Welcome to Malawi
Malawi, the "Warm Heart of Africa," is a small landlocked country in southeastern Africa. This hidden gem is known for its stunning landscapes, friendly people, and diverse wildlife, making it a perfect destination for adventurers and nature lovers.
Whether you're planning to hike Mount Mulanje, go on a safari in Liwonde National Park, or relax on the shores of Lake Malawi, our ultimate Malawi travel guide will provide you with all the information and Malawi travel advice you need to plan an unforgettable trip. We've covered you, from visa requirements to local customs and traditions. So pack your bags and get ready to discover the beauty of Malawi!
Travel Documents checklist for Malawi
Here is a checklist of requirements you need to enter Malawi:
Visa (depending on your nationality, you may be able to obtain a visa on arrival or need to apply in advance)
Valid passport (with at least six months validity beyond the length of stay)
Proof of onward or return ticket
Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay
Yellow fever vaccination certificate (if arriving from a yellow fever endemic country)
Health declaration form (may be required upon arrival)
Travel insurance that offers coverage for medical treatment during your travel abroad.
Essential Malawi travel information
Currency - Malawi kwacha (MWK). 1 USD is equivalent to approximately 850 MWK. Note no other foreign currency is accepted for daily transactions.
Daily budget for one person - A budget of around USD 30 - 50 per day should cover accommodation, food, and local transportation.
Languages - The official language is English, but Chichewa is widely spoken.
*Number of travelers per year** - In 2019, Malawi received around 1 million international tourists.
Socket type - Type G, 3-prong UK-style socket.
Time zone - Central Africa Time (CAT), GMT+2.
Top 3 cities to visit - Lilongwe (capital city), Blantyre (commercial capital), and Zomba (former capital and university town).
Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Lake Malawi, Mulanje Mountain, and Liwonde National Park.
Visa information for Malawi
US and EU citizens traveling to Malawi may require a visa, depending on the purpose and length of their stay. Here's an overview of the current visa requirements:
US citizens can obtain a visa on arrival for up to 90 days Per Entry. If you plan to stay longer or have a specific purpose for your visit, you may need to apply for a visa in advance.
EU citizens can also obtain a visa on arrival for up to 30 days. If you plan to stay longer or have a specific purpose for your visit, you may need to apply for a visa in advance.
Please note that visa requirements and entry rules can change anytime, and other nationalities may require a visa. Use our visa checker tool to see if you need a visa.
Single Entry eVisa
The Malawi eVisa is an official document permitting entry into Malawi. This eVisa allows travelers to enter the country for tourist and business purposes or sightseeing.
This single-entry eVisa is valid for 180 days after issued and allows you to stay in the country for 90 days Per Entry. Let iVisa remove the stress of getting your visa and apply with us!
Malawi Health Declaration
The Malawi Health Declaration is a mandatory travel document implemented by immigration authorities from Malawi to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Passengers must submit it with a negative result from the COVID-19 PCR Test. It must be issued within the previous 72 hours before arrival to the country, so [apply] as soon as possible. This document does not replace a visa.
Visa difficulty index for Malawi
Getting a visa for Malawi can be challenging. You may need to apply in person at the nearest embassy or consulate, depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit.
However, some nationalities are eligible for visas on arrival, which can make the process easier. The application process can generally be completed online, but you may need to submit supporting documents, such as a passport-sized photo or a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Time to get your visa: 3/5
The processing time for a Malawi visa can vary depending on your nationality and the type of visa you're applying for.
Visa on arrival can be obtained quickly, usually within a few minutes, but applying for a visa in advance can take several weeks, depending on the embassy or consulate. You are planning and applying for your visa with plenty of time before your trip is essential.
The cost of a Malawi visa can vary depending on your nationality and the type of visa you're applying for. While there is no government fee for a visa on arrival, applying for a visa in advance can be costly, with government fees ranging from USD 50- 200.
Additionally, there may be additional fees for expedited processing or other services. However, iVisa can assist with the application process and help ensure your visa is approved without rejection, potentially saving you money in the long run.
Typical costs and budget for Malawi
If you're planning to travel to Malawi, here's an essential guide to the typical costs and budget for a daily basis while traveling through the major cities on an average budget.
Daily spending per person - On average, you can expect to spend around $30-$50 (MWK 24,000-40,000) per day per person in Malawi, depending on your travel style and preferences.
Meals - A basic meal in a local restaurant can cost around $2-$5 (MWK 1,600-4,000), while a meal in a mid-range restaurant can cost approximately $10-$15 (MWK 8,000-12,000). If you prefer to cook your meals, groceries can cost around $20-$30 (MWK 16,000-24,000) per week.
