Travel guide to Malawi

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» Malawi
Malawi's divinely beautiful natural landscape is filled with promise for those who want to experience something of the unspoilt side of Africa. It is possible to go rock climbing or hiking in the mountains, swimming on the many beaches, and divers can experience countless myriads of exotic fish. There are furthermore plenty of safari opportunities in the abounding national parks.

Facts

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Local name
Republic of Malawi
Capital
Lilongwe (400.000)
Size
118.480 km2
Principal Languages
The official first languages are English and Chichewa
Principal Religion
Over half of the population of Malawi are Protestants, one fifth are Muslims and one fifth are Catholics, while the rest have an animistic take on life.
Inhabitants
10.000.416 (1999)
Government
Multi-party democracy.
Geography
Almost a fifth of Malawi is covered by Africa's third largest lake, Lake Malawi - the only lake in the whole world inhabited by such a wide variety of animal species. Malawi is also rich in forest, mountains, and plains - where there also thrive a vast wildlife and fauna - including over 400 different types of orchids.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The rainy-season is from October to April, so if you do not want to get your feet wet, your best bet is to visit during the winter months (in other words from late April to October). For those who are interested in going on safari it would be best to time your trip for right before the rainy-season, because all the animals gather around the water holes - but this is also when the weather is very hot.

Literature

Lonely Planet Malawi, Mozambique & Zambia (0864424620).

Local conditions

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Currency

Kwacha, (MK), 1 kwacha = 100 tambala

Net cafes

There are not any official Internet cafés in Malawi, but among other places many hotels in the larger cities do supply facilities that are at the disposal for tourists. Furthermore it is possible to get access to the Internet at the University and at the British Council Library in Lilongwe.

Tipping

At all the large hotels and restaurants they add 10% to the bill for their services. On the other hand the employees at the national parks are not paid very well, so if the service was good it would be appropriate to give a little extra.

Timezone

When the time is 12:00 in UK (summer time), it is 12:00 in Malawi. When the time is 12:00 in UK (winter time) it is 13:00 in Malawi.

Weight and Measures

In Malawi the following weight and measure schemes are used: Weight: kilo Temperature: o Celsius Distances: kilometres Cubic content: litre

Photography

It is polite to ask permission before taking pictures of other people.

Drinking water

We do not advise that you drink the tap water in Malawi without boiling it first.

Electricity

In Malawi the following energy source is used: 220 V AC, 50 Hz

Behaviour

Dressing conservatively is most appreciated in Malawi.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 8:00 to 14:00 (Monday-Friday). Shops are open from 8:00 to 17:00 (Monday-Friday).

Food and drink

Lake Nyasa has many fish - and this shows in the menus in the area. One of the specialities is chambo, a dish made from the fish called tilapia. Malawi also produces its own brand of gin, so it is possible in most areas to enjoy a gin & tonic before dining.

Disabled travellers

As one of the world's least developed countries Malawi cannot boast of being disability-conscious.

Holidays

New Years Day, January 1st John Chilembwe's Day, January 16th Martyr's Day, March 3rd May Day, May 1st Liberty Day, June 14th Independence Day (and the day of the republic), July 6th Christmas Day, December 25th 2nd Christmas day, December 26th It is the case in Malawi that if a public holiday is on a Saturday, then Friday is also declared a holiday so that no one will be cheated out of a day off. Alternating holidays Good Friday, usually in April Easter Sunday, usually in April Mother's Day, the second Monday in October National Tree Planting Day, the second Monday in December

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are well-equipped camping grounds in the national parks and around Lake Malawi. There are limits to how many campers the grounds can hold so it is a good idea to reserve a spot in advance.

Hotels

There are high quality hotels in all the major cities and around Lake Malawi.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

There are guesthouses in all the big national parks, but many of them have been renovated so much during recent years that both in comfort and price they are more like hotels.

Hostels

There are quite a few youth hostels and suchlike in Malawi, and they offer accommodation at very low prices.

Local transport

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Planes

Air Malawi is the national airline company, and there are flights between Lilongwe and Blantyre a couple of times a day. From Blantyre you can get connections to Mzuzu, Karonga, Club Makokola, Chelinda and Likoma. If you have the money for it you can charter a plane to fly around in the surrounding area and land at one of the 45 runways in Malawi.

Bus

The privately owned Stagecoach connects Malawi's different areas with buses of varying levels of comfort. If you are interested in an especially beautiful outing then the bus ride from Mzuzu to Karonga is worthwhile.

Trains

There are no trains to the capital, but there are railway services between Blantyre and Balaka, and between Limba and Nsanje. The trains in Malawi can be rather slow and overcrowded

Taxi

There are not many taxis in Malawi and you cannot hail one on the street - you have to book one in advance.

Car rental

It is possible to rent cars in the larger cities, but it is important to reserve one well in advance because the demand for them is quite high. It is also possible to hire a driver. Avis has offices so you can make reservations before leaving home, but otherwise Halls Car Hire has offices in Lilongwe, Blantyre, and Club Makakola, as do other car rental companies.

Special conditions

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Until recently is was illegal for men to have hair that was longer than shoulder length, and it is still not looked upon kindly, so you might want to consider a trip to the barber before choosing to vacation in Malawi.

Find your travel arrangement to Malawi here

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