Blantyre Travel Information
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin, rectangular blade plugs are standard.
English is the official language, but Chichewa is more commonly spoken.
Malaria is a health risk in Malawi throughout the year, especially on the coast. Cases of dengue fever and chikungunya fever have been reported and are transmitted by mosquitoes; precautionary measures against being bitten should be taken at all times. In 2008 Rift Valley fever was reported in five regions; contact with domestic animals and mosquitoes should be avoided. All travellers coming from a country with yellow fever require inoculation against the disease. Other risks include bilharzia, tuberculosis and rabies. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled or chemically treated. Medical facilities are limited and, outside of the capital, medical care may be difficult to find. Limited medications are available and it is advisable to bring along a medical kit for private use. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.
Service charges are not included in hotel and restaurant bills, and tipping is at the client's discretion. It is common practice to tip guides in the national parks.
Malawi is considered a relatively safe country in which to travel and the majority of visits are trouble-free, but sensible precautions should be taken with regards to personal possessions and security, particularly after dark. There have been reports of robberies, money scams involving tourists, and 4x4 vehicles being hijacked; also be alert for muggers and bag snatchers. A photocopy of your passport and visa should be carries at all times. In Lilongwe the majority of incidents take place on Kenyatta Drive and around the bus station, so visitors should be particularly vigilant in these areas.
It is customarily expected by most Malawians to be greeted with a friendly 'Hello, how are you?' and a handshake. It is courteous to ask permission before taking photographs of people and homosexuality is illegal. Women may dress as they please but should take local custom and religion into account when travelling outside of the main tourist areas and dress accordingly.
Business in Malawi is quite formal; business cards are usually exchanged on meeting, accompanied by a firm handshake. Punctuality is important and dress should be formal; lightweight suits with a tie are acceptable. English is Malawi's official language and all business is conducted in English. Malawians tend to be very polite and thoughtful, and expect the same treatment in return. Business hours usually start fairly early; from 7.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.
The international dialling code for Malawi is +265. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). There are no city/area codes required. The telephone system is not very reliable, but internet, email and fax are available in most towns and tourist areas. The GSM 900 cell phone network gives coverage to most of the country and is compatible with most international operators. There is also 3G coverage in most of the larger towns and cities.
Travellers to Malawi do not have to pay customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco. For travellers over 18 years 1 litre spirits, 1 litre beer and 1 litre wine can be brought into the country without incurring duty fees.
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