Transport - Public transportation is cheap in Malawi, with a bus ride typically costing around $1-$2 (MWK 8,00-1600) . Taxis are also available; a short ride can cost around $5-$10 (MWK 4,000-8,000).
Accommodation - Budget accommodation can be found for as low as $10-$15 (MWK 8,000-12,000) per night, while mid-range hotels can cost around $40-$50 (MWK 32,000-40,000) per night. Other costs you may encounter include:
Visa fees vary depending on your nationality and your chosen processing time.
Safari and adventure activities - If you plan to go on a safari or other adventure activities such as hiking or water sports, prices can vary depending on the activity and location. Safari packages can cost around $200-$500 (MWK 160,000-400,000 ) per person daily.
Overall, a trip for two people for one week to Malawi will cost, on average, around $500-$700 (MWK 340,000-476,000), excluding the cost of flights and visas. It's important to note that prices can vary depending on the season and availability, so it's always best to check ahead of time and budget accordingly
Transport and ways to travel around Malawi
Malawi is a small country in southeast Africa with several options for transportation, including buses, minibusses, taxis, and private cars.
Flying to Malawi
Flying is one of the most convenient ways to get to Malawi, and several airlines offer direct flights to the country from major destinations.
The main international airport in Malawi is the Lilongwe International Airport (LLW), located in the capital city of Lilongwe. It serves as the main entry point for international visitors to the country.
Several airlines offer direct flights to Malawi from major destinations, including:
South African Airways
These airlines offer direct flights from destinations such as Johannesburg, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, and Kigali.
In addition to Lilongwe International Airport, there is also the Chileka International Airport (BLZ) located in Blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi. It offers domestic and international flights, connecting Malawi to nearby countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Overall, flying to Malawi is a convenient option for international visitors, with several airlines offering direct flights to the country from major destinations.
Arrival and immigration tips for Malawi
Arriving in Malawi can be an exciting experience, but it's essential to be prepared for the immigration and customs procedures to avoid delays. Here are some tips to help you get through immigration quicker:
Depending on your nationality, you may be required to obtain a visa before arriving in Malawi or get a visa on arrival. We recommend that you apply for a visa in advance to avoid any potential delays or issues upon arrival. You can apply for a visa online through the iVisa platform, the Malawian embassy, or the consulate in your home country.
Upon arrival, you'll need to go through immigration and customs procedures. Have all your required documents, including your passport, visa, and proof of onward travel, ready for inspection. Be prepared to answer questions from immigration officials about the purpose of your visit and your intended length of stay.
Lilongwe International Airport can be crowded and overwhelming, especially during peak travel times. Follow the signs and directions given by airport officials to navigate the airport quickly. If you need clarification, feel free to ask for assistance from airport staff.
There are several ways to get to and from the airport, including taxis, private cars, and airport shuttle services. We recommend that you arrange your transportation in advance to avoid any potential issues upon arrival. You can also book your transportation through your hotel or travel agent.
During peak travel times, there may be long queues and traffic around the airport, which can cause delays. Be prepared to wait and have some patience. It's recommended to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your scheduled departure time to allow enough time for immigration and security procedures.
Best ways to travel around Malawi
Malawi offers several ways to travel around the country, including buses, minibusses, taxis, and private cars. Buses and minibusses are the most common form of public transportation and are affordable options to get to most destinations within the country.
Taxis and private cars are also available for hire, offering a more convenient but more expensive option for transportation. It's recommended to confirm fares before boarding and has small denominations of cash ready for payment.
It is possible to hire a car in Malawi. However, you will require an international driving permit to do so. The roads, especially the older northern routes, can be tricky to navigate, known for their potholes and narrow sections. If you plan a self-drive adventure in Malawi, just be aware and drive carefully.
Safety in Malawi
Overall, Malawi is a relatively safe country for travelers. However, there are certain precautions local authorities recommend visitors should take to ensure their safety during their stay.
While small-town and rural areas in Malawi are considered very safe for travel, petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft, can occur in crowded areas and tourist destinations like Kenyatta Drive and the bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre, so it's essential to *keep your personal belongings close and be aware of your surroundings.
Avoid walking alone at night, especially in poorly lit areas. A trusted taxi service or arranging transportation through your hotel or a reputable tour operator is also recommended.
While incidents of violent crime against foreigners are rare, travelers should be cautious in areas with a higher risk of crime and unrest, particularly along the border regions with Mozambique and Tanzania. It's also important to note local laws, customs, and traditions. Monitor local media to stay current with events that may impact your trip.
