IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR VISITORS TO MALAWI
Visa and Immigration requirements - click here to find out more
A full valid passport is required for entry to Malawi, though visitors from many countries do not need to pre-arrange visas. Citizens from the following countries may not require visas; Commonwealth (excluding India, Pakistan, and Nigeria), European Union countries, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Madagascar, Norway, San Marino, and the USA. It is always important to check with the nearest Malawi diplomatic mission, or the Deputy Chief Immigration officer in Blantyre. For a stay of under 30 days, a tourist visa shall be issued, free of charge, at your point of entry into Malawi. For a stay of longer than 30 days you must visit the immigration offices (those in Blantyre are closest to AYISE) and pay for an extension. Current prices (September 2010) are 5000MK per month.
International flights - click here to find out more
Several airlines serve Malawi: Air Malawi, British Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, Air Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, and Air Tanzania. Most of the international services are from Lilongwe International Airport, 26 Km north of the city although some regional routes use Blantyre's Chileka Airport. Both airports have car hire, banks and tourism information.
Domestic Flights - click here to find out more
Air Malawi connects Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu, Karonga, and Club Makokola on the southern lakeshore.
When to visit - click here to find out more
Malawi is always beautiful. The cooler months (May to October) are comfortable for travelers from the northern hemisphere. On occasions, the weather can be pretty cool at this time of year, dropping to single figures most nights, and with temperatures often as low as 12 Celsius when rain storms come through for 2 or 3 days. Mostly the weather in this period will be dry and warm, but do be prepared for cool wet weather, especially in hilly Bangwe! The lush green summer (November to April) is also a good time to visit if due care is taken to avoid mosquito bites. The May and June months combine the best of both seasons - cooler, still green with great visibility - and are especially good for photography. Be warned that country roads are often impassable to normal vehicles during heavy rains.
Game viewing is best in the hottest times of the dry season when the animals are forced to visit predictable water sources, but the country is more attractive in the wetter, greener months. Bird watchers enjoy their best sightings in October and November.
Check for school holiday dates, particularly for those in South Africa when more tourists visit Malawi and resorts can become crowded.
Geography - click here to find out more
The Great Rift Valley runs across eastern Africa like an ancient scar from the Red Sea in the north to the Zambezi valley in the south. Malawi has two rift lakes - Lake Malawi and Lake Malombe - as well as Lake Chilwa and Lake Chiuta, which lie outside the Rift system. In all, over 20% of Malawi is covered by water. The Shire River, the only outlet from Lake Malawi, joins the Zambezi River in Mozambique, thence to the Indian Ocean.
In the north the Rift Valley Escarpment rises steeply from the Lake, reaching altitudes of 2500metres, and higher across the Lake in the Livingston Mountains of Tanzania. Mountainous areas in the north include the beautiful Nyika Plateau and the forested Viphya Plateau. in the south the majestic Mulanje Mountain towers above the mist and the plains.
Driving in Malawi - click here to find out more
A full international driver's licence is required and a minimum age of 25 with 2 years driving experience may be asked for if hiring a car. From experience of some of our volunteers it appears that a UK Driving Licence is also accepted at police check points.
Police checkpoints are installed roughly every 70-100km on major roads, and they will assess your legal status to drive, and the condition of the vehicle (including whether it has a spare tyre and hazard triangles).
Speed limits are 80km/hour out of town, and as stated in town (almost always 50km/hour, but sometimes 60km/hour).
Speeds and distances are in km/hour and km.
Driving in Malawi requires a greater degree of concentration than in other, more developed countries, as there are many unpredictable hazards such as goats, chickens, cattle who can walk straight onto the road, and cyclists, pedestrians and other drivers who do not exercise appropriate care or attention. Thus you should plan regular stops into your trip to allow for a change of drivers or a driver to rest.
There is a reasonable network of petrol stations covering all but the most remote rural areas. Diesel tends to be cheaper than petrol, but both are expensive - often at or above European prices.
Car hire is readily available on a 'per km' rate or with unlimited distance (often only available if hiring for a period of 14 days or longer). If one is touring the country, it is easy to achieve the necessary daily mileages using a private car on the road network. An example would be Blantyre to Lilongwe, which should take around 5 hours in a private car. Car hire can be expensive, but shopping around will help to provide you with the information you require.
