Road Conditions and Safety Most roads do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians and livestock to use the roadways both day and night. Secondary roads are poorly lit, in disrepair, and may be impassable to all but four-wheel drive vehicles during the November-April rainy season. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of death among travelers to Malawi. Safety hazards include the lack of road shoulders, potholes, pedestrians, bicyclists, and livestock. You should drive defensively and avoid road travel outside cities at night. Road support networks for stranded drivers do not exist. Fuel supply, both diesel and gasoline, is often erratic and travelers should plan accordingly. We do not recommend travel by foot along roadways.
Traffic Laws: Police roadblocks are common but properly documented drivers usually pass quickly and without incident. Malawian police operate radar-based speed traps throughout the country and you are expected to pay fines on the spot?please ensure you get a receipt. You must obtain a locally-issued driver’s license if you remain in Malawi for an extended period and plan to drive. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You should always wear a seat belt whenever available and insist that the drivers maintain a safe speed.
Public Transportation: Public transportation, consisting primarily of minibuses, is unreliable and accidents are common. Modern coach buses are increasingly common on the main cross-country routes.
Aviation Safety Oversight As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Malawi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Malawi?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
Medical facilities are rudimentary. While all health workers have some degree of English proficiency, communication can be difficult. Diarrhea and other food borne illnesses are a common problem. You should avoid tap water, ice cubes, and raw fruits and vegetables. Bottled water is recommended for drinking and food preparation. Consume only food that is well-cooked and served hot.
Many medications are not available. You should bring adequate quantities of medications to last the duration of your stay. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription. We encourage you to check with your primary healthcare provider or local travel clinic regarding malaria prophylaxis medications. Check with the government of Malawi to ensure the medication is legal in Malawi.
For major medical problems, you should consider obtaining medical treatment in South Africa, where advanced medical care is available.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas; most U.S. based medical plans do not. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: LGBTI persons are denied, by law and practice, basic civil, political, social, and economic rights. Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison, including hard labor. The penal code outlaws ?unnatural offenses? and ?indecent practices between males.? Same-sex sexual activity may also be prosecuted as ?conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.? As of July 2014, the government has implemented a moratorium on the enforcement of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity, though the general public largely remains hostile to LGBTI persons. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Some modern buildings may have wheelchair accessible entrances. Generally, public transportation is not accessible for travelers with disabilities. The Disability Act of 2013 prohibits discrimination in education, health care, social services, the workplace, housing, political life, and cultural and sporting activities for persons with disabilities. However, the government has yet to adopt standards and plans for its enforcement and implementation.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Wild animals pose a threat to life and safety even in the most serene settings. Please observe local or park regulations and heed all instructions given by tour guides.
Credit cards are not commonly accepted outside of major cities. There are a limited number of ATMs in Malawi that accept Visa, MasterCard, and international ATM cards.
Dress codes prohibiting short skirts on women and long hair on men no longer exist, but Malawi is a conservative society and you should dress modestly, especially when visiting remote areas.
Safety and Security
Spontaneous civil disturbances and demonstrations, primarily related to governance and economic issues, can occur. These may become more common leading up to, and immediately following elections in Malawi. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.
CRIME: Crime is common in Malawi. Most crimes against U.S. citizens involve property. Residential break-ins are prevalent and perpetrators are usually well armed and may become violent with little provocation. Petty street crime (robbery and pickpocketing) is common, and break-ins have occurred in hotels and lodges throughout the country.
Carjackings occur especially in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Carjackers often block the rear of a victim?s vehicle while it waits to pass through a security gate into a residence and then assailants will threaten the driver and take the car. Victims are sometimes assaulted. Drivers are advised to lock their car doors, close their windows, and remain vigilant when entering or exiting a residence.
You should avoid traveling on foot at night, especially in urban areas, as armed muggings and assaults have increased. Non-Malawians have been targeted in Lilongwe, and several U.S. citizens have been injured. City streets should be considered unsafe after dark even when walking in a large group. Pedestrians should also be cautious during daylight hours. Visitors in need of transportation should request that hotel or restaurant management call a taxi or car service.
We recommend you use caution when visiting and/or staying in isolated areas such as Mount Mulanje where the availability of public security forces is limited. You should take appropriate action to ensure your safety if traveling to remote areas, and never travel alone or at night.
Victims of Crime:
Report crimes to the local police at 199 or 997 and contact the U.S. Embassy at + (265) 1-773-166, 1-773-342, or 1-773-367 (Dial "0" before the "1" within Malawi).
Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
U.S. citizens may obtain visas upon arrival at a port-of-entry in Malawi. The current fee for a 3-month single-entry visa is $50; diplomats and government officials are exempt from this fee. Contact the Embassy of the Republic of Malawi to confirm fees.
U.S. citizens entering Malawi with tourist visas or visitor?s permits have been arrested, fined, and deported if found engaging in activities inconsistent with their tourist status, e.g., business or volunteer services. Some airlines have required travelers to have Malawian visas before boarding connecting flights in European or other African airports.
You must declare all foreign currency when entering Malawi regardless of the amount and exchange foreign currency at a bank or approved foreign exchange bureaus. Any currency declared at entry may be expatriated without further authorization. With bank approval, you may export up to $3,000 per trip. Otherwise, you are not permitted to export currency and it will be confiscated at the point of departure.
The government of Malawi requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival. Please review the Center for Disease Control website for a listing of countries with risk of yellow fever virus transmission.
For travelers transiting South Africa on their way to Malawi, the South African government requires proof of yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days prior to arrival in South Africa if arriving from or transiting through a yellow fever country; those without proof may be turned around at the South African port of entry. For complete entry/exit requirements for South Africa, please see our Country Specific Information for South Africa.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Malawi.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Malawi for information on U.S. ? Malawi relations
Travel Embassy and Consulate
Area 40, City Center
Mailing Address: PO Box 30016
Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Local Mailing Address:
PO Box 30016, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telephone: +(265) 1-773-166, 1-773-342 and 1-773-367 (Dial "0" before the "1" within Malawi)
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(265) (0)999-591024 or +(265) (0) 888-734-826
Fax: +(265) 1-774-471 (Dial "0" before the "1" within Malawi)