Sunday, December 3, 2023
Malawi Travel Guide - Travel S Helper


travel guide

Malawi is a landlocked nation in southeast Africa that was once known as Nyasaland. Its official name is the Republic of Malawi. It is bounded to the northwest by Zambia, to the northeast by Tanzania, and to the east, south, and west by Mozambique. Lake Malawi separates the nation from Tanzania and Mozambique. Malawi has an area of approximately 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) and a population of 16,777,547 people (July 2013 est.). Its capital, Lilongwe, is also Malawi’s largest city; the second largest is Blantyre, the third is Mzuzu, and the fourth is Zomba, the country’s former capital. Malawi derives its name from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that live in the area. The country is also known as “Africa’s Warm Heart.”

Malawi is one of Africa’s smallest countries. Lake Malawi covers around one-third of Malawi’s land area.

Around the 10th century, migratory Bantu communities arrived in the area that is today known as Malawi. Centuries later, in 1891, the British colonized the region. Malawi, formerly known as Nyasaland, a British protectorate, became a protectorate under the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953. In 1963, the Federation was disbanded. The protectorate of Nyasaland ended in 1964, and Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II, renamed Malawi. It became a republic two years later. It became a one-party state after independence, led by Hastings Banda, who served as president until 1994, when he was defeated in an election. The current president is Arthur Peter Mutharika. Malawi has a multi-party democratic government. Malawi has a Malawian Defence Force, which includes an army, a navy, and an air wing. Malawi’s foreign policy is pro-Western, with positive diplomatic relations with the vast majority of countries and membership in a number of international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern AfricaCOMESA, and the African Union AU.

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries. The economy is strongly focused on agriculture, and the population is primarily rural. Malawi’s government is largely reliant on foreign help to satisfy development requirements, however this need (and the amount of aid provided) has declined since 2000. Malawi’s government is facing problems in developing and increasing the economy, boosting education, healthcare, environmental preservation, and achieving financial independence. Malawi has established many initiatives addressing these concerns since 2005, and the country’s outlook looks to be improving, with increases in the economy, education, and healthcare evident in 2007 and 2008.

Malawi has a low birth rate and a high infant death rate. The incidence of HIV/AIDS is significant, putting a strain on the labor force and government budgets. There is a varied population of local peoples, Asians, and Europeans, who speak a variety of languages and have a variety of religious views. Although there had been recurrent regional warfare in the past, fueled in part by ethnic divides, it had subsided significantly by 2008, and the notion of a Malawian nationality had re-emerged.

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Malawi - Info Card




Malawian kwacha (D) (MWK)

Time zone



23,200 km2 (9,000 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Malawi - Introduction


Much of Malawi is plateau, with elevations often exceeding 1,000 meters (3,000 feet), and the climate in these highlands is moderate, with the warmest months happening during the fall rainy season and the coldest and chilliest months occurring in winter. The lower Shire River Valley, south of Blantyre, is the warmest part in the nation. The weather near the beautiful Lake Malawi is usually warm, although there is a refreshing wind in the nights. Winters are dry (May to July). The rainy season usually starts in mid-October and lasts until early November.


According to 2009 estimates, Malawi has a population of about 15 million people and is growing at a pace of 2.75 percent. By 2050, the population is expected to have increased to about 45 million people, almost doubling from the projected 16 million in 2010.

Malawi’s population is made up of local ethnic groups such as the Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, and Ngonde, as well as Asians and Europeans. English is the official language. Chichewa, which is spoken by approximately 57 percent of the people, Chinyanja (12.8 percent), Chiyao (10.1 percent), and Chitumbuka are also important languages (9.5 percent ).

Malawian Lomwe is spoken by approximately 250,000 people in the southeast of the country; Kokola is spoken by approximately 200,000 people in the southeast; Lambya is spoken by approximately 45,000 people in the northwestern tip; Ndali is spoken by approximately 70,000; Nyakyusa-Ngonde is spoken by approximately 300,000 people in northern Malawi; Malawian Sena is spoken by approximately 270,000 people in southern Malawi; and Tonga is spoken by approximately 270,000 people in southern Malawi.


Malawi is a mostly Christian nation with a sizable Muslim minority, the precise numbers of which are contested. There is little data on religious affiliation in the nation, with wildly different figures. According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Malawi Religion Project, about 68 percent of Malawians identify as Christians, 25% as Muslims, and 5% as “other” in 2010. According to somewhat older CIA data from 1998, 82 percent of the population was Christian, while 13 percent was Muslim.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Church are the two biggest Christian denominations in Malawi (CCAP). With 1.3 million members, the CCAP is Malawi’s largest Protestant denomination. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Malawi and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Malawi are two minor Presbyterian churches in Malawi. Anglicans, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses (about 89,000), evangelicals, and Seventh-day Adventists are among the minor denominations. At the end of 2015, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had slightly over 2,000 members in the United States.

