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Malawi

Country info

Malawi is a landlocked country located in southeastern Africa. It is bordered in the North and East by Tanzania, on the east, south and southwest by Mozambique and to the west by Zambia.
The country lies within the Great African Rift Valley system. Lake Malawi, a body of water some 360 miles long and about 1,500 ft above sea level, is its most prominent physical feature. Much of the land surface is plateau between 900 to 1,220 m (3,000 to 4,000 ft) above sea level. Elevations rise of over 2,440 m (8,000 ft) in the Nyika Plateau in the north and in the regions of Mt. Mulanje 3,050 m (10,000 ft) and Mt. Zomba 2,135 m (7,000 ft). The Shire highlands in the south are lower with elevations from 610 m (2,000 ft) to 900 m (3,000 ft).
To the north there are rugged highlands with rolling hills in the Nyika and Vwanza plateaux, whilst in the South, traversing the escarpment that forms part of the Great African Rift Valley, lie the lowlands of the Shire Valley.
Lake Malawi is the county's centerpiece. Like an inland sea it has endless palm fringed beaches, enclosed by sheer mountains, making it undeniably the focal point for Malawi's tourists. Malawi is a landlocked country located in southeastern Africa. It is bordered in the North and East by Tanzania, on the east, south and southwest by Mozambique and to the west by Zambia.

Travel info

Climate
SUMMER: January – March
WINTER: June – July
January to March is the hot, rainy season. Temperatures average around 26ºC, but reach the mid 30s. Many of the roads in the National Parks get washed away, and animals are difficult to see due to thicker vegetation. However, for the budget conscious, many hotels and activities are heavily discounted during this period. In April, roads open up and the weather turns beautiful with clear skies, warm days and cool evenings. June and July are the middle of winter, but the average daytime temperature is about 21ºC, but the nights are cold, especially in the highlands. By late August, the days become hotter, though the nights are still cool and by October the days are very hot, with warm nights. It is still dry. The rainy season starts in December, so this month can be very humid.

Clothing
Generally, casual comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year.
The most practical items to pack for your Malawi holiday are:
blouses with long sleeves (even in summer, they will protect you from the sun and from mosquitoes)
t-shirts
shorts or a light skirt
jeans or trousers for evenings and cooler days
fleece or sweater and a warm jacket for game drives (necessary, even in summer)
comfortable walking shoes

Visa
Nationals of the following countries do not require a visa:
Commonwealth countries, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Ireland, South Africa, Sweden, USA.

Not many nationals require a visa, check with your nearest Malawian Consulate or Malawi Diplomatic Mission for the current visa requirements. Most visitors will receive a 30 day tourist pass. If you have a return ticket indicating that you require a longer period, you may easily get two or three months. Where visas are required, you will need an application form and two or three passport photographs. A visa costs around US$25.
This is a guide only. Rules change regularly so please check with your nearest Malawian Consulate for up to date information.

Car hire
You will need a valid international driving licence or national driving licence if set out in English. Malawi drives on the left. The main roads is Malawi are generally surfaced and most are reasonably well maintained. Many smaller roads and roads within the game reserves can become impassable in the rainy season. Be aware, for some reason, Malawian drivers seem to believe that by not using their headlights will conserve the life of their car battery, so driving after dark can be dangerous.
Hiring a car is an expensive way to get around but essential if you want to see a lot in a limited time.

Health
It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Malawi. When purchasing these, please tell your doctor or pharmacist that you intend visiting Malawi. Start your course at least 24 hours before entering Malawi and continue taking the pills for six weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner as this usually minimises the effect of the symptoms. Take precautionary measures to prevent contact with mosquitoes, like: sleeping under a bed net (most hotels provide these) or in a room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times); spraying your accommodation with insecticide; making use of a mosquito-repelling lotion or stick; and wearing long sleeve clothing, trousers and socks when outside at night.
It is advisable to be up to date with typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, hepatitis, small pox and tetanus inoculations. The lakeshore is not always free of bilharzia, so check with local authorities.

Currency
The unit of currency is the kwacha (MK) which is divided into 100 tambala. There are notes of Mk100, 50, 20, 10 & 5. Coins of Mk1, and 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 & 1 tambala.
You will find the exchange rate is in your favour. Visitors from North America, Australasia and Europe will find that items cost half or two thirds of what they are used to paying, and locally produced goods and food is even cheaper.
The major banks are the National Bank of Malawi and the Commercial Bank of Malawi. Both have branches in most towns throughout the country. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 13:00 or 14:00. In small towns they may only open two or three days a week. Traveller’s cheques and major currencies can be exchanged in banks, hotels & other institutions. In remote areas, local district commissioner’s offices will cash cheques. It is strongly discouraged to change money on the black market. The chances of money changing being a scam are high – a sure sign of this is an offer of a rate 10% higher than bank rates.

Commercial Banks
The major banks are the National Bank of Malawi and the Commercial Bank of Malawi. Both have branches in most towns throughout the country. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 13:00 or 14:00. In small towns they may only open two or three days a week. Traveller’s cheques and major currencies can be exchanged in banks, hotels & other institutions. In remote areas, local district commissioner’s offices will cash cheques. It is strongly discouraged to change money on the black market. The chances of money changing being a scam are high – a sure sign of this is an offer of a rate 10% higher than bank rates.

Language
Although English is the official language, Chichewa, the other official language, is most commonly spoken. It is a sign of respect to be able to greet people in their own language so it is a good idea to learn some of the basic phrases:
Greetings:
Hello - Moni
Thank you/ Excuse me - Zikomo
Please - Chonde
Fine/OK/Good - Chabwino
How are you? - Muli Bwanji?
I'm fine - Ndili bwino
Goodbye (to the person staying) - Tsala bwino
Goodbye (to person leaving) - Pitani bwino
What is your name? - Dzani lako ndani?
Where are you going? - Ukupita kuti?
I'm going to .... - Ndikupita ku ....
Yes - Inde
No - Iyayi
How much? - Ntengo bwanji?
Why? - Chifukwa?
I don't understand. - Sindikunva

Accessoires
sun block, sunglasses, hat, insect repellent - essentials!
binoculars and a camera are a must
track suit - good for sleeping in during winter months
light, compact raincoat is a good idea for the summer
swimsuit and snorkelling and diving gear
towel, torch and sleeping bag for camping safaris (sleeping bags can be hired from most safari operators)
                                                       copyright: Paul Janssen