Transport in Malawi
Malawi has a variety of transport options including land, water and air.
This article provides information on transport in Malawi and how to use them.
Roads in Malawi
Road transport is the main mode of transport in Malawi.
Most of the main roads are paved, but once off the main roads, unpaved roads are more common.
The condition of paved roads is better than unpaved roads, but have many potholes in the road surface.
The unpaved road network is particularly bad during the rainy season.
The rain can make the roads muddy and impassable, with large puddles and rivers forming.
Malawi has a main road called the M1, which runs from Tanzania in the north to Mozambique in the south.
Many buses run regularly between these countries and Malawi.
Roads in Malawi are left-hand traffic.
Long Distance Buses
Travelling by long-distance bus in Malawi is relatively comfortable, with a number of bus companies operating daily between Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Most long-distance buses do not have on-board toilets, but you can stop at filling stations along the way.
The journey can be a sociable one, chatting with other passengers and taking in the panoramic views of the beautiful countryside as you pass by.
It is advisable to book in advance, as the buses can fill up around public holidays and during peak periods.
Below is information on the main long-distance buses.
SOSOSO (Karonga – Mzuzu – Lilongwe – Blantyre)
Kwezy Buses (Mzuzu – Kasungu – Lilongwe – Blantyre)
AXA Coach (Karonga – Mzuzu – Lilongwe – Blantyre)
POST COACH (Karonga – Mzuzu – Lilongwe – Blantyre)
National Bus Company (Lilongwe – Blantyre)
Ulemu Bus Service (Chitipa – Karonga – Mzuzu – Lilongwe – Blantyre, Lake Shore)
Falcon Bus (Lilongwe – Dar es Salaam)
Jobela Star Bus (Lilongwe – Cape Town)
Ulemu Bus Service (Malawi – Johannesburg)
Matours International Bus (Malawi – Johannesburg)
Minibuses are converted minivans and are operated by a driver and a conductor.
They are the most common form of public transport for travelling between Malawi’s major cities and towns.
It is the cheapest and easiest way to get around and also allows you to experience daily life in Malawi by interacting with the locals.
Minibuses operate throughout the city on set routes, so just put out your hand and ask if they go in the direction you are heading.
Long-distance minibuses are more affordable than larger buses.
However, they can be squeezed in with lots of people and luggage, and you may have to wait for hours for a bus to fill up with passengers.
Taxis may be difficult to distinguish from normal cars.
However, if you stand on the side of the road, they will stop and ask where you are going.
Shared taxis are common in Malawi, often honking and touting.
To avoid problems, negotiate the price before getting into a taxi.
Long Distance Taxis
If you are short on time or just want to get around comfortably, arranging a taxi is a good option.
You can find information on taxi companies below.
Car hire companies are based in Lilongwe and Blantyre and have desks at the airport.
Cars can also be picked up and dropped off at other locations.
Different types of vehicles are available and drivers can be hired.
If you are visiting a national park, it is advisable to hire a 4WD vehicle as you will often be driving on dirt roads.
Below is information on recommended car hire companies.
Malawi has a railway, but it is primarily for freight transport, not passenger transport.
Other Means of Land Transport
A matola is the back of a truck and is a common means of transport in villages.
Bicycle taxis are comfortable, with a cushioned seat attached to the rear of the bicycle and spokes to put your feet on.
They are an essential means of transport for locals and are known as ‘Kabaza’.
The number of motorbike taxis has increased in recent years and they have become a common mode of transport.
Tuktuks are a cheap and comfortable way to get around in Lilongwe.
They are much easier to find and cheaper than taxis, and are recommended for those new to the city.
MV Ilala Ferry
The MV Ilala ferry is the main means of transport around the lake and to the islands of Likoma and Chizumulu.
It travels between Monkey Bay in the south and Chilumba in the north, stopping 23 times a week at lakeside villages and towns.
Although not luxurious, they offer a unique boat trip and it is possible to stay in a cabin on board.
Likoma Express is a new mode of transport between Nkhata Bay, Dwangwa and Likoma Island, introduced in February 2023.
Cheaper than flying and faster than the MV Ilala Ferry, it allows you to travel between mainland and Likoma in 2.5 hours.
The luxurious interiors make the journey more comfortable.
Malawi Airlines and Ulendo Airlink
Malawi Airlines operates daily flights between Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe and Chileka International Airport in Blantyre.
In addition, Ulendo Airlink, a private air charter company, operates flights from Lilongwe to major tourist destinations such as Likoma, Nyika and Liwonde.