The majority of Muslims are Sunni, belonging to either the Qadriya or Sukkutu sects, with just a few Ahmadiyya Muslims.

Rastafarians, Hindus, Baha’is (0.2 percent), and approximately 300 Jews are among the country’s other religious communities. Atheists account for around 4% of the population, but this figure may include individuals who follow traditional African faiths.


Malawi is a landlocked nation in southeastern Africa, bordering on the northwest by Zambia, on the northeast by Tanzania, and on the south, southwest, and southeast by Mozambique. It is located between 9° and 18° South latitude and 32° and 36° East longitude.

The Great Rift Valley runs across the nation from north to south, while Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) sits to the east of the valley, forming more than three-quarters of Malawi’s eastern border. Lake Malawi is known as the Calendar Lake because it is 365 miles (587 kilometers) long and 52 miles (84 kilometers) broad.  The Shire River runs from the south end of the lake to Mozambique, where it meets the Zambezi River 250 miles (400 kilometers) south. Lake Malawi has a surface elevation of 1,500 feet (457 meters) above sea level and a maximum depth of 2,300 feet (701 meters), meaning the lake bottom is nearly 700 feet (213 meters) below sea level at times.

Plateaus reach 3,000 to 4,000 feet (914 to 1,219 m) above sea level in the hilly areas of Malawi around the Rift Valley, with some rising as high as 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in the north. The Shire Highlands, located to the south of Lake Malawi, are gently undulating terrain that rises to around 3,000 feet (914 meters) above sea level. The Zomba and Mulanje mountain peaks reach to 7,000 and 10,000 feet, respectively, in this region (2,134 and 3,048 m). Although Cape Maclear is a portion of the Lake, the water in this region is quite different from the rest of the lake. It offers a lovely view of tiny rocky mountains and small islands around it. A spectacular sunset. Water activities like as snorkeling, jet skiing, and speed boats are also available, making it a great relaxing location.

Lilongwe is Malawi’s capital, while Blantyre, the country’s commercial center, with a population of over 500,000 people. Malawi has two World Heritage Sites on the UNESCO list. The Chongoni Rock Art Area was officially classified in 2006, while Lake Malawi National Park was first listed in 1984.

The southern lowlands of Malawi have a hot temperature, whereas the northern highlands have a moderate environment. The height cools the climate, which would otherwise be tropical. The weather is hot from November and April, with tropical showers and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their apex in late March. Rainfall decreases quickly after March, and moist mists drift from the highlands onto the plateaus from May to September, with practically little rainfall throughout these months.


Malawi’s official languages are English and Chichewa. Although English is commonly spoken in metropolitan areas and among the well-educated upper class, a few phrases in Chichewa will go you a long way outside of that. Chichewa is the majority of the population’s first language, and knowing it will get you by in much of Malawi, but learning the local dialect may be necessary in certain isolated regions.

Foreigners who try to speak Chichewa are usually appreciated, and learning at least a few basic pleasantries can help you ingratiate yourself with the locals. Many individuals in the country’s north speak Tumbuka as their native language. The Yao people, who reside mostly in the country’s southern district, speak Chiyao. Malawi is a multi-cultural nation with more than a dozen indigenous ethnic groups, each with its own language. Even in such places, though, many younger individuals will be multilingual in both their native tongue and Chichewa.

Internet & Communications


Airtel and TNM are the country’s two mobile gsm carriers. TNM offers greater 3G coverage than Airtel, which only covers the major cities. Sim cards may be purchased for 200 MWK.


Skyband offers public WiFi hotspots in locations such as airports, restaurants, hotels, conference centers, cafes, sports clubs, bars, pubs, and other public spaces. At hotspot sites, credit is bought using vouchers in quantities of 25MB, 50MB, 100MB, 200MB, and 500MB. When compared to a data bundle from a mobile carrier, the pricing is considerable.

Entry Requirements For Malawi

Visa & Passport

For up to 90 days, nationals of the following countries do not need a visa to visit Malawi: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Botswana, Dominica, 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, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are all part of the Commonwealth of Nations.

For trips of up to 30 days, Hong Kong residents do not need a visa. Citizens of most other countries can obtain a $75 US dollar 30-day visa on arrival, but 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 are not eligible.

