Lilongwe, Malawi - Stein Travel
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Lilongwe

Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi and a very green city, to the extent that sometimes you wouldn't guess you were in a commercial hub for all the trees and grassy areas. Lilongwe is also quite a laid-back town, with social highlights revolving round visits to the local nursery, shopping in Old Town or a couple of drinks at the golf club. The city is divided into Old Town (to the South) and New Town (to the North), with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctury between the two. Lilongwe is very spread out so getting around can be a bit of a chore; you can get a taxi or experience an over-crowded minibus.

Information & Facts

Climate

Winter is the best time to visit Malawi, coinciding with the dry season, and lasting from May to October. The dry season is also the best time for game viewing and hiking. June and July are the coolest months with average daytime temperatures of 70ºF (21ºC), and colder nights especially in the highlands. November to April is the hot, humid rainy season with more rain falling on the higher plateaus than around the lake, with temperatures reaching up to 90ºF (mid-30ºCs). Some roads may become impassable during heavy rains.

Eating Out

Tabaq, next to Diplomats pub in Old Town is a Pakistani run restaurant with good Malawian, Indian and Chinese food. Al Fresco, in new town, is a fantastic Italian bistro with really fresh ingredients and great pizza (located in the same shopping centre as Foodworth). Four Seasons, in new town, is a lovely set of restaurants, serving everything from curry to steak and chips, set in beautifully kept gardens. Mamma Mia is Lilongwe's finest Italian restaurant, serving real Italian pizza and pasta.

Getting Around

You can travel around Malawi by air, road, rail or boat. Distances between major centres are short but in recent years several stretches of road have become very badly potholed, making driving difficult and sometimes dangerous. The best mode of transport is however by car, and there are various international car rental companies in Malawi. The main road through Malawi runs from the north down to Mzuzu, then through the centre of the country to Lilongwe, and on to Blantyre and the south. Taxis are available in and around town but there are also bus services available. The train in Malawi is slow, crowded and limited (there are no passenger trains to Lilongwe). Every week, the Ilala passenger ferry chugs up and down Lake Malawi between Monkey Bay and Chilumba, stopping at a dozen towns and villages (contact Malawi Lake Services).

Language

English is the official language, but Chichewa is more commonly spoken.

Money

The official currency is the Malawi Kwacha (MWK), which is divided into 100 tambalas. Travellers cheques and foreign currencies are accepted by banks, authorised hotels and other institutions in the main town centres; bureaux de change are also available. The US dollar is the easiest currency to exchange. Credit cards are not widely accepted and ATMs are scarce and should not be relied upon. Exchanging currency on the black market is not recommended.

Shopping

Catering mostly to the tourists, expats and wealthy Malawian residents, Old Town Mall is home to two impressive art and craft galleries, a grocery store, travel agencies and upmarket clothing stores. Mamma Mia's Italian Restaurant is also located in Old Town Mall. Crossroads Complex, at the Mchinji Roundabout, is Lilongwe's newest shopping mall, with gift shops, a post office, two ATMs and fast food outlets.

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