Welcome to Malawi!
African’s Warm Heart, Malawi, is beating faster now. The legendary welcome is there for all who wish to experience the unrivalled combination of Lake, Landscape, Wildlife & Culture in one of Africa’s most beautiful, beautiful, and compact countries. Recently crowned as one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel Top Countries for 2022 (a remarkable second appearance on that prestigious list in recent years) Malawi’s tourism is set to return to its upward trajectory pre-pandemic.
Described as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’, this relatively little-known gem of this diverse continent has so much to offer; wildlife, culture, adventure, scenery, and of course, the third largest lake in Africa. A year-round destination, some even go as far as to describe Malawi as the most attractive and complete destination in Africa!
This may seem an extravagant claim for such a relatively small country, but the truth lies in Malawi’s unique combination of attractions. Where else will you find such rich cultural interaction and a genuinely warm welcome in a country at peace with itself? Where else can you experience such a diverse scenic kaleidoscope in such a small area? Here you have central Africa’s highest mountain, vast high plateaux with seemingly limitless views, forests and unspoilt game parks, and, the jewel in the crown, Africa’s third most significant and most beautiful lake – indeed an inland sea. With thrilling safaris now rivalling its neighbour’s thanks to the sustainable wildlife revolution brought about by Africa Parks, it’s easy to see why Malawi is now proving so popular.
Malawi’s tourist industry is vital to the overall economy of the country. It supports vast numbers of local Malawians through employment and community projects, as well as helping conserve the country’s natural riches. As it attempts to recover from the damage caused by COVID-19 and continue in its essential role, the industry is doing all it can to ensure the well-being of its visitors. A set of national COVID-19 Health & Safety protocols for tourism has been established, that has resulted in the award of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Safe Travels Stamp. WTTC’s Stamp was established to show travellers which destinations have adopted globally standardised health and hygiene protocols to experience ‘Safe Travels’.
This site is brought to you by members of Malawi’s travel and tourism industry – accommodation providers, tours & safari companies, and transport companies. Everything you might need for your holiday in Malawi.
An area of some 118,000 square kilometres (46,000 square miles) (one-fifth is Lake Malawi) makes Malawi one of the smallest countries in this region of Africa. Its neighbour, Zambia, is six times the size. Malawi is similar in size to Cuba, less than half that of the United Kingdom. At approximately 900 kilometres (560 miles) long and varying widths, never more than one-third of its length, the country is elongated north-south along the line of the Rift Valley in which Lake Malawi sits. This elongated shape of Malawi lends itself to a 3-way regional division: North, Central and South. The variety that Malawi is famed for is reflected both.
between these regions and within each one. A Malawi tour combining elements of landscape, wildlife, lake and culture can be taken in each region, with each region giving a different experience.
South Malawi is the most populated and developed region, with a wide variety of landscapes, including as it does the highest and lowest points in the country. Blantyre, the commercial capital, and Zomba, the old colonial capital, are in the south. This region has 5 National Parks and Wildlife Reserves, including the Lake Malawi National Park, and a number of forested highland areas, including Zomba Plateau and Mount Mulanje. The Mangochi Lakeshore is the stretch of Lake Malawi with the most accommodation options.
Central Malawi is home to the country’s capital and most common point of entry, Lilongwe. Most of the region lies on the Central African Plateau, so the scenic highlights come from the hills sitting atop the plateau and the escarpments descending into the Rift Valley and down to Lake Malawi. It has one National Park and one Wildlife Reserve, Nkhotakota, which is in the process of a remarkable re-birth. Senga Bay is a hotspot on the Lake and the closest point on the shore to Lilongwe.
North Malawi is the least populated of Malawi’s regions, with the regional capital, Mzuzu, less than one-fifth the size of Lilongwe or Blantyre. It is, on average, the highest of the regions, characterised by unique highland areas – such as the Viphya and Nyika – and dramatic lake shorelines. Chintheche is regarded by many as having some of the best beaches on Lake Malawi. As well to the National Park at Nyika, North Malawi has a Wildlife Reserve at nearby Vwaza Marsh.
The information on this page mostly reflects the situation before the global COVID-19 pandemic. It will be updated accordingly as travel to Malawi re-opens and the new situation going forward becomes clear.
LATEST: November 2021
- Malawi’s borders were fully opened in August 2021 to allow entry for all travellers with a negative PCR test obtained no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. (PCR Test requirement applies to all travellers over 12 months of age).
- As of 10 December 2022, all travellers are requested to show a valid electronic COVID-19 full vaccination Certificate at the point of entry.
- To ensure the integrity of presented certificates at Malawi’s borders, the Ministry of Health (in collaboration with the African Union and Africa CDC) is implementing an online system to authenticate and verify travellers COVID-19 certificates in line with the Trusted Travel (TT) framework.
