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Malawi

MALAWI TRAVEL GUIDE

The warm heart of Africa is how the friendly people of Malawi like to describe their small, landlocked country that lies almost in the middle of the great African continent.

 

The mountains, plateaus, rain forests and rivers of Malawi share space with the Lake Malawi, a beautiful inland lake lying in a deep trough created by the Great Rift Valley stretching for some 500km down the eastern border of Malawi. The area surrounding the Lake is given over to neatly laid out tea and tobacco plantations juxtaposed with lush rain forests, evergreen woods and grasslands where conservation areas protect the native habitats of rare wildflowers, orchids, birds and animals.

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  • Capital: Lilongwe

  • Currency: Malawian kwacha (MWK)

  • Area: 94,080 km²

  • Population: 18,14 million (2018)

  • Language: English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally

  • Religion: Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs 3%, other 2%

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BEST TIME TO VISIT MALAWI

Malawi has two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season.

  • The rainy season, also known as the long rains season, typically runs from November to April. During this time, the country receives the majority of its annual rainfall, which can cause flooding in some areas. This season is also known for high humidity and temperatures.
  • The dry season, also known as the short rains or cool season, typically runs from May to October. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny, with lower humidity and temperatures. This is the most popular time for tourists to visit the country as it is also the low malaria transmission season.

 

Best Time To Go

MALAWI WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Malawi’s climate is as varied as the country’s topography. The vast surface water of Lake Niassa tends to have a cooling effect on the margins of the lake, where long, hot seasons with high humidity occur, along with mean annual temperatures of 24°C. Rainfall patterns are heaviest along the coast of Lake Malawi where precipitation is heaviest (averaging 1600 mm annually); the rest of the country’s rainfall ranges between 750 and 1000 mm annually. Overall, the country experiences three seasons: a cool season (May to mid-August), a hot season (mid-August to November), and a rainy season (November to April), with rains continuing longer in the northern and eastern mountains.

Malawi

SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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BEST TIME FOR

SNOW SPORT IN MALAWI

HIKING & CYCLING IN MALAWI

The best time for outdoor activities in Malawi is from April to August when the temperatures are moderate and the weather is dry. November March is usually very hot and wet and September and October are considered extremely hot and dry.

BEACH OPTIONS IN MALAWI

The best time to visit Malawi’s lake beaches are from May to August. It's not the ocean, but there are beautiful sandy beaches surrounding Lake Malawi!

SURFING IN MALAWI

KITESURF IN MALAWI

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MALAWI TRAVEL COSTS

The cost of traveling to Malawi can vary depending on your travel style and the activities you plan to do. Here are some approximate costs to help you budget your trip:

  • Airfare: Round-trip flights from major cities in the US or Europe can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,500 or more depending on your departure city and the time of year you travel.
  • Accommodations: Budget accommodations such as backpacker hostels or budget hotels can cost around $10 to $20 per night, while more upscale options such as mid-range hotels and resorts can cost $50 to $100 or more per night.
  • Food and drink: Meals at local restaurants can cost around $5 to $10, while street food and market food are even cheaper. Prices for drinks vary, but a beer or a soft drink can cost around $1.5 - $2.
  • Transportation: Buses and minibuses between cities and towns are relatively inexpensive, costing around $1 to $5. However, if you're planning to rent a car or take a tour, you should budget more.
  • Activities: Prices for activities such as hiking, wildlife safaris, and cultural tours can vary widely, but you should expect to pay around $10 to $50 or more for a guided tour.

Overall, it's possible to travel to Malawi on a budget, but if you want to do more activities or stay in upscale accommodations, you will need to budget more.

 

Here is a sample budget for a one-week trip to Malawi:

  • Airfare: $800 (from major city in the US)
  • Accommodation: $150 (budget hotel or hostel)
  • Food and drink: $50 per day ($350 for the week)
  • Transportation: $30 (for local buses and minibuses)
  • Activities: $150 (for guided safari, hiking or cultural tours)
  • Total: $1330

Keep in mind that this is just an estimate and costs can vary depending on your travel style and the activities you plan to do. You may spend more or less depending on your preferences.

It's also worth noting that Malawi is a less expensive destination for budget travelers, and it is possible to travel on a tighter budget if you're willing to forgo some activities or stay in lower-cost accommodation.

