Are you considering moving to Malawi from the UK?
The Malawian people are known for their warm hearts, and this colourful and beautiful country in Southern Africa is a dramatic and unique destination that offers up a bounty of natural wonder and unforgettable experiences.
Malawi may not be an obvious choice as an expat destination, but if you have an open and adventurous nature you might just find yourself enchanted and never want to leave.
Time to find out more…
- 1 Malawi Visa Requirements for Brits
- 2 Way of Life in Malawi
- 3 Cost of Living in Malawi
- 4 Popular Areas for Brits
- 5 Jobs in Malawi for British Expats
Malawi Visa Requirements for Brits
For UK citizens, a tourist visa which lasts up to 3 months can be applied for online or obtained directly on arrival at immigration, although it is advisable to apply in advance.
A single entry visa costs £65.00, but applying online in advance may incur additional fees.
Multiple entry visas cost more but are valid for a period of 6 months, although the maximum time allowed in Malawi cannot exceed 3 months.
A work permit is required for Brits employed in Malawi. This is known as the Temporary Employment Permit (TEP). This is usually obtained by the employer on your behalf, and can be renewed only twice.
Foreign nationals wishing to reside permanently in Malawi must apply for a Permanent Residency Permit.
It is a requirement to have already lived in the country for at least 5 years before you can apply.
Way of Life in Malawi
Malawi is a poor country, but there are programs in place which are doing wonders to improve healthcare, education, and environmental conditions.
However poor health and diseases such as HIV are common.
The economy relies heavily on agriculture — particularly tobacco — as well as heavily on aid from foreign countries, which is what draws many expats here in the first place. But although the quality of life in Malawi may be perceived as poor, the people are wonderful, and have fascinating deep rooted tribal cultures and a love for music and dance. and the natural landscape is incredible, with forest covered mountains, huge lakes, and rolling grasslands filled with wildlife making it a paradise for nature lovers.
English is the official language and is widely understood across the country.
As you may imagine there is not much in the way of a transport infrastructure in Malawi, however there are still a few options when it comes to travelling around.
Malawian Airlines offers cheap daily flights between the two major cities Lilongwe and Blantyre, and for more remote destinations such as Likoma Island it is possible to get seats on a twin propeller plane with Ulendo Airlink.
Long distance journeys are otherwise usually made by bus. There are various classes of bus available, including Super Executive with air conditioning, on board toilet, snacks, and the most reliable drivers, to the cheaper Executive and Special classes which don’t have a toilet.
Minibuses are also available but they tend to cover shorter journeys, and many rural areas aren’t covered at all.
There are also 3 long distance train services run by Central Eastern African Railways, but trains are slow and uncomfortable so it is recommended to travel by bus or plane when you can.
Lake Malawi is serviced by a weekly ferry which makes stops at 9 villages and towns along the way from one side of the lake to the other. The total voyage takes 3 days one way.
Driving in Malawi
In order to drive in Malawi you must have held your full UK driving licence for a minimum of 2 years and be over 23 years of age.
Main roads are mostly in reasonable condition, but venture off them and it’s a different story, especially in rural areas where roads are often little more than dirt tracks filled with potholes and ruts. A 4WD is recommended.
Malawians drive on the left hand side of the road, and it is inadvisable to drive at night.
If you wish to hire a car there are well known international car hire companies in Blantyre and Lilongwe, and vehicles can often be hired with drivers if you aren’t confident enough to drive yourself.
Keep all doors locked and windows closed as armed car jacking has been known to occur, so stay vigilant.
Weather in Malawi
Malawi has a mostly dry climate, although the months of November through to April bring heavy rainfall, particularly in higher and mountainous areas. Temperatures during this time are warm, but start to cool down as the rains fade.
The cool season lasts from May until August, with temperatures varying between 17 and 27 degrees Celsius.
August brings high temperatures of between between 25 and 37 degrees Celsius, and during this time humidity builds up to increasing levels, culminating in the start of the rainy season in November.
Cost of Living in Malawi
Groceries are very cheap in Malawi, especially if you stick to local markets, however prices in big supermarkets selling western products generally much higher, and similar to those in the UK for many items.
Eating out is extremely affordable, with dishes in local eateries costing the equivalent of less than £1 in the UK, but if eating in upscale restaurants expect to pay more — roughly around £26 for two people. Alcohol is fairly cheap, as is public transport.
When paying for utilities, internet is extremely expensive — the most recent figures suggest that the average price is around £100 per month.
Essential utilities including gas, electricity and water generally cost around £35 per month.
Rental costs are variable depending on location but are very affordable, with Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre being named as one of the world’s cheapest cities for expats, with nice apartments and houses in the city centre for as little as £100 per month.
The standard of public healthcare in Malawi is poor, and well below that of the UK.
As such, it is imperative that Brits take out comprehensive private healthcare plans which will entitle them to the best quality care available and the option of being flown out of the country in the case of more advanced medical care being necessary.
Primary education is free for all children in Malawi, but classroom space and qualified teachers are in short supply.
Expats living in Malawi usually choose to send their children to an international school which follow a UK curriculum for both primary and secondary education, of which there are several in the major cities. Fees differ depending on the school you choose.
Popular Areas for Brits
Malawi’s main expat hotspot, Blantyre is the country’s commercial and industrial heart, and offers the best job opportunities for foreigners.
Take a look at this video for a quick look:
It’s a green and pleasant city with good neighbourhoods and a strong sense of community which was founded by Scottish missionaries in 1876, and has a distinctly colonial feel.
Some of the best restaurants in Malawi can be found here, as well as nice cafés (many with internet), bars, plenty of shops and services. It’s also not far from the majestic Mount Mulanje which is wonderful for hiking, and the Majete Wildlife Reserve.
Malawi’s capital Lilongwe is a sprawling, lively city with both new and old towns, as well as a wildlife reserve at its core.
The Old Town with its bars, restaurants, bustling markets, and hotels is the most popular area with expats.
The New Town harbours glitzy modern buildings, malls, and green urban areas.
Located between the two, Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is Malawi´s only sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals. Lilongwe is also not far from the shores of breathtaking Lake Malawi.
Lake Malawi National Park is one of Africa’s few freshwater aquatic parks and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The lake is approximately 360 miles long and nearly 52 miles wide, and also borders with Mozambique and Tanzania.
It’s a natural paradise for lovers of snorkelling, diving, and kayaking, as well as being the perfect location for lazing on a blissful golden beach or visiting one of the many lake islands.
Jobs in Malawi for British Expats
Unemployment levels are high in Malawi, and finding a job can be very tough — even in Blantyre.
Teaching English, the foreign aid sector, and medicine and healthcare are the most popular choices of employment for British expats in Malawi, but jobs are also sometimes available in other areas such as accounting, IT, and marketing.
Have you considered a move to Malawi?