Malawi: Frequently Asked Questions
Which organisations are involved in running the trip?
This trip is being organised by Barcelona Field Studies Centre (BFSC) with the support of the Responsible Safari Company, Chancellor College, University of Malawi and Zomba City Council.
Barcelona Field Studies Centre was founded in 2001 and has undertaken a number of research visits to the Zomba area over the past seven years.
The Responsible Safari Company was founded on a passion for travel, Africa and responsible tourism. Based in Blantyre, Malawi, it specialises in school travel, educational trips and corporate groups. The aim is to make sure visitors get the most from their time in Africa, while supporting local communities, the environment, and responsible travel.
Chancellor College is the largest of the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi and is located in Zomba. The college has five faculties: Humanities, Science, Law, Social Science and Education. The geography department has signed a memorandum of understanding with BFSC and will be providing university students to assist with the fieldwork in Zomba.
Zomba City Council will support us during our stay in Zomba. They are currently faced with a number of planning problems, including poor sanitation, illegal developments and their poor physical condition, clean water provision, environment and urban disaster risks.
How do I get there?
There are a number of carriers operating routes via major African hubs such as Addis Ababa and Johannesburg. We will give advice and assistance in booking flights, and will meet you on arrival in Blantyre.
In Malawi, a Coaster bus which seats 25 people will be used for transport.
Will I need a visa?
EU country passport holders do not need a visa for Malawi. However, you will need to fill in an entry form upon arrival.
Do I need a Yellow Fever certificate?
Currently you do not need a Yellow Fever certificate to enter Malawi. However if you are visiting Zambia or have come through or from a Yellow Fever Zone you may be asked to show your yellow fever certificate. The rules are subject to change at very short notice and the situation requires close monitoring.
What should I take?
A clothing/equipment list will be provided to all participants 6 months prior to departure. It will also be available online, together with other essential information.
Where will we be staying?
Annie’s Lodge is a former colonial building in Zomba has been converted into an accommodation lodge and conference centre. It is located at the foot of the Zomba plateau next to the Old Parliament building and the Botanical Gardens. This is planned as the main accommodation base for the majority of the trip.
What is the food like?
Traditional Malawian food is quite bland but well worth a try. The staple food is nsima, made from maize or cassava flour and mixed with water.
Is there a reliable electricity supply?
As with all developing countries Malawi does have frequent power cuts. Every lodge/hotel will do their very best to ensure these cuts do not affect your stay. Some lodges run on solar power or use paraffin to light the rooms. Most hotel/lodges use three pin sockets that fit UK plugs.
Can I use my mobile phone?
Local SIM cards are the cheapest way to keep in touch with home and make calls within Malawi. Local SIM cards usually work in unlocked international phones
Will I be able to access the internet?
There are internet cafes in Zomba. In addition, the internet can be accessed at hotspots via a prepaid card available from Annie’s Lodge.
Will I be able to launder my clothes?
Most lodges/hotels provide low cost laundry services. Washing of clothes is usually done by hand so beware of handing over delicate items of clothing.
What will the weather be like?
Malawi's climate is generally tropical. There is little to no rainfall throughout much of the country from May to October. From June to August, the lake areas and the south are comfortably warm, with a daytime maximum of around 23 °C. However, it can be chilly at night so it is worth packing a fleece.
What is the local language?
Chichewa. However, most people in Malawi, particularly in the cities, speak English.
What is the local currency?
The Malawian Kwacha. You can change British Pounds upon arrival in Malawi.
What is the time difference?
Malawi is GMT+2 hours in the European Winter and GMT+1 hour in the European Summer.
Are there any guide books about Malawi?
The sixth edition of ‘Malawi’ (Bradt Travel Guide) by Philip Briggs has just been published.
Are there any cultural issues I should be aware of?
Malawi is a conservative country and it is advisable not to wear shorts or skirts that are too short. When visiting rural areas it is a good idea for girls to wear long skirts or trousers and boys should always wear a shirt or a T-shirt.
Photography of buildings and landscapes in main tourist areas is accepted but it is polite to ask local Malawians if they mind having their photo taken or ask your local driver/guide for advice. Do not take photographs of police, government buildings or airports.
Which projects will benefit from our fundraising?
The Chancellor College geography department has specifically requested text books as most of the ones that they have date from the 1970s. The YODEP (Youth for Development) team needs funds to help construct a cow shed. Milk can be sold to support outreach project teams.
Health and safety
How many staff will be accompanying the group?
There will be a member of BFSC staff travelling with the group, together with an accompanying guide from the Responsible Safari Company. Chancellor College and Zomba City Council will be actively supporting the field studies with their own staff and students.
What about insurance?
You will need to arrange comprehensive travel insurance. In addition, BFSC Travel Office is fully bonded with the General Directorate of Tourism of the Generalitat of Catalonia with licence GC-001 747 held in the Registry of Tourism of Catalonia.
What fitness levels are required for the trip?
A reasonable level of fitness is required, particularly for the Zomba Plateau walk.
Is the water drinkable?
In most lodges/hotels the water is safe to drink. However, as visitors are not used to the water in Malawi we would suggest using bottled or boiled water. If you are unsure, please check with the manager at the hotel/lodge. Do not drink water from roadside stops.
Have risk assessments been undertaken?
Yes, all accommodation and activities were risk assessed by BFSC staff in August 2013. These will be made available online, password protected.
What happens if there is a minor accident?
A comprehensive first aid kit will be with the group at all times. All staff members will have completed first aid training.
What happens in the event of a medical emergency?
In the event of a medical emergency the ill/injured person will be taken immediately to the nearest hospital which is located in Blantyre, 1.5 hours from Zomba.
What vaccinations will I need?
The UK government website recommends following the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre. The Centre states: "The diseases below may be a risk in all or part of the country and are presented alphabetically: Cholera, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Tetanus, Tuberculosis and Typhoid".
Please consult your local GP for advice on where and when to obtain the relevant vaccinations.
Is there a malaria risk?
There is a risk of getting malaria in Malawi but if you correctly take anti-malarial drugs then your risks are hugely reduced. Every lodge in a malarial area will have mosquito nets and we advise bringing long trousers and long sleeved tops to wear in the evening. The time of year planned for the trip (July) is the dry season, when the risk of contracting the disease is at its lowest. Malarone is a recommended anti-malarial for Malawi, but for best advice, please consult your GP.
What is the main safety concern?
Walking along main roads is strongly discouraged. On minor roads, always walk facing traffic and step off the road if you see or hear a vehicle approaching. Due to many local people walking/cycling along the road, poor road markings and poor driving we will always ensure that we travel during the day.
What about money and valuables?
Avoid carrying large amounts of money around with you. Always keep hold of cameras and smart phones. Do not put them down on a wall or table as they could be snatched.