How To Travel To Malawi

Get In - By plane

Lilongwe is Malawi’s biggest international airport, but flights from Blantyre are also available.

The majority of travelers link via Johannesburg (South Africa) or Nairobi (Kenya) (Kenya). Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia (Ethiopia). Zambia’s Profileght travels to Lusaka.

Malawian Airlines, previously Air Malawi, has a small network servicing neighboring nations such as Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Harare, Beira, Nampula, and Tete.

Ulendo Airlink operates a service between Lilongwe and a number of airports in Malawi.

The previously charged USD30 international departure tax is now included in the price.

Get In - By train

Although a 77-kilometer section of track between the Mozambique border and Cuamba is out of service and must be traversed by truck, trains run twice a week from Blantyre to Cuamba and Nampula in northern Mozambique.

Get In - By boat

A ferry operates twice a week between Likoma Island and Mozambique’s Cobuè and Metangula.

Get In - By car

The major route (M1) goes from the northern border (Kaporo) to Mchinji, passing via Karonga, Mzuzu, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu. From Lilongwe to Mchinji on the Zambian border, there is a good road (120 km).

Get In - By bus

Take the bus from Tete (north-west Mozambique) to Zobwe to enter Malawi from Mozambique in the south. After crossing the border, board another bus to Blantyre. This crossing is very busy, and it closes at night, so plan on arriving early and attempting to maintain your cool among the border hawkers.

Direct buses operate from Lusaka, Zambia, to Lilongwe, although they’re best avoided (or done in segments) if spending 18-20 hours on a bus isn’t your idea of fun. There is also a minibus service from Tanzania’s Mbeya to the border. Take a cab to Karonga from the Malawi side of the border. The price ranges between 400 and 500 MK, depending on the terms of the agreement. Take a bus or minibus to various locations in Malawi from the Karonga bus terminal. Buses are less expensive than minibuses. The simplest option is to take a direct bus from Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam to Mzuzu or Lilongwe.

It is important to note that there are no direct buses from Mbeya to Malawi, despite the fact that fraudsters at the Mbeya bus station would tell you otherwise and try to sell you tickets. To get to the border, you must take a bus and then walk over.

Mzuzu, Mangochi, Blantyre, Lilongwe through Tete and Harare are all served by Intercape, which has the biggest intercity route network in Southern Africa. The cost of a one-way flight from Mzuzu to Johannesburg was 960 Rand.

How To Travel Around Malawi

Malawi’s main highways are in surprisingly excellent condition compared to its neighbors, and travel times between key sites should be manageable. The amount of traffic is light, and most people drive slowly. Road travel after dark is not recommended due to inadequate to non-existent road markings and the fact that not all vehicles have headlights. Even though there are few cars traveling at night, many of their drivers will be extremely drunk, especially outside of Lilongwe and Blantyre.

Roadblocks, checkpoints, and speeding checks are set up by the Malawian police on several main highways and at airports. In general, they’re on the lookout for illicit activity and bribes. Expect to be stopped and questioned where you are going on occasion, especially if you are obviously not a local. Fines for traffic violations vary from MWK2,000 for bad tyres or defective lights to MWK8000 for speeding, as well as vehicle confiscation for violations of license, registration, and insurance. Payment should be presented to a bursar by the side of the road, along with a numbered receipt from a duplicate book. If you are a passenger in a car driven by a local, the police may interrogate the driver or other passengers in the local dialect to see what information may be obtained from you.

If you are courteous and have the appropriate paperwork (passport, driver’s license, authorization to use the car, etc.) accessible if they ask, you should have no issues. Check that all tyres are in good condition, that all lights (including brake lights) are functioning, and that you have a road warning triangle and a fire extinguisher before operating any vehicle. Food, drinks, toys, and other items should not be displayed in the car since they will be demanded in return for passage. Allow additional time for airport travel since the police are aware that those who are in a hurry will pay. Speed checks are often conducted on highways outside of large cities (i.e., when the speed limit is set to rise), and urban speed restrictions may extend far into rural regions, typically for 10-12 kilometers outside of major cities.

Seatbelts must be worn at all times. Passengers must not have any limbs dangling from a vehicle, according to local regulations. Despite the fact that many local pick-ups can accommodate extra passengers in the cargo compartment, tourists should only do so if the vehicle has the necessary supplementary government paperwork.

Malawi is now suffering severe gasoline shortages, so stock up in neighboring countries unless you wish to wait for hours (without obtaining anything) or utilize the black market, where fuel costs are almost twice, if not treble, what they are in Malawi. If you’re going to remain in one place for a while, try to form a connection with the forecourt personnel at one place, but be seen buying modest quantities from other places on occasion. In times of scarcity, employees often offer regular clients priority treatment.

