Paris may be for lovers, but Mozambique is for travelers. It is a country that requires determination to travel through. However, the reward far outweighs any hassle that it may require. Mozambique is a southern African nation whose long Indian Ocean coastline is dotted with popular beaches like Tofo, as well as offshore marine parks. In the Quirimbas Archipelago, a 250km stretch of coral islands, mangrove-covered Ibo Island has colonial-era ruins surviving from a period of Portuguese rule. The Bazaruto Archipelago farther south has reefs which protect rare marine life including dugongs.
Mozambique may be one of the less visited countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. But make no mistake, this land of natural beauty is overflowing with reasons the tourist should put it on their bucket list. Mozambique’s delights range from paradise islands, to historical forts, natural beauty in National Parks, and cultural experiences in the bustling capital. My first trip to Mozambique was in 2008 and I have been there, countless times afterwards. My first trip, we stayed at Kaya Kwanga which is more like a lodge resort (https://www.kayakwanga.co.mz/). Nearby was a litany of restaurants within walking distance and the beach is just a few meters away. My second and subsequent trips include accommodation at Cardoso, Radison Blue, Polano Serena, The Royal and other hotel chains all within reach of the beach and ocean.
A lot of reports about Mozambique are very negative and if you are nervous about travelling to Mozambique, make sure you’re reading reports and experiences from people who have actually been to the country. It’s too easy for people to leave horrible comments on articles online, speaking about how Mozambique is dangerous, when they haven’t even been themselves. There is a lot of LOVE, HATE relationship from people intending to travel to Mozambique. Mozambique has suffered a lot of negative publicity over the years especially with police corruption which was rampant especially in the early 2000s.
VISA: In a typical example of African bureaucracy, you can easily apply for a visa when traveling overland and connecting flights to Maputo are available at OR Tambo International in South Africa. But when you’re flying in, the official stance is that you need to apply for a visa in advance. And to get said visa, you need to have absolutely everything booked in advance and your confirmations printed out, as well as a whole host of other documents and information. Citizens of the following eight countries can visit Mozambique without a Visa for up to three (3) months: Botswana, Cape Verde, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Eswatini (Swaziland), Tanzania and Zambia. Visa waiver agreement for ordinary passports was signed with Kenya in November 2018 and it is yet to come into force.
VISA on ARRIVAL: Citizens of all countries can obtain a visa on arrival at all border posts if they have documentation to prove they are traveling for leisure purposes (return ticket, accommodation confirmation or invitation letter).This visa is valid for 30 days. Despite visas stating they are valid for only one entry visitors who have travelled to Eswatini and South Africa have found it was valid for two entries if still within its 30 day validity. Maputo Airport recently began accepting credit card payments for visas.
Important tip: It’s best to have copies of your bank statement, flight bookings, hotel bookings, letters of invitation, and proof of residency if you apply for a VISA to Mozambique. These documents should be carried and be nearby when entering Mozambique whether by sea, land or airport. It will save you a lot of time. Holders of diplomatic and service category passports issued to nationals of Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Portugal, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, South Korea, Timor-Leste, Turkey do not require a visa for Mozambique.
Health in Mozambique: Malaria is endemic in Mozambique. The islands are generally healthy, though the usual vaccines (typhoid, polio and tetanus) are sensible and yellow fever certificates may be required. Mozambique is high-high-high risk for malaria. Like, it’s one of the top five countries affected by malaria, with its prevalence ranging from 46% for children in rural areas to 17% in the cities. 26% of hospital deaths in Mozambique are due to malaria. Make sure you bring your Malaria tablets when travelling to Mozambique. HIV infection rates are high; AIDS is prevalent in Mozambique. Usually, this isn’t a concern for travelers, but they should be aware of the current situation, and take the same sensible safety measures to avoid infection which are wise in most countries.
Language in Mozambique: Portuguese is the official language, although this is generally only spoken by the more educated amongst Mozambique’s population. Beside this, more than 60 different dialects of Bantu languages can be found in Mozambique. English is generally spoken in hotels and beach lodges.
Mozambique is Bigger
Than You Think: At 309,475 sq mi (801,537 km2), Mozambique is the world’s
36th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Turkey. The coastline, for
example, is more than 1500 miles long, which is roughly the same length as the
east coast of the U.S. That’s a whole lot of land to cover and if you’ll be
doing it overland, you can expect to spend days travelling from the south to
the north. If you’re hoping to fly, you’ll be at the mercy of LAM, the
Mozambican airline. Flights are infrequent and can be erroneous. Be prepared
for that bit. To see a majority of the country’s tourist attractions, you need
at least a month broken down as suggested in (https://www.neverendingfootsteps.com/whats-it-like-to-travel-in-mozambique/):
-Two weeks in the south: Maputo, Tofo, and Vilanculos/Bazaruto Archipelago
-Two weeks in the north: Nampula, Ilha de Mocambique, Pemba, Quirimbas Islands
-One month: these two itineraries combined! Maybe with a trip to Gorongosa National Park in between.
Currency in Mozambique: Mozambique’s currency is the metical (MZM). At time of writing £1 = 43,848 MZM, respectively US$1 = 26,600MZM – check with http://www.oanda.com for current exchange rates. Most hotels and lodges in Mozambique accept US$ and usually credit cards. But as you head out of Maputo, ATMS become far and few. It’s common to travel 3 hours to access an ATM, its best handy to keep cash around. Its common for ATMs to run out of money or not accept other cards. It is best to check with your bank if your card works in Mozambique.
