Mozambique Travel: Our Best Decision in Africa Yet

NatashaAfrica, Categories, Escape, hashtagafrica, Mozambique3 Comments

Incredible Mozambique

When we first started planning out our African trip, we omitted Mozambique travel. There was a high visa fee, it was difficult to travel, and police corruption stories scared us. However, we decided that we just couldn’t miss the country. And it was one of the best travel decisions we’ve made. Traveling the Mozambique coast hasn’t just been a highlight of Africa, but has been one of my favorite countries to travel. I hate admitting that there are police and governmental corruption, rebel skirmishes, economic uncertainty, poor roads, slowly improving infrastructure, and add a visa fee to all of that, but it doesn’t sounds to appealing. In fact, travel to Mozambique on paper can seem quite difficult.  However, once you get past all that, Mozambique starts to look all the more appealing. Mozambique has an interesting history, scattered with abandoned Portuguese architecture, filled with warm hospitable people, stunning beaches, and has amazing Afro/Portuguese food.

{Find a beach lodge in Mozambique!}

Happy Faces on MozambiqueWhat about the Mozambique Coast?

The Mozambique coast deserves its own monument. It is difficult to put into words how beautiful the coast is. The best way is to describe is to words such as untouched, alluring, and astonishing are a few. It felt like most of our time spent on the coast was in complete seclusion. We had never been on such a beautiful beach where the hawkers, umbrellas, beach chairs, or people were all absent. If you need just one reason to go to Mozambique, let it be the stunning beaches.

mozambique travel will bring you to some fascinating coastsFootprints Anvil BayMaputo Elephant Reserve

The Maputo Elephant Reserve occupies the very south of Mozambique, just north of Ponta Malongane. The reserve is 50,000 hectares of lakes, mangrove swamps, serene beaches and woodlands all only accessible by 4×4 or the air. Elephants and rhinos used to roam free here before they were all poached during the brutal civil war. Although, the elephants are still here and returning, but not nearly as numerous as before. We spent several days of tranquility in luxury Mozambique accommodation at the beautiful Anvil Bay Beach Camp. We loved every second of our time in the reserve. To enjoy the reserve you must stay overnight due to lack of accommodation in the area and the difficulty of arrival. That leaves you with staying in one of the few lodges in the reserve or camping.

Tasha Bikes Anvil Bay mozambique coastInhambane/Tofo Beach

Tofo Beach is about as well a beaten path as there is in Mozambique, and it is one of the best places to travel visit in Mozambique. The beach is 30 minutes away from the city of Inhambane and provides a laid-back atmosphere. While the beach is gorgeous it is the famous deep water bay just off its shore that makes Tofo really worth the visit. We came to Tofo to take an ocean safari out into the bay and had one of best experiences of our lives with Peri-Peri Divers. They have stellar reviews and are well known in the Mozambique tourism sector. The Best time to dive in Mozambique is between May and September when winds are low and megafauna high. The bay of Tofo is regarded as one of the best places to see Megafauna. We spent our afternoon swimming with whale sharks and giant manta rays. While we saw a plethora of humpback whales in the distant and even a large hammerhead shark. There are a few local restaurants, shops, and bars to hang out in and if you are traveling alone you will have no problem meeting other travelers at Tofo Beach.

{Find a beach lodge in Inhambane!}

Swimming with Whale Sharks with Peri Peri Divers

Swimming with Whale Sharks – an incredible experience!

Tofo Beach

The beach here, however, beautiful it may be, is crowded for Mozambique standards and you may find even a slight bit of annoyance from the constant child touts asking you for money every 2 minutes. It actually became amusing warding off these 15 year olds. One even revealed to me their special secret to selling things to tourists.

“If I annoy you enough you will eventually just buy something.”

and “I’ll go away if you just buy something.”

Smart kid, but no dice for us.

Just past the main beach and Casa de Praia, there is a fantastic lookout point to watch the sunset over Tofo. We sat here for about an hour and saw maybe 40 humpback whales put on a dazzling aerial show. Mozambique is incredible.

Whale Watching on the mozambique coastMorrumbene, and More of the Mozambican Coast

We wanted to see more of the Mozambique coast and needed a stop off point between Inhambane and Vilanculos. That’s where our stay in Morrumbene came in. A local village with another fantastic untouched Mozambique coastline. We called Travessia Beach Lodge our home for a few nights and loved living five days without shoes. A laid-back barefoot location where you can see the stars in all their glory is my kind of place.

