Traveling through Malawi on a budget. Lilongwe.

We went to Malawi in February 2015, during a complete trip,
8 months, through Southern and Eastern Africa.

Lilongwe is the capital city of Malawi. For travellers, nothing special to do there, just a transport transfer place. 
The city center around the bus station looks quite terrible, polluted river, dirty, crowded and with many small markets. Watch out in all this area! Local people advice us!
The rest of the city  (divided in “areas”) is very spread out, with big properties with gardens and trees. Ok.
The lake is quite close (Senga Bay is only 120 km away), so we recommend you try to get there and pass this city (not a good place to sleep).

Note: if going to tobacco auction, it´s from 7:30 to 12:00, May to September. It seems that you need to book in advance. Try to enquire first. It´s 7 km from the center.

    Public Transport in Lilongwe   

Local transport.  There are minibuses and vans between Lilongwe´s center and the different areas (departure when full, around 200-300 K).

Intercity Bus station:
  • Many minibuses connecting Lilongwe and the principal towns of Malawi. Ask as different small stations depending of destination. All around the center.Quite chaotic.
  • Big buses also (AXA), ask for the exact departure place (around city center). Old buses and AC coaches.
  • Also international departures: Dar Es Salam, Johannesburg, Lusaka.
Minibus Lilongwe- Salima: Price: 1.500 K, 2 hours (departure when full).
The area around the bus station doesn’t look too safe, many small streets, markets, etc. Just be careful, keep your belongings! Avoid at night!

   Cheap accommodation in Lilongwe  

If you are on a budget, travelling around Malawi as an independent travel, not too many cheap sleeping options in Lilongwe.

Our  CS host´s. Thanks!
A few travellers told us that Mabuya Camp (price for camping 6 $, dorm 10 $) is really noisy, with many overlanders, not such a good place.
You can check :
- Saint Peters (near Golf Club)
- Golden Peacock Resthouse (not far from Korean restaurant), quiet and with similar prices. Not too far from the center.
- Mufasa is under renewing, new owners... it should be re-opening soon…

Couchsurfing in Lilongwe:
We stayed 1 night with Ziz&TK, a local family. Nice!
Small CS community.

   Cheap food in Livingstone  

Shops and supermarkets around the center and in commercial areas like Crossroads and City Center (shopping malls, Malawi style).Supermarkets are not too cheap, compared with neighbor countries, many imported things. Some "take away" food too.

Keep in mind that outside Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu, no big supermarkets in Malawi, just basic things. 
A good and cheap option is cooking at the backpackers. 
There are local restaurants near the Lilongwe bus station.
Expensive international restaurants spread out in the city.

   Services in Lilongwe  

It´s the capital, you will find anything needed.
Also the main embassies and consulates (but not so many).

ATM: international cards work in big banks (like Standart), maximum of 40.000 K (but can withdraw several times). Remember than the exchange rate trough ATM is much less than changing dollars or euros, if you have, better change money and don´t use ATM in Malawi.

Keep in mind that outside Lilingwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu the small local banks ATMs not always work with international cards. Bring enough cash if going to the lake!