Weather and climate in Mozambique: Mozambique follows a typical southern African weather pattern, with slight differences between the north and the south of the country. January and February are officially cyclone season. Two major cyclones have hit Mozambique in March and April 2019. Cyclone Idai was one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit the country killing more than 1,000 people and leaving thousands missing. Six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit the country, breaking records as the strongest storm since records began. It’s heartbreaking and devastating to see the damage both cyclones have caused. Please be sure to donate to the many local and international NGOs that have worked tirelessly in Mozambique to assist the country recover from the Cyclones.
Tip: Be sure to keep an eye on the weather reports before you visit, and ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers natural disasters and cancelled trips.
Maputo: Maputo Isn’t Going to Be the Highlight of Your Trip. In Maputo, one thing you need to keep at the back of your mind is TRASH. Its everywhere. On every single street you walk down, even the most popular ones in the center of the city, it is piled up everywhere. If you go to Mozambique, aim to spend no more than a day in Maputo. The best parts of the country are elsewhere. But while in Maputo, there are 7 common things tourists usually do:
– Party; ask anyone from Eswatini (Swaziland) what its like to party in Mozambique. They have tales and tales. Most foreigners naturally over indulge in Mozambique, that’s just how the place is.
– Visit the Train Station.
– Make sure you don’t leave Maputo without passing The Fish Market (Mercado de Peixe). Maputo’s Fish Market recently moved to a new, modern building. It is right along the beach and easy to reach by chapa if you ask around for the correct one. Frankly speaking, I really enjoyed the old fish market. It had a different energy and vibe to it.
– Visit the Fortress (Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora de Conceicao). This big fortress in the center of Maputo was built by the Portuguese colonists and dates back to 1787. There are lots of cannons in it that were interesting to see.
– See The Natural History Museum (Museu de História Natural). It’s an enormous collection of taxidermy. Dozens of lions, several elephants, Pangolins-those poor pangolins! Lots of Pangolins. They even have an exhibit showing the development of elephant fetuses…using real elephant fetuses. Most of the animals on display are relics of the Portuguese rule. Some are over 100 years old
– Go to the Beach. There is usual a hive of activity on weekends near the beaches in Maputo. There are tons of food stands, impromptu capoeira, and just tons of people everywhere. The beer is cheap along the coastline. I recommend M2M.
– See the Núcleo De Arte. This is THE place to visit if you want to experience the local arts culture in Maputo. There’s a gallery and plenty of studios/workshops where you can see local artists at work. I loved talking to the artists as they were working on their pieces or projects. There’s also a bar/café and so the place comes alive at night!
Best Beaches in Africa: Travelling the more than 2 000km of wonderful coastline off Mozambique takes time to choose the best beaches and enjoy their quality slowly. Mozambique surely boasts some of the best beaches in Africa and your holiday should at least include some island beaches, some in Inhambane, Vilanculos, Pemba and Maputo. From the palm-lined shores of Barra and Tofo to the Baobab groves in the Quirimbas Archipelago, beaches are often devoid of human life. From the southern wildness of Ponto do Ouro and Inhaca to the charm of the Bazaruto Archipelago, you can choose lavish villas or more rustic dune chalets.
Value for money: Allow your friendly travel agent to design a special package for you to a destination of your choice. Choose your budget and your season and there will be a villa, a hotel, a guest house or a self-catering mansion available for you. So many deals, so little time – for divers, honeymoon couples, fishermen and party animals there is a holiday special for you. Many of these packages include your flights and transfers, some water sports, some drinks and delicious meals. Self-drive holidays may be enticing but read the fine print and go fully prepared for plans to change.
Music and Culture: Make sure you hear the music of the Mozambicans when you visit this cultural African destination next holiday. The Niassa people in the remote north-western region love music and tend to play wind instruments created from dry and hollowed calabashes. This earthy sound is like a trumpet. Head to Maputo to hear the famous Mozambique marimba bands and traditional music, often regarded as similar to Reggae music. Mozambique has complex signature sounds and you have to explore your musical palate in that country. There is a lot of South African music being played especially in the club scene. Mozambique shares borders with 5 nations and that accounts for the complex musical context.
TRANSPORT: Public Transport & Roads: Mozambique does not have a very good network of public transport. There are limited train services within Mozambique, which link its neighbouring countries to the Indian Ocean. A service operates from Johannesburg to Maputo via Komatipoort, Nelspruit and Pretoria three times a week. Another line links Nacala with Liwonde in Malawi, via Nampula and Cuamba. Buses only operate between major towns where roads are in good condition. In rural areas you may catch a ride in converted passenger trucks, chapa-cems (or just chapas) or normal trucks (camions). Along the coast there are some ferry services. These are more frequent along the northern coast with regular services operating between Quelimane and Beira, and Quelimane, Nacala and Pemba. Driving in Mozambique is not always as easy as it could be. The combination of the civil war and the floods has had a severe impact on the condition of the roads and in many parts of the country a 4×4 is essential. Roads are gradually being improved, however, and the roads south of Beira tend to be in good condition. Potholes are actually the biggest road hazard in Mozambique. Other hazards to be aware of are roadblocks (make sure you have your driving license, vehicle registration, temporary import papers and traffic triangles, and that you are wearing your seatbelt), vehicles without lights at night and livestock on the roads.