Before we consider places to visit Malawi, I will attempt to ease you into this one. She’s one of the fairest ladies in her region. Although she has long been marred by the HIV and AIDs pandemic that ravished her and her neighbours, she remains strong.
Poverty has struck blow after blow at this beauty, yet her people have this amazing vibrance about them. Malawi is most known nowadays for being where Madonna and Angelina Jolie adopted children from. If you are from the UK, you will know about the comedian, Daliso Chaponda who was a finalist in Britain’s got talent.
There is a pure joy and hope in their eyes that you hardly see in the hassle and jostle in the likes of London, Singapore, or New York. There is something about having so little that brings an uncommon, somewhat unfathomable form of peace. While the rest of us are worried about keeping what, we have or trying to add to it, most of these guys have found contentment. Alright, I’m done with the philosophy.
The Bantu people are believed to have settled in Malawi in the 10th century. They remained there until they were colonised by British settlers in 1891, in what is known as the scramble for Africa. I will avoid the temptation to take you on a historical tangent.
A year after the dissolution of the British protectorate that had been placed over Nyasaland, as it was known at that time, she became an independent country in 1964. Malawi was born. In 1966 she would become a republic.
Like neighbouring Zimbabwe, Malawi had a long-standing president who came into power in 1966 and remained there until 1994. Unlike Zimbabwe’s president though, president Hastings Banda lost an election in 1994. To some factions of Malawi, the man is still mythical.
I sat and listened to story after story about what he had done for the nation, with one of the main things being the visa free access that the Malawian passport affords its citizens to most of the European nations that their neighbours’ passports would need visas for. One of the great beacons of his legacy is the Kamuzu Academy, which is often referred to as the Eton of Africa.
Sadly, Malawi has lagged in terms of development. She remains one of the world’s least developed countries. As much as that can be criticised, there is a beauty in seeing an African country that has not become overly Westernised, or Easternised as the trend is becoming in some parts today.
There have been issues of blatant financial mismanagement widely reported in international media. These issues resulted in the UK and US withdrawing the financial aid that they were providing to the nation. This resulted in an 80% reduction in Malawi’s development budget. Perhaps this would explain her slow rate of development.
Away from that, Malawi has been a refuge for African displaced from their own war-torn lands. She ought to be applauded for this effort as she often has. A crisis in leadership spending which result in the purchase of lavish jets and homes for a select few, while the masses suffer is a plague. To be fair to her, it is a common phenomenon in most developing countries, in and out of Africa.
The general population of Malawi are some of the best people you will ever come across as you travel. They are full of smiles and very welcoming.
Population: 18.62 million (2017)
Area: 118,484 km²
Currency: Malawian Kwacha
Climate: sub-tropical climate
GDP: 5.10 per capita
Cost of Living in Malawi
Based on the data from Numbeo, you can live a reasonably comfortable month in Malawi for under $200, well, $185.40, if you are on a Western diet. The figure goes down about $50 if you choose to go with an Asian diet.
The honest truth is that most people in Malawi do not even make this amount of money every month, yet they are surviving. If you choose to live like a regular local, you can cut this food bill by about 60% or more.
What Currency is used in Malawi?
Malawi uses the Malawian Kwacha as their currency. At time of writing, US$100 gets you MK 72 475.32. The population of Malawi stands at about 17.22 as of 2015. I am sure they would have added a few hundred thousands to that by now.
What Language is spoken in Malawi
There are two official languages in Malawi, Chichewa and English. The English obviously being a result of British colonial rule. It is quite unusual for an African country to only have one native language. Can’t think of any other place where this is the case.
What timezone is Malawi in?
Malawi is in the GMT+2 Timezone. That is 2 hours ahead of London time.
Will I need a visa to go to Malawi?