Cost & Spending

MALAWI TRAVEL TIPS

Here are some travel tips to help you make the most of your trip to Malawi:

  • Get vaccinated: Malaria is prevalent in Malawi, so it's important to get vaccinated and take anti-malarial medication. It's also a good idea to get vaccinated for other diseases such as yellow fever and typhoid.
  • Pack for the weather: Malawi has a tropical climate, so pack light and breathable clothing, as well as a rain jacket or umbrella for the rainy season.
  • Take care of your health: Make sure to drink plenty of water and use bug spray to protect yourself from mosquitoes. Also, be aware of the risks of food and water-borne illnesses and take necessary precautions.
  • Be respectful of culture: Malawi is a conservative country, so it's important to dress modestly and respect local customs and traditions.
  • Learn some basic phrases: Malawi has a number of different languages, but English is widely spoken and understood. Learning some basic phrases in Chichewa, the national language, will be useful when travelling around the country.
  • Take cash: Many places in Malawi, especially in rural areas, do not accept credit or debit cards. Make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover your expenses.
  • Plan your itinerary: Malawi is a relatively small country, but transportation can be limited, so it's a good idea to plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time.
  • Be prepared for power cuts: Power cuts are common in Malawi, so it's a good idea to have a torch/flashlight and a portable charger to keep your devices powered up.
  • Be open-minded: Malawi is a beautiful country with a rich culture and friendly people. Be open-minded and flexible, and you'll have a great time.
Travel Tips

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF MALAWI

Malawi is a small country in southern Africa, and it is divided into three main regions: the Northern Region, the Central Region, and the Southern Region.

 

Northern Region: This region is known for its natural beauty, and it is home to several national parks and reserves. The highlights of the Northern Region include:

  • Nyika National Park: This is Malawi's largest national park, known for its rolling hills, grasslands, and wildflowers. It's also home to a variety of wildlife, including elephants, antelopes, and leopards.
  • Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve: This reserve is known for its diverse birdlife, including the rare African Finfoot.
  • Lake Malawi: The lake is the main attraction of this region. It's known for its crystal-clear water, sandy beaches, and excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities.

Central Region: This region is known for its history and culture, as well as its natural beauty. The highlights of the Central Region include:

  • Lilongwe: This is the capital and largest city in Malawi, and it's known for its bustling markets, museums, and cultural centers.
  • Mulanje: This is a mountainous region, known for its hiking and climbing opportunities. The highest peak is Sapitwa peak with 3,002m above sea level.
  • Liwonde National Park: This park is known for its wildlife, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of birds.

Southern Region: This region is known for its wildlife, and it's home to several national parks and reserves. The highlights of the Southern Region include:

  • Majete Wildlife Reserve: This reserve is known for its wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, and antelopes.
  • Liwonde National Park: This park is known for its wildlife, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of birds.
  • Lengwe National Park: This park is known for its diverse wildlife, including antelopes, elephants, and lions.

Overall, Malawi is a small country but it offers a lot of things to see and do, from natural beauty, wildlife, history, culture and adventure activities.

Highlights
What To See & Do
Travel Map

Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Malawi:

  • Explore Lake Malawi: This large lake is the main attraction of Malawi and it's known for its crystal-clear water, sandy beaches, and excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities.
  • Wildlife safari: Malawi has several national parks and wildlife reserves, such as Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Lengwe National Park, where visitors can spot a variety of animals, including elephants, lions, leopards, and antelopes.
  • Hiking and climbing: Malawi has several mountains, such as Mulanje, that offer great hiking and climbing opportunities for the adventurous traveler.
  • Visit Lilongwe: The capital and largest city in Malawi, Lilongwe is known for its bustling markets, museums, and cultural centers, a great place to experience the local culture and history.
  • Cultural tours: Malawi has a rich culture and history, and visitors can experience it by visiting traditional villages or by participating in cultural tours.
  • Visit the national parks: Malawi has several national parks such as Nyika National Park, known for its rolling hills, grasslands, and wildflowers and Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve, known for its diverse birdlife.
  • Visit the tea plantations: Malawi is home to several tea plantations, some of which offer tours and tastings. This is a great way to learn about the history and production process of tea.
  • Volunteer: Malawi is a poor country and there are many organizations that welcome volunteers to help with various projects such as education, health, and conservation.

Overall, Malawi has a lot to offer visitors, from natural beauty, wildlife, culture and adventure activities, to volunteer opportunities and a chance to experience the local culture and way of life.

