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FAQ

Where is Malawi?

Malawi is located in South East Africa. It is landlocked and bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

What is the capital of Malawi

The capital of Malawi is Lilongwe.

What is the population of Malawi?

Malawi has a population of 12 million. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa but one of the world’s most densely populated.

What is the climate like in Malawi?

Malawi has a subtropical climate. The seasons may be divided into the cool (May to mid-August); the hot (mid-August to November); the rainy (November to April), with rains continuing longer in the northern and eastern mountains; and the mild (April to May), with temperatures falling in May. The average daily minimum and maximum temperatures in November, the hottest month, are 17°C and 31°C respectively; those in July, the coolest month, are 7°C (45°F) and 26°C(73°F).

The vast water surface of Lake Malawi has a cooling effect, but because of the low elevation, the margins of the lake have long hot seasons and high humidity, with a mean annual temperature of 24°C.

To see what the weather is like in Malawi today please click here

What currency is used in Malawi?

The currency in Malawi is the Malawian Kwacha. The kwacha comprises of 100 tambala. Coins are in denominations of 10T, 20T, K1,K 5, K10, and K20 . Bank notes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and K500.

 To find out the current exchange rate with your own currency please see http://www.xe.com/ucc/full/

What is the prevalent religion in Malawi?

Most Malawians are Christians. Other religions include Muslim and indigenous religions.

What language is spoken?

The national language is Chichewa while English is the official language. Chichewa is a member of the Bantu language family. Other languages spoken include Tumbuka, Yao, Sena, Lomwe, Nyanja and Kokola. Any attempts you can make at learning the local language will be greatly appreciated by everyone.

 You will also be introduced to basic Chichewa phrases during your orientation. If the volunteer would like to learn more Chichewa, optional 2 hour interactive language sessions can be arranged at a local language centre. The volunteer will meet the cost of additional language classes, usually $1 - $5 a session.

Here are a few useful phrases to get you started:

Muli bwanj                     Hello/How are you?

Zikomo                         Thank you

Ndiri bwino                    I am fine

Inde                              Yes

Iyayi                             No

Dzina langa ndi             My name is

Chonde                         Please

For more Chichewan please see Chichewa

How do I get there?

You can get to Malawi by flying to Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe or Chileka Airport in Blantyre. You will be meet by a SOC representative at the airport and taken to the volunteer site.

Flight operators to consider if coming from the UK are KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways and Kenyan Airways. Other companies operate flights to Malawi and may offer cheaper deals. Please remember it is your responsibility to organise your flights so you arrive at the volunteer site at the agreed time.

Do I need travel insurance?

All volunteers must have adequate travel insurance before coming to Malawi. It is the volunteers responsibility to arrange this themselves.

Your insurance cover must include the following:

Medical cover, including medical emergencies and medical evacuations (up to £2,000,000);

Personal liability (up to £1,000,000);

Cancellation and curtailment of your trip (up to the value of your project contribution).

We advise all volunteers to avoid cheap policies and get a full a policy as possible.

What vaccinations/immunizations are required?

Volunteers are advised to see a doctor/travel nurse regarding what vaccinations they should receive. This can change from time to time so seeing a doctor is the best way to go about this.

Volunteers from the UK can check what advice is given by the FCO.

Do I need to take malaria tablets in Malawi?

Malawi is a high risk area for Malawi so it is highly advisable that you take anti-malaria tablets. Again please arrange to meet your doctor to discuss what actions you should take to ensure malaria prevention. Mosquito nets are provided at the volunteer site but please remember to bring mosquito repellent and clothing that will enable you to cover up in the evenings.

What other medical precautions should I take?

Malawi is a third world country so it is essential you prepare correctly for your trip. The best way to do this is to arrange an appointment with your doctor.

Do I need a visa to enter Malawi?

It is the volunteers responsibility to check whether they need a visa to enter Malawi. Please see the appropriate country consular website for details.

At the time of writing British Citizens are given a free 30 day visa upon arrival in Malawi and this may be extended for approximately £20 at the government offices in Lilongwe and Blantyre. This may have changed and the current situation must be checked by the volunteer.

Please also remember that your passport will need to have more than 6 months left on it at your departure from Malawi.

What do I need to pack?

Volunteers should consider what they need to pack themselves carefully. SOC advises you consider the following items but please remember this is not an exclusive list and there may be other items you will need to bring and some on the list you don’t.

Luggage:  

A rucksack (eg: 65 litres), a Day Pack (eg: 25 litres) and Dry Bags/Plastic bags to waterproof your kit.

Medical & Hygiene:

Paracetamol, Baby wipes, Insect repellent (50% DEET) Sun cream (at least factor 25), Tupperware container or robust ziplock medical bag, Cotton wool, Sterile gauze swabs, Micropore tape( 1.25cm), Plasters, Cotton conforming bandages, Crepe bandages,· Melonin Dressings,  Iodine solution/ TCP, anti -histamine cream, anti-fungal cream, oral rehydration salts and sugars, Multi-vitamins, Sterile needles, Safety Pins, anti-histamine pills,  Imodium, Anti-malarial pills, anti -bacterial cream, ciproflaxcin, calamine lotion, saline solution.

