Location: Southern Africa
Time zone: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours
Daylight savings time: no
Current time: 12:28
Currency: Malawian kwacha
Dialling code: +265
Internet suffix: .mw
Malawi is a small southern African country known for its wildlife and natural beauty, although it suffers from underdevelopment.
Overall security situation: mostly secure
Crime rate: very low
Murder rate: very low
Gun ownership levels: very low
Kidnapping hotspot: no
Maritime piracy hotspot: no
Do landmines/unexploded munitions pose a significant risk in parts of the country: no
Overall Malawi is a quiet country from a security perspective. The crime rate is very low, with limited petty crime and infrequent violent crime. Murders are very uncommon.
However, state institutions, including those responsible for law and order, are under-resourced. Significant parts of society also have very strong grievances, particularly over issues such as underdevelopment. As such, there are occasional protests and demonstrations, some of which can be large, although they are usually non-violent.
There is an extremely low risk of terrorism (albeit not one that is entirely absent).
Aviation safety levels: grounds for concern
Annual road fatality rates: high
Vehicles drive on the: left
Infrastructure quality: good
Urban ATM availability: very limited
Electricity supply: 230V 50Hz
Electricity supply reliability: relatively consistent
Plug types: G
Plug type G (3 rectangular pins, grounded/earthed)
Is tap water drinkable: no
Healthcare quality: extremely poor
Infectious disease prevalence: extremely high
Travellers should consult a medical practitioner prior to their trip but the following vaccines may be considered before travelling to the country, depending on factors such as specific destination, planned activities, intended time and length of stay as well as personal medical conditions (in some cases no additional vaccines may be required at all):
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B (not always needed)
- Rabies (usually only for long-term stays, or for those spending time in isolated areas or coming into contact with animals)
- Standard vaccinations (ie those commonly used in the developed world, such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tuberculosis and tetanus)
Malaria risk: moderate
Yellow fever presence: no
Dengue fever prevalence: sporadic cases
Rabies prevalence: high risk
HIV prevalence in society: among the very worst in the world
Hepatitis A prevalence: high
Hepatitis B prevalence: high
Hepatitis E prevalence: not highly endemic
Cholera status: low risk
Chikungunya virus presence: present
Zika virus presence: not recently reported
Japanese encephalitis presence: no
Cutaneous leishmaniasis presence: endemic
Visceral leishmaniasis presence: non-endemic
Onchocerciasis presence: endemic
Schistosomiasis presence: moderate
Tick-borne encephalitis status: low/non-existent risk
Chagas disease presence: none
Typhoid fever presence: strongly endemic
African trypanosomiasis presence: endemic
Plague status: not thought to be present
Rift Valley fever status: some reported cases
Lassa fever status: not present
Polio status: not endemic
Ebola outbreaks: no
Meningococcal meningitis hotspot: no
Climate: sub-tropical; rainy season (November to May); dry season (May to November)
Terrain: narrow elongated plateau with rolling plains, rounded hills, some mountains
Natural disaster risk: very high
Natural hazards: flooding; drought; storms; some seismic activity
Tropical storms: few/none
Volcanic activity: low/none
Previous earthquake(s) with over 1,000 fatalities: no
Government type: multiparty democracy
Socio-economic development score: 3/10 (low levels of socio-economic development)
Adult literacy rate: 65.8%
Unemployment rate: low
Civil liberties: some restrictions, usually mild
Investment rating: not rated
Corruption levels: fairly high
Same-sex sexual activity: illegal
Death penalty: official punishment but not used in practice
Languages: English (official), Chichewa (common), other indigenous languages
Ethnic groups: Chewa 32.6%, Lomwe 17.6%, Yao 13.5%, Ngoni 11.5%, Tumbuka 8.8%, Nyanja 5.8%, Sena 3.6%, Tonga 2.1%, Ngonde 1%, other 3.5%
Beliefs: Christian 82.6%, Muslim 13%, other 1.9%, none 2.5%
- The following advice has been compiled by travel safety specialists and ex-special forces personnel.
