Tag Archive | malawi

Malawi – Kelli Wong (2012)

Kelli Wong

Kelli Wonggraduated from Colgate University and received her medical degree from Tulane.  Now in her residency in pediatrics, Kelly spent a month in Malawi providing medical care to HIV positive children.  Kelly received a $1500 scholarship from  Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Kelli’s travel safety tips:

  1. Always let someone know where you are going, how you are traveling, when you are leaving and when you should be expected to return. Also give your phone number to a trusted person if you have a mobile phone. I always told my lodge my travel plans, and it was nice to have someone check in with me to make sure I am safe.
  2. It is always nice to be social when in public places (e.g. restaurants, bars, hotels), but be wary of the information you tell others about yourself and be cautious that others may be listening. Because of the fuel crisis in Malawi, I was frequently trying to meet people (other international visitors) who may want to travel with me on the weekends. While at a restaurant, I was arranging a meeting point and told a friend where I was staying. Apparently a local overheard my conversation, mentioned to me where I was staying, and this made me feel very uncomfortable. As a consequence, I changed rooms within the lodge.
  3. When you travel abroad, always bring both a mastercard and visa with you. Some countries’ or cities’ banks may only accept one to get out money. For Malawi, most ATMs take visa only.
  4. When taking a taxi, always set your price and drop off point outside the car before you trip. Whenever possible try to share a cab with others going to remotely the same area. If you get a taxi driver you trust/like or even a car with functioning seatbelts, ask for the drivers mobile number and use him/her whenever possible.
  5. Know what time it gets dark at night, and never walk alone at night. Your lodge watchman may be willing to come pick you up and walk you back to the lodge, if you are not too far from your place of stay.
  6. Carry a headlamp on you at all times. Especially in Africa, because you never know where you will be when the power goes out.

Malawi – Yuen Ho (2012)

Yuen Ho

Yuen Ho, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, where she majored in economics.  Yuen worked in Malawi this the 2012 summer, interning with a non-profit organization to help develop leadership programs for youth.  Yuen received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.

Here are Yuen Ho’s travel safety tips:

First and foremost, Malawi lives up to its name as the “Warm Heart of Africa.” In general, people are incredibly friendly and helpful. During my travels throughout Malawi I felt safe and welcomed. However, there are still safety tips to keep in mind to ensure that your experiences in Malawi are the best possible.

Public Transportation: Public transportation just might be the most dangerous thing you encounter while in Malawi. In general, the public “minibuses” used around cities are old and in poor condition, and they are always crammed full beyond capacity. Instead of taking the minibus, opt for taking a taxi or shared taxi. While it’s a little more expensive, it’s safer and usually quicker as well. For longer distances, it is worth it to choose a private coach bus over the public buses. Again, public buses are usually in poor condition with extra people crammed down the aisle. In comparison, private buses will only travel with one to a seat and each seat comes with a seatbelt! The AXA Bus Company is a great pick, and tickets are usually only $4-$8 more than the public option. Also, if a driver is driving too fast, don’t be afraid to tell them to slow down.

Traveling at Night: In general, it is best to avoid traveling at night. The roads rarely have working streetlights and drinking and driving is a major problem. Also, walking at night makes you an easier target for muggings and attacks. If you have to travel at night, always do so with other people or a group and only take private cars or taxis.

Respecting Cultural Norms: As is the case with traveling to any foreign country, respecting the local cultural is important. I found that norms in Malawi can differ drastically between rural village areas and urban cities. For example, in villages, traditional wear is very important and women especially should wear appropriate clothing such as long skirts and shirts with sleeves. However, in the cities, it is normal for women to wear skirts and shorts at knee-level as well as pants and tank tops. Respecting cultural norms is a good way to prevent drawing attention to yourself.

Communication: It’s a good idea to check in with your country’s embassy when you arrive in Malawi. The embassy can keep you up to date on safety issues and events in the local area. Also, when traveling, keep in contact with family and friends and let them know what your plans are.

Health/Food: At least in Lilongwe, there are no water sanitation facilities in the city. Never drink tap water, make sure to always purify it before you drink (boiling, UV light, iodine tablets, etc). Some places, especially in rural areas, will sell you “home bottled” water that has not been treated, don’t drink the water unless it’s been treated. Also, Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is a parasite found in Lake Malawi. In some popular tourist areas, such as Cape Maclear, transmission rates can be very high due to the population density. To avoid contracting Bilharzia, don’t swim in the water. However, if you do swim, Bilharzia is easily treated and medication is available throughout Malawi. Just make sure to get checked by a doctor and take the appropriate medicine. Finally, especially in the wet season, Malaria can be a big concern while in Malawi. To prevent contracting Malaria, you should take anti-malarials during your trip. You should also sleep under a mosquito net and apply bug spray when going outside.