What comes to your mind when you hear about Mozambique? Before I went to Mozambique in August 2016 I made the mistake of reading up on the country on the German Government website before I left. This page gives advice on safety, health, and the “do’s and don’ts” when travelling to a certain country.
I read about:
- Malaria (I have to mention, that I had never been to a Malaria area before)
- Corrupt police officers
Just to mention a few…
“Ok, that’s it!”, I decided “…there is no way I’m going to Mozambique.” I was super scared. Fortunately, I have a friend who is very pushy who eventually managed to convince me to join him for a 10 day road trip to Mozambique.
Besides all of the “information” provided on the German Government website, they forgot to mention all the beautiful things I found in Mozambique when I finally got there.
They forgot to mention that this beautiful country has:
- Unspoiled beaches
- Indigenous nature
- A variety of landscape
- Super yummy food
They forgot to mention that:
- Tourism (and therefore the spoiling of culture) hasn’t arrived there yet
- The country and its people are still true to tradition
- The people are gorgeous and some of the friendliest people I have met so far
They also forgot to mention that it is a paradise for:
- Beach lovers
- Safari addicted
- Water sport fans
I also must add that I felt super safe on the streets when walking. Especially in the villages but also outside of the city centre of Maputo. Walking in the middle of the night, just my friend and I, felt way safer than in South Africa. What also surprised me is the fact that during the 10 days I spent there I didn’t come across a single person begging or asking for money on the streets.
Here you can find my list of 15 things you need to know when travelling to Mozambique:
Lots of nationalities need a visa for Mozambique. Although I was in South Africa I could easily apply for my Mozambique visa at the consulate in Cape Town. It worked out without any problems, took me 1 day and cost me R600. I know that you can receive a visa on arrival at the airport but if you cross the border by bus or car I wouldn´t rely on getting a visa there. Rather get your visa in advance in one of the consulates or embassies of Mozambique.
2.How to get there
If you would like to go by bus you can either take Intercape or the City to City bus from Johannesburg to Maputo. If you are planning on flying there are many direct flights from Johannesburg to Maputo.
If you would like to go by rental car follow those tips: Renting a car in Mozambique is quite expensive. It’s better t rent a car in South Africa and cross the border. Check out in advance where you are going as many streets can only be driven by a 4×4. The trip we did, crossing the border at Komatiport and going up the N1 is fine without a 4×4. If you cross the border at Ponto do Ouro, you definitely need a 4 x4. What is also important is to check if you can cross the border to Mozambique with your rental car. Many company’s like AVIS and Budget don’t allow crossing the border to Mozambique. We rented a car with Thrifty, which worked out perfectly. Bear in mind as well that some borders have special opening hours.
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3.How to get around
By planning your trip with a rental car keep in mind that it takes a lot of time going up the coast. You need at least 2 1/2 hours for 150 km as you are only allowed to go 60 km/h or 100 km/h and in some areas the streets have many potholes forcing you to go slower. Good petrol stations are Engen in Xai Xai on the main road (clean bathrooms) and Chinguele Petrol station (South African standard).
If you would like to get around the country with public transportation use the Chapas. These minibuses go everywhere but what you need again is time, lots of time.
4.Fake police officers
I read about these guys on my German government page. Compared to what we experienced there was quite a lot of exaggerating. According to the page you are going to get stopped by one of them twice every day. We were stopped once on our 10 days there. The official police officers usually wear white shirts. We were stopped by one guy with a blue shirt and were told we need to get a special stamp for our rental car. We pretended to sort it out by ourselves at the next police station and off we went. The fake dude pretended that he could help with the stamp to get it faster and obviously he wanted money but we didn’t give a single coin to him. Another piece of advice: In case you meet one of them never give them original documents like your passport or driver license, show a copy to them.
5.Places to visit
Please spend at least one day in the capital Maputo as it is the most developed city in Mozambique. Most of Maputo’s main tourist attractions are a short walk from each other. There is a safe and super cheap parking lot inside the port. The boom for entry is located on the port side of the traffic circle that is located by Maputo’s old Fort.
Must see’s in Maputo are:
- The Fort
- The Statue of Samora Machel
- The City Hall
- The Cathedral
- The Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens
- The Train station
Close to the entrance of the botanical gardens you can find a recently refurbished tourist information office. The staff are young, informed and provide great walking tours of the city.
One of the most beautiful beaches (except Bazaruto and Benguele) I have seen in Mozambique was found in Xai Xai. It is a super tiny village and super peaceful – perfect to relax.