- However, please note that it is of a general nature only and may not reflect the reality of your circumstances.
- Ensure you have proper insurance cover in place.
- Select good quality accommodation and properly prepare for any tasks, excursions or other activities you have to undertake.
- Be mindful of local laws and cultural norms, bearing in mind that they might be different to what you are accustomed to.
- Consider conducting or obtaining a risk assessment specific to you, your profile and your trip, task or operation.
- This should take into account the likelihood of potential risks affecting you, as well as the likely impact they will have, and will help you decide, depending on your risk appetite and implementable risk mitigation measures, whether or not you should proceed.
Road traffic accident
- Be aware of local driving conditions and hazards.
- Drive defensively and adhere to speed limits to minimise the risk of being caught up in an accident, or request that your driver(s) do the same.
- If using a taxi or local driver, ensure that they are qualified and competent and that their vehicle appears well maintained.
- Ensure that vehicles are in good working order before travel.
- Perform regular checks on your vehicles for oil, fuel, tyres and seatbelts.
- Consider taking additional equipment such as a jack, spare tyres, water, blankets, torches and a first aid kit, especially if travelling to more rural or isolated areas.
- Consider using four-wheel drive vehicles for particularly poor road conditions.
- Car users should know how to perform emergency repairs.
- Try to use reputable airlines.
- Check the safety records of any companies you use to charter flights.
- Check the weather forecast in advance of travel – particularly for domestic flights.
- Consider delaying your trip or using an alternative means of transport rather than taking a risky flight.
- Bear in mind that healthcare facilities and services may be significantly less extensive than more developed countries.
- There may be very limited facilities, staff, techniques and medications available, especially in more isolated or underdeveloped areas.
- There may not be adequate reliable blood supplies in local hospitals.
- Pharmacists and other sources of even basic medical products may be difficult to find.
- Aim to be as medically self-sufficient as possible, taking basic medical supplies.
- Research whether or not certain medications are legal in your destination(s).
- Take extra supplies of any routinely-taken medicines.
- It may also be advisable to have them accompanied by a note from your doctor.
- Avoid carrying medication for other travellers.
- In the event of serious illness or injury it may be necessary for a patient to be evacuated out of the country.
- Ensure that there is sufficient medical insurance in place to cover such an event.
- Find out what specific diseases are present in your intended travel destinations.
- Research the specific measures you should take to lower the risk of infection, bearing in mind that the disease(s) in question could be water, air or insect-borne.
- It might be useful to seek medical advice prior to your trip.
- If possible, do this several weeks in advance of your travel, in case you need to obtain specific vaccinations, some of which can take time to be administered properly.
- Be aware of any potential outbreaks which may be taking place in the country.
- Be careful with any cuts and grazes which might be more susceptible to infection in your travel destination than at home.
- Hygiene will be very important, but it can be more challenging to maintain good standards of hygiene in some parts of the world where sanitary products, cleaning products and even clean water can be hard to obtain.
- It might be advisable to bring extra supplies with you.
- It would be better to take them and not use them than to leave them behind and then need them in a challenging situation.
- You may also encounter challenges over where and what you want to eat.
- Try to avoid venues which appear unsanitary.
- Be very aware of any medical symptoms which might arise, both when you are travelling and for up to a month after you return home.
- Seek medical assistance if you have any concerns.
- Bear in mind that local doctors in your home country might not be familiar with certain tropical diseases.
- If you become ill on your return, inform your doctor where you have been and ensure that unfamiliar tropical diseases are taken into consideration as a possible diagnosis.
- Research and familiarise yourself with your destination in advance of travel.
- Find out what the local criminal trends are and identify any potential hotspots, such as certain neighbourhoods.
- You may wish to avoid the higher risk areas, but this is not always practical.
- As such, in higher risk areas exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
- Note that jewellery, watches, mobile phones, laptops or other items may mark you out as a potential target for petty thieves.
