Lilongwe - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Lilongwe


Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi and a very green city, to the extent that sometimes you wouldn't guess you were in a commercial hub for all the trees and grassy areas. Lilongwe is also quite a laid-back town, with social highlights revolving round visits to the local nursery, shopping in Old Town or a couple of drinks at the golf club. The city is divided into Old Town (to the South) and New Town (to the North), with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctury between the two. Lilongwe is very spread out so getting around can be a bit of a chore; you can get a taxi or experience an over-crowded minibus.

Information & Facts


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.

Eating Out

Tabaq, next to Diplomats pub in Old Town is a Pakistani run restaurant with good Malawian, Indian and Chinese food. Al Fresco, in new town, is a fantastic Italian bistro with really fresh ingredients and great pizza (located in the same shopping centre as Foodworth). Four Seasons, in new town, is a lovely set of restaurants, serving everything from curry to steak and chips, set in beautifully kept gardens. Mamma Mia is Lilongwe's finest Italian restaurant, serving real Italian pizza and pasta.

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 on to 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).

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.


Catering mostly to the tourists, expats and wealthy Malawian residents, Old Town Mall is home to two impressive art and craft galleries, a grocery store, travel agencies and upmarket clothing stores. Mamma Mia's Italian Restaurant is also located in Old Town Mall. Crossroads Complex, at the Mchinji Roundabout, is Lilongwe's newest shopping mall, with gift shops, a post office, two ATMs and fast food outlets.

Set in the heart of Malawi's capital, the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary is home to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, a new and exciting 'People and Wildlife' wild animal rescue and rehabilitation facility. The nature sanctuary is the city's only remaining wilderness area and the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre also serves as an education centre aiming to teach visitors about the rich diversity of Malawi's fauna. A luxury tourist lodge has been opened in the Nature Sanctuary and guests will not only benefit from being able to stay in this wilderness area within the city bounds, but a part of the profits will be donated to the centre's work.

A day spent in Old Town is a great way to experience life in Lilongwe, where visitors will see how the local people earn a living selling goods such as pots, pans and dried fish, and how the wealthier expats while away the hours at cafés and shopping malls. Old Town features everything from street vendors and a bustling market on Malangalanga Road to expat bars, art galleries and upmarket clothing shops (many of which are found in the Old Town Mall). Mamma Mia's is a fantastic Italian restaurant to enjoy a meal at while you're there.

Salima, the easiest entry point to Lake Malawi, is 1-2 hours from Lilongwe. It has great resorts, such as Livingstonia Beach Resort, with lovely beaches. Signposted just before Salima is Kuti Wildlife Park which has campsites, A-frame chalets and a small restaurant, as well as bar and barbeque facilities. Animals found in the park include sable, nyala, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, giraffe and waterbuck. If you plan to visit during the rainy season, be sure to take a 4x4 for bad roads.

Tobacco plays an integral part of life in Malawi and a visit to the Tobacco Auction Floors in Lilongwe is a great way to see this industry at work. There is a public gallery overlooking the tobacco sales floors at the Auction Holdings warehouse, a structure which is comparable in size to several large aircraft hangars. At the auction floors, visitors can experience the incessant hum of auctioneers selling tobacco to the highest bidder as the group moves slowly along the extensive rows of tobacco bales.

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