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Tanzania - Malawi Border Crossing via Songwe

If you're crossing from Tanzania to Malawi by land (or vice versa) – you will very likely be using the Songwe Border Post.

We actually took the TAZARA train all the way from Dar es Salaam to a town called Mbeya, which is where I would recommend taking a rest stop before attempting the border crossing into Malawi.

Don't get me wrong, the border was very quick and straightforward (for us) – it's just a multi-legged journey where you can expect a myriad of delays, so it's always best to cross country borders first thing.



CONTENTS




 

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Starting in Mbeya

We slept at La Domek Traveller's Home which I found on booking.com. It was about $20USD per night and a comfortable place to rest our heads, just be aware there is no phone signal and the Wifi is patchy at best, so be sure to have any onward travel planned out prior.

After a fantastic day hiking The Ngozi Crater Lake - the host at La Domek arranged a tuktuk to collect us at 6:30am the following morning to take us to the bus station. The price for this was 5000Tsh and the journey took only 10 minutes.


We probably could have walked this leg, but the value of having a human buffer between us and the swarms of touts at the bus station was indispensable. Our driver helped us find our dala-dala to the border, which thankfully left immediately. The price was 7000Tsh and the journey was a swift 2.5 hours.

The bus drops you about 1.5km from the border - and again, this can be walked, or if you're hot and lazy like me, you can hop on the back of a boda-boda for 2000Tsh.



 


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At the Songwe Border Crossing


If you have Tanzanian Shillings or US Dollars, you can exchange them for Malawian Kwacha before you cross the border.


We were harassed by very persistent money changers, with one guy even jumping on his own motorbike and following us alongside, still trying to pitch his exchange rate.


What started off as very annoying actually turned into quite the comedy sketch, and I was so impressed with his efforts that I followed him to his little shop to exchange some cash. He gave us a way better rate than what was on Google that day, which is quite common so I hear.

We started walking to the border gate, and in fact, you can just stroll right through into Malawi without any barriers. However, it is your responsibility to get stamped out of Tanzania and into Malawi, and if you don't, this will catch up with you at one of the zillion police roadblocks you will meet when travelling Malawi.


I Dream of Mangoes crossing from Tanzania to Malawi via the Songwe Border Post
Crossing the Songwe Border Post from Tanzania to Malawi

These Hokas and a pair of flip-flops are the only shoes I need when travelling!



 


Leaving Tanzania

Getting stamped out of Tanzania is easy, it takes five minutes, you will need to show your Yellow Fever Vaccination Card. I must admit here that Joe's may actually be a forgery, as he may have lost his original copy (he has had the vaccination I swear!) My dad just may have just printed a fake one on yellow paper – and it's worked at every land crossing we have made in Africa so far, touch wood.



 


Entering Malawi

With some helpful directions, we found a little room to get stamped into Malawi. This was pre-Feb 2024, so we needed to present our E-Visas that had been printed in colour. (As of Feb 2024 citizens from the UK + 78 other countries no longer need a visa to enter Malawi).

Our processing time took about 20 minutes, which I think is relatively quick. We heard stories of normal waiting times being 2-6 hours, even longer if you have a vehicle.

It's at this point you can also pay a few pence to use a very clean toilet, and buy an illegal SIM card from one of the many people who will offer you one. It may be helpful to buy one, we paid 1000mwk (50p) for a used SIM with 1GB data, just so we had access to a phone for our first travel leg through Malawi. I would recommend going for TNM over Airtel, as the coverage is way better.



 


The Onward Journey

Next, you'll need to take a shared taxi to Karonga, which is normally 2000mwk, and the journey takes 1 hour.


Please be aware that Malawi is currently in the midst of a fuel crisis, and if there is a petrol shortage the taxi drivers have to buy gas on the black market. This means the journey could cost up to 5000mwk. When we crossed in October 2023 we paid 3000mwk.

From Karonga you can take a mini-bus to your next destination. I think it would be best to stay in far North Malawi, so that you don't end up travelling at night, and there is no place better than The Mushroom Farm. We loved our stay here, you can read more about it in my post: A backpacker's guide to North Malawi.

To get from Karonga to Mushroom Farm, take a bus to Chitimbe (2 hours, 4000mwk), and then a motorbike up the hill (40 minutes, 7000mwk).


At Chitimbe, if a guy called Kingfisher approaches you and says he works at Mushroom, ignore him, he doesn't, he is a hustler trying to take a slice of the driver's fee. You don't need him, just go straight to the people actually driving the moto-taxis.



 


Thank you for reading my post on how to cross by land from Tanzania to Malawi via the Songwe Border Post.


If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles 1-2 times per week about mine and Joe's current travels.


For more Africa travel inspiration, check out my article: My time with the Maasai. Or if wildlife is more your thing, try reading: How to see the Great Migration on a budget.


Happy Travels

xx



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I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

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