Banda Mausoleum

Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi.


The capital of Malawi, Lilongwe has a population of circa 902,388. It's a very green city, to the extent that sometimes you wonder if there is a city centre at all as buildings in the new town at least are divided by patches of grassy land and trees.


Lilongwe is divided into the Old Town (to the South) and the New Town (to the North) with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary between the two. The Old Town is built around the former village of Lilongwe, while the New Town (also called City Centre or Capital City) sprung up after first president Dr. Hastings Banda moved the capital from Zomba to Lilongwe. The quality of the roads is excellent compared to countries like Kenya and traffic doesn't tend to be too much of a problem at all.

Get in

By plane

Lilongwe's Kamuzu International Airport (LLW) fields regular flights to Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Lusaka, Dar es Salaam. and domestic services to Blantyre. Malawi airlines operates Regional flights to Johannesburg South Africa and three airports in Mozambique.

An international departure tax of US$30 (cash only) is charged for all passengers with foreign passports (pay it on the first floor before heading up to the departure hall!), while domestic departure tax is K200. Note, this fee is no longer charged at the airport. It is apparently included in the airline ticket now.

The airport is about a 30/40 minute drive north of town and the taxis charge around (US$20) for the journey from Old Town (presuming you're staying in one of the lodges). This can decrease if you get the taxi from Capital City.

By car

Lilongwe is about 110 kilometers from Mchinji on the Zambian border. Taxis are expensive (around $50, depending on your bargaining skills), but you can use a minibus or open back truck (matola) for MK500/600.

By bus

There are regular bus services from Johannesburg, Harare and Lusaka. Intercape has the largest intercity bus route network in Southern Africa.

Get around

The town is very spread out so getting around can be a bit of a chore. You can pick up taxis from the Lilongwe Hotel (in the Old Town) and the Capital Hotel (in the Capital City). If you're feeling adventurous, you can take a minibus. It's very cheap, but you will be getting very familiar with your fellow passengers. There are several routes you can take, including one that goes from the large blue bank in the new town and drops you off in the heart of the old town, next to Shoprite surpermarket.


K.A.R Clocktower

Lilongwe wildlife centre: on the opposite side of the road to the old nature sanctuary. Its back down towards old town by the bridge over the river, look out for the sign. Its a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre that provides excellent tours of the centre and its wilderness zone, a wide range of wildlife and good value for money. Volunteer opportunities are available .

At Kumbali Cultural Centre [tel: 0999-933-252] see the traditional Malawian dancing and traditional Malawian drumming. Includes live acoustic Malawian music and traditional Malawian dinner.



If you're interested in volunteering with animals,the LSPCA (Lilongwe Society for the Protection & Care of Animals) takes volunteers from various backgrounds including veterinary, IT, marketing and animal care/management.

The volunteer programme is an affordable with a minimal commitment of 2 weeks required. With a shortage of vets available to the majority of Lilongwe's residents, the LSPCA undertakes vital work in Lilongwe in helping to promote higher animal welfare standards of domestic and farm animals.

As a volunteer, your work would include visiting local schools to educate them about the importance of animal health and care, community vaccination clinics (rabies and Newcastle disease), spay and neuter clinics, and farm day clinics.


Looking over the Old Town of Lilongwe



There are many local cafes, especially in Area 2, serving cheap meals such as rice/chicken/nsmia/beef.

Shoprite and Spar also have deli counters with hot food, sandwiches and a bakery.



If you're not feeling eating out, there's also a pizza delivery service run from Debonairs at Crossroads. 0991630464/0993810397. Between MK900 for small to MK2400 for large pizzas. Also offer hot subs. Minimum delivery is normally MK4400.


Drinking is a lot of locals favourite past times, most are friendly however girls should be wary of over-protective Malawian men!

The only beer brewed in Malawi (bar Chibuku - a grainy, sand like beer coming in cartons!) is Carlsberg. Carlsberg is very local (brewed in Blantyre) and comes either normal (known as a 'Green') or Special Brew, Classic, Stout, Elephant or Light. You can also buy 'Kuche Kuche' - still brewed by Carlsberg but coming in a bigger bottle, less percentage and aimed more for tourists. Glass bottles come in a deposit form in Malawi (so expect to pay MK25 extra per bottle, unless you return some). It is possible to buy other beers in certain bars and clubs - for example Castle, Carling Black Label, Kronenbourg and Heineken. However these are more expensive. Ciders and wines also are available but are imported and more expensive.

Malawi also has it's own spirits - notably Malawi Vodka, Malawi Gin (surprisingly this is very good quality gin!), Malawi Rum, Gold Label Brandy or the upmarket Premium Brandy and the cane spirit Powers. These are all cheap spirits per bottle, Powers and Gold Label Brandy normally MK600 a bottle. Mixing with the sugary, very tasty Fanta always works and you see many locals doing this! The Vodka, Gin and Powers can also all be bought in 30ml sachet forms.

Harry's Bar, in the old town, is a good place to have a drink and a burger during the day or to slam Malawi gin and tonic with an energetic local and expat crowd on weekend nights. More of a pre-drink place.



there are some Lodges near the bus station with rooms for around $10 a night.



Stay safe

Transport is not always easy to get at late hours of the night so always make sure you have means of transport to getting back to where you're staying. Taxis are available. Lilongwe is said to be unsafe at night so don't walk alone after dark.



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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, October 17, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.