Tanzania to Malawi


Border Crossings

The only crossing is at Kasumulu (Songwe River Bridge; 7am to 7pm Tanzanian time, 6am to 6pm Malawi time), southeast of Mbeya (Tanzania).


From Mbeya’s Nane Nane bus stand, there are daily minibuses and 30-seater buses (known as ‘coastals’) to the border (Tsh5000, two hours). Once through the Tanzanian border post, there’s a 300m walk to the Malawian side, and minibuses to Karonga. There’s also one Malawian bus daily from the Malawi side of the border and Mzuzu (Malawi), departing the border by mid-afternoon and arriving in Mzuzu by evening.

Some tips:

  • Look for buses going to Kyela (these detour to the border) and verify that your vehicle is really going all the way to the border (‘Kasumulu’), as some that say they are actually stop at Tukuyu (40km north) or at Ibanda (7km before the border). Asking several passengers (rather than the minibus company touts) should get you the straight answer.
  • Your chances of getting a direct vehicle are better in the larger ‘coastals’, which depart from Mbeya two or three times daily and usually go where they say they are going.
  • The border buses stop at the Kasumulu (Songwe River) transport stand, about a seven-minute walk from the actual border; there’s no real need for the bicycle taxis that will approach you.
  • There are currently no cross-border vehicles from Mbeya into Malawi, although touts at Mbeya bus station may try to convince you otherwise. Going in both directions, plan on overnighting in Mbeya or Tukuyu; buses from Mbeya to Dar es Salaam depart between 6am and 7am.


Tanzania is located east of Africa’s Great Lakes north of Mozambique and south of Kenya, it has a coastline at the Indian Ocean in east. The nation is bordered by six other African countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia, it also shares maritime borders with the Comoros and the Seychelles. It has shorelines at three of the Great Lakes: Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyassa (Lake Malawi).

The country occupies an area of 945,087 km², compared it is about three times the size of Italy or slightly larger than twice the size of California.

Tanzania has a population of 50.1 million people, capital is Dodoma, largest city, chief port, major economic and transportation hub and de facto capital is Dar es Salaam. Spoken languages are Swahili and English (both official), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar).


Malawi, landlocked country in southeastern Africa. Endowed with spectacular highlands and extensive lakes, it occupies a narrow, curving strip of land along the East African Rift Valley. Lake Nyasa, known in Malawi as Lake Malawi, accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s total area.

Most of Malawi’s population engages in cash-crop and subsistence agriculture. The country’s exports consist of the produce of both small landholdings and large tea and tobacco estates. Malawi has received a significant amount of foreign capital in the form of development aid, which has contributed greatly toward the exploitation of its natural resources and has allowed Malawi to at times produce a food surplus. Nevertheless, its population has suffered from chronic malnutrition, high rates of infant mortality, and grinding poverty—a paradox often attributed to an agricultural system that has favoured large estate owners.

Most Malawians reside in rural locations. The country’s few large urban centres include Lilongwe, the capital, and Blantyre, the seat of the country’s judiciary.

I’ll start off by saying, traveling between Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Lilongwe, Malawi by bus is a long trip. In fact, it’s 1527 kilometers or 941 miles. This trip can be done in 2 full days of travel. It is best to plan for 3-4 days just in case you experience delays as we did.

I have heard that there is a direct bus from Dar es Salaam to the border or maybe even into Malawi, but it wasn’t running when we made the trip. You may want to ask around first to make the trip a bit easier. The method outlined in this guide will get you there and you can leave any day of the week.

Buying your Bus Ticket from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya

The day before you travel, you’ll want to go to the Ubungo bus terminal in Dar es Salaam to buy your ticket. The bus station is a way out of town so you’ll need to take a taxi or an Uber there and back.

Once you are at the station, go into one of the offices and ask for a ticket to Mbeya, Tanzania. Several companies sell tickets to Mbeya so you may want to shop around a bit. I don’t remember the exact cost of the ticket but I think it was around $15. Unfortunately, taxi fare to and from the bus station will cost more than the ticket.

The bus leaves early in the morning from the Ubungo bus terminal and arrives in Mbeya after dark. We arrived at around 11:00 pm. You will have to stay the night in Mbeya as the bus station is closed when you arrive.

Staying the Night in Mbeya, Tanzania

There is a hotel within walking distance of where the bus lets you off. I can’t remember the name but I don’t recommend the place anyway. The room looked like nobody had stayed in it since the 1800s. It was filled with heavy wooden Victorian style furniture and a thick layer of dust. Everyone gave off a creepy kind of vibe here which is unusual for Africa. Anyway, it was a place to crash for the night. It cost about $20 for two people.

Bus From Mbeya, Tanzania to the Malawi Border

Wake up early the next morning and head back to the bus station where you were dropped off the previous day. From here, you want to catch a minibus to the border. Just ask around the station and someone will point you in the right direction.

You will probably end up taking 2 minibusses to get to the border. The first minibus will take you to a junction just outside of Mbeya. The next one will take you to the border. There are guys selling tickets at the bus station. Again, I don’t remember the exact cost but it should be just a few dollars.

The Tanzania-Malawi Border Crossing

The Tanzania exit process was smooth. I waited in a short line and an immigration official stamped me out with no questions.

Malawi recently started charging everyone for visas, unfortunately. The visa is available on the border for $75The visa process was easy enough. I probably waited around 15 minutes for the Malawi officials to process and stamp the visa.

Bus From the Border to Karonga, Malawi

Once you are in Malawi, you’ll need to catch another minibus to Karonga. This is a small town located about an hour south of the border. You can also take a taxi if you don’t want to wait around for a minibus.

I would recommend staying the night if you have time. Karonga is a pleasant little town full of friendly people. Nice to chill out in for a day. There are several basic hotels in town where you can stay for just a few dollars per night.

Bus From Karonga to Lilongwe, Malawi

If you are in a hurry, you can go straight to the bus station in Karonga and buy a ticket to Lilongwe. There is a nightly bus. The bus is supposed to leave at around 18:00 but our bus didn’t leave until around 21:00. The journey is about 12 hours and costs around $12. If everything goes to plan, you’ll reach Lilongwe sometime the following morning.

Detained at a Military Checkpoint in Mzuzu, Malawi

The bus goes through several military checkpoints along the way where everyone has to exit and present their passports. Unfortunately, at around 2:00 am our bus was stopped and detained at a military checkpoint. Evidently, they suspected that there was some contraband on the bus and they needed to search it before it would be allowed to leave. Someone may have been attempting to transport goods from Tanzania to Malawi without paying taxes. We were told that the bus would leave at 10:00 am the following morning.

Mzuzu to Lilongwe Bus

That afternoon, we began searching for another bus to Lilongwe. We had to buy new tickets, of course, because we missed the original bus. After shopping around, we decided to go with a company called AXA. Supposedly, they have the newest and most comfortable bus operating this route. The ticket cost around $10.

Final Thoughts: Traveling from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Lilongwe, Malawi by Bus

All in, the journey from Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe took 4 days. It could be done in 2 theoretically but it is best to plan for 3 days just to be safe. We would have made it in 3 if our bus had not been detained in Mzuzu.

Overall, the journey is safe and fairly easy to make. It is, however, long and uncomfortable. All of the transfers you must make along the way get annoying. I think we took 6 different buses in total.