Mozambique (Moçambique) is a country on the Indian Ocean coast of Southern Africa. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Tanzania to the north and has inland borders with Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Mozambique's eastern coastline along the Indian Ocean is more than 1,000 km long, a fantastic draw for scuba divers, fishermen, sailors and beach lovers.
From the 2,436m Monte Binga peak to the stunning beaches along the coast, Mozambique is a country of contrasts. As well as some of the best colonial era architecture and relics to be found on the continent, Mozambique has also preserved its African cultural heritage, which can be experienced through art, music and food.
Mozambique stretches for 1,535 mi (2,470 km) along Africa's southeast coast. It is nearly twice the size of California. Tanzania is to the north; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west; and South Africa and Swaziland to the south. The country is generally a low-lying plateau broken up by 25 sizable rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean. The largest is the Zambezi, which provides access to central Africa. In the interior, several chains of mountains form the backbone of the country.
In 1500, the Portuguese established a string of forts and trading posts up and down the coast, starting with present day Isla de Mozambique (at that time simply known as Mozambique and where the country gets its modern name), where the Portuguese plied the spice and slave routes from Mozambique up until 1891.
After World War 1, Portuguese investment in commercial, industrial, agricultural, educational, transportation, and health care infrastructure for the indegenious population started providing for better social and economic possibilities and these continued to gain pace up until independence in 1975.
In 1962, several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule. Mozambique became independent after ten years of sporadic warfare on June 25, 1975. FRELIMO took complete control of the territory after a transition period and within a year of independence, almost all the Portuguese population had left Mozambique – some expelled by the new government of Mozambique, some fleeing in fear.
Upon independence, Mozambique had less than 5 engineers in the entire country and the previous colonial infrastructure investments stopped entirely resulting in the rapid disintegration of much of Mozambique's infrastructure. FRELIMO responded to their lack of resources and the Cold War politics of the mid-1970s by moving into alignment with the Soviet Union and its allies. FRELIMO established a one-party Socialist state, and quickly received substantial international aid from Cuba and the Soviet bloc nations.
In 1975, the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), an anti-communist group sponsored by the Rhodesian Intelligence Service, the apartheid government in South Africa as well as the United States after Zimbabwe's independence, was founded and launched a series of attacks on transport routes, schools and health clinics, and the country descended into civil war.
In 1990, with apartheid crumbling in South Africa, and support for RENAMO drying up in South Africa and in the United States, the first direct talks between the FRELIMO government and Renamo were held. In November 1990, a new constitution was adopted. Mozambique was now a multiparty state, with periodic elections, and guaranteed democratic rights. With the signing of the Rome General Peace Accords, the civil war ended on October 15, 1992.
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Almost all of Mozambique falls within the tropics and as such, Mozambique features a mostly tropical climate.
Along the coast Mozambique has a warm, tropical climate. Evenings are rarely cold, except for a few nights in June and July and the rainfall isn't too high. In summer, temperatures can soar and the humidity levels rise. Temperatures are typically higher in the north, around Pemba, and around the Zambezi.
The interior plains generally have a higher temperature than that of the coast and have higher rainfall throughout the year. The mountainous regions generally remain cool throughout the year.
The public holidays in Mozambique are:
Smoking in all public places was banned in Mozambique in 2007. However, many restaurants and bars have ignored this ban as it is almost entirely unenforced.
Mozambique has 10 provinces that can be grouped into the following three regions:
As it is impossible to exchange Meticais outside of Mozambique it is advisable to change a small amount of currency if arriving at a land border in mid to late afternoon to cover taxi's and meals for the first night, currency exchanges generally close at 6PM and due to sporadic ATM failures access to currency is by no means guaranteed out of hours. When accepted by merchants foreign currency has an extremely poor exchange rate.
All visitors (except citizens of Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, & Zambia) need a visa, which can be obtained on arrival at some airports (Maputo, Vilankulo and Pemba), at some land borders and Mozambique's embassies. Visas on entry can be purchased in meticais and US dollars, in the south South African Rand is also accepted.