Flights to Malawi
For intercontinental flights from Europe South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways (also with KLM) offer good options to Malawi, with routes involving an aircraft change at their respective national hubs (Johannesburg, Addis Ababa and Nairobi). All international flights have the option to land in either the capital Lilongwe (5-7 times per week) or Blantyre (2-3 days per week).
Regional links between Malawi and Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe are provided by Malawi Airlines and some of the national airlines of those countries. Such connections can sometimes be used in conjunction with another African or European airline flying from Europe to these countries. Malawi Airlines, through its association with Ethiopian Airlines can also offer connections around the world. Malawi-based air charter companies also link Malawi to its neighbours.
Entering Malawi by Road
There are road routes into Malawi from Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. Assume that border posts will be closed from about 18.00hrs and reopen at 07.00hrs. Visitors requiring a visa may find this difficult to obtain at border posts and are advised to obtain the documentation in advance. Requirements for vehicle documentation should be checked before travelling. As of March 2016, the following are the requirements for a vehicle to enter Malawi:
- Third Party Insurance – obtained at the border at a cost of MK21,000.00
- Temporary Importation – obtained at the border at a cost of MK10,000.00
- Vehicle Registration Certificate
- If the vehicle is not owned by the driver, a letter of authorisation forms the owner or car rental company is required.
International travellers over the age of 18 may import, duty free: 200 cigarettes or 225gm of tobacco; 1 litre of spirits; 1 litre of beer; 1 litre of wine; plus, a “reasonable” quantity of consumable goods to meet the traveller’s immediate need while in Malawi.
Please see the separate Visa Guide for information on visas for Malawi, including a link to the e-visa system introduced since November 2019.
Where to Stay?
However, you wish to travel between them, an important decision when putting together a Malawi tour is choosing which accommodation to use. Malawi has a good variety of well-run lodges and hotels, including some absolute gems. Because Malawi doesn’t have mass tourism, there are few areas with anything approaching a ‘concentration’ of accommodation options, but there is usually some level of choice in every location. On this site, we have a powerful Malawi Accommodation Filter that allows you to select from the best lodges, camps and hotels that Malawi has to offer, based on your own requirements and selection criteria.
Malawi Tour & Safari Operators
There are a number of companies in Malawi which organise tours and/or safaris for travellers. They offer services from simple accommodation booking to full length, tailor-made guided tours. Their knowledge of Malawi is excellent and they will be able to suggest itineraries to fit all wishes, requirements and budgets.
Car Hire in Malawi
Car hire companies are based in Lilongwe and Blantyre, with desks at the airports and in town. Cars can be delivered to and collected from any other location. Standards of vehicles vary and hiring can be expensive. There are so many reliable, well-priced company and a number of the local Tour & Safari Operators can also offer car hiring services.
Driving in Malawi
With relatively short distances between places of interest, reasonable road surfaces and little traffic, Malawi is a good country for self drive. Most of the main roads are tarred but narrow, with reasonably maintained surfaces. Potholes can occur on any road and speeds should be adjusted with this in mind. However, the general quality of roads is good by African standards. Driving is on the left. Expect to find people and animals on any road. Driving at night is to be avoided. Breakdowns are traditionally indicated by placing bush or tree branches at the side of the road behind the vehicle, but red triangles are strictly needed.
Petrol is widely available but tanks should be filled when the opportunity occurs as soon as the indicator falls below half. An International Driving Licence is required although national driving licences will probably be accepted if a photograph is included. In recent times, regulations regarding speed limits and the use of safety belts have been more rigorously enforced. On-the-spot fines can be collected by uniformed police. Routine roadblocks may be encountered, especially near the borders, but should not entail a stop of more than a couple of minutes.
For tourists who choose to hire a vehicle in Malawi, breakdown cover is offered by the AA Auto club at very affordable rates. Temporary full membership is available entitling tourists to free vehicle recovery and other services whilst they are visiting the country. If you are a member of the AA in your own country then a 50% discount is offered for AA services used whilst in Malawi. In order to receive this discount, you must be able to prove membership within your home country, whilst in Malawi.
Air Travel in Malawi
Malawian Airlines flies a number of times every day between Lilongwe and Blantyre as well as connecting Malawi to its regional neighbours (Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa) and further afield through its alliance with Ethiopian Airlines. Malawi also has air charter companies which link most of the tourist destinations in the country as well as the main towns, including Bush & Lake Aviation. If using light aircraft for domestic transport, there is likely to be a baggage limit of 10-12 kg per person.
There is a good network of inexpensive public buses throughout the country. Small mini-buses offer local journeys while larger coaches ply the longer-distance routes.
Read more about Malawi in the latest edition of British Herald Magazine
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