Preparing for Your Mission Trip to Malawi
TRAVEL TO THE WARM HEART OF AFRICA
Prepare for your mission trip to Malawi! Here, I will help you find out everything that you need to know about getting there, getting around, and making the most of your time there. Discover for yourself the beauty of Malawi and the amazing spirit of the Malawian people. Despite many severe hardships, and the heart breaking devastation created by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Malawian people never stop smiling. Due to the remarkable hospitality of Malawians, and ever-present crowds of inquisitive children, visitors to Malawi are always quick to comment about how Malawi really is the warm heart of Africa.
Where is Malawi?
Malawi is a Lilongwe from here!!
Malawi is located in the south-eastern part of Africa, just south Tanzania. It is a small country, with a long and skinny shape. The eastern part of the country is largely comprised of Lake Malawi, which is very large, similar to any of the Great Lakes in the United States.
The capital of Malawi is called Lilongwe, and the other major city is called Blantyre. Outside of these two major cities, many people live in small villages in the countryside.
Prior to 1964 Malawi was under British rule and called Nyasaland.
Traveling to Malawi
In order to get to Malawi, you will probably have to fly on an airplane. To get there from the United States can take two or more days, because of the way the planes connect. Expect that you may need to have a very long an unpleasant layover somewhere. If you are lucky the layover may be somewhere where you can leave the airport for the day and do some sightseeing.
When you fly into Malawi, you will probably arrive at the airport in Lilongwe. At the airport, you will have to go through customs. The airport is very small, and the lines are very short. Going through customs in Malawi can be intimidating, but be polite and respectful and everything should be fine.
Upon arriving in the airport, you will be swarmed by taxi drivers looking for fares. If you do not have someone meeting you at the airport, you can easily hire a taxi driver to take you to your destination, even if it is a different city. Be aware that gasoline can be very expensive in Malawi, and there are frequent shortages. Severe gasoline shortages mean that gasoline will not be available, sometimes even at any price. I recommend giving the telephone number of the place that you are staying to your cab driver, and having your host negotiate a fair price.
Be aware of scammers and pick pockets in the airport, but generally Malawians will be very helpful to you. If are told a price that concerns you, or are uneasy about something, ask around to a few more people.
Learn the Language!
The official languages of Malawi are English and Chichewe. In the cities many people will be able to speak to you in English, but outside of the cities people may only know a few words. Business owners and church staff often are able to speak in English, but school children only learn formalities. You should expect that many school children will come up to speak to you, so they may practice their English.
There are many tribal languages spoken in Malawi, but the most prevalent is called Chichewe. If you wish to be able to communicate to Malawians outside of the cities, then learning a little Chichewe will take you very far. If they see you making an effort to learn their language, people will be excited to help you practice it.
Chichewe sounds surprisingly like Spanish, and if you make an effort to learn, you will be able to master at least conversational Chichewe.
Malaria Pills and Yellow Fever Shots
Prior to going to Malawi, you should make an appointment with a travel doctor to review what you need to do for preventative medicine. You will probably need to have a Yellow Fever vaccine and some sort of prophylactic Malaria treatment. Talk to the doctor about which Malaria treatment is best for you, their prices and side effects very greatly. You may need to start taking the Malaria medicine for a certain number of days prior to departing on your trip.
In addition to preventative medicine the doctor will also go over with you if there are any prescriptions medicines that you need to take with you. Many people bring with them a filled prescription for Cipro, in case they get sick during their trip.
Make sure you have the correct visa
Americans can receive a 30 day tourist visa upon arrival at the border. You can request to get it extended twice, for an additional 30 days each time. Each extension will require the payment of a fine, that currently is 5,000 Malawian Kwatcha.
If you are planning on conducting business, or performing volunteer work, then you are not a tourist and need to obtain the appropriate visa prior to your departure.
Information about obtaining a proper visa and employment authorization is available at: http://www.malawiembassy-dc.org
United States Embassy
The United States Embassy in Lilongwe is located at:
U.S. Embassy Lilongwe
Area 40, City Center
They can be reached by telephone at: