Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“What draws tourists to Malawi is the untouched nature and the diversity of the country’s landscapes. The richness of the plant and animal life is unbelievable. The locals are hospitable and warm-hearted. It’s worth learning a little bit about their cultural heritage, and their traditional world, which is so different from our own. I’d say the public roads in Malawi are in an average state. We didn’t always feel 100% safe in the cities, but in the end we didn’t run into any trouble.” (K. J. 2015)

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“I spent a little over two months in Malawi, and really loved it. It’s a cheerful, fun little country, and difficult to take seriously. The people are so friendly and good-natured that it’s hard to stay mad at them for long. Opposite our house was a little grocery store, but I didn’t like it much because it was unpredictable and expensive. One Sunday morning, however, in a hurry to get somewhere, we were standing in the rain at the bus stop, waiting for a bus that didn’t want to come. Suddenly a spotless Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up in front of us, and a totally unfamiliar face looked out at us. He gestured for us to get in, then introduced himself. It turned out he was the owner of the shop opposite, and seeing us standing at the bus stop, he hadn’t wanted us to get soaked, so offered to take us into town. As he said, it’s the least you can do for your customers. And this is completely typical Malawian behavior – embarrassingly helpful in almost every situation. If you can’t find something, they’ll run and show you the way, and if your car gets stuck in the mud they’ll push you out. Any kind of problem you have, people are eager to help solve it.

And they love white people. Even in Blantyre, they’re proud of their town and childishly happy to show it to a white visitor. In the countryside, where white people are a rare sight, kids will rush over en masse to grab your clothes – they’re really excited to see a real-life white person. In cities, by contrast, there are a surprising number of white people (working) and in our experience, they are almost exclusively aid agency workers or advisors.

Malawi has a large Muslim and Indian community, and in the cities, most shops and restaurants belong to them. The staff, on the other hand, are indigenous African, which creates an interesting duality: as in Namibia, many of the people working in a shop or restaurant don’t understand the first thing about the business. They are unbelievably slow and annoyingly unprepared – often they don’t even know what’s on their own menu. Often you end up ordering something they don’t have, and they can be completely out of the most basic items (salt, say, or ketchup). If you complain, they can’t understand why you don’t just go over to the grocery store and buy some yourself. Because they never buy anything, they’d prefer to simply serve food without salt for a day. It’s also hard to understand why dishes are listed in chalk on the board, despite the fact that they haven’t actually had it for months. When you ask them if they’d consider erasing it they just laugh and shrug, but they never erase it.” (2016)



South Eastern Africa - Malawi - local woman - Elter photo

South Eastern Africa - Malawi - safari - Elter photo

South Eastern Africa - Malawi - kids - Elter photo

Practicals

Transport

Avoid driving at night. Potholes, free-roaming animals, unlit vehicles pose a serious risk of accidents.

In daytime driving is O.K., the main roads are properly asphalted, and - by the way - the roadside is surprisingly well-maintained, but the roads in the populated areas of the countryside are in worse conditions.


Food

“The cuisine isn’t so varied. They mostly eat maize-based dishes, to which they sometimes add fish, means, or some kind of salad. Meat is eaten only rarely, and generally at special festivals. This unvaried diet means it is difficult for them to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, and many children are both with some kind of physical or mental developmental disorder.”

Shopping

Few commercial places accept credit cards.

Buying uncut gemstones is illegal.

South Eastern Africa - Malawi - open air shoe boutique - Elter photo

South Eastern Africa - Malawi - shop - Elter photo

Malawi - souvenir clothes for sale - t.o. photo

Public safety

Most visitors have a hassle-free stay in Malawi; however, thefts and street robberies are not rare, especially around Lilongwe and Blantyre's bus stations. You better leave your passport in a safe place (safe in the accommodation) and keep a photocopy with you.

If driving a rental car, keep the windows closed, and the doors locked from the inside. Car robberies are common, especially 4x4 cars are targeted. Some roadblocks may not set up by the authorities. Do not pick up hitchhikers.

Possession and trafficking of drugs are severely punished.

Malawi Royal Rangers - hard fist

Health

There is a risk of malaria throughout the year; rabies is common. Sometimes cholera epidemics are spreading, especially during the rainy season (December to March).

Bilharzia is present in many living waters, lakes, and rivers. In Kasungu National Park, the sleeping-sickness spread by tsetse flies is a risk factor. Gastrointestinal disorders are also common. Drink only bottled or boiled water and avoid ice cubes in drinks.

About 9.2% of the adult population is infected with HIV / AIDS.


Malawi - No toilet here - Under Tour Guiders Association - c.v. photo

Others

1. Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi.

