Tips for Visitors to Malawi

Climate-ClothesCustoms-Immigration-Health TransportationShopping
What to Take Public HolidaysAccomodation

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Malawi enjoys and equable climate, but temperatures are greatly influenced by the altitude and the lake. The Lakeside areas have a low rainfall, and a warm , relaxing climate, wheras the air on the highland plateaux is always bracing. The dry season is in winter, from May to October with rain during the remaining months, more particularly from December to March. At low levels such as the Shire River Valley, temperatures can exceed 37deg C in the shade in the hot season. In the dry season, frost is not unknown above 1000m. July has a mean maximum temp. of 22deg C and a mean maximum of 11,7deg C, with temperature occaisonally dropping to below 4,5deg C.
Hours of Sunshine(Daily Average)
May - October(Dry Season).....9.5
Nov - April(Wet Season).....7.3
Dress is informal in Malawi. For daytime wear, men need sports shirts and shorts, and a pair of slacks for cooler days. Women need little more than light dresses, skirts and tops. Evening wear is slightly more formal in the city hotels,(many require a tie in the restaurant!)where a lounge suit for men and a smarter dress for women is a good idea. Visits during the winter need warm wraps or pullovers for the evenings and early mornings. For visits to the highlands, Warm sweaters and walking shoes recommended. Always remember to wear a hat for protection against the sun and take swimwear and sunglasses. Binoculars are invaluble, Photographic film is available in the cities and some resort hotels, films can be developed locally. Visitors are particularly requested to observe local dress customs which used to strongly emphasise modesty modesty under President Banda, but which are not so rigorously enforced these days, I guess the best thing is to remember is that the older generation and particularly in the rural areas, expect to see Europeans dressed conservatively, respect always works.

Personal Effects: Duty is not normally charged on visitors' personal effects. This concession applies to items only when they are definately intended for re-export. Duty Free: Provided declared and carried in accompanied baggage of passengers - 200 cigarettes, 1 quart sprits, 1 litre beer, 1 quart wine.
Immigration: All Foreigners require visas on entering Malawi EXCEPT the following: Australia, Bahamas, Bangaladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Botswana, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus Denmark, Fiji, Finland, Gambia, The Federal Republic of Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malasia, Malta, Mauritius, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Republic of South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Government of Malawi refuses entry to visitors who do not comply with its requirements regarding general appearance. (They won't let you in if they don't like the look of you!).
The following information is available from my doctor about anti-malarial treatment. In all matters medical it is advisable to confirm things with your own doctor.
Paludrine: 2 tablets daily, commencing the week before travelling to malaria zone.
Paludrine should not be taken if suffering from severe kidney impairment.
Chloroquine: 2 tablets every week, commencing the week before travelling to malarial zone.
Chloroquine should not be taken if suffering severe kidney or liver impairment. Chloroquine can exacerbate Psoriasis, Neurological disorders especially epilepsy, or severe gastro-intestinal disorders. Very rarely psychological changes (psychosis) Chloroquine is very toxic in overdosage.
Mefloquine: 1 tablet every week, commencing the week before travelling to malarial zone.
Prescriptions are not required in the UK for the first two, but Mefloquine (sold under the name LARIUM) does require a prescription.. It is strongly recommended that pregnancy does not occur within 3 months of completing a course of Mefloquine.
Larium/Mefloquine...Should not be taken in the following circumstances. If you have a history of psychiatric illness including acute anxiety or depression, if you have a history of epilepsy, if you have a history of liver of kidney disease, if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant within 3 months of completing a course of Larium. Larium is not recommended for airline pilots. And avoid if you have an allergy to Quinine. Adverse reactions reported include...... Dizziness, nausea, vomiting or stomach upset ; rarely........ headache, severe skin reaction ; very rarely...... psychological changes.
All malarial tablets should be taken for 4 weeks after leaving malarial zones. They should be taken after meals. Anti-malarial tablets bought abroad may be of different strengths to those obtained locally.



On arrival at Kamuzu International Airport, Lilongwe, all tourist facilities are available. Air connections can be made from Lilongwe to Blantyre(Chileka Airport) in the south and Mzuzu and Karonga in the North. On Saturdays, Air Malawi offers direct connecting flights to Monkey Bay. Various local tour operators offer day tours from the main centers, Lilongwe and Blantyre, and Car Hire is readily available in both places, I recommend SS Rent-a-cars, Run by Sam Singh. A luxury air-conditioned bus operates twice daily between Lilongwe and Blantyre, a journey of four and a half hours, and costing about a third of the air-fare.(12UK pounds for the bus). Airport Tax: A departure tax of US$10 is levied on all international departures payable in cash or TC. Passengers have to pay before checking in.
Driving: International driving licences are acceptable in Malawi. Petro is freely available but ensure you have a full tank before setting out on long distances, and check where to expect pumps and wether they are currently in stock of petrol. In rural areas be careful of goats, pigs and children on the road, and in the urban areas, be especially careful of bycycles. Driving while drunk is an offence rarely prosecuted.

