Lilongwe - Post Report Question and Answers

What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Toyotas are the best. You need an SUV. Also pack some parts you think you might need. Parts are ridiculously expensive in Lilongwe. You can also get tires locally but you may want to put some in HHE. - Jul 2020

Bring a car with some clearance: potholes are very, very common. Burglary/carjacking seems rare but not impossible. We drive with our windows up all the time and the doors locked. - Feb 2020

Nearly everyone buys a small SUV with decent ground clearance. Roads are in poor condition in much of the city and surrounding areas. During the rainy season, many of the dirt roads out of town can become a quagmire. Toyota and Nissan dominate the market and have the most parts available. Carjacking isn't a significant risk in Malawi, but muggings while you are stopped in traffic are a concern. Young men come out of the bushes or the tree line with panga knives (12-18" stamped-steel machetes) and rob you of whatever they can reach. Sometimes they block the roads at night with rocks and other debris to get you to stop. Keep your doors locked and yours windows up. Make sure the A/C works in whatever car you buy. Don't bring anything you're not willing to see banged up and scratched. It's not a matter of's a matter of when. - Sep 2018

Definitely a 4x4 vehicle if you plan to travel around the country. Bring an extra set of tires too. You want high clearance. The roads are not well maintained. - Jul 2017

Toyota Prados are the most common car and helpful if you plan on doing some exploring. In town, there are lots of small cars (Corollas, Versa, etc) During transition season, there are often lots of cars for sale, otherwise people import from Japan. Malawi is a right hand drive country. - Oct 2016

The Toyota Prado Landcrusier is everywhere and for good reason as it's kind of a dependable tank of a vehicle and good on the potholed roads. Left hand drive. - Aug 2015

Import a used vehicle from Japan--I recommend the Prado as parts and maintenance are easy and it will get you around South Luangwa too. Driving is dangerous here and a good car will also protect you from accidents. - Sep 2013

I think that it's nice to have a big SUV (we have a Landrover) for anytime you travel out of the city---and even if you go into certain areas within Lilongwe. We also have a small sedan to take back and forth to work since fuel is so expensive. But it seems pretty important to have an SUV. The roads are severely potholed and the weather is really hard on your car, so I wouldn't recommend a nice car. The traffic is also a bit crazy. Toyota is the preferred brand because there are many here that parts are easy to come by. We've had to order our Landrover parts from the States. Not as easy. It's also right-hand drive, so we bought our cars here. Some still drive American-style cars here, but with all of the bicycles and pedestrians and even carts drawn by donkeys in the roads, I prefer to be in the middle of the road for better visibility. - Sep 2012

4WD, needs to be able to handle really bad roads, right-hand drive. We drove a Toyota Hilux Surf (4Runner equivalent) and found it to work very well. - Sep 2009

A four wheel drive is good for outside Lilongwe. Car hires are very expensive. In general, the roads -- unless you get off the beaten path -- are quite good, but a four-wheel drive is recommended. - Jul 2009

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