Safety and security
There were tensions and some violent incidents in the Mulanje area, to the south of the country, in the final months of 2017. These included some attacks on visitors, and we continue to advise caution if you plan to travel to this part of Malawi, as well as to the neighbouring districts of Thyolo, Chiradzulu and Phalombe.
Following these incidents, we continue to advise that caution should be exercised in all areas, especially after dark. When visiting rural areas it is advisable to the check on the general safety of the area, or for any recent incidents, with contacts in the community in advance.
Always be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to local media and be careful around large groups of people in major urban areas. Avoid rallies, demonstrations and public gatherings. If you are in an area where you believe your safety is threatened, leave immediately.
Photography of government buildings, airports, bridges, churches, and military installations is strictly prohibited.
Most visits to Malawi are trouble-free, but be alert to muggers and bag-snatchers and take sensible precautions. Be alert to petty theft and pickpockets around the main bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre, and at the main ports for the Ilala ferry. If you’re the victim of a mugging, offer no resistance and hand over your possessions without question.
Residential break-ins, organised robberies and car-jackings are known to occur and may target foreigners.
Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
Reporting a crime
You should report any crime to the police immediately. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, our consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and find a lawyer, if needed.
The emergency number in Malawi is 999 (or 01 757 999, or 01 751 444).
Lost or stolen passport
Lost or stolen passports are sometimes handed to the police within a few days. Report the loss to the nearest police station as soon as possible, and keep in touch with that station in case of recovery. If your passport is stolen, you can apply to the Embassy for a replacement.
If you’re planning to drive in Malawi, you should be extremely careful. The traffic-related death rate is high. Poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles, and inadequate street lighting can make driving dangerous. Potholes, pedestrians, animals, abandoned vehicles, and vehicles travelling at night without lights also pose risks. Driving outside cities after dark is not recommended and you should be aware that emergency roadside assistance is very limited. Traffic in Malawi drives on the left.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
- Carry your driving licence at all times while driving because you may be required to produce it at police checkpoints.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught. The Malawi Police Service carry out breathalyser tests.
- It’s illegal to talk on a mobile phone while driving.
- Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights and never leave your personal belongings in a vehicle.
If you’re caught drink driving or speeding you can have your licence and/or vehicle confiscated on the spot. It will only be returned after you’ve appeared before a magistrate. Convicted drivers face a fine and/or imprisonment. The blood alcohol limit is 0.08g per 100ml of blood.
Drive slowly in all built-up areas. Traffic police often place speed cameras in built-up areas where there are no signs showing the speed limit. For such traffic offences, the police impose on-the-spot fines.
There have been instances of armed car-jackings, particularly of four-wheel-drive vehicles. These can happen when a vehicle is stopped, for example, while waiting to enter at a compound vehicle gate, at intersections, or in traffic. Car doors should be locked and windows closed, especially when stopping your vehicle. Don’t resist if threatened by car-jackers.
Petrol and diesel shortages can occur in Malawi and when they do, there are often long queues at fuel stations.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
If you’re hiring a vehicle, be aware that in-country travel plans may be affected during fuel shortages.
Public transport is limited in rural areas. We advise against travel by minibus between cities because the vehicles are overcrowded and poorly maintained. We also advise against hitchhiking, including taking informal lifts in the back of open vehicles. Fatal accidents are frequent and emergency services are basic.
Wed, 07 Mar 2018 14:18:56 GMT