Malawi is a country in Africa known as the “Warm Heart of Africa” because of the warm and friendly people that live there. One of the smallest countries in Africa, Malawi is home to a large lake called Lake Malawi, four game reserves, and five national parks, one of which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A hidden gem in Africa, Malawi is often overlooked by travelers. However, those who discover its lush wilderness, pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and spectacular scenery end up staying longer than intended.
Malawi is great for students interested in Anthropology, African Studies, Wildlife, and Community Development.
- Anthropology: Students will learn community mapping, how to take field notes, improve their photography skills, and work on a variety of other tasks involved in this topic around Malawi.
- African Studies: The people of Malawi are of Bantu origin and include many different ethnic groups. Students may be able to learn about multiple ethnic groups or focus on one extensively.
- Wildlife: The abundance of animal species makes this a wonderful country for students wishing to expand on their knowledge of African wildlife.
Though Malawi is one of the easiest and pleasant countries in Africa to travel in, it’s also one of the poorest. Volunteers may find themselves involved in a variety of different tasks throughout the country.
- Community Development: Students may volunteer in Lilongwe, the capital city, or volunteer on Lake Malawi and help the local villages that surround the lake.
- Teach English: The education system is limited in Malawi, so volunteers may be tasked to teach basic English to children and adults.
- Conservation: Volunteers can help in any of the national parks or game reserves around Malawi or volunteer in the wildlife sanctuary in the capital Lilongwe.
The official language is English, but the national language is Chichewa. Students may have to take a language course in Chichewa that is a part of their study or volunteer program. These programs can last anywhere from several hours to several weeks.
Much of Malawi's culture focuses on dance. In fact, the government created a National Dance Troupe. Students may be able to participate in various dance rituals or watch performances to learn about Malawi's inspirational dance culture.
A summer program in Malawi is a great choice for students looking to expand on their knowledge but don’t want to diverge from their studies in school. Summer programs can last anywhere from one week to several weeks.
A single entry visa valid for 3 months for Malawi costs $75 USD, while a multiple entry visa, valid for 6 months, costs $150 USD. Students must fill out an application form for a student visa. Visit the Department of Immigration Republic of Malawi to learn more.
Many head to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, which is also the largest city. Students can explore one of the national parks, such as Liwonde National Park or the Nyika National Park.
Zomba, the old capital city, is a historical destination filled with old colonial buildings and a friendly commercial center. Otherwise, try going to Nkhata Bay, a city near Lake Malawi, which is considered one of the main ports of the lake.
If traveling between December and March, expect lots of rainfall. April and May experience drier seasons, but it's recommended to travel during June through August for cool nights and pleasantly warm days. The heat peaks from September to October, before it cools down again in November.
Pack rain boots, a rain jacket, and long pants and shirts if you’re coming during the rainy months. cotton, loose fitting clothing for the warmer months. To prepare for any type of weather, pack clothing that can be layered as well as comfortable sneakers.
Malawi is relatively cheap, especially when compared to the U.S. or Europe. A meal at a restaurant will cost around $5 USD, and water will cost less than 50 cents. Students can easily budget themselves on $20-30 a day; however, keep in mind that toiletries, medical expenses, equipment, and other necessary costs will accumulate and add to your budget. Also, if you participate in any extra activities like safaris or tours that are not included in your program, you'll need to budget for those extra expenses.
Many students will have the option to stay in a homestay in a local family’s home. Students may also live with their fellow peers from their program in dormitories or volunteer houses. This is a great way to meet like-minded individuals and share this experience with them.
Travelers should be up to date on any routine vaccinations including Hep A, Hep B, Tetanus, and Typhoid. Talk to your health care provider to determine what’s best for you, especially if you plan on traveling to other countries during your trip.
Make sure you stay hydrated and are wearing an appropriate amount of sunscreen to prevent dehydration, sunburn, and heat stroke.
Malawi is a relatively safe country; however, crime and theft is still common. Never walk around alone at night and never carry personal belongings around with you. The U.S. Department of State warns travelers against walking around at night, even in groups.