Malawians are characteristically helpful in both personal and business dealings. Business travelers to Malawi may also seek an appointment with U.S. Embassy Lilongwe by contacting the Economic and Commercial Section in advance at +265-1-773-166 extensions 3406 and 3253, or by email to LilongweECON@state.gov.
Malawi business attire is relatively formal. Business suits are recommended.
A variety of food is normally available in Malawi’s urban areas. Expatriates patronize a handful of restaurants in both Lilongwe and Blantyre. Rural areas have very few restaurants, almost none of which attract foreigners. The U.S. Embassy recommends drinking only boiled, bottled, or distilled water. Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables should be avoided.
Short-term visitors to Malawi will most likely stay in tourist-class hotels, which are in major urban areas and lakeside resorts. Accommodations in rural areas are generally not recommended. Expatriate residents in Malawi generally live in modern housing in the major urban centers. Power and water are generally available in major cities, but supply interruptions are common. The housing markets in Lilongwe and Blantyre are tight. Local real estate agents are available to help locate housing.
The Department of State Consular Information Sheet for Malawi can be found at: Travel. State.Gov Info on Malawi.
For non-Malawians to enter the country, travelers must have a passport with at least two blank pages, a visa or entry permit, return ticket, and proof of adequate funds for travel. U.S. citizens traveling to Malawi for tourism, transit, or business can usually obtain entry visas upon arrival at either of Malawi’s international airports or at official border crossing points. Even though Malawi has informed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) visas may be obtained by U.S. travelers upon arrival, some airlines may require travelers to have a Malawian visa before boarding connecting flights to Malawi. All travelers are encouraged to obtain a visa prior to travel at Malawi’s Embassy or consulates, or online at https://www.evisa.gov.mw/.
U.S. business travelers should contact the Malawi Embassy in Washington, DC (https://www.malawiembassyusa.com/) for the latest information on visa requirements.
The U.S Embassy Lilongwe website also has useful information for all travelers.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process.
Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website
The local currency, the Malawi kwacha (mkw), is convertible to other currencies at banks and forex bureaus in Malawi. Banks tend to have U.S. dollars, South African Rand, British Pounds, and Euros. Most places offering money exchange will only accept larger, relatively new U.S. dollar bills.
Most ATMs provide kwacha via Visa or MasterCard, provided that a credit, debit, or ATM card is compatible. ATMs can be found in the major cities. Travelers checks are acceptable to most banks and forex bureaus, but the exchange rates used for travelers’ checks are generally disadvantageous to the traveler compared to those for cash.
Travelers can pay using Visa and occasionally MasterCard at most major shops, tourist-oriented businesses, tourist-class hotels, travel agents, rental car agencies, and restaurants in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Most smaller shops do not accept debit or credit cards.
In 2020, the RBM issued the Business Licensing (Deployment and Usage of Electronic Payment Channels) Regulations, 2019 to mandate licensed entities to deploy and use one or more electronic payment channels for payment of goods and services to provide a convenient, safe, and efficient experience for customers. Regulations require that entities be registered and use electronic fiscal devices under the Value Added Tax Act, and those with annual turnover of K10 million (US$9,670) and above, to deploy Point of Sale (POS) devices at their premises. Entities outside these two categories are required to deploy at least one electronic payment channel, such as mobile money, mobile banking, or internet banking.
Malawi’s telecommunications infrastructure is functional but often overburdened. Mobile telephone service is expanding rapidly and more than 80 percent of households have at least one mobile phone. Two companies (Malawi Telecom Limited (MTL) and Access Communications) were originally licensed to provide fixed line telephone service. However, both also provide mobile phone services. Telekom Network Malawi, Airtel Malawi, MTL Malawi, and Access Communications offer cellular telephone service. Malawi has well-established GSM (TNM and Airtel) and emerging CDMA (Access) mobile networks. Most corporate offices and tourist-class hotels have telephones and faxes. The international country code for Malawi is 265.
There are two internet gateway providers and several internet service providers. According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 10 percent of Malawians used the Internet in 2019. The Internet is primarily accessible in urban areas, although the speed is often slow because of limited bandwidth. The Internet is not widely available in rural areas. Wireless access to the internet is improving in some areas, 3G and 4G mobile phone networks are now available in rural areas located along major transportation corridors with adequate communications tower coverage. Tourist resorts in isolated areas often have satellite internet links.
Malawi’s electricity is 220 volts, 50-60 Hertz, though voltage quality is unreliable. Surge protectors are recommended for sensitive or valuable electronics. The most common plug is the standard UK, square 3-pronged plug, although a variety of plug types can be found.