Visa cost vary dramatically between consulates and land borders. In September 2009, a single entry visitor visa cost USD $100 at the Johannesburg consulate general, $77 (2010) at the South African land border (Lebombo/Ressano Garcia), $10 at the Mozambican Consulate in Swaziland and $25 on arrival at Maputo International airport.
Not all borders and airports issue visa's, contact your nearest consulate to ensure the border you intend to use does or organise a visa beforehand.
Land borders may also charge a stamping fee on entry, which is generally USD $2, but is often waived if you buy your visa at the border. In addition, you must use the visa forms provided at the consulate or border as self-printed versions will not be accepted; at borders, these are free, but consulates generally charge USD $1 for the form.
A tourist visa is valid for 90 days after issue and permits a 30 day stay. This can be extended by a further 30 days at immigration offices in provincial capitals, but given the risk of passport theft, it is much safer to exit via a land border and re-enter to obtain a new visa.
There is a USD $100 a day fine for over staying a visa.
Most international flights arrive from South Africa, although direct international routes also exist between Mozambique and Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and Portugal.
There are several flights daily from Johannesburg to Maputo, operated by South African Airways (SAA) and the Mozambican flag-carrier Linhas Aereas de Moçambique (LAM) . In August, 2010, budget airline 1time www.1time.co.za began operations and show promise of more competition and options for travelers. These and other airlines such as Kenya Airways , Swazi Express Airways , TAP Portugal also fly from Durban, Swaziland, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Nairobi and Lisbon. In addition, local carrier Air Corridor may start operating one or more international routes soon.
There are also several flights during the week from Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam, and Nairobi to Pemba in the North, operated by either South African Airlink (SAA) or LAM. If you make a telephone booking with LAM and will not be paying for your flight until check-in you must reconfirm the flight 72 hours before departure or they are liable to cancel it.
After checking in you need to get a tax stamp on your boarding card. For internal flights the tax is 200 Mts and for International flights 500 Mts to be paid in cash.
There is only one train line in Mozambique, which connects Nampula with Cuamba (near the Malawi border). The train carries first, second and third class passengers and is usually packed.
From Nampula, the train leaves around 5-6AM, although you should arrive earlier to buy tickets from the booking office at the station. The area is packed with people traveling towards Malawi so expect queues. Once on board the journey is long and slow but fairly efficient and will get to Cuamba mid-afternoon. From here chapas will take you to the border (Entre Lagos) as only freight trains use this bit of the line. Be warned that even hardened African travelers will likely find this stretch of road very rough - expect it to take a fair amount of time.
Once at Entre Lagos, the border formalities are located within the station building (easy to find as the town is a typical small border town). The process can take some time as this is a little used crossing. From here it is about a 1km walk to the Malawi side of the border. BE WARNED - the Malawi border closes before the Mozambique one, although there is a guesthouse if you get trapped. The easiest way to get from here to Liwonde is by train - sweet-talk the guards and they may let you share their compartment.
In order to enter Mozambique by car you will need the original registration documents and if it is not your vehicle a letter from the owner granting permission to take the vehicle in to Mozambique. All foreign vehicles are required to have 3rd party insurance, which is available at many borders for R150, and also to pay road tax which is currently 26.50 Mts.
There are a number of border crossings to/from Malawi. By far the easiest and most frequently plied is at Zóbuè. The road is in good condition. Daily chapas run to/from Tete to the border, where you will have to walk about 300 m to get to Malawian transport. Daily through buses from Chimoio and Beira also use this crossing.
There is another border crossing to the north, at Dedza, which may be more convienient for Lilongwe but the public transport on either side can be sporadic.
To leave/enter Malawi to the east, there are two crossings, Milange and Mandimba. Milange is in the south-east of Malawi, and to get there you need to catch one of the daily vehicles that run between Mocuba and Milange. At Milange there is a 2 km walk to the border, and then another 1km to where Malawian transport leaves.