Weather in Malawi
Malawi has a subtropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The best time to visit is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. During this time, temperatures are more relaxed, and there is less rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as safaris and hiking. The hottest months are October and November, with temperatures reaching 35°C (95°F) during the day.
The rainy season in Malawi runs from November to April, with the heaviest rainfall from January to March. While the countryside is lush and green during this time, travel can be challenging due to flooded roads and limited access to some destinations—temperatures during the wet season range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F).
Regardless of the season, it's essential to pack for warm weather, with lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs to protect against the sun and mosquitoes. Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are also recommended. Pack waterproof shoes and a rain jacket if visiting during the wet season.
Must do and see in Malawi
Malawi has a booming tourism industry that offers many opportunities for adventure. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Malawi:
Lake Malawi - A trip to Malawi would only be complete by visiting Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. With crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, and various aquatic life, the lake is a popular destination for water sports, such as snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving. The best time to visit is during the dry season from May to October, and it's recommended to try the local fish dish, chambo. Remember also to check out the Shire River, the only outlet from the lake and the largest river in Malawi.
Liwonde National Park - Located in the country's south, Liwonde National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and numerous species of birds. The park offers a variety of activities, such as game drives, boat safaris, and walking tours. The best time to visit is during the dry season, from May to October.
Mount Mulanje - A hike up Mount Mulanje is a must-do activity for adventurous travelers. The mountain is the highest peak in Malawi and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The best time to climb is during the dry season from May to October, and hiring a guide and packing appropriate hiking gear is recommended.
Chongoni Rock Art Area - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chongoni Rock Art Area is home to some of the oldest rock art in Africa. The art dates back to the Stone Age and depicts various aspects of life, such as hunting, dancing, and rituals. The site is located in the country's central region and can be visited year-round.
Zomba Plateau - A popular destination for hiking and birdwatching, the Zomba Plateau is a must-see for nature lovers. With panoramic views, waterfalls, and diverse plant and animal life, the plateau offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. The best time to visit is during the dry season from May to October, and it's recommended to bring comfortable hiking shoes and warm clothing for the cooler temperatures at higher elevations.
Majete Wildlife Reserve - Majete Wildlife Reserve is a conservation success story in Malawi. Once nearly devoid of wildlife, it's now a premier Big Five park with thriving animal populations and abundant birdlife. This off-the-beaten-track destination offers a sense of total serenity and a chance to meet and interact with local communities. Guests can explore the diverse landscape on foot and encounter wildlife. Only an hour and a half drive from Blantyre, it's perfect for day visitors who can enjoy the newly refurbished Mwembezi Restaurant and Heritage Swimming pool.
Typical Malawian food to try
Nsima - the national dish of Malawi, made from ground maize flour and served with various stews or sauces. It's eaten using your hands by rolling the nsima into small balls and using it to scoop up the sauce.
Chambo - a freshwater fish found in Lake Malawi, often grilled or fried and served with a side of nsima and vegetables. It's a popular dish among locals and visitors alike.
Mandasi - a fried doughnut-like pastry, sometimes called "African beignets." It's a typical snack or breakfast in Malawi and can be enjoyed plain or with various toppings such as powdered sugar or jam.
Kondowole - a dish made from groundnut flour, water, and sugar and cooked into a porridge-like consistency. It's often eaten as a breakfast or snack, known for its high nutritional value, and is popular in North Malawi. Aside from food, take the chance to indulge in local liquor offerings, especially Malawi Gin, which is quickly gaining popularity.
Vaccine information for Malawi
Before traveling to Malawi, check the CDC website for required vaccinations, such as Yellow Fever. Additionally, travelers should be up-to-date on routine vaccinations and take precautions to prevent malaria and other illnesses.
Regarding COVID-19, it is recommended to follow local guidelines and regulations, including getting vaccinated if possible.
Explore Malawi’s Music Scene
The country's vibrant music scene stems from its rich musical history, with traditional music styles influenced by the rhythms and instruments of neighboring countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania. In recent years, Malawi has seen the rise of contemporary genres such as hip-hop, gospel, and reggae, with artists like Lucius Banda and Skeffa Chimoto gaining national and international recognition.
Visitors to Malawi can immerse themselves in the local music scene by attending live performances at venues such as the Mibawa Multipurpose Hall in Blantyre or the Lilongwe Golf Club. Many hotels and resorts offer live music events, especially during peak tourist season. Music festivals such as the Lake of Stars Festival, which takes place annually on the shores of Lake Malawi, bring together local and international artists to celebrate music and culture.
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