Thinking about visiting Mozambique? If you are interested in beaches, fishing, diving, cultural travel and natural attractions including game parks, it probably should stay on your list. If you are overly nervous about buzz-kills like Malaria or countries rife with poverty, then maybe you want to look elsewhere. We will discuss the best time to go to Mozambique, foods to try and a host of other details. Before that however, let’s look at the cities:
The largest city is the capital, Maputo, located on the coast in the far south of Mozambique, and very close to the border with South Africa and Swaziland. If you don’t like the typical gritty city atmosphere – you probably don’t need much time in Maputo. If you like colonial architecture, some grit in your cities and good nightlife, then you should probably swing through.
Traveling north, you get to Inhambane, a relaxed town with nice colonial architecture. To the east is Tofo Beach (which might include drug-fueled South African students if online anecdotes are to believed) which is a great beach for swimming and relaxation. As per TofoTravel
For the divers, Whale Sharks are here all year round but the larger numbers are here in the summer, notably November and March. Humpback whales usually arrive around mid June and are here until mid October. Our famous Manta Rays are here all year round, along with other incredible marine life.
Moving further north is Vilankulo (or Vilanculos), which is a growing tourist hub with more nice beaches and a great place to scuba dive with various marine life including dugongs. It is also the main jumping off point to the pricey Bazaruto Archipeligo. The Bazaruto Archipelago consists of five tropical islands, with the main island being a National Park.
The second largest city (if we exclude Maputo’s suburb Matola), Beira, is in the central portion of Mozambique, on the coast, north of Vilankulo. Like Maputo, Beira has a lot of remnants of the prior Portuguese Rule including architecture and so forth. While both Maputo and Beira are on the coast, Beira has much better accesibility to quality beaches. Beira is being more heavily utilized as a jumping off point for the more remote (less-touristed) northern regions of Mozambique. Both Beira and Maputo have airports.
Smaller than Maputo and Beira, but within the top ten largest, is Pemba, which is located on the north end of the coastline. Pemba is increasingly becoming a tourist hub, and the jumping off point for the Quirimbas Islands. Just south of Pemba is Nampula (which has international airport connections to Nairobi, Kenya; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and domestic air service around Mozambique).
From Pemba, two different interesting possibilities exist. First, off the coast of Pemba, the Quirimbas Islands are 32 islands that are being considered as a UN World Heritage Site. Second, Ilha de Mozambique (Mozambique Island) is located south of Pemba, and east of Nampula, this island is accessed by a long tolled causeway. Ilha de Mozambique was the capital of Mozambique, and a major Portuguese port, before the capital was moved to Maputo in 1898. That historical significance can still be seen thereby enabling it’s inclusion on the UN’s World Heritage List
Inland to the west, in the central region, is the town of Tete, with connections to Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Where is Mozambique located?
Mozambique is located on the southern portion of Africa’s eastern coast, with South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe on its western border, the Indian Ocean along its eastern border with the island of Madagascar just off the coast and Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania roughly along the northern border.
Best Time to Visit Mozambique
The best time would be during the dry season, from mid-May through mid-November. June is great for dolphins. August and September are great times for seeing wildlife as the driest month of the year is September and thus the brush at this point has withered, reducing cover. Anytime during the dry season is a good time for beach activities, with September through November being good for various marine life (check which month is best for which species, but options are those such as whale sharks (Tofo a good spot), humpback whales, tiger sharks, etc.). Note however that there are reports of overfishing by the Chinese that is significantly reducing the marine life.
Is Mozambique Expensive?
Yes. Mozambique, even being one of the poorest countries, is not a cheap place to travel. To understand why I think involves understanding the history and the struggles of the country in the recent past. First off, much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the 15 year civil war. Partially due to this, and the collapsing of the economic systems, much of everything needs to be imported including food. Because the country is so poor (with much of its annual budget coming from donations), it taxes where it can heavily — things like cars, materials, etc. As such, when you stay in the country, someone had to pay a lot — even if for rudimentary conditions — to make it happen or produce it. Lastly, it is not a tourism mecca and so the (low) volume can’t paper over all the previous commentary. All in all, Mozambique is a unique destination without a developed tourism infrastructure and without a developed economy.
Tipping in Mozambique
Not customary but in tourist areas, restaurants expect 10%, hotels workers $1/item or $1/day depending on service provided.
Do I need a Visa before visiting Mozambique?
For most visitors, the answer is yes. There are exceptions but they are mainly for nearby countries in southern Africa. The following is visa information: for US visitors of Mozambique, for UK visitors of Mozambique. If you have an embassy in your country, you need to get the visa before arriving at the border/airport. You used to be able to get the visa upon arrival but they have started to crack down earnestly on this in September 2014.
Do I need vaccines to visit Mozambique? Medical concerns?
Yes – strongly recommended to protect yourself against Malaria (read here for more information on Malaria). Besides physical preventation mechanisms against mosquitoes, the medication I most recommend is Malarone (if you can afford it). If you are arriving for a country with Yellow Fever issues (list here), then you need a Yellow Fever Vaccine. HIV/AIDs is prevalent in Mozambique. Tuberculosis is an issue at times. Lastly, Typhoid flares in rural areas on occasion. If you are going to be out in the boondocks or eating in highly questionable areas, you might want to jump on the typhoid shots.
Transportation into and around Mozambique
Flying into Mozambique
At best, figure on a 17+ hour flight with connection from NYC to Mozambique, 24+ out of Los Angeles with two connections, 13 hours from Frankfurt with one stop, 19.5 hours from Sydney with one stop and 17 hours with one-stop from Bangkok. Mozambique is serviced mostly by Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways and Portugal’s TAP (for non-stop service from Europe to Mozambique).