Mandimba is further north, used mainly to get to Malawi from Lichinga. Several vehicles run daily between Lichinga and Mandimba, from where it is another 7km to the border. Hitching is relatively easy, or bicycle-taxis do the trip for about $1.
It is also possible to cross the Lake - see BY BOAT below.
You can take the Intercape Mainliner , +27 861 287 287, from Johannesburg to Maputo. These buses run in both directions on a regular basis, one in the morning, and another overnight, and are safe and affordable. Other carriers include Greyhound and Translux . If you intend on obtaining a visa at the border you should only purchase a ticket as far as the border, bus companies will not permit you to board with a ticket to Maputo if you are not in possession of a visa. If you ask the bus conductor they will help you obtain a visa a the border and avoid the usually extremely long wait at the Mozambique side. Once through immigration either re board the bus and pay the fare to Maputo on board or pick up a minibus taxi to Maputo from the border.
Three times per week there are bus connections to and from Durban (via Big Bend, Swaziland). There is also a service from Nelspruit and Komatipoort to Maputo.
There are the "taxis" to and from any destination in South Africa at affordable prices, now from 4AM to 12AM.
Chapas leave from both Manzini and Mbabane to Maputo via Goba typically around 11AM. Usefuly they arrive in to Baixa (and can drop you at 24 de Julho) so you are within walking distance of both Fatima's and Base. The fare is R80.
The border between Mozambique and Tanzania is formed by the River Rovuma. Daily pick-ups connect Moçimboa da Praia with Palma and Namiranga, the border post on the Mozambique side. The main route runs from Moçimboa da Praia (on the Mozambiquan side), via Palma (Mozambique), to Mtwara (on the Tanzanian side) and vica versa. It is recommended to take 2 days over this trip due to the low quality of the roads on the Mozambique side, and the low level of traffic. When coming from Tanzania, lifts depart from Mtwara and Kilambo to the Rovuma river. Kilambo is a small place with one road running through it, so lifts should be easy to find. Mtwara is much larger however, so ask the locals where and when lifts leave from. When coming from Mozambique, your lift to the river will normally start from either Palma (more likely), or - if you're lucky - Moçimboa da Praia and go to the border post at Namiranga. It will generally wait for you to have your passport stamped at the border post (a mud hut in Namiranga). During the wet season, your lift will then probably drive to the banks of the Rovuma. During the dry season it will drive you to the end of the road, from which there is a walk of between 1 and 2km's (depending on the water level that day) to the Rovuma river. At the moment there is an unreliable ferry that goes across the river. Typically however, the crossing is done by dugout canoes or slightly larger wooden motorboats. The trip across the river shouldn't cost more than around 8USD, but can only normally be paid for using Tanzanian shillings, although if you find yourself without these, there are plenty of locals who will offer you "generous" exchange rates for your hard-earned Dollars and Meticais. If water levels are low you may have to wade to get to and from your boat on the Tanzanian side, so possessing a heavy-duty waterproof sack may be a good idea, but it is by no means essential. On the Tanzanian side you will often find yourself mobbed by people offering you transport. Pick-pocketing is common on both sides of the river, so care must be taken whilst finding transport to the nearby towns, a good method of reducing your trouble is to befriend a local on the boatride over, you will find most of your fellow travellers are willing to help you in one way or another. Transport then carries you on to the Tanzanian border post at Kilambo, and normally, further on to Mtwara, the capital of Southern Tanzania. For further information and up-to-date news on this crossing, go to "Russell's Place" (also known as Cashew Camp) in Pemba.
There are other crossings to Tanzania, but these all require long walks. Ask around for local information.
The main crossing is at Cassacatiza, north-west of Tete. This border is in good condition, but lightly traveled. Daily chapas run between Tete and Matema, from there the public transport is sporadic. The best way to travel from Mozambique to Zambia is to go via Malawi.
There are two crossings - Nyamapanda (south-west of Tete), and Machipanda (west of Chimoio). Both are heavily traveled, especially Machipanda due to its location at the end of the Beira Corridor.
Currently there is no scheduled sea travel to and from Mozambique.