We saw a lake on our way up to Tofu Beach by chance. We took the turnoff and just wanted to take some pics. After a 10 minute drive and getting stuck in sand we found ourselves in a small, beautiful village next to the lake. It was like a little hidden paradise. What we also found was a beautiful garden next to the lake where the locals grew food. It was insanely beautiful.
Tofo is a cute little town with lots of street food, bars and restaurants. It’s more touristy but a must see as the beach is beautiful too. Tofo is also the best place to see whale sharks. A whale shark is a huge fish that grows as big as 3 people and looks super scary but surprisingly it is super peaceful. Don’t miss out on booking an Ocean Safari. Luckily we saw the Big Five of the Ocean (turtle, whale, whale shark, manta stingray, dolphins). As I mentioned you find delicious street food in Tofo. I had 1 kg delicious prawns, fresh out of the ocean and prepared by a local woman on the Braai on the street. If you want to go for a drink, get your drinks (even mixers) at one of the container bars on the street.
3 hours from Tofo up the N1 you will find Vilanculos. A must do in Vilanculos is an Island Tour to Bazaruto and Benguele. These two islands have stunningly beautiful beaches.
Missing out on that, would be a pity. We snorkeled, had yummy Braai, saw flamingos and dolphins. The tour was breath taking but quite expensive ($60) for Mozambique. I love beaches. What was a bit disappointing was the beach in Vilanculos. The tides made it impossible to swim but we had some more tasty local food to make up for it. Either you buy fresh fish direct from the fisherman to make a Braai or you go to “Leopoldinas”, a local restaurant. Those who admire good coffee get yourself one at “Cafe Mozambiqueano”.
Isla de Mozambique/Santa Carolina
We haven´t been there but it is supposed to be beautiful.
Next to Xai Xai you find Chedenguele. This place is perfect to relax as well as the beach is stunning and it is super peaceful and tranquil.
The currency is the metical (MZM). By the time we went there it was a bit difficult to withdraw a lot of cash at the same ATM as you were only allowed to receive 60 Dollars at a time. Also there were always lines at the ATM´s. Most of the time we exchanged South African Rands to MZM in little shops on the street.
What we also found were many police stops on our way up the N1 but every time they realized that we were tourists they would let us pass. They would only stop locals with broken-down cars or the local Chapas.
During the fight for independence followed by a civil war, many landmines were planted and left in Mozambique. Mozambique, however, officially declared itself land mine free in 2015.
You can feel the Portuguese influence in dishes like peri peri (spicy) Chicken or peri peri Prawns. Cassava and rice is the stable food and served on the side. In general you will find delicious seafood in Mozambique. Especially if you eat out in local restaurants and street food you can get super yummy food for about $2/ plate. I had 1 kg of prawns for about $5 (July 2016).
Don’t miss out on trying the delicious fruits and vegetables the locals sell on markets and on the side of the road. During our trip we got to buy the best fresh fruits and vegetables coming from Maputo going up the coast before Bilene. On the right hand side there were locals sitting under trees selling food they grew.
Especially if you go on a road trip with a car sign up for “DriveMoz” and join the group on Facebook. It is sort of a live Walkie Talkie in case you get stuck with your car or in case you have problems. The community is online 24 hours and able to assist you in difficult situations. Hence, it is also helpful to get yourself a Vodacom SIM card and upload some data and airtime at the official Vodacom shop at the border.
12.SIM Card/ Internet
If I travel a certain country I always get myself a local sim card with some airtime and data. The main provider in Mozambique is Vodacom which worked perfectly and was quite cheap.
Mozambique is known for their delicious cashews. What we found is that the Maputo and Bilene area has the best cashews. Especially in the Bilene area- they sell them next to the main road in plastic bags. I have never eaten so many cashews in my entire life. They are super yummy – especially the roasted ones. The further up the coast you go the fewer cashews you can buy and the quality isn’t that good (also depending on the season).
14.Best travel time
What I found is that June to September is the best season to travel Mozambique. We went there in August. We barely saw tourists and mosquitos :). That time of year’s temperature is 25 degrees on average with very low humidity. My advice: avoid traveling to Moz from arounf the end of December to the beginning of January. At that time it is packed with South Africans as they come there for their summer holidays.
Mozambique used to be a Portuguese colony and that’s why most of the people speak Portuguese but also many other languages are spoken like Chichewa. Most of the locals we met, spoke English as well.