“There is a nation-wide bus service catering for the local population. They seemed to stop every hundred yards to on-load and off-load passengers: often burdened with the most improbably shaped packages and produce. These buses are crowded and lively. The seating allows the traveller to appreciate every rut and pothole on untarred roads! This service is unhurried and offers an unrivalled opportunity to share ´a close proximity travel situation´ with the very friendly Malawian people. At many stops the bus windows attracts swarms of children selling local snacks, drinks and curios. Main bus stations are always situated close to population centres and are thronged with street vendors – if you get that far. Breakdowns are far from uncommon” (“Guide To Malawi”)
This changed during the last years. The number of vehicles on Malawi’s roads has increased significantly from 80.000 to more than 350.000 since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1994, when transport sector was liberalized and the control of the import of vehicles was stopped.
Nowadays there are only a few busses on the roads to find. For longer destinations there is usually only one day and one night bus.
Minibusses and pick ups are far more common now.
Despite the increase of vehicles on Malawian roads there is still a chronicle shortage of public transport in rural areas due to the poor road conditions. As a result, most bus operators prefer to ply between cities and towns. To fill that vacuum more and more villagers are getting into the bicycle taxi business and it became a common feature on rural Malawian roads. Bicycles ranks can often be found at junctions. If there is an inefficient bus service locals offer this service for the “last mile”.
The fare is determined by the distance and the weight of the passenger. Bicycle taxis also operate as courier service for the delivery of parcels.
Taxi cyclists are usually organised with a chairman standing at the head of a rank. If someone got harassed he or she can complain to him and if the taxi owner is found guilty he can be suspended for two weeks to two month, if it was a serious offence.
It may feel strange for a traveller to use this service that might look like a relict of old colonial days as the Muzungu is sitting on the back seat and the black man is sweating to pedal him through the days heat. But at least this taxi business is enabling villagers to earn some money for their living. Beside the taxi business some “side business” like bicycle maintenance developed and is offering some income for even more villagers.
At the Lake Malawi it's nice to make a boatride by hiring a boat of the local people, who are around at the beach or at guesthouses.
It is not expensive, the scenery is beautiful and a meal or barbecue at the beach or an island can be included.
We really enjoyed our boatride from Cape Maclear to one of the islands.
By plane you will arrive at Kamuzu International Airport. KLM, Britsh Airways and some African airlines have flights between Malawi and Europe. We flight with KLM directly from Amsterdam.
At the airport are banks, a postoffice and a pharmacy.
All buses from/to Lilongwe to/from the north will stop at the airport, so it's easy to go by bus to the capital. We had a hired bus.
Our two trips to Grand Beach were done by car from Luanshya, Zambia - a 600-mile trip each way. Once past Lusaka, the Great East Road was the direct link to Malawi at the Chipata border crossing. This was a good road with an 80 mph comfortable cruising speed, hardly any traffic and only two places to stop for any hope of supplies or gas. On the second trip, I kept hearing a funny noise every time the car went around a turn on the highway. When we finally reached the resort and checked in, the rear wheel rim of the Toyota Crown broke into two pieces while we were slowly driving to our accommodations (the slow speed must have placed additional stress on the weak point - one advantage of speeding!). No damage and we made it back on our spare tire at the end of the trip. Photo taken along the Great East Road in Zambia near the border, with a Baobab tree and landscape similar to Malawi's.
Fly direct into Lilongwe or Blantyre. There are many overland trippers also who approach from both South Africa / Zimbabwe and from the North via Tanzania / Kenya.
Hitch hiking is relatively safe along the main roads. Road surfaces are very bad with deep potholes ( or they were when I was there) and riding in the back of a bakkie is not recommended for long distances. (unlike what someone else has said elsewhere !)
Ride in the back of a pickup truck! It’s amazing how much fun it is to cling precariously to the
sides of the truck as you careen wildly over Malawi’s less than perfect roads, trying to get
comfortable amongst crying babies, bags of mangoes, dried fish, and a football team from
Chikengawa. Pick up trucks charge a set fee. Flag them down from the side of the road.
For a more in-depth description of this not-to-be-missed experience, please see my travelogue A Tambuku Parable.
Bicycling is the main means of transportation in Malawi. Cheap Chinese bicycles are everywhere in the country.
Most of the transport, of charcoal is done by bike. Heavy loads are on the back of the bikes and transported over vast distances, for just a few kwatcha.
In the cities, the quickest way to get around is on foot. No problems with parking the car and it is for free. It allows you too to get in contact with the locals.
The locals get around by bycicle. Not only to get from one place to the other, but it is mainly used to transport charcoal, as most of the local people dont have a car.
These boats are not really a way to travel to and from Malawi but it is more a way how fishermen near Lake Malawi do their work.
I had a wonderful stay at Madidi Lodge in April 2011. The manager/owners are very friendly and...more
2 HANNOVER AVENUE, Blantyre, MA 1
Good for: Couples
We stopped here for lunch on a trip through the area. It was a beautiful setting on a patio...more
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