There are 34 countries that do not require a visa to enter into Malawi:
- Antigua And Barbuda
- Hong Kong, China
- Northern Ireland
- Samoa (Western)
- South Africa
- St. Kitts Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent And the Grenadines
- Trinidad And Tobago
If you do not see your country above, you will need to get a visa. Visas can be issued to most countries upon arrival for a fee. If in doubt, I would advise applying in advance. No one wants to be turned away at the door, although that hardly ever happens.
Types of Visas in Malawi
There are two types of visas that one can apply for. The single entry one (one stay for up to 6 months) and the multiple entry one (twelve months, come and go as you please). These visas cost US$75 and US$250 respectively. [Malawi Immigration]
When/What is the best time of year to visit Malawi?
Based on personal experience and advice from the locals, you want to go to Malawi between mid-May and August. It is expected to be warm, with little to no rain.
What Vaccinations do I need for going to Malawi?
I’ve heard of terrible tales of people who travelled to India without the recommended vaccines and lived to regret it. Don’t be a hero. For travellers from the UK, you are advised to contact your GP between 6-8 weeks prior to departure.[NHS]
The one that is usually given is the malaria one. You may also get one for hepatitis A & B, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria cholera and rabies. Depending on where you are travelling from, some of these are free. I’ll say it again, do not be a hero! No one wants to be taking care of you instead of enjoying their time in Malawi.
TRAVEL CHECKLIST FOR GOING TO MALAWI
My recommended travel checklist for Malawi is similar to the one that I would advise for other countries within the region. If you have seen our Namibia or Zimbabwe one, you should do ok with either of those.
- Sun cream
- Power banks, preferably solar ones if available
- Refillable water bottle
- Medical Cover also known as Medical aid
- Sim Unlocked Mobile phone
- Mosquito/insect repellent
- Walking shoes/boots
- Emergency Contact Person (Can in in neighbouring country)
- Driver’s Licence
- Printed hotel and activity bookings
- Medication (If you are on any)
- Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, sanitary pad and such), especially if you prefer a specific brand.
- Hair Products
- Hand Sanitiser & Wet Wipes
- Hand Cream
- Handy Cash (10000 Kwacha)
Feel free to add some of your own items, and let me know if I missed anything that you would consider to be essential. It is important to remember that restrictions may apply when it comes to how many millilitres of anything you can carry through a port.
So, you have landed at the Kamuzu International airport, it’s time to explore Malawi. You are quite close to one of Malawi’s major cities, Lilongwe. As with our other guides, we will start by getting the transport sorted. If you don’t get the wheels right, your journey could be compromised. It is important to be able to have control of when are how your travel. Waiting for buses is just not the way to do it.
Vehicle Hire Malawi
Our trip was met with the fortune of being able to travel with a man who was from Malawi but living abroad. He got get us a vehicle to use for the duration of our stay. Seeing as we cannot all have great friends from Malawi, we looked into some car hire places for you.
There are a few companies listed within reachable distance to Kamuzu international airport. As with our other guides, we recommend spending a few minutes shopping for the best price. You could even get a taxi to take you around the places.
Vehicle hire companies in Lilongwe:
|SS RENT A CAR||AVIS MALAWI||APEX RENT A CAR|
|+265 1 751 478||+265 0756102||+265 1 754 610|
|Generally offer a great service. They have |
been criticised for
treatment to tourists.
|Avis is a global brand |
that has somewhat
earned our trust.
|Known to offer great |
customer service and
|3.7 STAR||5.0 STAR||5.0 STAR|
My first recommendation is for you to rent local. International corporations tend to take money out of these minuscule economies and enrich our giants economies elsewhere. That being said, you ought to make sure you are getting a decent car.
What to consider when renting a car in Africa (Malawi)
- For nationwide and safari drives, get a 4×4. Nothing less
- Price. Don’t get overcharged. Shop around and haggle.
- Multiple car drop off points. You want to be able to drop the car off in multiple places if need be.
- Does it come with fuel?
- What is their breakdown cover like?
If you get good answers for most of those, go with that company!
