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Zebras in Malawi

Malawi Travel Guide

Malawi, known as the "Warm Heart of Africa," is an ideal destination for travellers seeking a unique African experience. Nestled between Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania, this landlocked country is blessed with stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage. Discover the shimmering waters of Lake Malawi, a vast freshwater lake teeming with colourful fish and surrounded by golden beaches. Snorkel, kayak, or simply relax on the shores as you soak in the serene beauty of this natural wonder.

Venture beyond the lake to explore the rugged wilderness of Malawi's national parks. Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park are home to a diverse array of wildlife, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and rare bird species. Embark on thrilling safari adventures, whether on foot, by jeep, or by boat, and witness the incredible biodiversity that thrives within these protected areas. Engage with the friendly local communities and immerse yourself in their vibrant traditions and customs. From the lively markets of Lilongwe to the traditional dances and music, Malawi offers a warm and authentic cultural experience that will leave a lasting impression.

Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT+2  (Central Africa Time)

Money

Malawian kwacha (MWK)

Dialing Code

+265

  • Try watersports on stunning Lake Malawi
  • Climb up the amazing Mount Mulanje
  • Volunteer as a teacher, sports coach or medical helper and really make your mark
  • See big game and wonderful wildlife on a game drive

The capital city is Lilongwe. The city is split between the modern, cosmopolitan new area and the Old Town, which still retains the flavour of a traditional African settlement.  The Old Town is the place to check out the walled markets and purchase traditional handicrafts, while the vibrant modern city provides an exciting contemporary contrast. 

  • Lake Malawi is the main attraction and a must-see.  ‘Discovered’ by David Livingstone 150 years ago, it is the eighth largest lake in the world, covers a vast area and offers so many experiences and places to see.   No traveller will be able to resist its glistening charms.  Fishing villages are scattered along its shoreline, islands lie waiting to be discovered by boat and unspoilt stretches of sand can be found round every corner.   You can swim, kayak, water ski, snorkel or scuba dive in the lake – with such a wide range of exotic fish an underwater experience is not to be missed!
  • Liwonde National Park is south of Lake Malawi and is a fantastic location to spot game.  Close to a river, you can take a game tour by boat if you want a change, or just stick to the tried and tested jeep tour.  The park is home to elephants, hippos, crocodiles, leopards and rhino as well as a huge variety of birds. 
  • If you want to move away from the watery magic of Lake Malawi then visit the beautiful Nyika National Park.  The park is dotted with hills and pine forests, valleys and grasslands.  Great for hiking or mountain biking, or even a 4x4 experience, this area is home to  animals such as zebra and antelope and also has one of the highest densities of leopards in Central Africa.  In the rainy season the park is home to 200 species of flowering orchids. 
  • The more adventurous of you might want to head over to Mount Mulanje; whether you want a daytrip around the stunning scenery or want to take on the challenge of hiking to the top.  If you reach the mist-shrouded summit and look down on Malawi stretching out below, it is a truly unforgettable experience. 
  • For an artistic experience, check out the town of Dedza.  Set in stunning mountain scenery, the town is the highest in the country and is home to the renowned Dedza Pottery.  Here you can see craftsmen at work and buy some of their vibrant, colourful designs. 
  • Just outside Dedza, discover the Chongoni Rock Art Area, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This houses the most concentrated area of ancient rock paintings in Central Africa and gives the traveller a glimpse into the rich and ancient heritage of this beautiful country.
  • Visit in late September and you might be privileged enough to catch the annual ‘Lake of Stars’ music festival.  Set on the shores of Lake Malawi you can hear a range of African and international artists perform in front of the glittering backdrop of the lake. 

The staple food in Malawi is a thick corn porridge called nsima, but the country is also known for its fresh fish.  It has been speculated that Lake Malawi is home to more species of freshwater fish than anywhere else on the planet so there are plenty of varieties for you to sample. A traditional meal to try is curried fish flavoured with exotic local spices.  The bigger cities also offer a wide choice of western foods to suit every traveller’s taste buds. 

The dry season is the best time to visit and this runs from May to November.  Temperatures get hotter towards the latter part of the season but this is also the prime time to spot wildlife.  Temperatures range, on average, from a cooler 22°C in July to the 30’s in November.  The wet season runs from December to April where rainfall comes in sudden, tropical bursts.   This is a good time however to spot the fantastic variety of birds in Malawi and also see the stunning orchids which grow during this wetter season. 

Visas

There is no need to prearrange a visa when travelling to Malawi; you can get a free tourist Visa upon arrival that will last you 30 days.  If you wish to renew it you can for a period up to 90 days for a cost.  The Malawi High Commission can provide advice on longer stays. 

Passports

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel.

The primary languages spoken are English and the local language of the Chewa people, Chichewa.

230 V

This is the same type of plug as used in the United Kingdom but the voltage is different so you might require a voltage converter.

Outside of central tourist areas women travellers should remain covered out of respect for the locals. 

Drug taking or possession and the purchase of precious uncut stones are both illegal and can incur severe punishments. 

Homosexuality is also illegal in Malawi so gay or lesbian travellers would be advised to be cautious and to not engage in public displays of affection. 

Health

Health care in Malawi can be below standard, especially in rural areas.  It is advisable to take anti-malarial medication and there has also been some incidence of rabies in the country.  Immunisation against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A is recommended.  Please see our general guide to health when travelling.

You should also avoid drinking tap water and only drink bottled or boiled water.  If you get diarrhoea while travelling you should seek medical care. 

 

Safety

In general Malawi is safe as long as you are sensible.  Do not accept food or drink from strangers no matter how friendly they seem and if you are driving keep car doors and windows locked at all times.  Keep your bag across your body to make sure it can’t be snatched and avoid walking alone at night.  For your own safety avoid participating in political rallies as they can get out of control.  Otherwise please read our general guide to safety when travelling. 

We do not recommend hiring motorbikes, scooters, ATV vehicles, quad bikes or other types of motorised vehicles whilst abroad. Safety and quality of vehicles vary considerably and the traffic conditions can be much more dangerous than what UK travellers are used to. Should you wish to go against this advice, you should ensure you are hiring from a reputable company and that your travel insurance covers you for such activities.

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