Guide to Lilongwe

A guest post by @chiefnyamweya, an Artist, Web-enthusiast, and Comic Creator.

Getting there: You can use Ethiopian Airlines at a cost of Kshs 62,500 (~$735) (and Kenya Aiways too). You have to have a yellow fever certificate. On arrival, you face the risk of losing checked in baggage, and as there is a severe fuel crisis, a taxi into town could cost $50

Getting around: I didn’t pay much attention, as we had access to a private vehicle. But on the flip-side to the fuel crisis, there are no traffic jams!

Speak English, as Swahili is useless there, and you’ll endear yourself if you learned a little Chichewa. The one phrase I picked up (since it was said a lot to me) was “Musojela!!” or “You’ll get Lost!” Take any normal precautions as you’d take in Kenya, and I never once saw an AK-47 wielding cop here.

Hotels: You can get some very decent accommodation at Kshs .4,000 ($47) per night. Electricity is patchy, like Kenya, but a bit worse.

Dining: Excellent fish. They eat Ugali too, and their pineapples are sweet, but without the sting.

Communications: This was problematic. Roaming was expensive, and it was better to call Kenya, than have someone call from Kenya as you’d both be charged – and this was at about Kshs 25 per minute.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: For shopping, there is Shoprite in both Blantyre and Lilongwe, while the two sights I got to see were Lake Malawi and Mount Mulanji. A local legend I heard about was about (people) disappearing on Mt. Mulanji.

Surprises: – Excellent roads here
– Women kneel in the presence of men when serving food or washing their hands (among other perceived gender inequalities)

EDIT (A second guest post from February 2012)

Getting there: Kenya Airways (KQ) has the most convenient direct flight from Nairobi – outbound in the morning and some days in the evening too. It cost $900+- and a yellow fever certificate is required on arrival, otherwise the immigration process not too much of a hustle.

Hotels: Finally, there is a new hotel in town that’s opened up operated by Chinese.. it’s called the Golden Peacock, with lots of signs in Chinese which I find funny. They still have teething problems and shockingly just serve a Chinese menu… but costs roughly $100 b&b. There is another plush hotel with conference facilities coming up next to the Parliament. This is all great for Lilongwe as before these new hotels, it was a choice between Crossroads which is Indian owned and smelt very Indian and Sun Bird which is a government owned hotel – with the same style, ambience and service as the Block hotels that were government owned in Kenya back in the day.

Dining: They love ‘sima’ which they eat with red kidney beans a lot.. an interesting combination. Also there’s a fish dish called Chambo is meant to be legendary and rice called Kilombero that has superb aroma. This particular rice swells about 3 times its original size so I guess depends on how one likes their rice.

Communications: Both Airtel and Vodacom are accessible though better choice is Airtel as there are no roaming charges. Vodacom via Safaricom too expensive to use in Malawi, and the cost of calls remains high for the country.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: The Monkey bay area has the most beautiful lake.. very romantic with a number of excellent hotels in the vicinity.

Surprises: – It’s raining and the country is what can be called Maize country. Once you leave the airport, you see maize and you will traverse the country and see tons of maize along the road. These people are lucky to be food secure.
– The fuel crisis still persists thus hoarding of this commodity is rampant, but I still don’t understand it
– These people don’t build palatial homes in the countryside.. They all pretty much live in hut houses which is quite surprising….