Lilongwe Travel Information
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin, rectangular blade plugs are standard.
English is the official language and widely spoken and understood, but Chichewa is the home language of the majority.
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 also transmitted by mosquitoes; precautionary measures against being bitten should be taken at all times. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid. All travellers coming from a country with yellow fever require inoculation against the disease. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled or chemically treated. Medical facilities are limited and, outside of the capital and other urban areas, medical care may be difficult to find. Limited medications are available but it is advisable to bring along a medical kit for private use. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.
Service charges are generally 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 vast 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. Most crime is petty and opportunistic and much of it occurs around bus stations and in other crowded public areas. A photocopy of your passport and visa should be carried at all times, but original documents should be stashed in a hotel safe, when possible.
Travellers are advised to avoid street protests and political rallies, which can become violent.
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. Homosexual acts are illegal. Women may generally dress as they please but should take local custom and religion into account when travelling outside of the main tourist areas and consider covering legs and shoulders to avoid giving offense.
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 almost 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 about 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 of age 1 litre of spirits, and 1 litre of alcohol like beer or wine, can be brought into the country without incurring duty fees.
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