Operations & Marketing Manager of Land & Lake Safaris
12 Sep 2018
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Malawi is probably one of the best countries to head out onto the road and self-explore. You can either choose to go all out with a fully kitted camping 4x4 vehicle and take the roads less known, or instead head from lodge to lodge in a saloon vehicle and get out onto the open tarmac.
Labeled the ‘friendliest country in the world’ Malawi is over 45,000 sq miles with an estimated population of over 18 million. With Lake Malawi taking up a 3rd of Malawi’s land-mass, it basically means that very few areas in Malawi are truly remote. This means that whilst driving across the country can be an exciting challenge, it's also very easy for even the most inexperienced of drivers (in terms of changing tires, and seeking someone with roadside mechanical skills as well as help with directions).
This also means however that the driving is slower going, as you pass villages and busy trading centers overflowing with a myriad of human interactions, from markets, to cattle grazing, maize grinding and roadside cooking. As you dodge dogs and goats, a few select potholes and a minibus or two, it means the driving is never dull, but you must have your wits about you.
As a woman of 27, I’ve grown up in Malawi. Receiving my Malawi driving license at 18, I have travelled both alone, with clients and friends all over this country. The road network is easy to use and navigate, with the knowledge that you’ll always have the lake on one side of you. The main roads are connected between all major cities, and with the increase of vehicles and infrastructure in the country, roads are being tarred, widened, repaired and re-built on a frequent basis.
The things to watch out for are the roadside hazards, the animals, people, children, broken-down trucks and unfortunately the driving ability of other road users. The older northern routes have plenty of potholes and narrow sections – but don’t let this put you off! We highly recommend self-driving in Malawi, so go carefully, take your time and enjoy the views and the journey, because it’s an adventure you'll never forget.
You might pay a bit more when hiring a vehicle in Malawi, but this comes with the territory and many companies like ourselves, provide rescue and replacement services, 24hr emergency calls, 90% insurance cover and advice and tips on routes and services you may require.
So put pedal to metal and enjoy the flat, open tarmac roads, or test your 4x4 driving abilities with rocky dirt tracks and steep winding mountain passes which boast some of the best views in Africa. Have fun visiting bustling towns and cities that open your eyes to the colours and traditions of the country, or drive to the sparkling shores of Lake Malawi for a well deserved rest after your self-driving adventures.
Malawi, both North and South, is truly worth a visit, and whether you choose to ‘wing-it’ or plan a detailed itinerary, accommodation and camping options within your budget are widely available!
It’s a journey of self-discovery, and in a trusty vehicle with google maps, Malawi is at your fingertips!