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Travel Advice


Health & Safety

Immunisation against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A is recommended. Yellow fever immunisation may be required only by visitors entering from a yellow fever zone. There is a risk of malaria and prophylactics should be taken. Seek up to date advice from your doctor. There is a risk of contracting bilharzia if bathing in some parts of Lake Malawi but the risk is negligible near the main beach hotels. The infection is relatively easily treated once diagnosed. For further information about bilharzia in Lake Malawi click here. Malawi is a high risk area for AIDS.

Malawi is considered a safe country for tourists and Malawians are rightfully known for their friendliness. However, the usual precautions should be taken as would be advised for tourists anywhere.

Food & Drink

Excellent fish dishes are widely available but especially near Lake Malawi. Most hotels and safari camps serve “western” dishes with, perhaps, game and occasionally local foods such as maize meal porridge. Soft drinks are available everywhere. Beers (Carlsberg is the most common), spirits such as Malawi gin and South African wines are reasonably priced and commonly available. For drinking, bottled water should be used in preference to tap water.

For an overview of the local staple diet in Malawi see this blog entry from Kumbali Country Lodge.

Dress

Dress is generally informal. Swimwear and very skimpy clothing should be confined to the beach resorts. For safaris, “natural ” colours should be worn in preference to light/bright colours. In the uplands, especially in the winter (April-September), it can be cold in the evening and sweaters may be needed. It can be very cold on morning or night safari drives.

Currency

Malawi’s unit of currency is the kwacha (abbreviated to MK internationally; K locally). The kwacha divides into 100 tambala. Practically speaking, only the kwacha is used. Banks in the towns are open weekdays from 0800 to 1300. Mobile banks operate along the lakeshore and in more remote areas (check days/times locally). Travellers Cheques or foreign (hard) currency notes are widely accepted. If using dollars to pay for your tours and accommodation, please be aware that $1 bills will not be accepted or exchanged; the minimum domination able to be changed is $5. Avoid black market currency traders. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported but it must be declared and accounted for on departure. Only MK3000 of local currency may be exported. There are 24-hour ATMs in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. Only local currency is dispensed and that is limited to approximately the equivalent (depending on exchange rates) of GB£85, Euro110; US$140 in any period of twenty-four hours.

Time

Malawi time is GMT+2, as with most of southern Africa.

Public Holidays

2018
New Year’s Day 1 Jan
Chilembwe Day 15 Jan
Martyrs’ Day 3 Mar
Good Friday 30 Mar
Easter Monday 2 Apr
Labour Day 1 May
Kamuzu Day 14 May
Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) Upon sighting of new moon in month of Ramadan
Republic Day 6 Jul
Mother’s Day 15 Oct
Christmas Day 25 Dec
Boxing Day 26 Dec

If a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then the next Monday becomes a holiday. Muslim festivals may also be celebrated in some areas.

Electricity

Supply is based on the 220/240 volts system, using “British type” square bayonet three-pin plugs.

Communications

The telephone system is reasonably reliable, though mobiles can often be easier to get through to than landlines. Sim cards for local mobile phone networks are widely available and relatively cheap and easy to use. Most hotels and offices are readily reached by e-mail. The postal system tends to be slow. International courier DHL operates in Malawi.

TV & Radio

There is a national TV station, though its primary output is news. In addition, many city centre hotels receive international satellite channels. There are English language radio broadcasts.

Photography

Any camera equipment is best brought into the country and care should be taken to avoid its exposure to extremes of heat. Most Malawians will not mind being photographed but it is common courtesy to ask permission first.

Language Guide

While English is an official language, and is widely understood, a number of indigenous languages are also spoken. The most common is Chewa (or Chichewa – the language of the Chewa). Here are a few Chichewa words and phrases:
Hello             Moni
Goodbye            Tsalani Bwino
How are you?        Muli bwanji?
What is your name?         Dzina lanu ndani?
My name is …        Dzina langa ndi….
I come from….        Ndikuchokera ku….
How old are you?  (To child)       Uli ndi zaka zingati?
Excuse me            Zikomo
How much?            Mumagulitsa bwanji?
How much is this?        Bwanji ichi?
Thank you                   Zikomo

A Chichewa language course, by Celia Swann, complete with audio disc, can be purchased from the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium UK Office and a Chichewa-English Dictionary is also available, with the publishers now offering an instant ONLINE translation facility: http://translate.chichewadictionary.org/

Shopping

Small supermarkets are found in towns and larger villages. Large supermarkets and European style shops are almost exclusively found in Blantyre and Lilongwe.  Markets and roadside vendors are popular with travellers. Attractive souvenirs are the excellent wood carvings, widely available, and straw goods together with work by local artists. The standard of craftwork varies but at its best is quite outstanding. In the markets, bargaining is expected. Traditional Chief’s chairs are popular. Shops and offices open and close earlier in the day than is the custom in Europe or North America.

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