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.
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.
Time & Date GMT +2
Currency: Malawian kwacha
Languages: Of the many languages spoken in Malawi, you may be surprised to learn that English is the official language of this country, with the national language being Chichewa. There are a number of other languages spoken in Malawi, including: Chiyao, Chinyanja, Chinsena, Chilomwe, Chitumbuka, and more besides. For one country, which is far from being classed as large, this is an extremely impressive feat which demonstrates just how diverse the country really is.
Food & Drinks:
Fried chicken, like in the rest of Africa, is extremely popular, but in Lilongwe and Blantyre you will find almost any form of fast food. Some restaurants offer good sit-down meals with various ethnic themes, but pork is hard to come by due to strong Muslim sentiments.Malawi is well known for its ‘tuck shops’ in rural areas selling meat pies, cookies, sausage rolls, deep fried fish and ‘bunny chow’ (rolls deep fried in vegetable oil stuffed with curry meat and potato mix). Traditional Malawian food is a porridge-like maize dish called nsima (pronounced n’SEE-ma). The maize porridge is rolled into balls and dipped into stew.
A local aromatic version of gin and tonic called MGT (Malawi Gin and Tonic) is extremely popular and surprisingly drinkable. Local beers are brewed in Blantyre by Carlsberg. The Malawi Distilleries produces local vodka and coffee liqueur.One of the traditional drinks is the non-alcoholic mahewu, a yogurty beverage made from maize and available in banana, chocolate and orange flavours.
You can drink tap water in towns like Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu. If you’re not sure, boil it first. Bottled water is widely available
When buying your travel insurance, always check the small print – some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which could be anything from scuba diving to horse riding. You should check whether the medical coverage is on a pay first, claim later basis and, more importantly, ensure that your medical coverage includes the cost of medical evacuation.
You need a visa to enter Malawi as a visitor. You can find details of the application process on the Malawi High Commission website. The Malawi authorities strongly advise you to get a visa before travel. If you can’t get a visa before travel, you can get a visa on arrival at any port of entry. For more information check with the Malawi High Commission in London. Your passport should be valid for minimum period of 6 months on arrival in Malawi.
Chileka International Airport
Lilongwe International Airport
Currency: Malawian kwacha
Population: 18.1 million
Official languages: English, Chewa