Malawi, like much of Africa is famous for its curios and crafts, a key source of income for many local artisans. Impressive displays of ebony elephants, cultural dance masks, colourful jewellery and local hand crafted games are haggled amongst daily by sellers famous just as much for their cheeky attitudes as there impressive selection of cultural artefacts and a visit to Malawi is not the same without paying homage to these local tradesmen dotted along the lake shore and city streets.
The most interesting markets display curios and craft created by local artists utilising recyclable materials and displaying their impressive skills through unique and resourceful methods, creating anything from bottle top cars to telephone wire toys and plastic bag footballs, displaying Africa's resourcefulness at its very best.
Our Malawi Shopping Guide tells you all about the great shopping to be had in Malawi. Make sure you take a break from touring and shopping in Malawi, and relax and enjoy a delicious local meal at one of the Malawi restaurants.
Malawian markets, dotted throughout the country's cities, towns and trading posts are a muddle of every imaginable piece of merchandise. Filled with everything from exotic fruits to live animals, household goods, old electrical items and clothes from all corners of the world, these confused trading centres provide some of Africa's richest experiences.
Malawi is a strong agricultural country with over 80% of the population living from the land, so visitors will find fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables sold in most local markets and along all major roads. Apart from the local markets, other products such as Mandasi (fritters), Thobwa (a local drink), mphalabungu (Caterpillars), mice, birds and chicken feet are also sold along major routes serving as snacks for the passing trade or brave visitors.
For most visitors however, shopping in Malawi is primarily about arts and crafts of which there is a wide variety, all very colourful and handmade. Undoubtedly these art and craft pieces make excellent souvenirs, gifts, or decorative items to adorn the living rooms. Popular items include exquisite wood carvings, vibrantly coloured textiles (batik clothes are really wonderful as are chitenja wraps), soapstone curios, cane and wood furniture, woven baskets, mats, beads, pottery and paintings. Chess sets and chief's chairs (a high backed chair made of two pieces of carved wood) are hot selling articles. Traditional musical instruments - you get very good drums of all sizes here - are another much sought after item by music buffs and tourists. Another good buy is malachite jewellery, different types of which are available.
Malls and Shopping Centres
Malawi may not be a rich country, but it is not lacking in shopping options, particularly in urban areas. Exclusive upmarket malls that cater mostly to tourists, wealthy Malawians and expats have sprung up in major cities like Blantyre and Lilongwe. There are of course the supermarket chains and convenience stores, indispensable to the modern day shopper anywhere in the world, where you get just about everything you require. The better ones are to be found in major cities though other larger towns and villages have their share too.
Some of the malls and shopping centres sport posh arts and crafts galleries where you can buy good but expensive stuff. On the other hand, you could take your pick from the array of products put on display at small markets and by street vendors. Many visitors vouch that shopping in Malawi at smaller markets and from hawkers is much more fun. Prices are usually inflated many times over but after a bit of haggling you can come away with some good buys.