Keep an eye out for youngsters playing and animals, especially chickens, on the road in rural regions. While tiny animals may not cause harm to the car, they may deprive a family of a source of money or nourishment, as well as create a hostile environment when payment is demanded.

Get Around - By car

Malawi, like most other former British colonies, has left-hand traffic, with most vehicles having right-hand drive.

Car rental businesses in the area include:

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 automobile rental companies in Southern Africa do not allow their vehicles to enter Malawi. If you hire a vehicle in Zambia, you may have the greatest chance.

Rental cars that enable you to enter Malawi include:

  • Livingstone 4×4. Located in Lusaka, Zambia. 
  • Kwenda, 17 Samantha Street; Strijdom Park; Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa,  +27 44 533 5717, e-mail: [email protected].  
  • Bushtackers, P.O. Box 4225, Rivonia, 2128, Johannesburg, South Africa,  +27 11 465 5700, e-mail: [email protected]. Allow you to enter Malawi if you ask by email. 

Get Around - By boat

Traveling by boat is without a doubt the most pleasant form of transportation in Malawi. On Fridays at 10:00 a.m., the Ilala ferry departs Monkey Bay for Chilumba, arriving on Sunday at 18:30 a.m., and on Mondays at 02:00 a.m., it departs Chilumba for Monkey Bay, arriving on Wednesday at 14:00 a.m. Prices are increasing year after year, but so is the ferry’s dependability; it was problematic a few years ago, before it was privatized.

Destinations in Malawi

Cities in Malawi

  • Lilongwe – Malawi’s political capital and government seat
  • Blantyre – Economic hub and biggest city with a lively street and market culture, a busy downtown, excellent nightlife and music, a variety of hotels from the opulent to the squalid, and a range of hotels from the opulent to the squalid.
  • Karonga – The beautiful hamlet of Misuku is located between the fascinating Misuku Hills and Lake Malawi, and it is rapidly expanding as a result of the recent construction of a uranium mine.
  • Mangochi – On the route to peninsular Cape Maclear, this medium-sized town, previously known as Fort Johnston, serves as a jumping-off point for resorts and hostels along the Lake Malawi shore.
  • Monkey Bay – As you go along the Lake Road from Mangochi toward Cape Maclear, you’ll pass through this popular big hamlet.
  • Nkhata Bay – a rocky cove to the north of the lake where you may stay in one of the lodges and stay for a while
  • 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 – Malawi’s ancient colonial capital, known for its British colonial architecture, the University of Malawi, and the spectacular Zomba Plateau, which rises to the west of the city.

Other destinations in Malawi

  • Cape Maclear – On the point of a peninsula extending out into the southern part of Lake Malawi, there lies a laid-back fishing hamlet. The Cape is a popular destination for travelers, boaters, and sunseekers because of its beautiful sandy beaches and crystal-clear sea. Visitors should be aware that this region is renowned for having a high prevalence of schistosomiasis.
  • Kuti community Wildlife Park – On Salima Road, 90 kilometers from Lilongwe, you will get closer to zebra than anyplace else in Africa.
  • Likoma and Chisumulu Islands – There’s a lot of marine life here, and it’s close to Mozambique. These islands are only accessible to tourists by private boat or the public ferry, which only runs 1-2 times per week and is the only way for locals to 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 Malawian transporter’s way of life.
  • Mua
  • Zomba Plateau

National Parks and Forest Reserves in Malawi

  • Lake Malawi National Park
  • Liwonde National Park – 550 km2 of undeveloped woodland along the Shire River’s banks. The town of Liwonde is the ideal place to start your journey to the national park. A half-hour boat trip up the Shire will reveal some of the region’s amazing wildlife, including hippopotamuses, elephants, and fish eagles.
  • Majete Wildlife Park
  • Mount Mulanje is the highest mountain south of Kilimanjaro and a popular destination for climbers trying to reach Sapitwa Peak, Mulanje’s tallest peak. The reserve is part of the Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve.
  • Nyika National Park – The Nyika Plateau, at 1800 meters above sea level, is home to Malawi’s largest national park.
  • Ntchisi Forest Reserve – Beautiful rainforest in a remote, undeveloped region

Things To See in Malawi

Malawi offers a huge variety of stunning scenery. Malawi’s tallest peaks rise to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), while the lowest point is just a few feet above sea level. This wide variety of elevations in a short region contributes to Malawi’s scenery being one of the most diverse in Africa. Plateaus, highlands, forests, mountains, plains, escarpments, and spectacular river basins characterize the landscape.

