Malawi - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Malawi


Promoted as the 'Warm Heart of Africa', Malawi is a long, thin country renowned for the unequalled friendliness of its people, unspoilt national parks and wildlife reserves, and the beaches and tropical fish life of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The countries layout is dominated by the vast lake, as well as the Great Rift Valley that cuts through the country from north to south, creating fertile valleys, cool mountains and verdant plateaus.

Lake Malawi is an irresistible attraction for travellers with its beaches, resorts, watersports and outstanding variety of fish life a magnet for divers and snorkellers. The lake is home to a bigger variety of fish species than any other freshwater lake on earth, most of them protected within the Lake Malawi National Park at its southern tip. Most visitors head for the small, restful village at Cape Maclear which, along with its offshore islands, is part of the park. Equally popular, Nkhata Bay to the north has bays, beaches and various water activities. Spread along the length of the lakeshore are numerous traditional fishing villages, and the fishermen in their dugout canoes form a quintessential postcard silhouette against the spectacular golden sunset.

Malawi is also blessed with numerous game reserves and national parks that are uncrowded, well stocked with animals and a renowned variety of birdlife, and offer a unique wilderness experience. The northern Nyika Plateau, at around 7,500ft (2,300m), is one of the world's highest game reserves and is a remote area located in the most unspoilt and least visited part of the country, with beautiful grasslands and waterfalls, the highest concentration of leopard in Central Africa, and famous for its abundant orchid species. To the south the best-known park is Liwonde National Park with thousands of hippos and crocodiles on the banks of the Shire River, as well as large numbers of elephants, zebra and antelope.

The southern part of the country is the most developed and the most populated. Although Lilongwe is the capital, the region is home to Malawi's largest city and main commercial centre, Blantyre, which is a good base for visiting two of the area's attractions - the vast massif of Mt Mulunje, offering some of the finest hiking trails in the country, and Zomba Plateau.

Malawi has remained peaceful for over a century, unaffected by war and internal strife that has torn many other African countries apart, and although poor and densely populated, the country offers visitors a wealth of scenic highlights, culture and activities.

Information & Facts


Business in Malawi is quite formal; business cards are usually exchanged on meeting, accompanied by a firm handshake. Punctuality is important and dress should be formal; lightweight suits with a tie are acceptable. English is Malawi's official language and all business is conducted in English. Malawians tend to be very polite and thoughtful, and expect the same treatment in return. Business hours usually start fairly early; from 7.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.


Winter is the best time to visit Malawi, coinciding with the dry season, and lasting from May to October. The dry season is also the best time for game viewing and hiking. June and July are the coolest months with average daytime temperatures of 70ºF (21ºC), and colder nights especially in the highlands. November to April is the hot, humid rainy season with more rain falling on the higher plateaus than around the lake, with temperatures reaching up to 90ºF (mid-30ºCs). Some roads may become impassable during heavy rains.


The international dialling code for Malawi is +265. The outgoing code is 101 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 10127 for South Africa). There are no city/area codes required. The telephone system is not very reliable, but Internet, email and fax are available in most towns and tourist areas. The GSM 900 cell phone network gives coverage to most of the country and is compatible with most international operators.


It is customarily expected by most Malawians to be greeted with a friendly 'Hello, how are you?' and a handshake. It is courteous to ask permission before taking photographs of people and homosexuality is illegal. Women may dress as they please but should take local custom and religion into account when travelling outside of the main tourist areas and dress accordingly.

Duty Free

Travellers to Malawi do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco. For travellers over 18 years 1 litre spirits, 1 litre beer and 1 litre wine can be brought into the country without incurring duty fees.

Electrical current is 220/240 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin, rectangular blade plugs are standard.
Getting Around

You can travel around Malawi by air, road, rail or boat. Distances between major centres are short but in recent years several stretches of road have become very badly potholed, making driving difficult and sometimes dangerous. The best mode of transport is however by car, and there are various international car rental companies in Malawi. The main road through Malawi runs from the north down to Mzuzu, then through the centre of the country to Lilongwe, and onto Blantyre and the south. Taxis are available in and around town but there are also bus services available. The train in Malawi is slow, crowded and limited (there are no passenger trains to Lilongwe). Every week, the Ilala passenger ferry chugs up and down Lake Malawi between Monkey Bay and Chilumba, stopping at a dozen towns and villages (contact Malawi Lake Services).


Malaria is a health risk in Malawi throughout the year, especially on the coast. Cases of dengue fever and chikungunya fever have been reported and are transmitted by mosquitoes; precautionary measures against being bitten should be taken at all times. In 2008 Rift Valley fever was reported in five regions; contact with domestic animals and mosquitoes should be avoided. All travellers coming from a country with yellow fever require inoculation against the disease. Other risks include bilharzia, tuberculosis and rabies. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled or chemically treated. Medical facilities are limited and, outside of the capital, medical care may be difficult to find. Limited medications are available and it is advisable to bring along a medical kit for private use. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.

English is the official language, but Chichewa is more commonly spoken.

The official currency is the Malawi Kwacha (MWK), which is divided into 100 tambalas. Travellers cheques and foreign currencies are accepted by banks, authorised hotels and other institutions in the main town centres; bureaux de change are also available. The US dollar is the easiest currency to exchange. Credit cards are not widely accepted and ATMs are scarce and should not be relied upon. Exchanging currency on the black market is not recommended.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Malawi must hold return/onward tickets and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Malawi, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Malawi is considered a relatively safe country in which to travel and the majority of visits are trouble-free, but sensible precautions should be taken with regards to personal possessions and security, particularly after dark. There have been reports of robberies, money scams involving tourists, and 4x4 vehicles being hijacked; also be alert for muggers and bag snatchers. A photocopy of your passport and visa should be carries at all times. In Lilongwe the majority of incidents take place on Kenyatta Drive and around the bus station, so visitors should be particularly vigilant in these areas.


Service charges are not included in hotel and restaurant bills, and tipping is at the client's discretion. It is common practice to tip guides in the national parks.

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