Outside of monsoon season it may be possible to hire a dhow from Tanzania down to Mozambique but this will generally be extremely expensive. The Tanzanian ports of Mikindani, Mtwara and Msimbati are all within range of Mozambique and will be the best places to secure dhow transport. In reverse the ports of Moçimboa da Praia and Palma are the two best ports on the Mozambique side to find a dhow to Tanzania.
The MV Ilala operates across Lake Malawi from Monkey Bay, Chilumba, Nkhata Bay to Likoma Island. From Likoma Island it is a 3km boat ride to the Mozambique border at Cobue.
It is extremely dangerous to cross on the small boats offered at the ports on both sides, these will be entirely unprepared for the squalls that blow up without notice.
The EN1 runs the length of the country generally staying close to the coast from Maputo up. Roads throughout the country are generally in poor condition, especially when compared to South Africa, although the stretch of the EN1 between Maputo and Inhambane has improved greatly in recent years and progress is spreading further north all the time.
Buses and chapas leave early in Mozambique - 4AM is not unusual, particularly as you go further north. Chapas take the form of both mini & midi buses but often pick up trucks and cargo trucks will offer a ride for the same fare as a chapa. Government and privately owned buses ply the same routes as Chapas but typically stop a great deal more often so are inadvisable for anything other than short journeys.
The chapas themselves, particularly on shorter routes, are generally in shockingly poor condition. Expect seats, doors and interiors falling apart. Having said that since 2007/2008 the Mozambican government has been regulating prices on key routes which means chapa travel in Mozambique is extremely good value. In larger cities this translates to signs with destinations and prices in chapa stations (EG - Junta in Maputo), these prices will not come down no matter how hard you negotiate but many an enterprising chapa conductor/navigator/bouncer will try to extort you if you are silly enough to ask what a price is. If in doubt ask at your hotel, a local or as a last resort simply hand them a large note; often they will asume you know the correct fare and give you the correct change.
Once only found in Maputo taxis can now be found in many cities throughout the country. They never have meters so you must negotiate regarding cost before your journey. Taxis are often in as perilous condition as chapas (from balding tires to someone sitting in the passenger seat holding a plastic gas can with the cars fuel line going in to it) and breakdowns should be considered likely. Never pay for your journey until you reach your destination.
In Maputo there is a flat rate of 200Mts for any journey in the city center. Longer journeys (EG to Junta) cost 400Mts and up. In the early morning they will often attempt to gouge you, doubling the price to 400Mts, as there are often very few taxi's about at this time.
Chapas can also be rented as taxis but are typically more expensive and far less comfortable.
Domestic flights are the fastest and most sane way to get around the country if you can afford it. Linhas Aereas de Moçambique flies between the major cities. A detailed timetable for domestic flights is available as a pdf file at . The flights themselves are actually on extremely modern, clean and well maintained planes and are a stark contrast to the other transport options in the country.
LAM operate an old style booking system where you can reserve a flight over the telephone and then pay for it on check in. If you do use this facility ensure that you confirm your flight 72 hours before departure or your reservation will likely be canceled.
Alternatively all LAM offices in towns and airports can book and receive payment for flights throughout the country. It is not advisable to pay using credit card due to the level of corruption present in all state enterprises including LAM.
Trains aren't really very useful, considering there's only one and it's in the far north of the country traveling from Nampula to Cuamba near the Malawian border. See get in above for more details.
Mine clearance from the old coastal railway running the length of the country has been finished in many areas but with the costs involved and the level of corruption in the country it will be decades before any rail service with reasonable coverage arrives in the country.
The official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, though many people speak English in the capital Maputo and in touristy areas. The further north you travel the less likely you are to encounter English speakers, and as you enter more rural areas even Portuguese is limited.
Swahili is useful in the far north of the country as you get close to Tanzania, especially along the coast, and Nyanja is spoken near the border with Malawi and Zambia. Some native words from the Shona language can be useful if you are traveling near Cabora Bassa.