The Rift Valley dominates the landscape, forming the enormous gap that Lake Malawi fills and spreading south of the nation along the Shire River, which drains the lake. Elephant Marsh, in the Lower Shire Valley, is one of the most significant wetlands in the Rift Valley’s flatter regions in South Malawi.

The Central African Plateau is to the west of the Lake and on either side of the Shire Valley towards the south. A number of spectacular escarpments mark the transition from the Rift Valley bottom to the Central African Plateau, such as the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a protected region of harsh, unspoiled wilderness. The Central African Plateau is a gently sloping terrain between 1,600ft (490m) and 5,000ft (1,500m), interrupted by more spectacular hills and forests and with the odd lake (such as Lake Chilwa).

Malawi’s diverse landscape is particularly striking when it comes to the vast highlands and forests. Clear mountain streams, heaths, rolling montane grassland, and evergreen woods may be found up in the mountains, where the air is fresh and cold.

Mulanje Massif and Zomba Plateau are two of Malawi’s most well-known highlands. The former is a huge syenite granite wilderness plateau that rises from the Phalombe Plains. It contains a variety of peaks, notably Sapitwa, which is the highest in both the nation and central Africa at 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). The tea plantations west of Mulanje, all the way to Thyolo, are likewise breathtakingly beautiful. The Zomba Plateau is not as high as the Mulanje Plateau, yet it is nonetheless magnificent. It has a slab-like summit with a gently sloping plateau that may be reached by road.

Between Blantyre and Lilongwe, the Dedza-Kirk Highlands continue the elevation from the Rift Valley’s western border. The Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve and subsequently the Thuma Forest Reserve represent the northern end of these hills. The Dzalanyama Forest Reserve is located south of Lilongwe and includes a series of hills near the Mozambique border. Dowa and the Ntchisi Forest Reserve are the most prominent peaks in the Dowa Highlands, which are located north of Lilongwe.

The Viphya Highlands, which extend north-south in north Malawi and reach the Rift Valley’s border, are undulating hills covered in evergreen woods. Finally, the Nyika Plateau, a rolling whaleback grassland plateau unique in Africa, is located in northern Malawi. The Nyika National Park covers a large portion of Central Africa’s tallest and most widespread high plateau area.

Things To Do in Malawi

Malawi offers a surprising range of things to offer its tourists for such a tiny nation. The beautiful Lake Malawi is a paradise for boating and watersports, and Nkhata Bay is home to some of the finest freshwater diving locations in the world. Eight land-based national parks and animal reserves provide a diverse range of safari experiences in natural wilderness settings.

Along the Shire River, Liwonde National Park is home to hippos (including an albino one! ), crocodiles, lions, elephants, and even leopards (apparently). The diverse topography and sceneries, especially in the highlands, provide for great outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain riding. Sites of historical significance and simple hamlet excursions to meet the ever-smiling Malawians in their everyday lives are also excellent options for those seeking cultural experiences. You may go horseback riding in Kande or Nyika, visit the Carlsberg brewery in Blantyre, climb Mt. Mulanje (a series of high hills and mountains that make for an excellent trip), drive up or climb the Zomba Plateau, or just rest on the beaches of Cape Maclear.

Yoga vacations, tea factory excursions, and art safaris are just a few of the specialty trips and activities available. Pottery courses are offered in two locations: Dedza and Nkhotakota. The Lake of Stars international music festival takes place on the beaches of Sunbird Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi during the summer months of Malawi (September/October). Foals, Freshlyground, The Black Missionnaries, Lucius Banda, Beverley Knight, and Chris Baio from Vampire Weekend performed at the 2011 event. The Noisettes and Get Cape were among the performers during the 2010 event. Put on your cape. Oliver Mtukudzi and Fly. This is a fun event where you can soak up the sun on the beach while sipping cocktails and listening to live music. Although camping is the most popular kind of lodging, many visitors choose to stay in Sunbird Nkopola rooms or adjacent lodge rooms or cottages.

Food & Drinks in Malawi

Food in Malawi

Malawian cuisine is based on a single staple, maize, which is presented in one form, nsima(n’SEE-ma). Nsima is a thick porridge that is shaped into balls with your right hand and dipped into relishes, which include a variety of stews. Others who can afford them eat beef, chicken, or fish relishes, while those who cannot eat beans, small dried fish (usipa), pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa), and other vegetables. Nsima may be eaten as a soup for breakfast, perhaps with a little sugar. For less than MK500 (US$3), local eateries will offer nsima and relish.