The country has approximately 2,500 miles of paved roads, most in varying stages of disrepair. Paved roads connect Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, and Zomba as well as the lakeshore communities of Nkhotakota, Nkhata Bay, Salima, and Mangochi. Paved roads extend from Blantyre to the borders of Mozambique, from Lilongwe to the Zambian border, and from Karonga to the Tanzanian border. Inadequate drainage often contributes to the premature break-up of road surfaces and washouts are common during the rainy season. Many dirt roads are not passable during the rainy season, roughly November to April.
Rental cars are available for hire in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba, and Mzuzu. Driving at night outside urban areas is unsafe. Malawi has an extensive network of buses, but only the best class bus service connecting Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba, and Mzuzu is normally considered acceptable for business travel.
Airports on the outskirts of Lilongwe and Blantyre handle international air traffic and offer daily and weekly flights to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; and Johannesburg, South Africa. Connections via the international hubs can be made to Asia, Europe, and North America. There are also reliable flights from Malawi to Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. There are daily flights between Blantyre and Lilongwe.
Nacala Logistics Malawi (NLM), previously called Central East African Railways Company (CEAR), operates limited passenger services between Limbe, Balaka, and the Mozambique border at Nayuchi, and provides limited freight service between Lilongwe, Blantyre, and the Mozambican port of Nacala. A track extension connects Malawi’s network to the Zambian network, but there is no scheduled service to Zambia.
Vale, a Brazilian mining company, constructed and rehabilitated the rail line from Tete/Moatize in Mozambique through Malawi to the port of Nacala. The rail line was completed in 2015. In December 2021 Vale announced it entered into a binding agreement with Vulcan to sell the Moatize coal mine and the Nacala Logistics Corridor. As of 2023, use of the rail line remains intermittent.
The governments of Malawi and Mozambique are jointly working to rehabilitate and reconstruct the Sena rail line to provide direct rail connection between Malawi and the Mozambican port of Beira. The Nacala line runs from the Mozambican port of Nacala into central Malawi. There are plans to rehabilitate and extend the line for more regular use. There are also plans to rehabilitate the railway line connecting Malawi to Zambia through at the Mchinji border and construct a railway line to connect Malawi and Tanzania.
Limited freight and passenger services are offered on Lake Malawi. Monkey Bay hosts a shipyard, several boat workshops, and several transportation vessels. The vessels have capacity to transport containers, petroleum products, and passengers through the ports of Chilumba and Chipoka on Lake Malawi, including stops in Tanzania and Mozambique. Concessionaire Mota-Engil manages the lake services and ports.
English is the accepted business language of Malawi. However, outside of urban areas, a variety of other languages are spoken, and in the rural areas, it can be difficult to find English speakers. The most common local languages include Chichewa, Chitumbuka and Chitonga in the North, and Chiyao and Lomwe in the South.
Malawi’s health facilities are far below Western standards. Malaria and other tropical diseases are prevalent throughout the country. The HIV/AIDS rate is high (9.2 percent), particularly in urban areas. Much of Lake Malawi and the country’s river network is infested with schistosomiasis (bilharzia). Malaria prophylaxis is recommended while in Malawi, as is a comprehensive immunization regime before entering the country. The U.S. Embassy recommends drinking only boiled, bottled, or distilled water. Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables should be avoided.
For more information please visit: CDC.GOV Malawi Info
Local time, business hours, and holidays
Malawi is on GMT+2. There is no system of daylight savings time during any part of the year. Official government business hours are 07:30 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:30 Monday to Friday but most international organizations, government companies/parastatals, and private sector close at 17:00. Some businesses and banks may be open on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, but usually only for limited hours and in limited locations.
Malawi official holidays (if a holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, it is observed on Monday) for 2023 are:
- New Year’s Day January 2, 2023
- John Chilembwe Day January 16, 2023
- Martyr’s Day March 3, 2023
- Good Friday April 7, 2023
- Holy Saturday April 8, 2023
- Easter Monday April 10, 2023
- Labor Day May 1, 2023
- Eid al-Fitr April 24, 2023
- Kamuzu Day May 15, 2023
- Independence Day July 6, 2023
- Mother’s Day October 16, 2023
- Christmas December 25, 2023
- Boxing Day December 26, 2023
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
The Controller of Customs and Excise is authorized to allow the temporary importation of goods. By law, the Controller may impose conditions on temporary importation — such as mandatory re-export — and may allow entry “for such period as he thinks fit” and “for such purposes as he may approve.” Temporary entry is customarily authorized when goods are in transit to other countries, or when goods are accompanying tourists. The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) maintains updated requirements and processes for temporary entry of materials and belongings.