Clothing:

Cotton trousers, shorts, knee-length skirts, t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, lightweight waterproof rain jacket, cotton underwear, sarong, headwear, wide brimmed hat, thermals, Sandals, flip-flops, comfortable trainers and hiking boots.

Sleeping:

Light sleeping bag, mosquito net (travels before/after/during the placement), sleeping bag liner (hot season).

Miscellaneous:

2/3 sturdy water bottles (1L), Sunglasses, Head Torch, Iron, Novels, Materials for teaching and playing with the kids, towels, face towels, shampoo, shower gel and other personal effects. It is safe to bring your laptop, cameras, video cameras, hair dryers, shavers and other electrical products. 

Is it safe to volunteer in Malawi?

Malawi is one of the safest countries in Africa. We ensure you are placed in safe environment and you will be very well looked after while volunteering in Malawi. The Malawian people are very warm and friendly towards foreigners.

However, it is essential to take simple precautions. Do not carry your valuables around. Take a copy of your passport and visas to carry with you. Leave your passport, credit cards, debit cards and other valuables in a safe place. Avoid travelling at night and try not to attract unwanted attention. Safety issues will be discussed at your orientation.

What is Malawian food like?

Foods served during your volunteer period include traditional Malawi foods like nsima and tandaza (corn meal and greens), maize and beans. Malawian meals also consist of other universal dishes such as beef, fish, rice and pasta.

French fries, burgers, sandwiches etc are available in restaurants and hotels. Breakfast usually consists of bread, eggs and at times bacon, sausage, and baked beans. Fruits and vegetables are plenty in Malawi and feature frequently in menu preparations. Malawian coffee and tea are common beverages.

Are there any rules in the accommodation?

Most Malawian families are non smokers. It is therefore essential that volunteers avoid smoking and or alcohol consumption in their rooms.

It is also essential to purchase your own personal items such as toothpaste, toiletries, towels, face towels and sandals. If you are sharing a room with other volunteers, please keep the room tidy and take care of your personal belongings.

Other courteous habits include keeping noise to a minimal especially during sleeping hours and removing your shoes on entering the house.

Will there be electricity?

The volunteer site does have electricity.  The electricity supply in Malawi is 220/240 volts/50 Hz (240V 50 Hz D & G). The electric sockets are three-pin square (British-type).

Is it safe to drink the tap water in Malawi?

It is generally recommended that you drink bottled water during your volunteer stay in Malawi. This will be provided by the volunteer host and is available from local shops.

How can I contact home whilst I am there?

Volunteers can contact home easily whilst in Malawi. There are several Internet and International dialing facilities not too far from the volunteer site.

The best and cheapest way to stay in touch is to bring an unlocked mobile phone and buy a Malawian SIM card whilst you are here. These cost around £1 GBP and receive calls from international numbers at no charge. Your friends and family at home can then call this phone on Skype for around 10 pence (English currency) a minute.

Volunteers are also advised to bring their mobile phone from their home with them and check with their provider it will work in Malawi in case of emergencies.

What money should I bring with me?

It is the volunteer’s responsibility to budget and make all necessary organisations for their trip to Malawi.

Volunteers are advised to bring either US Dollars or British Pounds with them to Malawi. Once you have arrived in Malawi you can either exchange this money to Malawian Kwacha or use your debit/credit card/travelers cheques to withdraw Malawian Kwacha.

There are ATMs in all major towns in Malawi and these ATMs accept most major international credit and debit cards such as Visa. The nearest ATM to the volunteer site is approximately 50 kilometers away.

When do I pay for project?

Volunteers should finalise the payment of their project as soon as they have made all the necessary travel and medical arrangements and can confirm a date they will begin their placement

Can I pay when I arrive?

Volunteers normally should pay before they arrive but in special circumstances this is possible.

How do I get around in Malawi?

Transportation in Malawi is generally abundant, cheap and plentiful although not always quick! Whilst on their placement, Volunteers can take minibuses and buses to nearby towns and sites. Our volunteer supervisor Damson is more than happy to accompany volunteers on such trips. Duncan can also drive the volunteers in his car.

Before and after their placement, volunteers should find getting around Malawi relatively easy although they should be cautious and patient at times! Volunteers are advised to pick up a guidebook prior to coming to plan their travels although we are also happy to offer advice on the best way to get around.

Where is nearest city to the volunteer site?

The nearest city to the volunteer site is Blantyre which is approximately a 2 hour drive away. Blantyre is the second biggest city in Malawi and is the commercial and industrial capital of Malawi. Blantyre has a good range of European restaurants, a Shoprite which sells international products, good medical facilities and numerous internet cafes.


Subpages (1): Chichewa