The food in the main cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre is excellent. In Malawi, fast food, such as burgers, pizza, and fried chicken, is extremely popular. Ethnic restaurants are popular for sit-down dinners (due to a large ex-pat community). To satisfy the Muslim community, pig products are not offered in many eateries.

Outside of the bigger cities, though, you may be disappointed by the culinary choices. You’ll see “tuck shops” along major highways selling boxed cookies or Take-Away Meals — pork pies or sausage rolls, for example — that may or may not satisfy you.

Finally, outside of large cities, you are rare to locate a decent washroom with running water in terms of cleanliness. You’ll most likely be given a bowl of water, some soap, and a (wet) towel. As a result, some travelers carry antibacterial hand soap in tiny bottles with them.

Drinks in Malawi

In large cities like as Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba, and Mzuzu, tap water is usually safe. Inquire with the lodge/house where you are staying. It is possible that certain travelers with weaker stomachs should avoid drinking this water. Bottled water is readily available in all of the main stores.

Soft drinks

Maheu, a little gritty and faintly yogurty yet refreshing beverage prepared from maize flour, is a traditional local drink worth tasting. Maheu from a factory is sweet, comes in plastic bottles, and comes in a variety of flavors including banana, chocolate, and orange, while maheu at home is generally unflavored and less sweet.

Coke, Sprite, Tonic, Ginger Ale, Soda Water, Cherry Plum, Cocopina, and the extremely delicious, sugary Fanta’s are all popular soft drinks in Malawi (coming in Orange, Grape, Exotic, Passion and Pineapple flavours). The glass bottles are on a deposit system and are produced by SOBO. Unless you bring some ’empties,’ expect to pay an additional MK25 per bottle.


Carlsberg, which is based in Blantyre, produces the only beers accessible, and its goods are sold in restaurants and shops throughout the nation. Carlsberg manufactures a variety of beers, including Special Brew, Stout, Classic, Elephant, Light, and Kuche Kuche. In certain pubs, you may also purchase foreign beverages including Heineken, Kronenbourg, Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer, and various ciders. Malawi makes its own spirits, including Malawi Vodka, Malawi Gin, Malawi Rum, Gold Label Brandy, and Powers, a cane spirit. Malawi Gin & Tonic is a popular drink among expats in the nation.

Money & Shopping in Malawi

The Malawi kwacha, abbreviated MK, is the local currency, and its ISO 4217 international currency code is MWK. The currency may be changed at any time (but impossible to get rid of outside the country)

Almost everyone will take “hard” foreign currency (Forex), especially for bigger transactions. Xpats in Malwai may choose to seek specialist FX transfer via businesses with a worldwide reach, such as those available at, to lower their living costs. If you bring foreign currency (forex) into the country and break the law by exchanging on the black market – in Lilongwe, this is done by using the people standing outside Metro (opposite Spar/Shoprite), they can give you an extra 40-50 kwacha to the dollar, pound, or euro (use that as a rough estimate). Get a cab to drop you off here on the way to the airport! Malawian kwacha may be exchanged for Zambian kwacha at the border, at banks, or on the black market. Larger foreign bills are preferred and may fetch much higher interest rates. It is often simpler to avoid going to the black market altogether and just make transactions using foreign money.

Acceptance of credit cards is sporadic but improving. The bigger hotels take Visa and MasterCard. ATMs are becoming considerably more widespread, and they may be found at many banks in large cities; nevertheless, the most frequent card used is a Master or Visa card. The finest ATMs to use are those of Standard Bank, Eco Bank, and the National Bank of Malawi, which all accept Master and Visa cards.

Banks, currency bureaus, and certain high-end hotels accept travellers’ cheques. The number of hotels that take travelers’ checks seems to be dwindling. If you haven’t talked to the hotel, don’t depend on them. In addition, banks often want your original bank documentation from when you bought the traveller’s cheques. You may not be able to swap them without it. Cash in US dollars is your best chance for a higher exchange rate.

Traditions & Customs in Malawi

Malawi features ethnicities and cultures that are patriarchal and matriarchal. Men are more revered in cities than women, although this may not be the case in rural areas, depending on ethnicity. Whites are often respected, which is a remnant from colonial days, although it is more a Malawian way of being polite. Accept their kindness. They are a really nice group of individuals.

When Malawians come across a white visitor, particularly those from extremely remote regions where they don’t encounter many whites, they may be very inquisitive. To a Western mentality, this might be perceived as gazing at you or talking about you in front of you needlessly. Expect to be welcomed by children shouting mzungu, mzungu! and to be asked many questions about yourself. Even seemingly insignificant things like mechanical pens may attract a throng.