Mozambique is also serviced domestically and internationally by LAN Mozambique Airlines. Below is their route map of of 2014 per lam.co.mz
Transportation from Maputo Airport to Maputo
Per airportwebsite.com, you can go via taxi for “180,000MZN“, which I believe takes approximately 15 minutes, or you can go via bus using “Buses 18, 24 & 25” which operate “hourly 0400-2200” for 200MZN
Getting Around Mozambique
LAM Mozambique Airlines services many of the cities around the country (see route map above). Alternately, you can take minibuses (called chapas) or buses. There is ongoing work for better rail service. As of now, the most practical line for rail enthusiasts connects Johannesburg, South Africa to Maputo, Mozambique.
As far as getting out to the islands and such, you can secure a ride on a dhow.
Other Countries to Visit from Mozambique via Land
South Africa (which can be accessed via chapas, bus or rail), Malawi (depending on destination, you can take train from Pemba to Cuamba and then via road; or a ferry from Cobuè or Metangula to Malawi’s Likoma Island; or by road via numerous border crossings such as Tete to Bantyre), Zambia (not very practial but best to leave from Tete, or access via Malawi), Tanzania (via vehicle and dugout canoe, 4 hours from Mtwara, Tanzania to Moçimboa da Praia, Mozambique), Zimbabwe (use a chapas from Tete-Chagara-Nyamapanda-Harare, or from Beira-Machipanda-Harare) and Swaziland (3.5 hour minibus ride).
What to Buy & Try in Mozambique
Foods to Try when visiting Mozambique
Mozambique used to be one of the biggest exporter of cashews, but the industry was decimated by numerous factors (like the Civil War, and perhaps by economic policies) over the years. In any case, you should eat cashews in Mozambique. Also good are the breads (made in the Portuguese style), pineapples, citrus fruits (e.g. tangerines) and seafood
For dishes to try while visiting Mozambique:
- You have to try Prego Rolls (recipe and beautiful photo here) which are essentially spiced up (with piri piri sauce) steak sandwiches
- While we are on the topic of Piri Piri, one of the must try dishes (if you can handle the heat) is Piri Piri Chicken
As a helpful assistance, let’s dissect some Portuguese food words.
- beef; carne
- chicken; frango
- fish; peixe
- seafood; marisco
- crab; caranguejo
- prawns; camarão
- lobster; lagosta
- pineapple; ananás
- vegetables; legumes
- potato; batata
- drink; bebida
- coffee; café
- tea; chá
- with milk; com leite
- white wine; vinho branco
- red wine; vinho tinto
- water; água
- beer; cerveja
- soup; sopa
Products to Buy in Mozambique
Focus on the great African print fabrics. In addition to woven fabrics, look for the wax print fabrics. Anything made from wood like frames, boxes, carvings, etc.
Simple Words and Phrases in Portuguese
Without getting into a crazy linguistics challenge, I’d advise that you should really just focus on Portuguese. Mozambique is multi-lingual with a vast array of languages spoken – but Portuguese is the most prevalent. If you want to brush up on some lingo before visiting Mozambique, WikiTravel, as usual, has a nice Phrase Book
Quick Travel Facts About Mozambique
Can you get by in Mozambique with English?
- You’d be much better served with Portuguese. As Mozambique is still in the early stages of its re-awakening to tourism, English is not much of a mainstay. That said, in any country, you can always seem to get by with hand signals, finding a translator or whatever else you can come up with. English is more likely spoken in the bigger cities and established tourist hubs
What Power Plugs are Used in Mozambique:
- The European Plug (Type C) is the major player (along with F & M). 220/50. Be careful using things like US hairdryers without a converter. Most electronics (battery chargers, mobile phones, etc.) only need an adapter plug but you should check first by calling the manufacturer, reading the literature or checking the item for markings before assuming like a dope. In the most simple terms – adapters only get your plug in the hole – they don’t change the electricity. Converters change the electricity.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Mozambique?
- It is not advisable to drink the water when visiting Mozambique unless you want to teach your immune system something quite new.
What currency is used in Mozambique?
- Mozambican Metical (MZN). See conversion.To do a quick & dirty conversion on the fly between MZN and USD (given the rates as of this writing of 31MZN to $1USD), take the MZN number and take off the last digit – so 2100MZN becomes 210 and then divide by 3. Thus, 2100MZN = 70USD. Meanwhile, if you want to pay $20USD for something but need to state it in MZN, you multiply 3 and then add a digit, so $20USD is about 600MZN. For the math wizards — yes, I understand — this is just dividing or multiplying times 30 with smaller numbers. I don’t care, be a flasher and use a calculator if that is what you want.
Other tips about Mozambique
- Women’s thighs should generally be covered
- Men greet each other with handshakes
- Carry travel documentation (passport w/ visa) at all times
- Offshore winds, meanings winds that go in the direction from shore to sea, usually hinder the presence of jellyfish while if the winds are onshore, that is, coming from the sea to shore, you should ensure more carefully that jellyfish are not lurking.
- The police may demand a bribe. As long as you have done nothing wrong, simply politely decline, smile and walk away.
- Don’t photograph government buildings
- Landmines can be encountered – be mindful
More Information on Travel to Mozambique
- Ozzie: Great Resource on Mozambique on the TripAdvisor Forums
- The typically sad Lonely Planet has some good information so we can’t discriminate
- For Anthony Bourdain admirers (author of an interesting book on the restaurant industry Kitchen Confidential) – you can get a taste of Mozambique
- Safety Information, Transportation Info and More – Mozambique Hotels