Threat level: Medium-High
The current travel safety advice for Malawi is to remain vigilant. Malawi is famous for its national parks and wildlife, however it is now one of the poorest countries in the world and has fallen victim to ivory smuggling, illegal firearms trade and the drugs market. Drugs are commonly produced in Malawi and its trade is uncontrolled by the police.
Recent Security Risk Events
When travelling to the country you should be aware that crime rates are very high and it is believed that many criminals bribe the police to avoid pursuing their crimes. This includes arms dealers and illegal poachers seeking to profit from ivory trade. The threat of terrorism is low and if you take the right precautions on your travels in Malawi you should find your trip to be trouble free.
Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, and other such large cities such as Kasungu are both rife with serious crime, prostitution and drug dealings. Take extreme care at all times when in built up areas. Avoid market areas as there have been several recent cases of violent outbreaks involving protestors throwing rocks and the police discharging live ammunition.
Recent security risks
Be extremely wary of friendly people who approach you in villages offering to act as guides or selling souvenirs in their shop. As friendly as they seem, it is likely that they have an alternative motif for approaching you. Do not offer lifts in return for money or drugs and don’t accept food or drink from strangers especially in rural areas as there have been many accounts in Malawi of people being robbed and sexually abused after eating spiked food and drink.
If you decide to go on safari in Malawi be aware that poachers are very common in the national parks. It is imperative that you have an armed guard with you at all times for your own safety. Only go on tours that have been organised by the park themselves, do not accept offers from people claiming to be official tour guides outside of the parks.
Malawi maintains a strong diplomatic relationship with most Western countries including Europe and the United States as well as enjoying a close relationship with South Africa both before and after the apartheid era, which strained its relations with other neighbouring African nations.
Malawi also holds good diplomatic ties with many of its donor countries including Canada and the Netherlands, who, alongside other European and western countries, help with the country’s development.
There is next to no public transport in Malawi, and most roads are dirt track roads that are difficult to navigate in vehicles that aren’t designed for off road travel.
Land mines are a risk in Malawi as a result of conflicts in Mozambique in the early 1990s. Unexploded land mines are especially dense in former refugee populated areas. Take this into consideration when traveling to new areas.
Fuel supply and fuel stations can be sporadic and often unavailable. If you are undertaking a long journey, make sure you are adequately prepared with plenty of fuel, food and water. There may be extended periods of time and distance where there are no stops or fuel stations available.
Official languages: English Religion: Islam and Christianity Currency: Malawian kwacha and US Dollars
You can apply for a visa from the Malawi High Commission before you travel, or on arrival at any port of entry in Malawi. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival.
It is advised that visitors to Malawi are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is recommended for most travellers to also get Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations.
There is no risk of Yellow Fever in Malawi, however, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will have to provide a certificate of Yellow Fever vaccination. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Malaria is of high risk in Malawi even in the dry season. Malaria prevention is a must.
There is an increase in the number of cases of cholera during the rain season in Malawi (December to March), particular with the borders of other countries including Mozambique and Tanzania. You should be careful during this tie and ensure that personal hygiene is paramount. In rural areas, it is advised that you do not drink tap water.