Blantyre is one of the oldest cities in southern Africa, founded in 1876 and named after the Scottish town where David Livingstone was born. That history gives the city a number of interesting old buildings. This is Malawi’s centre of finance and commerce, with those foundations dating from the days when it was a centre for ivory trade.
Strictly there are two towns, Limbe and Blantyre, which meet to form a continuous area yet retain their separate identities. Blantyre has the status and administrative functions and Limbe is more industrial. The urban areas are overlooked by three picturesque mountains, Ndirande, Mchiru and Soche.
The country bills itself as “the warm heart of Africa” and boasts that its people are its greatest asset – friendly, welcoming, colourful and vibrant.
Few tourists reach Malawi, although it has an unspoiled nature where commercialism has never taken over.
The official languages are English and Chichewa, with English widely spoken in most urban areas. However, you’ll get a warm smile if you use a couple of Chichewa phrases such as zikomo (“thanks”), chonde (“please”), or moni (“hello”).
TimeBlantyre works on Central African time and is GMT +2, with no Daylight Saving Time.
The kwacha is the currency of Malawi.
ATMs have become more common and credit cards are accepted in larger hotels, shops and restaurants.
The city has a tropical climate with a rainy season from November to April, then continuing light cold showers from May to July. The dry season is from May to October. Temperatures are around 19°C in the cool season, with occasional frosts, mist and chilly winds. In the hot season (from September to November), temperatures of 26°C are normal. It can get uncomfortably humid in late October or early November before the rains.
Electrical sockets are the UK three square pinned variety and the standard voltage is 230V.
Malawi’s telecoms system is underdeveloped, but mobile networks have the city pretty much covered. Internet access is expensive and slow. The top hotels have wifi in some public areas. You can buy a SIM card at the airport if you want to make cheap local calls and airtime is sold at kiosks on just about every street corner.
Public transport consists mainly of minibuses that serve as the local taxis. Ordinary taxis are found outside the top hotels, and car and 4x4 hire is also available. The city itself is quite compact so you can walk around quite easily and fairly safely.
Airport to City Center
Chileka International airport is about 14km miles from the city centre. Taxis are available and there are car hire booths. Hotels can arrange to collect guests for a fee.