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Travel Security Advice for Malawi

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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 Background Notes on Malawi for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Malawi are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State's travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

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
Lilongwe, Malawi
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)9-591024 or (265) (0)8-734-826.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

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 obtain a visa at the airports or border points of entry. The 30-day visa may be extended up to an additional 30 days prior to visa expiration. Currently, the Malawi Immigration Department is charging for all visa extensions as follows:

  1. A 30-day visa (or less) is granted at any port of entry and is Free
  2. Application for a visa extension for an additional 30-days (or less) is MK 5,000.00
  3. Application for a second visa extension for an additional 30-days (or less) is MK 5,000.00

A visa extension application must be submitted prior to the visa's expiration date. There is no guarantee the request will be granted.

Americans wishing to volunteer, study, conduct research or business for more than 90 days in Malawi are responsible for requesting the correct type of visa from the Malawian Embassy or Consulate, prior to traveling to Malawi. There is no guarantee requests for changing one's immigration category (e.g., from tourist 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 Visa (TEP) rather than a tourist visa through their sponsoring organization or business.

Malawian immigration authorities have fined, arrested, and deported American citizens who entered Malawi with a tourist visa 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 tourist visa for short stays (30-days or less) prior to arrival in Malawi.

American 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. Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Malawi.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

Spontaneous civil disturbances, primarily related to labor and student strikes, occur, but are uncommon. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's information on A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Even though Malawi is known as "the warm heart of Africa," crime is common. Most crimes against Americans involve property. Carjacking and residential break-ins are prevalent throughout Malawi. 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.

American citizens are urged to avoid traveling on foot at night, especially in urban areas, as armed muggings and assaults have increased. Specifically, expatriates have been targeted in Lilongwe, and several Americans 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.

American citizens are also advised to use caution when visiting and/or staying in isolated areas such as Mount Mulanje where the availability of public security forces is limited. As a rule, American citizens should take appropriate action to ensure their safety if traveling to remote areas, including never traveling alone or at night.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Malawi are 997 for police, 999 for fire and 998 for ambulance service.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Malawi's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Malawi are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Wild animals may pose a danger. Travelers are advised that, even in the most serene settings, wild animals can pose a threat to life and safety. Travelers are cautioned 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.

Please see our Customs Information.

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 American 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 travelers 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. Travelers are urged 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. Visitors should consult their physicians to learn which prophylaxis would suit them best and review possible side-effects. In addition, other personal protective measures such as the use of insect repellents help to reduce the risk of malaria. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one-year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial medications they have been taking.

Schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia) is present in most lakes and rivers in Malawi, including Lake Malawi. The Department of State recommends against swimming, wading or bathing in fresh water.

HIV infection is endemic in the Malawian population. Travelers are advised to take appropriate precautions to limit the risk of transmission through blood or sexual contact.

Tuberculosis is prevalent as well. Caution should be exercised if visiting crowded settings for prolonged periods of time, especially public hospitals and prisons.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Malawi.

Other health risks include typhoid, hepatitis A and B, tetanus, and rabies. Vaccination for these diseases is advised. Additionally, travelers should be aware that trypanosmiasis (African Sleeping Sickness) is present in some game parks and that cholera outbreaks are often reported.

Yellow fever vaccination is required if traveling from an endemic zone.

More information on malaria, tropical diseases, food safety, vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site. The CDC 24-hour hotline number is 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-22-4636) or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas. All medical services in Malawi are paid for in cash. Individuals should get a receipt for any services and submit the receipt to their insurance company for reimbursement.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Malawi is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

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.

Given Malawi's high road accident rate, travelers 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. Foreigners intending to remain in Malawi for an extended period of time 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. Travelers should never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Whenever possible visitors should wear seat belts, travel in well-maintained vehicles, insist that the drivers maintain a safe speed, and avoid any travel after dark.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. For specific information concerning Malawi driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Malawi in Washington, D.C. on (202) 721-0270. For international driving permits contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance.

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.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Malawi dated Febrary 8, 2009 to update sections on Registration/Embassy Location and Medical Facilities and Health Information


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has information regarding Malawi HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens)..........

There is also a Malaria Warning for Malawi provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE......

Regards

The SW Team.........

 

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