The currency of Mozambique is the new Metical (Meticais Nova Família, MZN), plural meticais (Mts, pronounced 'meta-caysh'), divided into 100 centavos. As of January 2010, one US Dollar is worth about 29.9 meticais, one Euro is worth about 42.2 meticais, and one GB Pound is worth about 48.7 meticais.
Three zeroes were dropped from the currency in 2006. Old currency can be exchanged at banks up to the end of December 2012. People will occasionally still refer to the old currency, so if someone asks for "1 million", they generally mean one thousand new meticais.
Note that many businesses in the tourist centers are run by South Africans and prices are often quoted in Rand (for which the usual abbreviation is ZAR). In this guide we've also quoted in Rand when applicable.
US$, ZAR, British pounds and Euros are freely convertible at commercial rates at any bank or exchange. Other currencies such as Canadian or Australian dollars or Japanese Yen, are not accepted anywhere, even at official banks and exchanges.
There is very little black market currency exchange, since the commercial exchanges offer the best market rate. You cannot exchange meticais outside Mozambique, but you can convert them back at exchanges prior to leaving the country. Also you cannot buy meticais outside Moçambique.
ATMs are present throughout the country; Standard, Millennium, ProCredit and Barclays are the brands you are most likely to run in to. Standard accepts Visa & Mastercard, Millennium accept all international cards including Maestro/Cirrus cards while Barclays doesn't seem to accept any cards with great regularity. ATMs will only dispense 3,000Mts at one time (although you can insert your card again to withdraw more).
Everything in Mozambique that does not have a price attached can be bargained down to whatever you consider a reasonable price to be. Remember that while laughing when they give you an insane price is perfectly OK you should not get outwardly angry or hostile, you will be unlikely to get a reasonable price if you do. If in doubt about what a fair price is ask your hotel.
No one in Mozambique, including often backpacker lodges, have change. The 1000Mzn and 500Mzn are almost impossible to use day to day so change them down in to more manageable notes in any bank. The one exception to this rule is chapa drivers, if you find yourself running low on small bills pay for your 15Mzn fare with a 100Mzn note.
As a country the Portuguese occupation has a profound impact on local foods that has produced some of the most unique and interesting cuisine within Southern Africa. Towards the coast a great deal of seafood is used within even the most basic of dishes, however, in land the maize based partridges common throughout Africa becomes staple but with some Portuguese flair.
All tap water in Mozambique should be assumed to be unsafe to drink, even if it not harmful it usually has some sediment that your stomach will not be used to. Most western oriented lodgings either provide a fresh water source or sell bottled water.
In Mozambique Cervejas de Mocambique who are owned by SABMiller have a virtual monopoly on beer brewing. The three most popular brands are 2M (remember to pronounce it doysh-em or you will end up with an extra beer), Laurentina Clara and Manica. Other local African beers such as Castle and Windhoek are reasonably widely available but are not as popular as in neighboring countries due to the high quality of the local brews.
Locally produced spirits such as vodka and gin are relatively common throughout the country and are relatively inexpensive. The local drink is Cashu made of the peel from the cashew nut. According to the locals it's very good for a mens libido. It has a sour taste.
Accommodation ranges from inexpensive guesthouses and backpacker orientated accommodation through to some of the most expensive resort accommodation in the region.
Hotels in Mozambique are generally ungraded and, particularly in the less traveled parts of the country, have not been updated since independence. In some cases you can pay up to $50USD a night for a hotel room that should be in the $5 - $10 range based on facilities. On the other end of the scale Mozambique hosts some of the most incredible, and expensive, hotels and resorts in the world.
Maputo, Tofo Beach, Vilanculos and Pemba have several backpacker lodges each and are geared up for the budget traveler. There are some backpacker options elsewhere in the country but often the only option for a budget traveler will be transient labor guesthouses or cheap hotels.
Where they are available facilities are often extremely lacking. If you do bring your own gas based cooking equipment keep in mind the typical backpacker lindal valve gas canisters are not available anywhere in the country.