Malawi
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN MALAWI

WHAT TO EAT IN MALAWI

When visiting Malawi for the first time, it's a good idea to try some traditional dishes to get a sense of the local cuisine. Some popular options include:

  • Nsima: This is a type of porridge made from cornmeal and is a staple food in Malawi. It's often served with a relish made from vegetables such as pumpkin leaves or beans.
  • Fish and chips: Fish is a common ingredient in Malawi and is often served fried with chips (french fries) as a popular street food.
  • Beef or fish curry: These dishes are a popular way to enjoy meat in Malawi and are often made with a variety of spices and served with nsima.
  • Chambo and Usipa: These fish are caught in Lake Malawi and are considered delicacies. They are often grilled or fried.
  • Mbatata: This is a sweet potato dish.
  • Chibuku: This is a traditional beer made from fermented sorghum or millet.

It's also a good idea to be open to trying new foods and asking locals for recommendations on what to eat and where to find it.

LGBTQ IN MALAWI

Malawi

WHERE TO STAY IN MALAWI

When visiting Malawi for the first time, there are several regions and cities where you could consider staying, depending on your interests and itinerary. Here are some options:


Where To Stay In Lilongwe

As the capital and largest city of Malawi, Lilongwe offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses. Staying in Lilongwe allows you to explore attractions such as the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, the Old Town Market, and the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary.

  • Latitude 13 Degrees: This boutique hotel offers stylish rooms, a swimming pool, and a restaurant serving international cuisine. It's located in a quiet neighborhood close to the city center and offers a tranquil atmosphere.

  • Sunbird Lilongwe Hotel: Situated in the heart of Lilongwe, this hotel offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and conference facilities. It's within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and attractions such as the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre.


Where To Stay In Blantyre:

The commercial capital of Malawi, Blantyre is known for its vibrant markets, colonial architecture, and cultural attractions. Staying in Blantyre allows you to visit landmarks such as the Mandala House, the St. Michael and All Angels Church, and the Chichiri Museum.

  • Protea Hotel by Marriott Blantyre Ryalls: This upscale hotel offers spacious rooms, a swimming pool, and a restaurant serving local and international cuisine. It's conveniently located near the city center and offers easy access to attractions such as Mandala House and the Chichiri Museum.

  • Casa Mia: Situated in a historic building in Blantyre's old town, Casa Mia offers cozy rooms, a restaurant, and a garden terrace. It's within walking distance of shops, markets, and cultural sites.


Where To Stay In Lake Malawi

For a more scenic and relaxed experience, consider staying along the shores of Lake Malawi. Towns such as Mangochi, Cape Maclear, and Nkhata Bay offer stunning views of the lake and opportunities for water activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.

  • The Funky Cichlid: This lakeside lodge offers chalet-style accommodation with stunning views of Lake Malawi. It features a restaurant and bar, water sports facilities, and guided snorkeling and diving trips.

  • Mgoza Lodge: Located on the shores of Lake Malawi, Mgoza Lodge offers budget-friendly accommodation in chalets and tents. It's a great base for exploring Cape Maclear and enjoying water activities such as kayaking and fishing.


Where To Stay In Zomba

Nestled in the scenic Zomba Plateau, the city of Zomba offers a cooler climate and beautiful mountain scenery. Staying in Zomba allows you to explore attractions such as the Zomba Plateau, the Queen's View, and the Chingwe's Hole.

  • Ku Chawe Inn: Perched on the Zomba Plateau, Ku Chawe Inn offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It features comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and hiking trails leading to scenic viewpoints.

  • Annie's Lodge: Situated in a tranquil garden setting, Annie's Lodge offers cozy rooms and self-catering cottages. It's close to attractions such as the Queen's View and the Zomba Plateau.


Where To Stay In Likoma Island

Located in Lake Malawi, Likoma Island offers a remote and tranquil escape from the mainland. Staying on Likoma Island allows you to relax on pristine beaches, visit historic sites such as St. Peter's Cathedral, and enjoy water activities in the crystal-clear waters of the lake.

  • Kaya Mawa: This luxury lodge offers stylish accommodation in thatched chalets and houses overlooking Lake Malawi. It features a restaurant, infinity pool, and spa facilities. Activities include snorkeling, kayaking, and sunset boat cruises.

  • Mango Drift: Located on the northern tip of Likoma Island, Mango Drift offers budget-friendly beachfront accommodation in safari tents and dormitories. It's a relaxed and laid-back option for travelers looking to unwind by the lake.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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