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Safety and security
Safety and security
Violent robberies and petty crime, such as pickpocketing, mugging and bag-snatching, occur. Criminals target tourists in particular in the following areas:
- Kenyatta Drive in Blantyre
- walking between Lilongwe’s Old Town and Capital City districts
- the main bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre
- the main ports for the Ilala ferry
In fall 2017, there were two separate violent attacks on visitors to the Mount Mulanje area. If you intend to visit the area, be extremely vigilant and ensure that you hire an experienced and reputable local guide. Contact the Mountain Club of Malawi for security advice before climbing Mount Mulanje.
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.
Avoid walking alone at night.
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 leave your luggage unattended.
Do not show signs of affluence. Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.
Con artists are active in major cities and tourist destinations such as:
- Cape Maclear
- Nkhata Bay
- Senga Bay
In Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, as well as in Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba, men have attacked women wearing pants, leggings and short skirts. They also stripped and robbed the women. Women travellers in these areas should avoid wearing close-fitting clothing and be aware of their surroundings.
Throughout the country, women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
Safe-travel guide for women
Demonstrations may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
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 among Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba. Travel by minibus between cities is not recommended, as the vehicles are overcrowded and poorly maintained.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
General safety information
Tourist facilities are limited outside of major centres.
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.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Malawian authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you expect to leave Malawi.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Canadians may be able to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport or border crossing. To avoid inconveniences at the port of entry, it is strongly recommended to obtain a visa in advance, at the nearest Malawian diplomatic mission.
Specific documents are required for Canadians volunteering in Malawi.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Related Travel Health Notices
- There are no updates at this time.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional 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 (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
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 professional.
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 risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
For protection of cholera
All travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care professional the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Travellers at higher risk include those:
visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring.
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 among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional 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.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
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.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. The mosquito that spreads the virus is found here.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites and other diseases spread by insects.
- 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 mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
- 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, ebola, and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
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 professional.
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.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
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 must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
It is illegal to purchase or export uncut precious stones.
Photography of government buildings, airports, bridges, churches, synagogues and military installations is prohibited. It may be culturally offensive to photograph people. Obtain their permission first.
Imports and Exports
It is prohibited to import or export ivory, drugs and pornographic material. You must have a licence to import firearms and munitions for hunting. Contact the High Commission of the Republic of Malawi for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Malawian law prohibits sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
LGBTQ2 travellers have experienced harassment and verbal abuse.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Malawi.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Malawi, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
Traffic drives on the left.
Penalties for drunk driving and speeding are severe in Malawi.
It is illegal to talk on a mobile phone while driving.
An International Driving Permit is recommended.
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 ATMs, 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.
Exercise normal security precautions
There are no significant safety and security concerns. The overall safety and security situation is similar to that of Canada. You should take normal security precautions.
Exercise a high degree of caution
There are identifiable safety and security concerns or the safety and security situation could change with little notice. You should exercise a high degree of caution at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.
IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country may be compromised.
Avoid non-essential travel
There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk. You should reconsider your need to travel to the country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should reconsider whether or not you really need to be there. If not, you should consider leaving while it is still safe to do so. It is up to you to decide what “non-essential travel” means, based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with a country, territory or region, and other factors.
Avoid all travel
There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security. You should not travel to this country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.