What you need to know before you leave…
South Africa is GMT +2.
Visas are not needed by citizens of Commonwealth countries, the USA and most European nations (except Switzerland). However, please check the list on the official consulate website as it may be updated at any time. Visas are limited to 30 days, although extensions are easy to get.
You can get a visa extension at immigration offices in Blantyre or Lilongwe or at regional police stations. It’s straightforward and free.
It is imperative that there be at least two blank pages in the passport for the visa stamp. A tourist visa is issued by Malawi customs at the airport or border post upon arrival.
Note: foreign drivers are required to have an international driver’s license in addition to their national license.
Malawian Embassy in France
20, rue Euler – 75008 Paris
Tel: 01 47 20 20 27
Fax: 01 47 23 62 48
Malawian Embassy in Belgium
Avenue Herrmann Debroux / Herrmann Debrouxlaan, 46-1160 Auderghem (Brussels)
Tel: 02231 September 80
Fax: 02231 October 66
Consulate of Malawi in Switzerland
Dolderstrasse, 102 – 8032 Zürich
Tel: 043 817 May 82
Fax: 043 817 05 83
In France and Belgium, consular functions are assured by the embassy.
No obligatory vaccinations. It is essential to follow an anti-malarial treatment in Malawi. We recommend that you bring mosquito repellent ointment and/or spray (Malaria is transmitted by mosquito bite). Please consult your doctor or an approved centre who will indicate the most appropriate prophylaxis to take. This is a zone 3. Your vaccinations against diphtheria, polio and tetanus should be kept updated. We encourage you to get inoculated against yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A and B. This recommendation applies to all destinations worldwide.
Be attentive to your diet and do not drink tap water! Avoid swimming in the stagnant waters of Lake Malawi due to the presence of bilharzia.
The currency of Malawi is the Kwacha (divided into 100 Tambala)
1 Euro (EUR) = 520 Kwacha (MWK) (August 2014)
The best foreign currencies to carry with you are US dollars, British pounds and South African rands. Most banks and bureaux de change won’t charge you a commission for changing cash, but there’s usually a 1% commission for changing travellers cheques. You’ll find a few ATMs at banks in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Karonga, Liwonde, Mzuzu, Salima and Zomba. Very few places outside main cities will accept credit cards.
Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8am until 3pm and Saturday until 11am.
General Opening Times
In general, stores are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm and Saturday from 8am to midday.
Service charges are not included in hotel, lodge and restaurant bills in Malawi. Tipping is entirely at your discretion – it is not compulsory but is enthusiastically received. It’s customary to tip 10% – 15% of the bill for meals and beverages.
If you go on safari, it’s customary to give a tip to your guide and the staff at the camps and lodges. The amount varies depending on the quality of the guides and staff service. Tip boxes are available in the camps and the tips are generally shared equally between the staff. Do not hesitate to seek advice from the hotel/lodge/restaurant itself.
The official working language is English, whilst Chichewa is the national language and the most spoken amongst a variety of languages. English is the second most spoken language in Malawi and is taught in all schools, however not everyone speaks or understands it, especially in the rural areas.
The standard is 220 volts. Plugs require an adapter so as a precaution, make sure you have one for your electrical appliances before leaving home. Remote lodges and hotels are not connected to the national grid and electricity is produced by generators or solar panels.
Tap water is not potable throughout the country. Consume only bottled water.
The international code is 265
To call abroad from Malawi: 00 + country code (32 for Belgium, 33 for France, 41 for Switzerland, 1 for Canada) + phone number without 0.
