Exclusive Malawi and Zambia Solo Trip

Share:

Malawi

Dubbed 'The Warm Heart of Africa' due to the legendary welcome extended to all who visit, Malawi is a small country with a big heart and an even bigger range of incredible tourist activities! Lake Malawi’s vast size, its warm freshwater and its gorgeous surrounding beaches make it a mecca for those seeking a year-round location to swim, scuba dive, snorkel, water ski, sail, kayak, parasail or simply potter about in boats. Malawi also boasts plenty of national parks providing a haven for a wide variety of wildlife including crocodiles, lions, elephants, hippos and even leopard. Culture vultures are also well served by numerous fascinating historical and cultural sites as well as visits to traditional Malawian villages to meet some ever-smiling Malawians going about their daily lives. With all of this exceptional culture, natural scenery and friendliness on offer, this unique African country is enchanting enough to captivate even the most jaded traveller.


Banking and Currency

Currency

The local currency is known as Kwacha (MWK; symbol Mk) which is equal to 100 tambala. Notes come in denominations of Mk500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of Mk1 as well as 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 tambala.

The import of local currency is unlimited. The export of local currency is limited to K3,000.  The export of foreign currency must not exceed the amount imported and must be declared on departure.

Banking

Banking hours are from Mon-Fri 0800-1400.

Acceptance of credit and debit cards is very limited, although in Lilongwe and Blantyre and in main hotels, American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa can be used.

Traveller's cheques can be exchanged in banks, hotels and other institutions. In remote areas, the Treasury Office of Local District Commissioner's offices will cash traveller's cheques. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds Sterling or South African Rand.

There are ATMs available in the major cities but it is advisable to check with your bank at home to find out if your card is compatible with Malawian ATMs. ATM services in more rural areas is extremely limited so plan accordingly.




Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Air Malawi (QM) is defunct as of 2013. Domestic flights are served by charter airline Ulendo Airlink (www.flyulendo.com) which serves destinations including Lilongwe, Chelinda and Likoma Island.

All major roads are tarmac and most secondary roads are in decent condition. Some roads in the more rural areas may be in bad condition particularly in rainy weather.

Car hire services are becoming increasingly available, with a number of companies offering a wide choice of vehicles. Standards do vary (even with the internationally franchised chains) so it is worth seeking a recommendation. Nonetheless, cars should be reserved well in advance as they are very much in demand. Chauffeur-driven cars are also available. Malawians drive on the left side of the road. Drivers will be required to hold an International Driving Permit. Be aware that, for some reason, Malawian drivers seem to believe that by not using their headlights will conserve the life of their car battery, so driving after dark can be dangerous.

There are bus services in all major cities but bus services in rural areas are limited.

Taxis are available in the main towns but they are in short supply and cannot be hailed on the street. Taxi drivers typically expect a tip.

Central East African Railways (tel: 01 640 844) operates the lines in the country. The main route connects Mchinji, Lilongwe, Salima, Chipoka, Blantyre, Limbe and Nsanje. Trains tend to be slow and crowded and are seldom used by tourists.

Cruises on Lake Malawi are available by local steamer. Food and cabins are available. For details contact a local travel bureaux.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Hotel restaurants and many of those in the cities are of a good standard. They offer a wide choice of dishes including European, Korean and Chinese as well as authentic Malawi dishes and haute cuisine. Poultry and dairy produce are plentiful and tropical fruits are abundant in season.

Typical Malawian specialities include fresh fish from Lake Malawi.  Chambo (Tilapia fish) being the main lake delicacy.  There is also trout available from streams on the Zomba, Mulanje and Nyika plateaus. White maize is commonly eaten with vegetables and sometimes meat or fish. Nthochi bread (made with banana)is very popular with locals and travellers alike as are Mbatata cookies (made with sweet potato and cinnamon).

The local beer is very good and Malawi gin and tonic is well known and inexpensive, with almost cult status.

Tipping is generally not expected, but some employees who are very poorly paid might appreciate a small tip for good service.




Climate and Weather

Varies from cool in the highlands to warm around Lake Malawi. Winter (May to July) is dry and nights can be chilly, particularly in the highlands. The rainy season runs from November to March. Around Lake Malawi, in winter, the climate is particularly dry with pleasant cooling breezes.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight cotton clothing is recommended year round in the Lake Malawi area, with warmer clothes advised in the mountains, particularly during winter and on chilly evenings elsewhere. Visitors to Nyika and Zomba should note that the nights can be cold. Dark or 'natural' coloured clothing should be worn for game viewing. Sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses and good walking shoes are essential.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Malawi are the "Type G " British BS-1363 type (three rectangular blade plug). If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. North American sockets supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts, far lower than in most of the rest of the world. Consequently, North American appliances are generally built for 110-120 volts.