Health - click here to find out more
Travelers need to consult their doctor or a travel clinic to obtain the latest advice on immunizations. Presently the following immunizations are usually advised before entering Malawi: polio, tetanus, typhoid fever and hepatitis A. Yellow fever immunization is not is not need for Malawi. Cholera and Rabies are limited and vaccination is usually only recommended for those at particularly high risk. Malaria prevention should be strongly considered, but may not be absolutely necessary in the cooler months unless one visits the Shire Valley or the Lake - Malaria is high in these areas all year round.
Public Transport - click here to find out more
Taxis operate from the hotels mostly. There are numerous minibuses to take people around towns and also the next region. The bus network is expanded, and reasonably comfortable and efficient. Axa coaches, and National Express lines, run local rural services and luxury long distance coach lines connecting Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre with Harare and Johannesburg.
Money - click here to read about currency, banking and credit cards
The Malawian currency is the Kwacha, abbr. MK. Available notes range are: 500MK, 200MK, 100MK, 50MK, 20MK, denominations, below this are coins, the most commonly used denominations being: 10MK, 5MK and 1MK. In September 2010 the Malawi Kwacha was rated as follows: 150MK = 1 US$, 240MK = 1 GB Pound. Up to date currency rates can be found on many online websites, for example www.xe.com.
There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency brought into the country though it all should be declared on arrival to prevent restriction on the same amount being taken out when departing.
There is a very wide choice of banks Malawi. Currently more than 10 banks are operational; Stanbic Bank, National bank, Indebank, Ned bank, Finance Bank, First Merchant Bank, Loita bank, Opportunity Bank, Malawi savings bank. Most of these banks operate from 08 hrs to 15 hrs with a long and unpredictable lunch break. Traveler cheques and foreign currency are traded in banks and forex (foreign exchange) bureaus. Hotels also provide such services. The best rates tend to be found at forex bureaus.
Major Hotels, restaurants, car hire and clubs do accept credit cards. Their use is limited in many areas, especially away from the major cities and up-market tourism industry. Recently there is a Smart Cash card that has been introduced, facilitating ease of shopping for the holder.
Culture - click here to read about government, language and religion
Malawi was ruled as a one party state by Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda till 1994 when multi party elections were held. The current President is Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika who won elections in 2004 and was re-elected in 2009.
The national language is Chichewa with Yao and Tumbuka as the next most used languages. English is the official language and is used widely in commerce, education as a primary language.
Malawi is around 44% Christian, with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian and Roman Catholic as the most popular in the country. Muslims account for about 30% of the population. Other beliefs include Rastafarians and Animists, among others. There is freedom of worship in Malawi.
Business Hours - click here to find out more
Business opens at 08 to 17.00 hrs. Work starts at 07.30 hrs. Many businesses will close, or reduce service over lunch time - from perhaps 12 noon to 2pm.
Media - click here to find out more
Newspapers in Malawi include; The Daily Times, The Nation, The independent, The Malawi Times, The Malawi News, The Saturday Nation, The Enquirer, Newsday.
Radio Stations include; Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (FM. MW, SW) BBC World service (FM, SW), VOA (SW), FM 101 Power, Capital Radio 102.5 FM, Trans World Radio, CFC Radio, Joy Radio
Television stations include; TV Malawi. BBC, CNN, M-Net, from DSTv.
Universities and Colleges - click here to find out more
Public/State Universities and Colleges
University of Malawi with the following Constituent Colleges:
Bunda College of Agriculture
Kamuzu College of Nursing
College of Medicine
Malawi College of Accountancy
Malawi College of Health Sciences
Domasi College of Education
Natural Resources College.
Private Universities and Colleges
Share World Open University
University of Livingstonia
Sky Way Business College
Blantyre Business College
Time Zone - click here to find out more
Malawi lies in GMT +2, the same central African time zone as South Africa. It is one hour ahead of central European time, seven hours ahead of Eastern US time and ten hours ahead of western US time.
Dialing Codes - click here to find out more
Country Code: 265
Malawi has no area codes.
In July 2002 all Malawi's telephone numbers became 8 digits. Land lines gained the prefix 01 and cell phones 08 or 09.When dialing into Malawi from another country, the first 0 should not be dialed.