Detailed map

The warm heart of Africa




History and Culture: Malawi is a long shaped, landlocked country, which lies in east Africa, surrounded my Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania; it is commonly called the 'warm heart of Africa' and has a population of 11 million consisting of Muslims, Christians and Animists. The economy is based upon tea, coffee and sugar plantation production. The staple diet is Nsima (maize) with relish (little fish-kapenta/beans/tomatoes/onions).


Politically: Malawi had been kept in place by a 'self elected president-for-life' called Banda for nigh on 40 years. He died in late 1997 and political change has slowly started to take place with UDF party president Bakili Maluzi and then Bingu Wa Mutharika. Malawi is a democratic independent state, with a legal framework and constitution very much in line with the London-Westminister UK pattern.


Travel: Internal : Use minibuses (matola) between & within towns or the cheaper (but much slower) buses.    Map and more details
The train network is poor & slow. Good air service between Lilongwe/Blantyre/Mzuzu. Roads reasonably good.
External: All planes fly via Johannesburg, Harare, Nairobi, Lusaka or Dar Es Salaam. These destinations are serviced by South African airways (with Virgin), Malawi Airways, Zimbabwe Airways, British Airways via Nairobi, Kenya/Ethiopia fly in and out of Johannesburg, Harare, Nairobi, Lusaka, Dar Es Salaam.

Climate: Hot Sept - Nov. Rains Nov-March. Cold/winter - June July (you need jumpers/jackets/fires).

Water: OK from taps and wells - sometimes water cuts Sept-Nov. The hours of daylight are aprox 6am-6pm.
Malaria: Dangerous everywhere - dress up at dusk, cover skin if out, use mosquito net always, use mozzie coils, buy on arrival and carry with you emergency malarial treatment readily available in all local shops..

Culture: Tips - start all conversations off with a greeting first. Hello/morning - Muli Bwanji; (Even if you are at deaths door the answer is always) I'm fine and you?- Ndili Bwino Kaya inu. Response: Ndili Bwino - I am fine too. .
The dress code has considerably slackened since the 1980's but still remains quite conservative, do NOT wear mini skirts in towns or villages especially Muslim areas!
Hosts would really appreciate small gifts like a postcard or especially a tea towel, or basket of vegetables/fruit & some rice; as many Malawi member hosts are quite financially strained and anyway its nice 'to give' isn't it?.

Currency: The kwacha (local currency) divided into 100 tambala, continues to spiral and while this makes Malawi an attractive place to visit for foreigners, it makes it very hard for the average person of Malawi to be able to afford even the basics to survive. Visa cards can be drawn upon and travellers cheques cashed, in ONLY the large main cities and some very posh hotels. Hard currency can be exchanged at Forex Bureau's..

Language: English is the official language but Chewa, Timbuka and Yao are also widely spoken.

Time: Malawi time is 2 hours ahead of UTC/GMT not withstanding 'summer/winter' time clock alterations.

Public Holidays: Labour Day, Christmas Day, Boxing, New Year, Easter Friday, Easter Monday, 16 Jan John Chilembwe Day, 3rd March Martyrs Day, 1st May Labour Day, 14th June Freedom Day, 6th July Republic Day, 2nd Monday in October - Mothers Day, 2nd Monday in December - National Tree Planting Day. Eid - Day at the end of Ramadan Fasting. Any of the above dates falling on a weekend makes the following Monday a Bank Holiday.




BlantyreBLANTYRE: Second largest town in Malawi and home to some embassies, it is 8 hours drive from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe through Mozambique.
The connection between Lilongwe and Blantyre is by a 1) 5 hour bus leaving Lilongwe costing $20, 2) or plane connection. Airport is 20-minute drive from Blantyre. The town is surrounded by gently rolling hills and quite cool.

DEDZA is a very small growing town 1-hour drive from Lilongwe, famous for its pottery, café, hot chocolate and cheesecake; when everywhere else is sweltering Dedza can be quite cool, even cold enough for jumpers!
LILONGWE: This is Malawi's capital and the centre for foreign county embassies and aid agencies.
MZUZU: The commercial centre for the Northern region, dusty and busy is quite close to:- the very Scottish-hill-like beautiful Nyika National Park , historic Livingstonia and Nkhata Bay with its ferry to Likoma Island

Visit CharChar Trust on-line..


In Brief:                Servas Malawi 

Essentially Malawi is a very poor country with a generally 'challenged' economical outlook.. Little touched by mainstream tourism it is hoped that with increased effort it will attract specialist/eco tourists. This is partly what makes Malawi so attractive, it's off the beaten track, so consequently there are no swarms of visitors and it has a slow pace of life. Its national parks are improving facilities and are high on the 'bird watcher-must-see' scale.
Lake Malawi offers the ONLY under 'water' national park of outstanding beauty with plenty of sea and sand for the 'sun seekers' and Mount Mulanje offers a serious hiking challenge to the 'thrill seekers'. The Mua mission near Balaka, runs a carving training school and a really great museum offering UNIQUE cultural insights into Malawi's traditional customs. Visitors are strongly encouraged to put Malawi on their 'places-I-MUST-VISIT-in-Africa' list.

Consider a workcamp?
or visit Active Youith Initiative for Social Enhancement on-line.