Dedicated camp sites with security are available in almost all coastal towns and you can often camp in rural areas with a village chief's blessing (If you do decide to use this option a small offering such as food, liquor or cigarettes can be very useful).
If taking a caravan keep in mind that a great deal of roads in Mozambique degenerate in to sandy paths that require 4WD, it is advisable to only stick to popular areas along the EN1.
If someone offers to "sell" you land in Mozambique walk away immediately it is a scam. Private ownership of land in Mozambique is impossible, all land is owned by the government and will only be provided for foreign use, under a 99 year lease, under very specific circumstances.
Risks are much the same as many other countries in Africa (and significantly less than some, including parts of South Africa). Nevertheless muggings, robberies, rape and murder do occur, so the normal precautions should be taken. Women absolutely should never walk alone on beaches, in recent years, attacks on women have grown in tourist areas. In particular it's worth checking with local hostels and other travelers as to where dangerous areas are.
But in general the Mozambican people are extremely warm and friendly and you will encounter far less hassle than in almost all of the countries surrounding it.
In Mozambique the police do not exist to help you, only to try and extort money of you. Do not trust them under any circumstances.
Unlike other African countries, insisting to be taken to a police station is unlikely to improve your situation, with the exception of in Maputo, the police have been known to rob tourists blind and throw them in a cell. Instead mention contacting your embassy or the anti-corruption hot line to verify a fine and always ask for a receipt.
If you have cause to go to a police station (EG - Filing a police report for insurance purposes after a theft) do not take any valuables or excessive currency with you and try to always go with someone else.
In Mozambique the speed limit in town is 60km/h (unless contrary road signs) and 120km/h elsewhere. There are mobile speed traps on the EN1 which specifically target foreign visitors.
When dealing with the Mozambican police never suggest a bribe, simply listen to whatever lecture they care to give and ask "What can we do about this?". Often they will simply let you go, if they do ask for a bribe the amount is entirely negotiable and can range from a bottle of coke (carrying no identification) through to several hundred USD (minor drug infractions).
By law you must carry a form of identification with you at all times and present it to the police on request. As a result you should always carry a notarized copy of your passport photo page, visa and entry stamp with you at all times. Ask your hotel where to locate a notary or contact your local embassy as soon as you enter the country.
If you are asked for identification by the police and you do not have a notarized copy under no circumstances give them your passport, if you do then it will likely cost you a great deal of money to get it back, often simply talking to them a while will get them to go away.
While most of the country has been cleared there is still an on-going risk in rural areas away from the EN1 in Sofala, Tete, Manica, Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo provinces. It should be noted that only 2 or 3 incidents a year occur with landmines and they are all well outside the tourist trail.
mCel is the state-owned provider, and as of yet the government has only licensed one other company, the South-African owned Vodacom Mozambique . Apparently a third is arriving shortly. GPRS (data and internet) are available on mCel, with 3G in Maputo and other main cities. The APN for Internet is isp.mcel.mz and for WAP it is wap.mcel.mz with an IP address 10.1.4.35. Vodacom have 3G in many towns and GPRS Edge elsewhere. The APN is internet. Check your phone manual for setting instructions. The mCel service is not entirely reliable, especially outside Maputo. Vodacom is generally very good. While it is OK to buy credit from the hundreds of vendors roaming the streets wearing mCel or Vodacom shirts you should never buy SIM cards / starter packs, in many cases they sell them at hugely inflated prices and often they will be from one of the many recalled batches that no longer work. Any mobile phone store can sell you a working starter pack for around 50Mts.
Internet is widely available in Maputo, with many internet cafes and all major hotels having internet access. Both mCel and Vodacom have introduced internet to cellphone and USB modems. See above for further information. Outside Maputo internet coverage is sporadic and mostly available in places frequented by tourists. Local Telecommunication de Mozambique (TDM) offices almost always have internet although speed and availability can be problematic.
There are many FM stations in Maputo, offering a variety of music and speech. Away from the capital, Radio Mozambique will be heard in many places and BBC World Service have their English/Portuguese service in the main cities. There are numerous small community radio stations serving smaller towns/villages.