Malawi: Local Travel Info
The warm heart of Africa
Internal flights and major international airports in Malawi
The airports in Malawi are as follows: Blantyre Chileka, Club Makokola, Dwangwa, Karonga, Lilongwe Kamuzu, Mangochi, Monkey Bay, Mzuzu, and Salima. The international airports are Lilongwe and Blantyre. Air Malawi has domestic flights between the 3 largest cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. There are internal flights by Air Malawi between Lilongwe and Blantyre, Club Makakola, Karonga, Likoma, Mzuzu.
Getting to and from the airport in Malawi
There are various airports in Malawi, the two internationals being Lilongwe and Blantyre. The only way to get directly from most airports is by private taxi; these can drop you at the nearest bus stop. Be prepared to negotiate on price, and if there is a meter insist the driver uses it. It has been known for tourists to be charged 2 or 3 times more than a local.
Travel costs in Malawi
Taxi – Private taxi (not always licensed) can vary in price depending on the distance and individual driver. Always negotiate and never accept the first price you are given. If there is a meter insist it is used.
Minibus – Minibus is a fast and cheap way to travel. Prices are fixed for each destination so don’t let the conductor charge you more than the locals. Zomba to Lilongwe (around 4 hours) will cost you around 1350MKW (7 EUR)
Train – Services by rail are generally slow, and can be overcrowded and erratic. They don’t really offer any advantages over road travel and are therefore not used by tourists. The rail connects Lilongwe to Blantyre via Salima and Blantyre to Nsanje near the border where it extends into Mozambique to Biera. It is possible that this route may now be developed in the near future.
Bus – Bus services are available throughout Malawi. Prices are also fixed and usually are slightly cheaper than mini-buses. The luxury services such as Shire bus lines or Stagecoach, generally only stop at the main destinations and are not overcrowded. Zomba to Lilongwe will cost you around 1100 MKW (5 EUR)
The cheaper bus services make regular stops and will often be overcrowded, and are known to break down. These can be as cheap as 400 MKW for example from Zomba to Lilongwe and are a good way to save money if you have the time and patience. You will not see many other tourists using these buses.
Matola (Pick-up) trucks – Matola’s service the more rural areas and can be crowded, unsafe and slow (they will wait however long it takes to fill up before setting off for their destination). They are no cheaper than buses and prices although generally fixed, are negotiable, so watch out for overcharging. They are however often a necessary mode of transport and a unique and very African way to travel, worth it for the experience alone.
Bicycle Taxi – A charming way to get around in more rural areas. Bicycle boys will be eager to get you to your destination but will try their luck on the price. Depending on how much sympathy you have for them, 25KW per km is reasonable.
Renting cars in Malawi
It’s recommended that you carry an international driving license but you should be ok with your national license if in English. Malawi drives on the left. The main roads in Malawi are generally surfaced and most are reasonably well maintained. Many smaller roads and roads within the game reserves can become impassable in the rainy season. Driving after dark can be dangerous, with road accidents at an alarmingly high level. Hiring a car is an expensive way to get around but probably worth considering if you want to see a lot in a limited time.
Car rental companies in Malawi
There are a number of reputable car rental companies in Malawi. Among these are Apex Rent-a-Car Malawi, and Avis, which has offices both in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Expect a compact car to run for around 45 Euro per day (8500MKW)
It’s recommended that you carry an international driving license but you should be ok with your national license if in English.
To book car rental in Malawi online, view our Car Hire section for Malawi. We offer Ok Alpha users the latest special offers and best rates available for car hire in Malawi. We advise you book your Malawi hire car in advance so you can pick it up and drop it off directly at the airport.
Seatbelts are not required by law, but highly recommended. Speeding and drink driving is subject to severe punishment. Traffic drives on the left. Potholes, animals and abandoned vehicles pose risks. Avoid driving outside cities after dark. Emergency roadside assistance is very limited.
Bus services are available throughout Malawi. Prices are fixed and usually are slightly cheaper than the faster mini-buses. The luxury services such as ‘Shire bus lines’ or ‘Stagecoach’, generally only stops at the main destinations and are not overcrowded. Zomba to Lilongwe will cost you around 1100 MKW (5 EUR)
The cheaper bus services make regular stops and will often be overcrowded, and are known to break down. These can be as cheap as 400MKW (2 EUR) Zomba to Lilongwe but are not generally used by tourists.
Minibus is a fast and cheap way to travel, but often considered more dangerous as they are involved in more accidents. Prices are fixed for each destination so don’t let the conductor charge you more than the locals. Zomba to Lilongwe (around 4 hours) will cost you around 1350MKW (7 EUR)
Taxi’s in Malawi
Private taxis in Malawi can vary in price depending on the distance and the individual driver. Always negotiate and be wary of the first price you are given. Try to get a licensed taxi, although this is not always possible. Drivers are usually friendly and trustworthy but act with caution. If there is a meter make sure the driver uses it, if not agree the price before departing.
Cycling in Malawi
Cycling in Malawi can be a fun and exciting activity, especially on Mountain bikes, and there are various trails and tours you can book. However, as a mode of transport, cycling in Malawi is not really recommended unless you are very serious and prepared for tough conditions. Bicycles can be hired from hotels and guesthouses so you can explore the surrounding areas and if you plan to do a lot of cycling in Malawi you can purchase bicycles in the larger cities. There are no cycle lanes on the main roads and cycling on them can be quite dangerous due to the high levels of traffic accidents. Theft can be an issue, especially in the cities so make sure you have a lock or do not leave your bike unattended.
Water Transport in Malawi
Travelling by boat is a really enjoyable, if slow paced way of getting around in Malawi. The Ilala ferry runs north from Monkey Bay to Chilumba (F 10AM-Su 6:30PM), and back southbound on the same route (departure Chilumba on Monday 2am, arriving at Monkey Bay on Wednesday at 2PM). These times vary and the ferry is known to arrive a day late sometimes. The Ilala connects Likoma Island twice a week with the mainland, and the much closer Cobue in Mozambique. Prices in January 2006 were about 6000 MKW (32 EUR) from Monkey Bay to Likoma, and 1600MKW (8.6 EUR) from Likoma to Nkata Bay. Locals with access to a boat may be willing to transport you for a price.
Hitch hiking in Malawi is not very popular due to the nature of ‘Matola’s’ and minibuses who pick up just about anyone along the road. If you do decide to hitch hike in Malawi, be aware of the dangers and also keep in mind that most Malawians would probably expect a tourist to pay something.