Malawi (Chichewa: Malaŵi) is a country in Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the south and east, Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west. Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, runs along most of its eastern border. It's often described as the "Warm Heart of Africa", referring to the friendliness of the people. Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi on 6 July 1964. Hastings Kamuzu Banda (born in March or April 1898 and died 25 November 1997) was the leader of Malawi and its predecessor state, Nyasaland, from 1961 to 1994. After three decades of one-party rule, the country held multi-party elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution, which took full effect the following year. National multi-party elections were held again in 1999 and 2004 electing Bingu wa Mutharika as president. President Bingu died in office on 5 April 2012 and was succeeded by Mrs Joyce Banda. The next elections are due in 2014.
Much of Malawi is plateau, often reaching to 1,000m (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's impossible to visit and not 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.
How to Get in
Most visitors from industrialized countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, most European Union countries, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan do not require a visa to enter Malawi. A tourist visa lasts for 30 days, but be careful as they sometimes only write '7 days' on your passport stamp upon arrival at the airport. A tourist visa can be renewed for an extra 30 days twice (for 5000 Malawian kwacha each time) or for 60 days all at once for MWK10,000 at the immigration offices.
Others (especially some Central and Eastern Europeans) can get the visa only when arriving by air. If you however require a visa and try to enter by land, you can request a conditional entry permit to be issued by the border guards. They are usually willing to do so, but for a (negotiable) fee. With that permit in hand you must report to the Immigration HQ in Blantyre or Lilongwe within a period of time specified in the permit. There they will then (usually) issue you the proper visa for the official fee of USD70.
Malawi's largest international airport is in Lilongwe, although there are also some flights from Blantyre to regional destinations. Most travellers connect via Johannesburg (South Africa), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) or Nairobi (Kenya).
State carrier Air Malawi claims to be "Africa's Friendliest Airline", but its limited network covers only nearby countries. They have flights from Blantyre to Lilongwe and back, 7 days a week. Three times a week they fly from both Lilongwe and Blantyre to Johannesburg (Su, W & F). Two times a week there is a flight to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), from Blantyre and Lilongwe (sun, thu). Lusaka (Zambia) is three times a week (Su, W & F) and Harare (Zimbabwe) is also three times a week (Su, W & Sa).
Swift Air is a privately owned airline operating flights between Johannesburg, Blantyre and Lilongwe. It operates a Boeing 737 aircraft.
The previous international departure tax of USD30 is now included in the air fare.
Nyassa Air Taxi has a shuttle service from USD280 per person from Mfuwe to Lilongwe.
Budget carrier, FastJet, is now offering cheap airfares from Lilongwe to Dar es Salaam.
There are trains twice a week from Blantyre to Cuamba and Nampula in northern Mozambique, although a 77km stretch of track between the Mozambique border and Cuamba is out of commission and must be covered by truck.
Trains are no longer running in Malawi. Minibuses are doing all the stretches of road, and you can catch trains in Mozambique.
A ferry runs twice a week from Likoma Island to Cobuè and Metangula in Mozambique.
The main road (M1) runs from the northern border (Kaporo) through Karonga, Mzuzu, Lilongwe and finally to Mchinji and is in excellent shape. There is an excellent road from Lilongwe to Mchinji on the Zambian border (120km).
To get into Malawi from Mozambique, in the south, one 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 one should plan on getting there early, and trying to keep it cool with all the border-hawkers.
Direct buses run from Lusaka, Zambia to Lilongwe, but are best avoided (or done in stretches) if 18-20 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. The cost is around MWK400-500 depending on negotiation. 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.
Note that 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.
It is very easy to get into Malawi from the border with Tanzania by thumb. Because of the enormous amount of people importing cars from Dar es Salaam, and the fact that there is only one good road south, all cars and trucks are going the same way. As always with hitchhiking in Africa, most people will expect some kind of payment, but it will most likely be cheaper than public transport. If coming from Dar es Salaam, get a bus that goes to Malawi, like the Taqwa, and buy a ticket to the Kasumulu Border only. If you don't manage to get a ride onwards you can always jump back on the bus which waits the whole day at the border for Customs checks. The best place to wait is the entry gate at left side of the building (coming from Tanzania) where all cars have to pass through. That's the same side where you have to get your visa. A lot of friendly people, people waiting for their cars to be allowed in or even the police will be very friendly and offer to help you finding a ride. Lilongwe will probably cost around MWK4000-5000 (€10 / USD13). Just don't tell any police checkpoints that you are paying your driver. They will see it as illegal taxi business on the drivers part and fine him between MWK5000-10000 on the spot.
How to 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.
The Malawian police force have check points along many of the major roadways. By and large, they are looking for illegal activities and bribes - but aren't too much of a problem. Expect to be stopped on occasion and asked where you are going. You should not have any problems if you are polite and have the correct documentation (passport, driving licence, permission to use the vehicle, etc.) available if they ask.