Zambia

This unique, peanut-shaped country, once known as Northern Rhodesia, offers visitors an authentic African experience complete with adrenalin pumping adventure sports, a variety of fascinating cultural activities, and an abundance of indigenous wildlife, which finds refuge in Zambia’s vast national parks. Spend your evenings enjoying the spectacular site of the world’s largest waterfall, the Victoria Falls, while sipping on sundowners after an exhilarating day of whitewater rafting down the rapids of the mighty Zambezi River. If that sounds a little too adventurous for your taste, take a houseboat cruise along the exquisite Lake Kariba while watching wild elephants drink at the riverbank as you try your hand at catching the elusive tiger fish. However you choose to spend your time in this unique country, you are bound to leave with a heavy heart and a desire to return again soon to this exceptionally beautiful Southern African country.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Zambia's unit of currency is the Kwacha (ZMW), formally ZMK which was rebased in 2013. The denominations are K100, K50, K20, K10, K5 and K2.  It is subdivided into 100 ngwee. Coins available are K1, 50 ngwee, 10 ngwee and 5 ngwee. 

However, some prices are quoted in US$. It is therefore possible to use dollars and pounds as well. 

Banking

In the cities and larger towns, you can change cash and travellers cheques at branches of Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. Larger branches have ATMs that accept Visa. Foreign exchange offices are easy to find in cities and larger towns. 

Banks are generally open on weekdays from 08h150 to 15h30 and 08h15 to 12h00 on Saturdays. Banks are closed on Sundays and public holidays. 


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Proflight flies from Lusaka to Mfuwe (South Luangwa), to Livingstone and the Copperbelt and also does charters.Various air charter companies will fly to any of the many airstrips around the country and most of the areas worth visiting are accessible by air. 

Public Transport

There are many taxis available. Prices are negotiable. There is a good bus service to Chipata, Livingstone, the Copperbelt and Harare, but they don’t always follow strict schedules. The main bus terminus is in Dedan Kimathi Road in Lusaka where one can inquire about timetables. Other private bus companies offer more reliable services to Livingstone, Harare and Johannesburg.

Travel by Bus

Long range buses frequently leave from Lusaka to all the main towns. The intercity bus terminal can be found one road up from Cairo Road at the station.

Minibuses and taxis, local transport – all painted blue – can be jumped on at pretty much any juncture. They’re not expensive and you can always find a minibus that won’t cost too much to buy all the seats in it to get your own private minibus to wherever you want to go but you’ll have to negotiate.

Travel by Road

Zambia has 38,763 kilometres of roads, about 10,000 kms of which are tarred and another 8000 kms are gravel road. The rest range from reasonable to bad dirt roads.

If you’re doing a vehicle trip through Zambia it is a good idea to carry a range of tools and essential spares with you. 

Be really careful, especially if travelling at night for road markings are usually non existent. Do watch out for animals in the road, vehicles without lights, pedestrians, unannounced roadworks, bad drivers and broken down trucks with no warning triangles. If you see a tree branch in the road, slow down immediately – these are improvised warning triangles and there’s bound to be a truck or car in the middle of the road up ahead. 

Be sure to have all your vehicle papers on hand as you’re bound to encounter a few roadblocks.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Zambia's native cuisine is based on nshima, a cooked porridge made from ground maize normally accompanied by some tasty relish, perhaps made of meat and tomatoes, or dried fish. Safari camps will often prepare nshima if requested, and it is almost always available in small, local restaurants.

Camps, hotels and lodges that cater to overseas visitors tend to serve  a range of international fare, and the quality of food prepared in the most remote bush camps is typically excellent.

Water in the main towns is usually purified, provided there are no shortages of chlorine, breakdowns, or other mishaps. The locals drink it, and are used to the relatively innocuous bugs that it may harbour. If you are in the country for a long time, then it may be worth acclimatising yourself to it. However, if you are in Zambia for just a few weeks, then try to drink only bottled, boiled, or treated water in town.

Out in the bush, most of the camps and lodges use water from bore-holes. These underground sources vary in quality, but are normally perfectly safe to drink.


Climate and Weather

The rains in Zambia come mostly in December, January, February and March though the further north you are, the earlier the rains arrive and the later they leave. Eastern areas and higher areas generally receive more rain than western and lowland areas.

By April and May most of the rain has faded away, leaving a landscape that's still green, but starting to dry out. Nighttime temperatures start to drop, especially in higher and more southerly locations.

In June, July and August the nights become much cooler, but the days are clear and warm. Make sure you bring warm clothes to wrap up if you're out at night, as some nights get very cold! Most of Zambia's small 'walking bush camps' open at the start of June, when the roads have dried out sufficiently to allow access. This is the start of the 'peak season' for these countries – with often cloudless days and continually increasing game sightings.

Into September and October the temperatures climb: the lower-lying rift valleys – Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools and Luangwa Valley – can get very hot in October. However, you'll see some superb game as the animals concentrate around the limited water sources.

November is variable; it can be hot and dry like October, or it can see the season's first downpours. Often it's a very interesting month as you can see both patterns on successive days.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Zambia has mild winters and the summer days can be scorching hot. Lightweight casual clothes can be worn all year round, with a jacket or jersey for early winter mornings and evenings. 

On safari, keep clothes to neutral colours - khakis, browns and greens. A sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses and insect repellent are a must. 


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets in the Republic of Zambia are Type G (BS-1363) and Type C (CEE 7/16 Europlug) and Type D (BS-546). If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.

Electrical sockets in the Republic of Zambia supply electricity at 230 volts AC / 50 Hz frequency.  If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 230 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 230 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.


back to top