Malawi part 1: Friday Afternoon
Lilongwe Airport is the first airport that I have ever been to where the queue at passport control for residents is longer than the queue for visitors, so I got through relatively quickly, collected my bags and then when through customs – to be promptly stopped to have my bags checked.
Now, I have only had my bags checked by customs at an airport three times (including today), and all three times were in Africa. This time it was at the Lilongwe airport, and the other two times were in Namibia, and Swaziland. Every country in the world seems to trust me, except for my neighbours – oh well!
The local currency is the Kwacha which is exchanged at about 20 to one Rand. This did make my feel quite wealthy, exchanging R500, and receiving about 10000 Kwacha in return (in Zimbabwe it would be about 40 million Zim Dollars).
By the way, here is a suggestion. You have to pay USD 30 departure tax when you leave Malawi (and it HAS to be USD), and you can get it at the bank at the Malawi airport at a reasonable exchange rate. I did not know this, and I had to pay $12 commission to exchange R200 to get $30 at the forex counter at Johannesburg airport. It was a complete rip-off. So, rather get the dollars at your bank beforehand, or in Malawi itself.
In case you are wondering why I was in Malawi, I was there to assist with the training of the local Toastmasters club officers. Tony from Johannesburg was going to present the main session, and with me assisting.
So, Andrew who was collecting me from the airport was running a bit late, and while I was waiting for him, I realized one of the universal truths about airports around the world. The arrivals halls are always swarming with taxi drivers touting for your business. There was one driver in particular (with the friendly smile that you encounter all over Africa), that was determined to be my friend. He was quite concerned that my lift was not going to arrive, and he was going to save the day, and give me a ride into town. He kept telling me so; "no, your lift is not going to arrive – I have to help you". Eventually I was rescued by Andrew, who is the president of one of the local Toastmasters Clubs.