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Malawi Fact File

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of MalawiFlag of Malawi

AREA: Malawi covers 118,500 sq km (45,750 sq miles) 1/5th of the area of Malawi is made up by Lake Malawi at 24,500 sq km.

Malawi is in east Africa, bordered by Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.

Malawi is considered a safe country for tourists and Malawians are rightfully known for their friendliness.

However, the usual precautions should be taken as would be advised for tourists anywhere.

POPULATION: 14 million


SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multi-party Democracy

HEAD OF STATE: President Peter Mutharika 

INDEPENDENCE DAY: 06th July 1964

English is an official language and is widely understood, although a number of indigenous languages are also spoken. The most common language is Chewa ( or Chichewa – the language of the Chewa)

Other languages spoken are Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde including some Asian and European languages.

Age 15 and over can read and write.

Of the total population: 62.7% are literate; 76.1% -male and 49.8% - female (2003 est.)

Traditional African Doctors still attract many people. Christianity and Islam also feature their influence, frequently exhibiting a continuing adherence to traditional beliefs.

Summer time: GMT + 2, as with most of southern Africa


ELECTRICITY: Supply is based on the 220/240 volts system, using the ‘British type’ square bayonet three-pin plugs. 

Not required by citizens of most Commonwealth countries, the USA, Japan and most of the European Union.

Malawi’s currency is the kwacha (abbreviated to MK internationally; K locally). Practically speaking, only the kwacha is used. Banks in the towns are open weekdays from 0800 to 1300. Mobile banks operate along the lakeshore and in the more remote areas (check days/times locally). Travellers Cheques or foreign (hard) currency notes are widely accepted. Avoid black market currency traders.

There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported but it must be declared and accounted for on departure. Only MK3000 of local currency may be exported. There are 24-hour ATMs in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. Only local currency is dispensed and that is limited to approximately the equivalent (depending on exchange rates) of GB£85; Euro110; US$140 in any period of twenty-four hours.

Kenya Airways (also with KLM), South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines offer good options to Malawi, with routes involving an aircraft change at their respective national hubs ( Nairobi, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa).

Air Malawi’s domestic network provides regular links between Lilongwe and Blantyre. Air charter companies serve the main tourist destinations in the country. There are also regional links between Malawi and Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe provided by Air Malawi and the various national airlines of the neighbouring countries.

FLYING TIME: 12 hours via Frankfurt, or 13 hours via Johannesburg.

Roads are excellent, the traffic signals and signposting are clear, making driving a pleasure. The trunk roads are very good tarmac, but most others are smooth gravel; limit yourself to 80kmph on these roads as going any faster would lead to accidents. A 2WD is ideal unless you are visiting during the rainy season or heading to off-beat areas like Bushmanland or Caprivi.

The wet season runs from mid October or early November to mid or late April. The dry season lasts from May to October/November. Average daily temperature in October is 32°C (although it can get a few degrees hotter in the inland areas such as the Shire Valley). July is the coolest month, with daily highs of around 21°C.

Immunisation against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A is recommended. Yellow fever immunisation may be required only by visitors entering from a yellow fever area. There is a risk of malaria and prophylactics should be taken. Please consult your medical practitioner. There is a risk of contracting bilharzia if bathing in some parts of Lake Malawi but the risk is negligible near the main beach hotels. The infection is relatively easily treated once diagnosed. Malawi is a high risk area for AIDS.

www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk is a good source of information.

Malawi Tourist Board