COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Malawi is a developing landlocked country in southern Africa. Tourist facilities in major cities and in resort areas are steadily improving, but remain limited. Aging infrastructure and lack of investment have rendered electricity, water supply, and telecommunications unreliable in rural areas. Read the Department of State’s information on relations with Malawi for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Malawi, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local Embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Lilongwe
Area 40, City Center
Mailing Address: PO Box 30016, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telephone: (265) 1-773-166, 1-773-342 and 1-773-367
(if dialing within Malawi add "0" before the "1"); fax (265) 1-774-976 (if dialing within Malawi add "0" before the "1").
In case of emergency, you may call the Embassy 24 hours a day and request extension 3443. In case the landlines are malfunctioning, you may also dial (265) (0)999-591024 or (265) (0) 888-734-826.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: A passport, return ticket, and adequate funds are required for entry into Malawi. U.S. citizens traveling to Malawi for tourism, transit or business for 30 days or less can receive a visitor’s permit at the airports or border points of entry. The 30-day permit may be extended twice up to an additional 30 days each renewal prior to expiration. Currently, the Malawi Immigration Department is charging for all permit extensions as follows:
a. A 30-day visitor’s permit (or less) is granted at any port of entry and is free,
b. Application for a permit extension for an additional 30 days (or less) is MK 5,000.00 (Approx $15 U.S. dollars),
c. Application for a second permit extension for an additional 30 days (or less) is MK 5,000.00 (Approx $15 U.S. dollars),.
A permit extension application must be submitted prior to the permit’s expiration date. There is no guarantee the request will be granted.
U.S. citizens wishing to volunteer, study, conduct research or business for more than 90 days in Malawi are responsible for requesting the correct type of visa/permit from the Malawian Embassy or Consulate, prior to traveling to Malawi. There is no guarantee that requests for changing one's immigration category (e.g., from visitor permit or tourist visa to Temporary Employment Permit) will be granted. Foreign citizens whose primary purpose of travel is to participate in religious activities (voluntary or paid) should obtain a Temporary Employment Permit (TEP) rather than a visitor’s permit through their sponsoring organization or business.
Malawian immigration authorities have fined, arrested, and deported U.S. citizens who entered Malawi with a tourist visa or on a visitor’s permit and proceeded to conduct other activities inconsistent with their tourist status (e.g., business or volunteer services).
Occasionally, some airlines have required travelers to have a Malawian visa before boarding connecting flights in European airports. Malawian authorities confirmed in October 2011 that there is no requirement for obtaining a visitor’s permit for short stays (30 days or less) prior to arrival in Malawi.
U.S. citizens are reminded that they are subject to Malawi's laws. Individuals that overstay on their visa, even unknowingly, have been fined, arrested and deported. For additional information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Malawi in Washington, D.C. 2408 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. You may also visit the Embassy of Malawi’s website. There is also a Malawi consulate in New York City.
According to Malawian law, travelers must declare all foreign currency when entering Malawi, regardless of its purpose or amount. Travelers should only exchange foreign currency at the bank or approved foreign exchange bureaus. Any currency declared at entry may be expatriated without further authorization. With bank approval, an individual may export up to USD $2000 per trip. Otherwise an individual is not permitted to expropriate currency and it will be confiscated at the point of departure.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Malawi.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Spontaneous civil disturbances and/or demonstrations, primarily related to governance and economic issues can occur on occasion. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: Even though Malawi is known as "the Warm Heart of Africa," crime is common. Most crimes against Americans involve property. Residential break-ins are prevalent throughout Malawi and perpetrators of these crimes are usually well-armed and may resort to violence with little provocation. Petty street crime (robbery and pick-pocketing) is common, and break-ins have also occurred in hotels/lodges throughout the country.
We urge you to avoid traveling on foot at night, especially in urban areas, as armed muggings and assaults have increased. Specifically, non-Malawians have been targeted in Lilongwe, and several U.S. citizens have been injured. Even when walking in a large group, city streets should be considered unsafe after dark. Pedestrians should be cautious even 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.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. embassy. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Malawi is 199 or 997.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Malawi, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Malawi, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Arrest notifications in host country
While some countries will automatically notify the U.S. embassy if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the U.S. embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Even in the most serene settings, wild animals can pose a threat to life and safety. Be sure to 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 against short skirts on women and long hair on men no longer exist, but travelers may wish to dress modestly, especially when visiting remote areas.
Accessibility: While in Malawi, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. There is no legislation that mandates access to transportation, public building and communication for people with disabilities. Some modern buildings may have wheelchair accessible entrances. Generally, public transportation is not accessible for travelers with disabilities.
LGBT Issues: Same-sex consensual relations are criminalized in Malawi, with males receiving up to fourteen years of hard labor and females up to five years of imprisonment. There is increasing space in public conversation regarding LGBT issues, but there are no plans at this point in time to repeal these laws. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) travelers should read the LGBT Travel Information page.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Malawi are rudimentary and do not meet U.S. standards of medical care. While all health workers have some degree of English proficiency, communication can still be difficult. Medications are not consistently available and many U.S. medications are not available at all. Travelers should bring adequate quantities of medications to last the duration of their stay. For any major medical problems you should consider obtaining medical treatment in South Africa, where advanced medical care is available.
Diarrhea and other food borne illnesses are a common problem among travelers. We urge you to avoid tap water, ice cubes, and raw fruits and vegetables. Bottled water is recommended for drinking and food preparation. Only food that is well-cooked and served hot should be consumed.
Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disorder that is endemic to Malawi. Malaria prophylaxis is strongly advised and should be initiated prior to arriving in Malawi. Consult your doctor to learn which prophylaxis is best for you, and review possible side effects. In addition, other measures such as the use of insect repellents and mosquito nets help to reduce the risk of malaria. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area, or up to one-year after returning home, you should seek prompt medical attention and tell your doctor your travel history and what anti-malarial medications you have been taking.
Schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia) is present in most lakes and rivers in Malawi, including Lake Malawi. We recommends against swimming, wading or bathing in fresh water.
HIV infection is endemic in the Malawian population. Please take appropriate precautions to limit the risk of transmission through blood or sexual contact.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Malawi. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Malawi, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Malawi's principal highways are generally in good condition, although safety hazards include the lack of road shoulders, frequent potholes, pedestrians, bicyclists and livestock. Secondary roads are in poor repair and may be impassable to all but four-wheel drive vehicles during the rainy season (November-April). Public transportation, consisting primarily of minibuses, is unreliable and accidents are common. Modern coach buses are increasingly common on the main cross-country routes. Fuel supply, both diesel and gasoline, is often erratic, and travelers should plan accordingly.
Given Malawi's high road accident rate, you should drive defensively and avoid road travel outside cities at night. Road support networks for stranded drivers do not exist. Police roadblocks are common and properly documented drivers usually pass quickly and without incident. If you intend to remain in Malawi for an extended period of time you are expected to obtain a locally-issued driver's license.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of death among travelers to Malawi due to atypical road hazards. There are no medical facilities that provide comprehensive emergency care comparable to U.S. standards. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You should always wear your seat belt when available, try travel in well-maintained vehicles, insist that the drivers maintain a safe speed, and avoid travelling after dark.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
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.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Malawi dated December 15, 2011, to update the section on Special Circumstances.