Best Time to Travel/Climate
For most people the dry (winter) season is most attractive (i.e. April/May to October/November). The chance of rain is slim, daytime temperatures are generally pleasant (in the 20s Celsius) and the low vegetation and limited availability of water mean that game viewing is at its best. However, some of the best birdwatching can be had from November to April and the orchids of Nyika are best seen from December to March/April. Malawi's temperatures are moderated by altitude. In the hottest month (usually November) maximum temperatures will be around 30°C. In the coldest month (probably July) maximum temperatures will be in the low 20’s. On the uplands (e.g. Zomba, Nyika and Viphya) it can be quite cold at night. The hottest area, all year, is that at the lowest altitude - the Lower Shire Valley. Rainfall is extremely rare in the dry season and even in the so-called wet season, the rains are usually short-lived storms, as is typical of the tropics, and at no time does the climate seriously inhibit the traveller. Around the country, rainfall varies, with the highlands causing the highest figures. Wilderness Safaris have produced two helpful guides to the natural highlights of Malawi over the calendar year. Click here and here to have a look at them.
Health & Safety
Immunisation against polio, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A is recommended. Yellow fever immunisation may be required only by visitors entering from a yellow fever zone. There is a risk of malaria and prophylactics should be taken. Seek up to date advice from your doctor. There is a risk of contracting bilharzia if bathing in some parts of Lake Malawi but the risk is negligible near the main beach hotels. The infection is relatively easily treated once diagnosed. For further information about bilharzia in Lake Malawi click here. Malawi is a high risk area for AIDS.
Malawi is considered a safe country for tourists and Malawians are rightfully known for their friendliness. However, the usual precautions should be taken as would be advised for tourists anywhere.
Food & Drink
Excellent fish dishes are widely available but especially near Lake Malawi. Most hotels and safari camps serve "western" dishes with, perhaps, game and occasionally local foods such as maize meal porridge. Soft drinks are available everywhere. Beers (Carlsberg is the most common), spirits such as Malawi gin and South African wines are reasonably priced and commonly available. For drinking, bottled water should be used in preference to tap water.
For an overview of the local staple diet in Malawi see this blog entry from Kumbali Country Lodge.
Dress is generally informal. Swimwear and very skimpy clothing should be confined to the beach resorts. For safaris, "natural " colours should be worn in preference to light/bright colours. In the uplands, especially in the winter (April-September), it can be cold in the evening and sweaters may be needed. It can be very cold on morning or night safari drives.
Malawi’s unit of currency is the kwacha (abbreviated to MK internationally; K locally). The kwacha divides into 100 tambala. Practically speaking, only the kwacha is used. Banks in the towns are open weekdays from 0800 to 1300. Mobile banks operate along the lakeshore and in more remote areas (check days/times locally). Travellers Cheques or foreign (hard) currency notes are widely accepted. If using dollars to pay for your tours and accommodation, please be aware that $1 bills will not be accepted or exchanged; the minimum domination able to be changed is $5. Avoid black market currency traders. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported but it must be declared and accounted for on departure. Only MK3000 of local currency may be exported. There are 24-hour ATMs in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. Only local currency is dispensed and that is limited to approximately the equivalent (depending on exchange rates) of GB£85, Euro110; US$140 in any period of twenty-four hours.