Read More: {15 Movies About Africa to See Before Visiting}

A starry night in MozambiqueDid I mention that the Mozambican people are one of a kind? I usually say that the locals are friendly, or the *insert nationality here* are genuine, but the Mozambicans take it to a whole new level. We were able to visit the local villages in Morrumbene, and everyone we talked to was full of smiles, laughs, and stories to share. They seemed happy to give us the shirt off their backs if we had needed, even though they don’t have many material items to spare. If you need another reason to visit Mozambique, it should be for the people.

Travel in Mozambique to interact with the people

Vilankulos

About a four drive north of Inhambane is the town of Vilankulos. The jumping off point for the one a kind Bazaruto Archipelago and well known to Mozambique tourism. It is home to some of the most scenic islands we have ever laid my eyes on. The horizons here are filled with fine white sand and gorgeous blue water. We took a dhow out to Bazaruto island to spend the afternoon exploring the archipelago. We would have loved to go there by ourselves and spend an extended amount of time there, but the options in Mozambique are quite limiting. If your pockets are deep you can stay at one of the few private lodges on the archipelago. We seriously can’t get over how stunning Bazaruto island is, the photos most certainly do not do it justice.

{Find a beach lodge in Vilankulos!}

Mozambique Travel at it's finest at Bazaratu

Bazaruto Island

The beautiful sand here has been deposited by the Save river and continues to shift with the currents. The spectacle here continues beneath the surface as your eyes will be dazzled by a rainbow of colors as soon as you snorkel the famous two-mile reef. Besides seeing Bazaruto we were also seeking to spot an elusive dugong. A dugong, or a “sea cow” as the Mozambicans know them, have one of the highest populations in the area, so we were sure we would see one. Unfortunately, we left Mozambique without ever seeing one, but we know we will be back! They were spotted the day before we went out in search so there is always the chance.

Besides the dugongs and the islands, Vilankulos is a pleasant town to spend a couple of days in and just watch life go by. It is a very well worn city on the Mozambican travel circuit so you are bound to meet other travelers if alone.

Read More: {The Seychelles are the Islands of Our Dreams}

Watching the Dhows come in on the mozambique coastMaputo

We tried to avoid the capital city, as we are just not big city type of people anymore. We did manage to spend a couple hours here and found traffic to be hectic, overpriced, and overpopulated with police. However, for anyone traveling to a few destinations in Mozambique, then Maputo will probably sneak its way into the itinerary at some point. Either on your way in or out of the country. It is an interesting city for what it’s worth, and definitely one of the most developed capital cities in Africa worthy of a good night out at some of the bars.

The Capital City: Maputo

A Few Southern Mozambique Travel Tips

  • TIA or “This is Africa.” Travel days are long and slow, but sights out the window are beautiful and interesting.
  • If driving yourself keep your eyes peeled on the speed limits. They are constantly changing and must be abided by. Lest you feel like some serious hassle from the police think arbitrary fines and bribes.
  • Plan for some stops to take photos, the old Portuguese buildings are dilapidated but intriguing
  • Plan for people on the road at every turn.

Read More: {10 Must Read Books to Read About Africa by African Authors}

Old Architechture in InhambaneAlways enjoy watching the people in Mozambique

General Mozambique Travel Advice

Entering Mozambique

All travelers (except citizens of Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe,) need a visa to enter Mozambique. We found information for obtaining a visa scattered across the internet. Do you need to get a visa beforehand or is a visa on arrival possible? How much is a Mozambique travel visa for Americans arriving? All these simple questions were very ambiguous online, but this is Africa after all.

We decided to take our chances and arrive by land from Swaziland without a visa. We crossed over the Goba border, which is open 24 hours. We were the only visitors at the border, and the whole process took about one hour.

At the border, we had to show proof of our accommodation arrangements and have a letter stating that we could drive our car into Mozambique. The cost for Americans traveling into Mozambique overland was 900 Rand (or 70 USD) – Cash only. Honestly,  we have no idea if this was the honest price or the price from a greedy border official. No signs around and with no information online, we had no choice but to pay. However, we did meet another American who paid 500 Rand for a visa on arrival at the airport. Prices in Mozambique seem to change for no apparent reasons whatsoever.

