COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Malawi is a developing African nation. Tourist facilities in major cities and in resort areas are steadily improving, but remain limited. Aging infrastructure and lack of investment have rendered electricity, water supply, and telecommunications unreliable in rural areas. Credit cards are not commonly accepted outside of major cities, and international ATM cards are not usable in Malawi. Dress codes against short skirts on women and long hair on men no longer exist, but travelers may wish to dress modestly, especially when visiting remote areas.
SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
Spontaneous civil disturbances, primarily related to labor and student strikes, occur, but are uncommon. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
Even though Malawi is known as "the warm heart of Africa," both residents and visitors need to bear in mind that there is a criminal element present. Carjackings and residential break-ins are two crimes prevalent throughout Malawi. Perpetrators of these crimes are usually well armed and may resort to violence with little provocation. Petty street crime (robbery and pick-pocketing) is common, and travelers should be aware that break-ins have also occurred in hotels/lodges throughout the country.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Malawi 's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Malawi are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
DANGERS POSED BY WILD
Travelers are advised that, even in the most serene settings, wild animals can pose a threat to life and safety. Travelers are cautioned to observe local or park regulations and heed all instructions given by tour guides.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical facilities are basic in urban areas and poor to non-existent in rural areas. Some medicines are in short supply or locally unobtainable. Travelers should be aware that, contrary to the frequent claims of the local tourist industry, Lake Malawi does contain the parasite schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia. HIV/AIDS is also prevalent.
Malaria is endemic throughout Malawi. Travelers should take malaria prophylaxis. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain in Sudan, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Malawi are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam - tm), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone - tm). The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, protective clothing and mosquito nets also help to reduce malaria risk. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area, and up to one year after returning home, should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarial drugs they have been taking.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions, which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Malawi is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Malawi 's principal highways are generally in good condition, though the lack of shoulders constitutes a safety hazard. Secondary roads are in poor repair and may be impassable to all but four-wheel drive vehicles during the rainy season (November-April). Public transportation, consisting primarily of minibuses, is unreliable and accidents are common. Given Malawi 's high road accident rate, travelers should drive defensively and avoid road travel outside cities at night. Road support networks for stranded drivers do not exist. Police roadblocks are common and properly-documented drivers usually pass quickly and without incident. Foreigners intending to remain in Malawi for an extended period of time are expected to obtain a locally-issued driver's license.
For specific information concerning Malawi driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Malawi in Washington, D.C. on 202-797-1007. For international driving permits contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance.
For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Malawi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Malawi 's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Malawi 's air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA'a Internet website at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 1-618-229-4801.
Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
February 13, 2004