Malawians are polite in general, and part of that civility includes shaking hands, speaking quietly, and addressing visitors and others with respect. Malawians try to avoid being impolite. When Malawian men come together to talk, it’s normal for them to hold hands, and this should not be misinterpreted as a sexual gesture.

Shorts and miniskirts are not acceptable in the culture, particularly when traveling outside the lodge/camp. Shorts or a short skirt on a lady is regarded provocative as well as impolite. Many female tourists wear wraps, which are readily available in large city shops and marketplaces. These are usually made up of bright, colorful patterns and may be very appealing. Women’s low-cut shirts, although frowned upon, aren’t quite as suggestive. Men in the cities prefer to wear slacks rather than shorts, since shorts are usually reserved for school-aged children, and when a guy wears shorts, Malawians may find it amusing.

Finally, whenever you encounter a Malawian, even if it’s only to ask a question, you should always greet them and inquire about their well-being. It is critical to welcome a Malawian properly. They don’t like the idea of just “going to the point” as it is practiced in the West. Courtesy is required at all times, since being impolite is a sign of contempt.

Culture Of Malawi

Malawi’s biggest asset is its people, who are warm, inviting, colorful, and lively. It is difficult to visit and not get involved with the people, but there are now chances to spend time in actual villages (including overnight stays) to gain a firsthand understanding of the customs, traditions, and everyday lives of the people. This is a viable alternative almost everywhere in Malawi, and one that should be pursued.

There’s also much to see about Malawi’s past, starting with the Karonga district’s prehistoric remnants and the Stone Age rock drawings at Dedza. Karonga’s Cultural & Museum Centre is definitely worth a visit. At other places, structures from the David Livingstone era have been maintained, and the suppression of the Arab slave trade is extensively recorded in Blantyre’s museums. A Lake Museum in Mangochi, a Mission Museum in Livingstonia, and a Postal Services Museum in Zomba are among the country’s other museums.

History Of Malawi

Before waves of Bantu peoples started immigrating from the north during the 10th century, the region of Africa today known as Malawi had a relatively tiny population of hunter-gatherers. Although the majority of the Bantu peoples moved south, some stayed and formed ethnic groupings based on shared ancestors. The tribes formed the Kingdom of Maravi around 1500 AD, which stretched from north of what is now Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River, and from Lake Malawi to the Luangwa River in Zambia.

Local tribesmen started meeting, dealing with, and forming alliances with Portuguese merchants and military personnel soon after 1600, when the region was largely unified under one native monarch. By 1700, however, the empire had disintegrated into regions ruled by a variety of ethnic groups. In the mid- 1800s, the Swahili-Arab slave traffic peaked, with an estimated 20,000 individuals enslaved and transported annually from Nkhotakota to Kilwa, where they were sold.

In 1859, missionary and explorer David Livingstone arrived to Lake Malawi (then Lake Nyasa) and discovered the Shire Highlands to the south of the lake as a viable location for European colonization. Several Anglican and Presbyterian missions were established in the area as a result of Livingstone’s visit in the 1860s and 1870s, the African Lakes Company Limited was founded in 1878 to establish a trade and transport concern working closely with the missions, and a small mission and trading settlement was established at Blantyre in 1876, with a British Consul taking up residence there in 1883. Because the Portuguese government was also interested in the region, the British government sent Harry Johnston as British consul with orders to negotiate treaties with local authorities outside of Portuguese authority in order to avoid Portuguese annexation.

The British Central Africa Protectorate was established in 1889 over the Shire Highlands, and it was expanded in 1891 to cover the whole present-day Malawi. The protectorate was renamed Nyasaland in 1907, and it remained that name for the rest of its British administration. The colonial administration of Nyasaland was established in 1891, and it is a classic example of what is often referred to as the “Thin White Line” of colonial power in Africa. The administrators were granted a yearly budget of £10,000 (1891 nominal value), enough to hire ten European citizens, two military commanders, seventy Punjab Sikhs, and 85 Zanzibar porters. These few personnel were then expected to manage and police a 94,000-square-kilometer area with a population of one to two million people.

The Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was founded in 1944 by Nyasaland’s Africans to represent local concerns to the British administration. For purely political reasons, Britain joined Nyasaland with Northern and Southern Rhodesia in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, often known as the Central African Federation (CAF), in 1953. Despite the Federation’s semi-independence, the connection sparked African nationalist resistance, and the NAC acquired public support. Dr. Hastings Banda, a European-trained doctor practicing in Ghana who was persuaded to return to Nyasaland in 1958 to aid the nationalist movement, was a powerful opponent of the CAF. Before being imprisoned by colonial authorities in 1959, Banda was chosen president of the NAC and sought to mobilize nationalist enthusiasm. In 1960, he was freed and invited to assist in the drafting of a new constitution for Nyasaland, which included a provision giving Africans a majority in the colony’s Legislative Council.

In the Legislative Council elections in 1961, Banda’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) won a majority, and he became Prime Minister in 1963. The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and Nyasaland declared independence from British control on July 6, 1964, renaming itself Malawi. Malawi became a republic under a new constitution, with Banda as its first president. Malawi is now officially a one-party state, with the MCP as the sole legitimate political party. Banda was elected president for life in 1971. For almost 30 years, Banda ruled over a strict authoritarian system that kept Malawi free of violent strife. In exile, opposition groups such as Orton Chirwa’s Malawi Freedom Movement and the Socialist League of Malawi were formed.

Malawi’s economy under Banda’s presidency was often touted as an example of how a poor, landlocked, densely populated, mineral-poor nation might make agricultural and industrial growth.

Banda built a commercial empire while in power, utilizing his control of the nation to generate one-third of the country’s GDP and employ 10% of the country’s wage-earning population. Banda invested all of his earnings towards Malawi’s development, which was symbolized by the construction of Kamuzu Academy, a prestigious boarding school (Eton of Africa). The motivation for giving this school to Malawi was, in Banda’s own words, “I do not want my sons and daughters to have to do what I had to do – to leave their homes and families and travel away from Malawi to obtain an education.”

In 1993, under demand for more political freedom, Banda consented to a referendum in which the people voted in favor of a multi-party democracy. A presidential council was established in late 1993, the life presidency was abolished, and a new constitution was enacted, thus terminating the MCP’s reign. In 1994, Malawi had its first multi-party elections, and Banda was defeated by Bakili Muluzi (a former Secretary General of the MCP and former Banda Cabinet Minister). Muluzi was re-elected president in 1999 and served until 2004, when Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika was elected. Although the political climate is characterized as “difficult,” Malawi’s multi-party system is still in place as of 2009. In May 2009, Malawi conducted its fourth multiparty legislative and presidential elections, with President Mutharika re-elected amid allegations of election fraud from his opponent.

Some saw President Mutharika as being more dictatorial and contemptuous of human rights, and demonstrations erupted in July 2011 over rising living expenses, devolving international relations, bad administration, and a shortage of foreign currency reserves. The demonstrations resulted in the deaths of 18 persons and the injuries of at least 44 more. Mutharika died after a heart attack in April 2012, and former Vice-President Joyce Banda became the presidency.

Joyce Banda finished third in the 2014 elections and was succeeded by Arthur Peter Mutharika, the brother of Malawi’s third-elected president.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Malawi

Stay Safe in Malawi

Malawi has long been regarded as “Africa’s Warm Heart,” with Malawians renowned for their warmth and hospitality. Malawi is not a particularly hazardous place to visit for foreigners and expats from the West. Muggings and robberies have been reported in the major cities, particularly Lilongwe, as well as at a few well-known locations along the main tourist routes. It’s best to avoid walking alone late at night. If you’re heading out for the evening, be sure you have a plan for getting home. Carjackings do happen, so keep windows closed and doors locked during evening and night journeys (though night driving is not recommended – most cars have broken headlights, and Malawians tend to walk in the middle of the road at night), and exercise reasonable caution as you would in any foreign city or rural area. Because many drivers are unlicensed and unskilled, and many cars are not inspection-ready, the roads are less safe; there is also the risk of drunk driving, particularly in the nights, so be careful. However, half of the taxi drivers you may encounter at night will be inebriated…

Pickpockets have become more common at nightclubs and pubs in recent years. Just be cautious and don’t bring too much money, cameras, or other valuables. Don’t bring a lot of money since 10 drinks will only cost you MK2500.

Because homosexuality is illegal in Malawi, gay couples should take caution while visiting the country. The liberation of a gay couple recently imprisoned for homosexuality and condemned to 14 years of hard labor required a presidential pardon.

Stay Healthy in Malawi

Malaria may be a concern, as it is in its neighboring nations. The lake is freshwater and prone to bilharzia, particularly around Cape Maclear. Bilharzia symptoms may take months to appear. If you suspect you’ve been exposed, you may buy a very inexpensive medication from a local pharmacy that will destroy it before it ever appears. It’s an excellent idea to take care of this before leaving Malawi, since it will cost a lot more back home.

Adult HIV prevalence in the nation is 1 in 7 adults, or 14 percent. Do not engage in unprotected sexual activity. Injecting narcotics is not a good idea.



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