If you plan on driving a car in Mozambique you will need to get third party insurance. This can be obtained at the border for 220 Rand, and is good for 30 days. Even if you have car insurance you will still need this “special” Mozambique car insurance as well.

Don’t get had by the runners when entering or leaving Mozambique. As soon as you drive up in your car, tons of people will run after you demanding your paperwork to “help” you, stating that it’s “their job”. The goal is to disorient you, take your documents, and then demand a tip to get them back. Don’t fall into their trap and never hand over your passport.

We had zero problems or hassles entering at the Goba border from Swaziland but encountered these runners leaving and traveling onward into South Africa.

Read More: {Where is the Tiny Country of Swaziland?}

dhows life in MozambiqueCash in Mozambique

The Mozambique currency is the new Metical; however, Rand and USD are usually welcomed. Always plan to have cash on you as credit cards have not really caught on yet and ATM shortages (outside of Maputo) are quite common. We particularly found trouble when we arrived with zero Metical on us and no ATM’s in sight with a three-hour drive ahead. We pulled over to ask where the nearest ATM was and got laughed at…so make sure to have some backup cash.  

Police Corruption in Mozambique

We were warned by just about everyone that had traveled through Mozambique of the police corruption. The night before we were set to cross the border we spent hours reading horror stories online, and then managed to completely psych ourselves out for getting hassled by the cops in Mozambique. I’m happy to say that after driving 2,000 kilometers, we were only pulled over once. After this encounter with the cops, we were no longer as nervous driving. Here is how the exchange went –

  • Us: Bom Dia!
    Officer/Military man with gun: Bom Dia, how are you?
    Us: Great!
    Officer: Where are you coming from?
    Us: Inhambane, we are going to Vilankulos.
    Officer: Ah hah! Inhambane is my home. Did you like it?
    Us: Yes, it was beautiful we liked it very much.
    Officer: Where are you from?
    Us: We are American.
    Officer: AMERICA!? I want to go there.
    Us: Yes, it’s a very nice place to live…so what can we help you with?
    Officer: Oh, you know, it’s just a very hot day…I am very thirsty because it is so hot…
    {Catching his drift quickly, we search the car for any sign of a cheap cold beverage so that we can go on our way}
    Us: We don’t really have anything to drink…
    Officer: Well, I am also very bored…
    {We search for anything we can give to entertain this man, the most entertaining thing we can find is a national park booklet lodged under our seat}
    Us: Ahhh, here we go. How about a guide to Kruger National Park? Yano, lots of lions in here to read about.
    Officer: Oh, I love lions. This will help with my English to talk to tourists, you see. Thank you – have a nice time in Vilankulos! Good bye!
    …And off we drive into the sunset (midday).

It was comical, it was memorable, and the whole encounter was done with smiles. Of course, we still have no idea why we were pulled over, but arguing was not worth it to us. Rather, just give him something small and be on our way. We have found out that many things in Africa can be bought through bribes. A candy bar here or a coca-cola there goes a long way. We have even started traveling with a pack of cigarettes (even though we are non-smokers) just because people will literally be happy to be given one cigarette.  I know many people don’t give into bribes, and that’s perfectly okay. Personally, I would rather give away a cheap bottle of coke than go through the whole motions of dealing with a getting an actual ticket from the “police,” and going to an African police station.

There are police stops everywhere in Mozambique, and I believe we just got lucky with only being pulled over by a friendly guy. The police don’t discriminate either. We saw locals and tourists getting stopped, black and white. Our story isn’t to say that police can be bought by bribes, just let them initiate the conversation. Never be the one to suggest a bribe, and don’t let the cops ruin your Mozambique holidays.

It’s worth noting that the country has some “Mozambique travel vehicle requirements,” as well. Things like traveling with two reflector vest in each car paired with triangles are mandatory to have. We joined this Facebook group before going to stay up to date on all information regarding Mozambique travel.

At the end of the day, it is all about attitude. Have a good one and you’ll have a good time. 

The One Road in Mozambique

There is basically one main road in Mozambique going from north to south. Needless to say, if you travel outside Maputo at all then you will without a doubt find yourself on the EN1. EN1 is paved and is pretty pothole-less in the south, but it’s advised to always pay attention because there are children walking everywhere and a neverending amount of speed traps.

