Malawi

Is Malawi Safe? 

Malawi is often referred to as the ‘warm heart of Africa’, because of the friendliness of its people. It’s nearly impossible not to want to engage with them, and fall in love with everyone! However, as in most developing African countries, poverty is rife and therefore the wary Westerner will want to be sensible and stick to the following rules of thumb for travellers / volunteers:

  • Do not walk alone at night - use a taxi.
  • During the day you can walk around safely, but after dark it is safer to go in a group and always tell the coordinator where you are going.
  • Do not walk around with visible valuables.
  • Do not carry a backpack on your stomach as it shows you are a tourist and possibly have valuables.
  • Keep a phone with airtime on you in a non-visible place, so you can call somebody for help if you are lost or feel unsafe.
  • Maintain an air of confidence and knowledge of where you are going, even if you are not too sure! Look at a map indoors and plan your route, not on the corner of the street.
  • Only draw your wallet in shopping centres and other secured areas. Keep some small bills and coins in your pocket for paying public transport or in shops.
  • Avoid sudden large crowds where possible. You won’t know why people are gathering, whether for social or other reasons, but either way it’s best not to get caught in the middle.
  • Don’t eat in public unless you want to be mobbed by children who may assume you have enough to go around! It’s also considered rude by older people to eat in public.
  • Don’t engage in public displays of affection, as it’s frowned upon in Malawian society. However, you will probably see same-sex platonic friends happily holding hands as they walk in the street.

Is there a dress code at my volunteer placement? 

Malawians are easy-going but also follow fairly strict patriarchal traditions. People at work or in the town streets dress smart-casually, with shoulders and knees covered at all times. Take your cues from those around you and you will blend in!

Volunteers should pack mainly loose but modest clothing and flip-flops. Short T-shirts, short dresses and revealing clothing is NOT allowed unless you’re on the beach. A good rule of thumb is to dress somewhat more conservatively than you might do at home. This will be of benefit to volunteers as you will already stand out in the crowd to a certain extent. You can help deflect attention with your choice of dress, and you will be able to focus on your project and getting to know the people around you.

Be observant and respectful when you arrive. Elder Malawians will appreciate a slight deferential bend at the knees when you shake hands. 

Which languages are spoken in Malawi?

The official working language is English, while Chichewa is the national language. Other local languages are spoken, of which the main are Yao and Tumbuka. All local languages use the Roman script and English is taught at all schools and is widely spoken. Volunteers shouldn’t have any problem with communication if your English is fairly good.

What should I do if I have a medical emergency? 

Medical assistance in Malawi will be very different from home, but with the assistance of our local coordinator, volunteers will get the best care possible.

All projects have emergency plans available in case of medical needs for volunteers, and you will get to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

Expect to pay in advance and then to claim this back from your insurance. Make sure you are aware of specific procedures and conditions for your medical insurance.

What vaccinations will I need before coming to Malawi?

Illnesses exist in some African countries that are no longer common in Europe. Check with your doctor to make sure you have the right vaccinations for volunteering at a specific volunteer project and make sure you have received all necessary shots before you leave.

THE ADVICE AT THE MOMENT IS TO GET VACCINATIONS FOR:

  • DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine)
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Tuberculosis
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies (if you will work with wildlife and/or in rural areas)

The costs of these vaccinations are, in many cases, covered by your medical insurance. Please check so you can claim back these expenses.

We are not physicians or doctors and therefore are not able to give any medical advice. The abovementioned comments are general recommendations. Visit your doctor or physician for professional personal advice.

What is the Malawi climate like?

The climate is moderate, so pack lightly, but bring some warm tops for chilly evenings or early mornings.

 Do I need a visa when I am volunteering?

You will need a Temporary Employment permit – for travellers wishing to engage in an occupation including volunteering at an NGO. Speak to us for more info pertaining to your specific volunteer project.

 

Fundraising to volunteer abroad for free
Volunteer World
WYSE Travel Confederation
SAYTC - South African Youth Travel Confederation
Khaya Volunteer Projects application
Lilizela Provincial Visitor Experience Award

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