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MALAWI - Exercise a high degree of caution
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Malawi. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to crime.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Violent robberies and petty crime, such as pickpocketing, mugging and bag-snatching, occur. Tourists are particularly targeted on Kenyatta Drive, walking between the Old Town and the Capital City, at the main bus station in both Lilongwe and Blantyre as well as at the main ports for the Ilala ferry. Avoid walking alone at night. Con artists are active in major cities and tourist destinations such as Blantyre, Cape Maclear, Nkhata Bay, Senga Bay, Mzuzu and Zomba.
Do not show signs of affluence. Muggings have resulted in the loss of travel and identification documents. Carry copies of your passport identification page and other travel documents and place the originals in safekeeping facilities.
Residential break-ins and carjackings are prevalent throughout the country. Organized robberies and attacks by gangsters occur and may target foreigners. Carjackings often occur when a vehicle is stopped, for example, when waiting to enter at a compound vehicle gate, at intersections, or in traffic.
In Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, as well as in Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu, there are reports of a gang of men attacking women wearing pants, leggings and short skirts. The women are stripped and robbed. Women travellers in these areas should avoid wearing close fitting clothing and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Contact the Mountain Club of Malawi for security advice before climbing Mount Mulanje.
Political demonstrations and strike activity occur and can turn violent, especially in the capital Lilongwe. Exercise a high degree of caution, avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.
The traffic-related death rate is high. Poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles, and inadequate street lighting make driving dangerous. Potholes, pedestrians, animals, abandoned vehicles and vehicles travelling at night without lights also pose risks. Avoid driving outside cities after dark. Emergency roadside assistance is very limited.
Armed carjackings, particularly of four-wheel-drive vehicles, have occurred. You should not resist if threatened by carjackers. Always wear seat belts. Keep windows closed and doors locked and never leave your personal belongings in a vehicle.
Hitchhiking or taking matola (informal lifts in the back of open vehicles) is considered dangerous.
Public transport is limited in rural areas. There are regular flights and bus services between Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Travel by minibus between cities is not recommended, as they are overcrowded and poorly maintained.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
General safety information
Exercise great caution, especially on buses, at bus stops, and while hiking, or when approached by persons who wish to befriend you, help you, or become your tour guide. Do not accept food or drink from strangers as it could be drugged. Do not leave your luggage unattended.
Tourist facilities are limited outside of major centres.
Hikers on Mount Mulanje are advised to employ a locally registered tour guide.
Reserves and safaris
There are inherent risks associated with viewing wildlife (both marine and on land), particularly on foot or at close range. Always maintain a safe distance when observing wildlife and avoid leaving the vehicle unless it is deemed safe to do so by professional guides and wardens. Use only reputable and professional guides or tour operators, and closely follow park regulations and wardens’ advice.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Malawian authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the High Commission of the Republic of Malawi and its consulates for up-to-date information.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Malawi, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadians may be able to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport, or at a border crossing. However, to avoid inconveniences at the port of entry, it is strongly recommended to obtain a visa in advance, at the nearest diplomatic mission of Malawi.
Specific documents are required for Canadians volunteering in Malawi.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated. It causes diarrhea and in severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are at very low risk. Travellers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring. Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in East Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus and yellow fever.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is an eye and skin disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of an infected female blackfly. Onchocerciasis often leads to blindness if left untreated. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from blackfly bites, which are most common close to fast-flowing rivers and streams. There is no vaccine available for onchocerciasis although drug treatments exist.
- There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in East Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities are below Western standards. Medical evacuations to South Africa are required for serious conditions. Cash payment is expected and may be required before any service is provided.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
It is illegal to purchase uncut precious stones and they may not be exported.
It is prohibited to import ivory, drugs and pornographic material. A licence is required to import firearms and munitions for the purpose of hunting. Contact the High Commission of the Republic of Malawi for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Homosexual activity is illegal.
Photography of government buildings, airports, bridges, churches or synagogues, and military installations is prohibited. It may be culturally offensive to photograph people, and it is recommended that their permission be obtained first.
Traffic drives on the left.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
Penalties for drunk driving and speeding are severe in Malawi.
It is illegal to talk on a mobile phone while driving.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Malawi. If local authorities consider you a Malawi citizen, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services, thereby preventing Canadian consular officials from providing you with those services. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Malawi passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
As in many African countries, Malawian culture is generally conservative and respectful of elders. Common sense and discretion should be exercised in dress and behaviour. Respect religious beliefs and social conventions to avoid offending local sensitivities.
The local currency is the Malawi kwacha (MWK). Credit cards are not widely accepted outside major hotels. Foreign currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks and exchange houses. There are very few automated banking machines, even in tourist locations, and they may not accept international cards.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
Malawi is located in a seismic zone. Although infrequent, earthquakes do occasionally occur, and may cause landslides. Strong aftershocks are possible up to one week after the initial quake.
The rainy season extends from November to April. Secondary roads may be impassable to all but four-wheel-drive vehicles during this period. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly. If intending to visit flood-affected areas, ensure that you have sufficient quantities of potable water in reserve.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 997 / 990
- medical assistance: 998
- firefighters: 999
Maputo - High Commission of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in Maputo, Mozambique, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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