Black Market

Chipata Border Post, Malawi.

Officer: “You came from Cape Town to Malawi on a motorbike?”

Me: “Yes Sir.”

O: “Ugh. You need to be strong”

M: “Hmm not sure.”

O: “Are you not afraid of the wild animals on the road?”

M: “Ehm. Sometimes. In Botswana especially, I’ve seen elephants crossing the road in front of me. But if you don’t drive too fast, it is usually ok.”

O: “Woh. Ok. And nothing else has happened yet?”

M: “Not really, no. One of my cables snapped once in Namibia, but luckily I had a spare one with me to fix it”.

O: “Ok. Be safe! — And you want to apply for a tourist visa for Malawi?”

M: “Yes please, how many days can I apply for?”

O: “30 days, and after 30 days you can extend it for 5000 Kwacha (8$)”.

M: “Ok, good to know”,

O: “Then it’s 75$ for now, please.”

M: “75 $? For a tourist visa? That is expensive! It is usually 50$! — I only have 50$ on me, and Zambian money, do you accept that or is there an ATM here?”

O: “Uhm sorry. No, there is no ATM here. And we don’t accept Zambian money.”

M: “What really? Why? Every border usually accepts money from their neighbour country! How can we solve this then?”

O: “Well, you can exchange your Zambian money for dollars outside.”

M: “Outside? What do you mean? Is there an exchange office?”

O: “No, I mean outside, the black market.”

M: “What? Are you serious? — You want me to exchange my money for dollars outside on the black market? — I am not going to do that. I don’t know who to trust here!”

O: “Ok I understand. How much Zambian Kwachas do you have?”

M: “More or less 30$”

O: “Ok, give it to me, and wait here”

I knew that in the previous town where I came from, Chipata, that there was no money exchange office. Back to the capital Lusaka (600km’s) was no option. So I didn’t have much choice than to give my last bit to the government officer. I waited for him, and luckily after 15 minutes he came back with 30 ‘real’ dollars…

I just realized that an official border government officer just exchanged money for me on the black market.

Welcome to Malawi.



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