Malawi’s main bus company is AXA Coach Services. AXA operates three different classes. Coaches are the best and the most expensive. It’s a luxury nonstop service with air con, toilet, comfortable AXA Executive reclining seats, snacks and fresh coffee, good drivers and even an on-board magazine. Services operate between Blantyre and Lilongwe twice a day from special departure points in each city (not the main bus stations).
AXA Luxury Coach and City Trouper services are the next in line. These buses have air con and reclining seats as well as TVs, but don’t have toilets. They ply the route between Blantyre and Karonga, stopping at all the main towns with limited stops elsewhere.
Lastly there are the country commuter buses, handy for backpackers as they cover the lakeshore route.
If you’re headed for Mzuzu another alternative is the comfortable Super Sink Bus between Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
There are also local minibus services which operate on a fill-up-and-go basis.
In rural areas, the frequency of buses and minibuses drops dramatically – sometimes to nothing. In cases like this, the ‘bus’ is often a truck or pick-up, with people just piled in the back. In Malawi this is called a matola.
You can buy a ticket in advance for AXA Executive, Luxury Coach and City Trouper services, all of which have set departure times. They have offices at the main bus stations and departure points or you can also buy tickets at branches of Postdotnet (post, internet and business centres found in Malawi’s major towns). A week’s notice is sometimes needed for the Executive coach, particularly for Friday and Sunday services.