- Be careful with your wallet and cash.
- Note that crime trends can change, and the level of risk can become higher, after dark.
- In general, use your gut instincts and be prepared avoid situations, places or people that seem suspicious, odd or wrong in some way.
- Civil unrest can lead to road closures and even curfews, which can affect your travel plans.
- Be prepared for delays and route alterations.
- Avoid demonstrations as they can turn violent.
- If demonstrations take place on a frequent basis, research the trends which tend to accompany them.
- Where do they tend to take place? Do they tend to turn violent? Do attendees target specific types of building or representative interests associated with a specific nationality, industry, political group (such as party political offices, state buildings or foreign-owned businesses)?
- Once you have identified the sorts of risks, trends and areas of higher risk to be avoided you can start planning to minimise your exposure.
- Bear in mind that conditions could deteriorate in the future.
- Monitor the news closely and pay attention to official advice issued by foreign governments (such as the British Foreign Office or US State Department).
- Stay in communication with other people working and/or travelling with you, as well as your colleagues, employers and/or loved ones out of the country.
- If such a deterioration takes place, note that the process could be gradual, or it could be very sudden.
- Have contingency plans in place, including evacuation routes, safe havens and alternatives if these areas suddenly become unsafe or unreachable.
- During a crisis, roads might be blocked or congested, airports could be chaotic, and borders may be sealed so it helps to have a range of potential options.
- In times of heightened tension, be prepared to leave at short notice.
- Alternatively, if the situation on the ground is hazardous, it might be preferable to stay in a ‘hold fast’ position in secure accommodation and await conditions to stabilise.
- Have adequate stocks of fuel, food, water and medication to either stay in the hold fast position, or to take with you on your journey, in case it involves lengthy delays.
- Have your valuables and other essential items close at hand and ready to take with you at short notice (for example in a ‘grab bag’).
- Ensure that you have adequate insurance in place to cover you for an evacuation if one is required.
Religious or conservative attitudes
- Exercise sensitivity in societies which place a high value on perceived morality, even if it goes against personal beliefs and values.
- Research what local cultural practises, attitudes, values and laws you will need to be mindful of before travelling.
- Note that some behaviours, interactions and attire may also attract unwanted attention, cause offence or trigger a hostile response.
- Note that some subjects may be taboo so avoid discussing them with people if you think it might cause offence.
- Be prepared to respond at short notice to any seismic activity.
- Create an emergency plan to follow in the event of an incident that involves a communications breakdown, so you can meet colleagues at a designated meeting point if you are separated and cannot get in contact with one another.
- Practise drills such as “drop, seek cover and hold on” procedure so that you can take shelter as soon as an incident occurs.
- Know the location of your nearest medical kit and medically trained personnel.
- Knowledge of basic first aid will also be very useful.
- Get away from glass or anything that could fall if shaking starts.
- Consider carrying a whistle that can be used to alert first responders in the event that you are trapped after an earthquake – although bear in mind that in some circumstances and/or locations there may not be much in the way of first response capabilities, particularly following a damaging earthquake.
- In the event of an incident, avoid damaged buildings that might still be at risk of collapse.
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
- Note that earthquakes can trigger tsunamis and landslides so be prepared to move out of harm’s way once the shaking has stopped.
- You may need to move very quickly and with limited time.
- If rainfall, flooding, extreme temperatures or other types of severe weather are a concern, check the local weather patterns to find out if there are times of the year where the risk is much higher.
- Consider avoiding travel to at-risk destinations during these times.
- Try to stay in good quality accommodation.
- Take appropriate clothing and footwear.
- Take appropriate protection for any sensitive equipment you wish to bring.
- Note that storms, flooding and other types of harsh weather can overload infrastructure, lead to traffic jams and power cuts.
- Flooding and heavy rainfall can also raise the risk of landslides, as well as insect- and water-borne diseases in some parts of the world.
- As such, be prepared to delay, alter or even cancel travel plans to affected or high-risk areas.