Places to visit Malawi
Lake Malawi is also known as Lake Nyasa, which is derived from the previous name of the country, Nyasaland. The lake is located at the border between Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.
That got me wondering if the Tanzania and Mozambique people have a name for the lake as well? If any of the readers here know, I would love to know. The lake takes up the equivalent of about a fifth of the country’s land. I guess that would give them ownership of sorts.
In 2011, Yahoo travel named Lake Malawi, the best lake in the world. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. If that is not reason enough to want to see this beauty, perhaps nothing ever will be.
For some reason, most of this information doesn’t permeate to other ends of the world. There are only two lakes across the continent that are bigger than Lake Malawi. As with other African spots, it is only discovered when the Europeans arrive. That discovery is of course credited to one, David Livingstone.
This lake bears a resemblance to seaside destinations, as it has sandy surrounding. This gives it a beach feel. Most landlocked nations would not have the pleasure of a beach. We reached the lake by driving down from Lilongwe.
La Caverna Art Gallery
In line with our ethos that travelling is about knowing the people. We always encourage that you visit some museums and galleries in any country that you visit. La Caverana Art Gallery offers you an exhibition of art by local artists.
You will get a view into the culture of Malawi, her heritage, history and art. Here, you will unique, collectable artefacts, that can not be found on sale anywhere else in the world. There are books, paintings, wood carvings, Malawian magnet mask, locals arts and craft and more.
This is not so much of criticism. My lady spent a tonne of money here when we were there. In my opinion, some of the items were intentionally overpriced. This is was sentiment shared by other sojourners we ran into. The local markets offer an alternative source of some of the items. However there are overheads that come with running a place like this, which somewhat justify their pricing. Markets have less overhead, but are also less safe for the unseasoned traveller.
It is well placed for seeing Blantyre. You are a few minutes’ walk away from the markets, and the rest of the city. The facility includes a library, outside sitting, cafes and more. Well worth a visit!
The Parliament Building
I don’t know how I feel about visiting parliament buildings. It does not matter where in the world it is. A school trip took me to the house of Commons in London when I was much younger. The Parliament Building in Malawi seems to be quite a draw for visitors.
It is conveniently located for the sort of business that occurs there. Standing in stark irony with the nation. A huge, sight of grandeur in an impoverished nation. The architecture is lovely, but not exactly reminiscent of Africa or Malawi at all.
- It is not located within the same vicinity of other tourist attractions.
- It’s a beautiful building, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “must see”.
- Great architecture.
St Michael and All Angels Church
Located in the heart of Blantyre. This is a national monument, as you will see from the sign on the image. The church is still in operation. It is not something that would be of interest to locals, but as a tourist, you may find it of interest.
The church was erected in 1882, courtesy of one Rev DC Scott. Reverend Scott had moved here from Scotland. An interesting fact is that this building was planned by a man who had no architectural experience or education. He just envisioned a building and went with it.
He sure got it right, as the church has been standing for over 130 years. It was renovated in 1888 by a group of missionaries to enlarge it and make it more purpose fit.
The building is still in use as a church. There are over 2000 members who call this their church. So be aware of this when you visit. The guards and congregants are aware of its standing as an attraction. As such you will be shown great courtesy.
- Not sure how to feel about the idea of a church being a tourist attraction.
- Great building with incredible history.
- Easy to get to.
Majete Wildlife Reserve
We have seen in the news how tourists have come onto the continent to kill animals. This issue is enhanced further by poaching which involves locals as well as the international stakeholders who buy these things. In such an atmosphere, Majete Wildlife Reserve is a breath of fresh air.
It is a wildlife reserve that has take a land that was laying fallow for a while. They have turned this land into a habitat for wildlife, as well as created jobs for the locals.
This is an initiative that is led by African Parks. If you should support something, this is it.
It is located about 68km South West of Blantyre. There are other reserves within the area, which would make for a great day out in the wild. You can view just about the whole BIG FIVE.
We are still adding to this page. There are 10 other places to be added. Keep an eye out.