Like most other former British colonies, traffic moves on the left in Malawi with most cars being right-hand drive.
Local car rental companies:
Apex Rent-a-Car Malawi, . Sedans, 4x4s, even buses. edit
SS Rent-a-Car, . 4x4s, 16 and 26 seat buses, Motorbikes edit
Sputnik Car Hire, . 4x4s,buses,trucks edit
Unfortunately many car rentals in Southern Africa do not allow you to enter Malawi with their cars. You might have the best chances if you rent a car in Zambia.
Car rentals that allow you to enter Malawi:
Located in Lusaka, Zambia.
Allow you to enter Malawi if you ask by email.
Compared to its neighbors, the main roads in Malawi are in surprisingly good shape and travel times between major destinations should be reasonable. The volume of traffic is low and most people drive reasonably slowly. Road travel after dark is not advisable as road markings are poor to non-existent and not all cars have headlights.
The Malawian police force have check points along many of the major roadways. By and large, they are looking for illegal activities and bribes - but aren't too much of a problem. Expect to be stopped on occasion and asked where you are going. You should not have any problems if you are polite and have the correct documentation passport, driver's licence, permission to use the vehicle, etc. available if they ask.
Currently Malawi is experiencing many fuel shortages, so be aware to stock up in neighbouring countries unless you want to queue for a long time without actually getting anything or use the blackmarket - with fuel prices being almost double, even triple, usual prices.
Air Malawi (http://www.airmalawi.com) flies small propeller planes between the three big cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre.
Nyassa Air Taxi (http://www.nyassa.mw/) is by far the preferred choice to fly guests in and around Malawi.
Swiftair operates scheduled domestic flights between Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Karonga and Blantyre on a twin engine, 2 crew beechcraft 1900 (http://www.swiftairmalawi.com)
Taxis are available in any city, whether they are licensed or not. Be prepared to negotiate as quoted prices to tourists are generally two to three times the actual going rate. Ask a friendly local or expat what the price should be. Rental cars are also available in these towns. Costs vary depending on vehicle type, but expect a compact car to run about $60/day.
Traveling by boat is surely the most enjoyable mode of getting around in Malawi. The Ilala ferry runs north from Monkey Bay to Chilumba F 10AM-Su 6:30PM, and back southbound on the same route departure Chilumba on Monday 2AM, arriving at Monkey Bay on Wednesday at 2PM. Prices are rising with every year, but so is the ferry's reliability: some years back before its privatization it was perfectly normal to arrive a day late sometimes. The Ilala thus connects Likoma Island twice a week with the mainland, and the much closer CobuÃ¨ in Mozambique, respectively. Prices in January 2006 were about 6000 Malawian Kwacha from Monkey Bay to Likoma, and 1600 from Likoma to Nkatha Bay.
"Luxury" buses, medium-sized buses, and minibuses all service the country. They vary in comfort and price. Vehicle condition can be very poor and road accidents are relatively common. Generally, if police are going to hassle travelers, it will be individuals using these types of transportation.