Visa and Immigration requirements
A full valid passport is required for entry to Malawi though visitors from many countries do not need to arrange visas. Citizens from the following countries may not require visas; Commonwealth (excluding India, Pakistan, and Nigeria), European Union countries, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Madagascar, Norway, San Marino, and the USA. It is always important to check with the nearest Malawi diplomatic mission, or the Deputy Chief Immigration officer in Blantyre.
International travelers over the age of 18 may import the following items free of duty: 200 cigarettes or 225 gm tobacco, 1 litre spirits, 1 litre beer, and 1 litre wine, a reasonable quantity of consumable goods.
Several airlines serves Malawi: Air Malawi, British Airways, KLM, Kenya Airways, Air Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, and Air Tanzania. Most of the international services are from Lilongwe International Airport, 26 Km north of the city although some regional routes use Blantyre's Chileka Airport. Both airports have car hire, banks and tourism information.
Air Malawi connects Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu, Karonga, and Club Makokola on the southern lakeshore.
When to visit
Malawi is always beautiful. The cooler months (May to October) are comfortable for travelers from the northern hemisphere, but the lush green summer (November to April) is also a good time to visit if due care is taken to avoid mosquito bites. The May and June months combine the best of both seasons - cooler, still green with great visibility - and are especially good for photography. Be warned that country roads are often impassable to normal vehicles during heavy rains.
Game viewing is best in the hottest times of the dry season when the animals are forced to visit water sources, but the country is more attractive in the wetter, greener months. Bird watchers enjoy their best sightings in October and November.
Check for school holiday dates, particularly for those in South Africa when more tourists visit Malawi and resorts can become crowded.
The Great Rift Valley runs across eastern Africa like an ancient scar from the Red Sea in the north to the Zambezi valley in the south. Malawi has two rift lakes - Lake Malawi and Lake Malombe - as well as Lake Chirwa and Lake Chiuta, which lie outside the Rift system. In all, over 20% of Malawi is covered by water. The Shire River, the only outlet from Lake Malawi, joins the Zambezi River in Mozambique, thence to the Indian Ocean.
In the north the Rift Valley Escarpment rises steeply from the Lake, reaching altitudes of 2500metres, even more across the Lake in the Livingstone Mountains of Tanzania. Mountainous areas in the north include the beautiful Nyika Plateau and the forested Viphya Plateau. in the south the mystical Mulanje Mountain towers through the mist.
A full international driver's licence is required and a minimum age of 25 with 2 years driving experience may be asked for if hiring a car.
Travelers need to consult their doctor or a travel clinic to obtain the latest advice on immunizations. Presently the following immunizations are usually advised before entering Malawi: polio, tetanus, typhoid fever and hepatitis A. Yellow fever immunization is not is not need for Malawi. Cholera and Rabies are limited and vaccination is usually only recommended for those at particularly high risk.
There is a good network of petrol stations covering all but the most remote rural areas.
Car hire is readily available on a 'per km' rate or with unlimited distance. If one is touring the country, it is easy to achieve the necessary daily journeys. Chauffeurs are also available at a reasonable rate. Charges may increase when traveling away from the town of hire.
Taxis operate from the hotels mostly. There are numerous minibuses to take people around towns and also the next region. The bus network is expanded, and reasonably comfortable and efficient. Shire Bus lines, runs local rural services and a luxury long distance coach line connecting Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre with Harare and Johannesburg.
The Malawian currency is the Kwacha, abbr. MK, it is divided into 100 tambala (t). Available notes range from K500, K200, K100, K50, K20, K10, and K5 denominations, below this are coins. The Kwacha approximated as follows in 2003: 109K-1 US$.
There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency brought into the country though it all should be declared on arrival to prevent restriction on the same amount being taken out when departing.
There is a very wide choice of banks Malawi. Currently more than 10 banks are operational; Stanbic Bank, National bank, Indebank, Ned bank, Finance Bank, First Merchant Bank, Loita bank, Opportunity Bank, Malawi savings bank. Most of these banks operate from 08 hrs to 14 hrs. Traveler cheques and foreign currency are traded in banks and forex bureaus. Hotels also provide such services.
Major Hotels, restaurants, car hire and clubs do accept credit cards. Their use is limited in the rural areas away from the major cities and up market tourism industry. Recently there is a Smart Cash card that has been introduced, facilitating ease of shopping for the holder.
Malawi was ruled as a one party state by Dr. Hasings Kamuzu Banda till 1994 when multi party elections were held. The current President is Dr. Bakili Muluzi who won elections in 1994 and retained his rule in 1999.
The national language is Chichewa with Yao and Tumbuka as the next most used languages. English is the official language and is used widely in commerce, education as a primary language.
Christianity commands seventy five percent of the population with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian and Roman Catholic as the strongest in the country. Muslims count for about 15% of the population, the rest representing other beliefs. There is freedom of worship in Malawi as attested by the erection of a Muslim president.
Business opens at 08 to 17.00 hrs. Work starts at 07.30 hrs.
Newspapers in Malawi include; The daily times, The nation, The independent, The Malawi Times, The Malawi News, The Saturday Nation, The Enquirer, Newsday.
Radio Stations include; Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (FM. MW, SW) BBC World service (FM, SW), VOA (SW), FM 101 Power, Capital Radio 102.5 FM, Trans World Radio, CFC Radio,
Television stations include; TV Malawi. BBC, CNN, M-Net, from DSTv.
Malawi lies in GMT +2, the same central African time zone as South Africa. It is one hour ahead of central European time, seven hours ahead of Eastern US time and ten hours ahead of western US time.