, and they may not accept international cards.


Malawi is located in a seismic zone. Although infrequent, earthquakes do occasionally occur. The most recent earthquake occurred on January 12, 2010, and measured 4.9 on the Richter scale. An earthquake may cause landslides in affected areas. Strong aftershocks are possible up to one week after the initial quake.

The rainy season extends from November to April. Secondary roads may be impassable to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles during this period. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly. If intending to visit flood-affected areas, ensure that you have sufficient quantities of potable water in reserve.

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