Shopping Hours are Monday-Friday 0730 - 1200, 1300 - 1700. Saturday 0800 - 1200.
For a relatively small country Malawi produces a remarkable variety of colourful arts and crafts, both traditional and modern. Souvenirs made from ivory, wood, clay, soapstone, beads, raffia, and grass can be purchased cheaply from shops, markets, and village stalls. Ivory must not be bought from unlicenced vendors, as without a certificate cannot be exported, but you have to be SICK to buy it.
Gentle reminder Just as an aside, I recently observed a group of tourists alight from their' tour bus at a roadside curio stall, and after photographing the nice carvings, started to barter the prices down. PLEASE, remember that knocking the price down by the equivalent of evan one UKpound(say 25 Kwacha) is financially meaningless to a tourist but is the difference between eating that day or not to the vendors family , never mind the fact that the buyer knows the ebony in the carving is worth more than the asking price without the work carried out...Probably not well explained but I hope you get my drift.

What to Take
Equipment is available for hire at most resorts, but for your own convenience it is advisable to bring items such as fishing tackle, snorkling equipment and golf clubs. Camera, Binoculars and tennis raquets are a good idea.

Public Holidays
January 1 - New Years Day.
March 3 - Martyr's Day.
March/April - Easter.
May 14 - Kamuzu Day.
July 6 - Republic Day.
October 17 - Mothers Day.
December 21 - National Tree Planting Day.
December 25-26, Christmas. If a holiday falls on a Saturday of Sunday, the following Monday is declared a Holiday.

Malawi has basically two types of tourist accomodation. For the Tourists, Hotels, and Lodges, and for travellers there are Guest Houses and Camp Sights. Guest Houses were started ages ago during Kamuzu Banda's leadership(possibly before) as a facility for African Malawian businessmen, to find cheap but comprehensive accomodation. Nowadays they are used by travellers, and so have adapted to western requirements - egg and chips, plenty of hot water(usually) etc. Most will allow camping, all are cheap, prices range from about 25 UScents/night in a dormitory, to 3USdollars/night in a single room. All are clean enough most are friendly and many are noisy at night. Make sure your rooms are as far away from the bar as possible.
Lilongwe Golf Club is an excellent place to camp. Daily membership to the club costs MK100 about 4Ukpounds or 6USdollars, Monthly is MK450 double and MK350 single. This also allows access to the following: Tennis Courts, Swimming Pool(25m * 10m), Bowling Green, Squash, Snooker, Darts, Pool, Table Tennis 2 main Bars, and playing fields Golf etc.
The Campsite is fenced and has a 24hour guard, and has it's own ablution block.
Lilongwe Club is 2 minutes walk from the Polic Station, 5 minutes walk from 5 star Hotels, and 5 minutes walk from the shops and markets. 10 minutes from the Bus Station.(to everywhere)
Facilities also include a Cafe for meals during the day (very cheap prices) and a Restuarant for evening (haute cuisine) meals.
Best of all, the club is run by a charming couple Alex and Patsy. Mention my dogs name and they will give you 10% DISCOUNT on Membership and Golf.


Calender of Events
April: Ultra-Light Tackle Tournament - organised by the Angling Society of Malawi. This is an annual event and takes place on the Lake. Anglers come from all over Southern Africa.
April to October: Sales are conducted at the tobacco auction floors in Blantyre. The atmosphere is quite unique.
July: Lake Malawi Yachting Marathon - a challenging 8 day event on Lake Malawi, over a distance of 560 Km. Spectators can watch from various points along the lakeshore.
July 6: Republic Day - colourful celebrations are held in the main centres.
January and February: Best time for orchids in Nyika National Park, Viphya, Zomba and Dzanlanyama Forest Reserves.
May and June: Aloes are blooming in Nyika, Dedza, Zomba and Mulanje.
September to April: Trout fishing season in Zomba and Mulanje Forest reserves. Year round at Nyika. Rainbow and Brown(Nyika only).
November and December: The best months for bird watching.