Like most other former British colonies, traffic moves on the left in Malawi with most cars having their steering wheel on the right. Drink-driving is prohibited in Malawi. It has a zero-tolerance rule meaning that a driver must not consume any alcohol at all.
Local car rental companies
Apex Rent-a-Car Malawi. Sedans, 4x4s, even buses.
SS Rent-a-Car, 4x4s, 16 and 26 seat buses, Motorbikes.
Sputnik Car Hire, 4x4s,buses,trucks
Unfortunately 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.
Bushtackers, P.O. Box 4225, Rivonia, 2128, Johannesburg, South Africa, ☎ +27 11 465 5700 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Allow you to enter Malawi if you ask by email.
Travelling by boat is surely the most enjoyable mode of getting around in Malawi. The Ilala ferry runs north from Monkey Bay to Chilumba (departs F 10:00, arrives Su 18:30), and back southbound on the same route (departure Chilumba on Monday 02:00, arriving at Monkey Bay on Wednesday at 14:00). Prices are rising with every year, but so is the ferry's reliability: some years back (before its privatization) it was perfectly normal to arrive a day late sometimes. The Ilala thus connects Likoma Island twice a week with the mainland, and the much closer Cobuè in Mozambique, respectively. Prices in January 2006 were about 6000 Malawian kwacha from Monkey Bay to Likoma, and MWK1600 from Likoma to Nkatha Bay. If you are on a schedule and don't mind a more uncomfortable ride, you might be able to catch the Malungo ferry from Nhkata Bay to Likoma on Saturday morning, but make sure to check at the harbor the day before.
Air Malawi flies small propeller planes between the three big cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre.
Nyassa Air Taxi is by far the preferred choice to fly guests in and around Malawi.
Swiftair operates scheduled domestic flights between Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Karonga and Blantyre on a twin engine, dual crew Beechcraft 1900.
"Luxury" buses, medium-sized buses, and minibuses all service Malawi. They vary in comfort and price. Vehicle condition can be very poor and road accidents are relatively common.
Probably the best national coach services are provided by AXA Bus Company. They have their main office building very close the the immigration department in Lilongwe. They are also the only company with some sort of a timetable which they follow very well for Malawian standards. AXA coaches go to the bigger cities of Malawi and generally don't stop in small towns.
Other bus companies include UDK Passenger Services, National Bus Company and Restoration Express (Mostly northern region of Malawi). These buses go on a full is go basis. They wait for a full bus and then depart. Not much of a timetable. National Bus Company seems to have the most extensive network in the country, and stops in every small town if required. UDK seems to be the fastest option, after AXA. Prices for Zomba - Lilongwe with UDK are MWK2,500 as of February 2013. Whereas AXA charges you double, for only a little more comfort. Medium-sized buses tend to be big minibuses, coasters, that stop everywhere just like minibuses. Their seats offer more comfort than minibus seats, although when they fill up, they fill up good and most of your comfort will be squeezed out of you by your neighbours, and their speed will drop incredibly.
The cheapest way to get around Lilongwe is by minibus. The cost to get from the old town to suburbs is MWK150-200 depending on the current situation with fuel shortages.
Unlike the general idea that minibuses fly over the road, ignoring every traffic sign. They are the slowest mode of transportation. In general, transport in Malawi is slow, but it's not unheard of doing Lilongwe to Zomba in 7 or 8 hours on a minibus whereas most big buses do it in 5 to 6 hours. Also, minibuses are more expensive than the big buses on longer distances.
Taxis are available in any city, whether they are licensed or not. Be prepared to negotiate as quoted prices to tourists are generally two to three times the actual going rate. Ask a friendly local or expat what the price should be. Rental cars are also available in these towns. Costs vary depending on vehicle type, but expect a compact car to run about USD60/day.
New Visa regulations for Malawi have officially come into effect and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Here are the quick facts;
Who pays? All nationals from countries that require Malawian nationals to pay visa fees. These countries include but not limited to the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Schengen member states, Australia, New Zealand. Most Middle East countries. Who is exempt? 1) Holders of PRPs, TEPs and student visas 2) Diplomats accredited to Malawi 3) All Diplomatic and service/official Passport holders on official business 4) Ordinary Passport holders coming for official government business 5) countries belonging to SADC and COMESA; with the exception of those countries that charge visa fees to Malawian nationals
When will it be implemented? It has already been implemented beginning October 2015 What are the charges and in what currency? Payment is to be made in US dollars even though an electronic payment system is at an advanced stage, the charges are as follows; Transit visa (7 days) – US$50 Single entry visa (3 months) – US$75 Multiple entry visa (6 months) – US$150 Multiple entry visa (12 months) – US$250 Visas can be obtained at port of entry but we would highly recommend that guests arrange this prior to arrival wherever they can at the neatest Diplomatic Mission. Visa application forms are available at Kambuku Safaris if you request for them from any of the consultants (can also be emailed), alternatively the forms can be downloaded from the Malawi Immigration Website.
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