In case of an emergency, the easiest way is to contact a person travelling is to call the Go Tourism emergency number: +27 (0)83 254 5813
1 January: New Year’s Day
15 January: John Chilembwe Day.
3 March: Martyr’s Day.
March / April: Good Friday
March / April: Easter Monday
1 May: Labour Day
14 May: Kamuzu Day
6 July: Independence Day
15 October: Mother’s Day
25 December: Christmas Day
26 December: Boxing Day
– Domestic flights: 200 Kwacha per airport
– International flights: 30 USD
Climate and Temperatures
The climate is tropical with a rainy season that runs from November to May. The rest of the year is a dry season. The temperature varies with the altitude. Low lying Lake Malawi is the hottest region. If you are visiting the game parks the dry season is highly recommended.
What to pack
Warning: It is extremely important to respect luggage weight restrictions
On international flights, the maximum weight of checked baggage is on average 20 kilograms per person. On regional routes, it is not uncommon that the weight is limited to 12kgs per person maximum (cameras and hand luggage included) Please check with your consultant before you start packing.
It is strongly recommended to avoid bulky clothing in your suitcase. Pack instead practical, lightweight clothes. If you are going on safari, bright colours are not recommended as it alerts and frightens the animals away. Opt instead for khaki, beige, brown or dark neutral colours and a pair of good walking shoes. White is to be avoided for the same reasons as above but also because the dust gets in everywhere. Simple and casual attire is the norm; however some hotels, restaurants and lodges require slightly more formal attire.
Dress according to the region and the season and bring at least one warm sweater and a wind breaker for cool/cold mornings and evenings. In winter (June to September), the nights can be extremely cold. From November to May bring a raincoat as there are sure to be thunder showers. Don’t forget your Swimsuit as most hotels and lodges have swimming pools.
The dress code in the luxury lodges remains fairly casual.
-Hat or bob
-Cotton shirts, T-shirts and shorts
-Pull-over for early chilly mornings and evenings
-Trousers or long skirts for the evening
-Raincoat or poncho
-Anorak, fleece, gloves, scarves, hat. (Dry winter season)
Pair of walking shoes
Pair of lightweight shoes for day or evening wear.
Pair of sandals
Bagages et accessoires
A soft sided sports bag
A small backpack (day pack)
A cap or sunhat
A pair of good quality sunglasses
A pair of binoculars
A thermos flask / water bottle
A double adapter
A flashlight with extra batteries
A penknife (Swiss Army knife or Leatherman)
Toiletries and First Aid Kit
Although there are very good hospitals and highly trained medical personnel in the main towns, we advise you to travel with your own personal first aid kit.
– Anti-mosquito products (spray, cream)
– Cream for insect stings
– Dressings, Aspirin, anti-diarrheal, lip balm, eye drops (for dust).
– If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you take your pair of glasses too.
– High factor sun screen
It’s essential to use a UV filter on your camera and/or video recorder. A brush and a waterproof cover are necessary to protect your camera from dust which gets in everywhere. Plastic zip-lock bags are a great protection. It’s possible to recharge the batteries of your camera in most of the hotels, lodges and rental cars (Don’t forget the necessary cables).
We recommend you bring a zoom lens of 200 mm / 300 mm minimum on safari. You will need to practice speed, silence and patience in order to get good photographs of animals and birds. Do not take pictures on the sly without prior permission from the person you want to portray.
Cars drive on the left hand side of the road in Malawi.
The main tarred roads are fairly well maintained (with the exception of some potholed sections), but generally quite narrow. Dirt roads are often damaged by harsh weather (particularly during the rainy season), and overloading.
Driving in Malawi can be hazardous. Local drivers are not particularly respectful of traffic laws so be sure to wear a seatbelt and avoid travel after dark. Potholes, animals, abandoned vehicles and cyclists can cause serious accidents, as can vehicles travelling at night without lights.
Most visits to Malawi are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself from muggers and bag-snatchers. Most thefts take place around the main bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre, and at the main ports for the Ilala ferry. Avoid walking around quiet areas, especially after dark. Leave valuables and cash in a hotel safe when possible. Keep copies of important documents in a separate place. Report any thefts to the police as soon as possible.
On another note, all swimming in rivers is prohibited because many aggressive crocodiles and hippos.