We didn’t know this when we entered Mozambique, but almost any road off of the EN1 should be driven on with a 4×4 only. We had a 2×4 bakkie and got stuck a few times and had to get help from the locals. I’ll just say it…Mozambique is a 4×4 country. Night Driving in Mozambique is also not advised.

Photos with villagers in Mozambique: Untouched Mozambique Tourism

Showing the chief our photos in the rural villages

The Internet in Mozambique

To put it lightly – the internet in Mozambique is developing. However, this should not be all that surprising, this is Africa after all. Chances are you didn’t come to be online anyways. Every place we stayed while in Mozambique either didn’t bother having WiFi or had nonworking “internet.”  If you find that you must be connected while traveling then we highly recommend getting a sim card. The two main service providers are Mcell and Vodacom, and you won’t be able to shield your eyes from the crazy amount of advertising for these companies in the country. Registering a sim card should be done at a real store. You will find tons of people on the roads with Vodacom vests on selling top-up cards, but do not register a new sim with them. Data is extremely inexpensive (500 MT for 5 GB,) and works decently well.

The Delicious Food and Drink of Mozambique

The food in Mozambique is nothing short of wonderful. Most of the population lives on the Mozambique coast so hopefully, you like seafood! Crayfish, prawns, and crab are caught along the shores and thrown into even the most basic of dishes. Matapa is another usual flair that may look questionable on the surface, but is actually a fantastic blend of coconut, cassava leaves, and a seafood variety (clam, crab, or prawn) – a must try! A good meal can be had for 200-500 Mets.

fresh fish on the Mozambique coast

Catch of the Day. Ready to Eat Later!

2M is the national brew of Mozambique and a large bottle will run you all of 50 Mets. Tap water may be questionable to some stomachs, but we drank it the entire time with our LifeStraw Go water bottle filters and never had an issue.

Trying Cassava in Mozmabique

Trying Raw Cassava For the First Time

Malaria in Mozambique

Precaution against Malaria should be taken seriously in Mozambique, especially if you are in well populated and wet areas. If traveling from South Africa, doxycycline can be acquired for quite affordable prices even if you are a non-resident. It’s also worth noting that malaria prevention tablets and malaria pills are available at any Mozambican pharmacy without a prescription for about 300-500 mets. We took advantage and stocked up for the rest of our African travels. Always make sure to take the proper health precautions when traveling to Mozambique and the rest of Africa.

Read More: {Vaccinations for a Round the World Adventure}

Language in Mozambique

The official language in Mozambique is Portuguese, and knowing some of the basics will probably make any experience more enjoyable. However, Mozambique is a land of many languages with many people being multi-lingual. We got by fine with English.

people of mozzTipping in Mozambique

Tipping in Mozambique never used to be a thing, but since South African holiday goers have come and started leaving tips it is now expected in many touristy places. 10% is a fair amount to leave at restaurants. When staying at private lodges 500 mets per day seems to be a fair price for the staff, but just ask the lodge managers for their recommendation first.

fishing in MozambiqueMozambique Travel Safety

Is Mozambique a safe place to travel? At the time of writing, there are some safety concerns noted on the Mozambique Wikitravel page, with a few Mozambique travel warnings. These safety concerns mostly pertain to the center of the country where Renamo still has a stronghold. Recently tensions have begun to flair and fighting has returned. We felt 100% safe while traveling southern Mozambique and felt welcome just about anywhere we went. You’re likely to experience no trouble in Mozambique, besides the general annoyances that traveling Africa can bring. Keep your wits and street smarts about you especially in Maputo and all should be fine. Obviously, avoid displaying signs of wealth as an opportunist is will always take advantage.

There aren’t many places that we are sad to leave, but Mozambique was one of those countries that left us wanting more. Will we go back to Mozambique? Absolutely, I’m already counting the days.

Read More: {Our best travel tips for new travelers}

Plan Your Trip to Mozambique

We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:


Accommodation in Mozambique: You may need to do your research to get great deals on accommodation in Mozambique. Booking.com has some great deals, but most of them we just walked up to hotel owners and asked to stay the night.

Flights to Mozambique: Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental in Mozambique: Auto Europe is a car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar. I would suggest renting a car in South Africa and driving into Mozambique.

Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!

Water: We did not drink the tap water in Mozambique. