MalawiOfficial Name: Republic of Malawi
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
Area 40, City Center
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)
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 Fact Sheet on Malawi for additional information on U.S. – Malawi relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
According to the Government of Malawi, with the exception of diplomats and government officials, U.S. citizens must obtain a visa or “visa letter” prior to arriving, effective August 2016. Further details on these two methods can be found on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe. Exact rules and procedures surrounding Malawi’s new “visa letter” scheme are unclear and implementation is inconsistent. The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe strongly encourages U.S. citizens to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the Malawian Diplomatic Mission nearest you with questions or to arrange visa issuance and confirm fees.
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 confirm that there is no requirement for obtaining a visitor’s permit for short stays (30 days or less) prior to arrival in Malawi.
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 2000 USD per trip. Otherwise, an individual is not permitted to expropriate currency and it will be confiscated at the point of departure.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Malawi per the CDC’s travel information for Malawi. The government of Malawi requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the U.S. If you are traveling from a country other than the U.S., 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 and from Malawi, the South African government requires proof of yellow fever vaccination at least 14 days prior to arrival in South Africa; 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.
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.
Safety and Security
Spontaneous civil disturbances and/or 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.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Malawi on the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Even though Malawi is known as "the Warm Heart of Africa," crime is common. Most crimes against U.S. citizens 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.
Carjackings occur in Malawi, especially in Lilongwe and Blantyre. In most cases, carjackers will 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. In some cases, the victim has been assaulted. Drivers are advised to lock their car doors, close their windows, and remain vigilant when entering or exiting a residence.
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 nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we can contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
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.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Malawi, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. It is illegal to take pictures of certain government structures. Often, these sites are not clearly marked and the first notification that a tourist would receive is a police officer demanding his/her camera memory card, film, and/or camera. 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 Malawi, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in a foreign country, you may be breaking local law as well.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate 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 nearest U.S. embassy or consulate 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.
WOMEN TRAVELER INFORMATION: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: Same-sex consensual relations are criminalized in Malawi, with males receiving penalties of up to fourteen years of hard labor for men and females up to five years of imprisonment for women. There is increasing space in public conversation regarding LGBT issues, and these laws have not been actively enforced for more than two years, but there are no plans at this time to repeal these laws. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
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 buildings, or communications for people with disabilities. Some modern buildings may have wheelchair accessible entrances. Generally, public transportation is not accessible for travelers with disabilities.
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. You may wish to obtain travel insurance that provides coverage for medical evacuation, as an evacuation can cost up to $90,000.
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 recommend 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.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Malawi. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Malawi. The government of Malawi requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. Typhoid and cholera are of serious health concerns in Malawi. For further information, please consult the CDC’s information on Malawi.
You can find detailed 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, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
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. Most roads do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians and livestock to use the roadways both day and night. Secondary roads are not well lit, 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, 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 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.
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.
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
U.S. Embassy Lilongwe
Area 40, City Center
Mailing Address: PO Box 30016
Lilongwe 3, Malawi