Handicrafts on sale in Malawi
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Handicrafts on sale in Malawi

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Malawi Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

118,484 sq km (45,747 sq miles).

Population

16.8 million (2013).

Population density

141.6 per sq km.

Capital

Lilongwe.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1964.

Head of state

President Peter Mutharika since 2014.

Head of government

President Peter Mutharika since 2014.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. The standard plug is square three-pin.

Malawi can offer visitors unique scenery, rare wildlife and stunning valleys. Evergreen forests and waterfalls can be viewed from the heights of the plateaus. Activities are central to any visit. The national parks are attractive places for wildlife and game viewing in the most unspoilt of settings. Safe from the tarred roads and convoys of tourists, visitors can trek in entirely natural surroundings.

Malawi has nine national parks and wildlife reserves, six of which are especially recommended for visitors. There are also many attractive and accessible forest reserves. All the parks and reserves are uncrowded and give visitors an excellent experience of unspoilt wilderness.

Its most famous feature must be Lake Malawi, which stretches from the northern tip of the country to Mangochi in the south. Some of the rarest tropical fish in the world are unique to this vast lake, and it is also home to varieties of eagle and kingfisher.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 April 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Most visits to Malawi are trouble-free, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself from muggers and bag-snatchers. Most thefts from visitors take place around the main bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre, and at the main ports for the Ilala ferry. Avoid walking around quiet areas, especially after dark. Leave valuables and cash in a hotel safe, where practical. Keep copies of important documents in a separate place Report any thefts to the police as soon as possible.

There have been several outbreaks of violence in market areas involving protestors throwing rocks and the police responding with tear gas. Take extra care in market areas.

Lock car doors and keep windows closed. Armed carjacking is a risk, especially for drivers of four-by-four vehicles. Don’t offer lifts to strangers and look out for obstructions in the road ahead.

Be cautious if over-friendly people approach you offering to act as guides or selling goods, or who claim to know you and ask for a lift. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers; people have been robbed after eating drugged food.

House burglaries, including by armed gangs, do occur though crime rates are low by regional standards. There has been an increase in break-ins in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Limbe, including violent assaults on residents. Review your security systems and watch out for anything unusual.

Seek security advice from the Mulanje Mountain Club if you intend to climb Mulanje Mountain.

Road Travel 

Driving in Malawi can be hazardous. Always wear a seatbelt and avoid travel after dark. Potholes, animals, abandoned vehicles and cyclists can cause serious accidents, as can vehicles travelling at night without lights.

Malawi has a very high rate of fatalities on the road. Travel between towns by public minibus or pick-up truck isn’t recommended; vehicles are often in poor condition and overloaded. Emergency services are basic. Larger coach services do run between the major towns and are more reliable.

The Malawi Police Service has introduced breathalyser tests, and regularly stops vehicles for speeding. There are speed cameras on the main roads. Drivers caught drink driving or speeding can have their licences and vehicles confiscated on the spot. Convicted drivers face a fine and/or imprisonment. The blood alcohol limit is 0.08g per 100ml of blood, the same as in the UK.

When driving in Malawi you should carry a valid driving licence at all times; you may need to produce it at police check points. You can drive using a UK driving licence for up to 90 days or an International Driving Permit for up to one year. Slow down in all built-up areas. Traffic police often place speed cameras where there are no signs showing the speed limit. The police can impose on the spot fines.

Political situation

Spontaneous demonstrations related to governance and economic issues can occur. You should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations, and should monitor local media.

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