Background

Destination in brief

Malawi in brief 

 

Malawi is a long, thin, landlocked country located in southeast Africa. Neighbors: Zambia (west), Mozambique (south, southeast), Tanzania (northeast). 

Malawi used to be a British protectorate (called Nyasaland) and gained independence in 1964. 

Size: 118,484 km² (45,747 mi²) - Malawi’s Lake Nyasa has more fish species than any other lake on the planet. 

Capital city: Lilongwe – Visiting its central craft market is an enjoyable tourist program, as the sellers are not pushy – Apart from the bustle of the market, the city is pretty calm.

Population: 18.9 million (2020) - About 90% of the population lives in rural areas.

Malawi is nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa” thanks to its friendly, welcoming people. 

Malawian men mostly prefer wearing trousers to shorts, as these are regarded as clothing for schoolchildren only. 

Languages: English is the official language, while indigenous Chichewa is a so-called national language - English is the language of administration and business life – There are several TV channels and radio stations broadcasting in Chichewa

Religions: 55% Protestant, 20% Catholic, 20% Muslim 

Political and economic situation: Malawi is a presidential republic

Luckily, Malawi has been spared the political and security turmoil that has plagued many African countries. There has not been a single civil war in the country since independence. The worst, politically, was a prolonged period of one-party rule from 1970 until the 1990s. There is currently a rather stable multi-party system in place, and presidential elections are the most important events in the country’s political life. 

Malawi is the sixth poorest country in the world. 

Malawi is a dominantly agricultural country. Its biggest export is tobacco. The famous Twinnings tea is made from tealeaves harvested in Malawi.

More than 35% of Malawians depend on Lake Malawi for their livelihoods and food, yet its resources - the lake's fish - are threatened by overfishing.  

Currency: Malawian kwacha (MWK) 

The average net monthly salary of urban employees: 810 USD (2020) - But about half of the population earns less than 15-20 USD/month. 

It is not unusual in Malawi to see a 12-seater bus (called matatu or matola) transporting 25 people, plus goats, chicken, and huge baskets of vegetables. A usual weekday scene: a man dressed in an immaculate suit on his way to work sits on the somewhat chaotic platform of an overused, pick-up truck-like share taxi. Travelers can also see plenty of people stoically walking along the side of the road as they cannot afford any kind of transport.   

   

Most common surname: Banda

 

Safety: Malawi is not a risky tourist destination – it is actually one of the safest African countries. However, theft and muggings can sometimes happen, especially around bus terminals in bigger cities. Safari tours are totally safe.

 

Worthy of note for visitors: HIV/AIDS infection is a huge problem in Malawi.   

 

When to visit? April-November and October-November for safaris 

 

Top tourist attractions: 

Lake Malawi National Park, Chongoni Rock-Art Area, Safaris – the best being Liwonde National Park, tea plantations, Lake Nyasa, visits of traditional villages, trekking on Mount Mulanje

 

South Eastern Africa - Malawi - tobacco auction - Elter photo

Geography

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South Eastern Africa - Malawi - landscape - Elter photo

Malawi - my green - v.g. photo

Climate

Winter (May-July) dry, cold, especially in the mountains, summer (November-March) rainy, warm.

History

“In the pre-colonial era, between 1480 and 1600, the territory of modern Malawi was occupied by the Maravian Empire. The first Europeans whom the native Malawians encountered were the Portuguese. They traded ivory, iron, and slaves with them. The Portuguese, in turn, introduced the locals to maize, which went on to become the local staple. Malawi became a British protectorate (essentially a colony) from 1891, and until 1953 it was known as Nyasaland. In 1953 the protectorate formed a federation with Northern and Southern Rhodesia (the latter being present Zimbabwe) until 1963.

Malawi became independent in 1964. For three decades after independence, the country was subjected to one-party rule under a dictator named Hastings Kamuzu Banda. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994. In 2006, Malawi entered the world press when Madonna visited the country and selected a little boy, David Banda Mwale, for adoption in an orphanage. A minor scandal was caused by the fact that in Malawi, under local law, Madonna, as a prospective parent, should have lived locally for one year until the adoption was finalized. Madonna didn't have time for that. Anyway, her two adopted children are born in Malawi.

Malawi - Zomba - KAR War Memorial Kings African Rifles - K. Elter's photo

Nowadays

China is investing a lot in constructions. Malawi was quasi rewarded for breaking up with Taiwan.



Malawi - national flag - the black stripe illustrates a rising half-sun

People

Since almost half of the capital city's population is illiterate, facades of the shops and malls indicate their products in pictures beside the written signs.

South Eastern Africa - Malawi - woman - Elter photo

Attractions

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Southeastern Africa - Malawi - Lilongwe - mosque - Elter photo

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