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  • Overview

    Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is a very green city with leafy trees and grassy areas breaking up the concrete. In typical Malawian fashion, it's quite a laid-back city with social highlights revolving around visits to the local nursery, shopping in Old Town, or a couple of drinks at the golf club.

    It is divided into Old Town (to the south) and New Town (to the north), with the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary between the two. Old Town is more popular with visitors as it's home to markets, craft stalls and attractive cafes, restaurants and pubs. New Town is focused more on business, with office buildings, banks and embassies.

    Located in central Malawi, Lilongwe itself isn't a major tourist draw. However, a large expat population has given the city a distinctly cosmopolitan feel, making it the perfect stopover for travellers heading to game reserves and beach resorts.

    Many trips to Malawi begins at the Lilongwe International Airport and the city makes for a pleasant introduction to the country, though those not travelling on business seldom stay long. Tourists in transit also take advantage of the shopping in Lilongwe, which is the best in Malawi.

    Old Town Mall is home to impressive art and craft galleries, a grocery store, travel agencies and upmarket clothing stores. Crossroads Complex, at the Mchinji Roundabout, also boasts gift shops, a post office, ATMs and fast food outlets. It is a good idea to capitalise on these amenities, particularly for banking, as ATMs are scarce outside of urban areas.

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    Lilongwe has a humid subtropical climate with balmy summers and chilly winters. Winter is the best time to visit Malawi, coinciding with the dry season, and lasts from May to October. The dry season is also the best time for game viewing and hiking.

    June and July are the coolest months, harbouring cold nights, especially in the highlands, and average daytime temperatures of 73ºF (23ºC). 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 86ºF (30ºC). Some roads may become impassable during heavy rains.

    Kamuzu International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated 16 miles (25km) from Lilongwe.
    Time: Local time is GMT +2.
    Getting to the city: Minibuses are available to the city. However, those travelling with luggage may find them too cramped and choose to hire a private taxi.
    Car Rental: Major car rental companies are represented at the airport and in the city nearby.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available to the city.
    Fascilities: Facilities are limited, but include currency exchange, a restaurant, a bar, duty-free shopping, a tourist information centre, and a VIP lounge.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport.

    Useful Contacts:

    Most local travel in Lilongwe is by minibus. Tourists may find the most useful service is between the Old Town and City Centre. Lilongwe is fairly spread out, so minibuses are a cheap way to get around for adventurous visitors. Taxis are also available from the main hotels and are more expensive.

    Hiring a car is an option, although the narrow winding roads of the Old Town are not friendly to cars. Travellers planning to explore Malawi beyond the city will want to hire a 4x4, as the roads around Lilongwe are good. Further afield, the roads deteriorate.

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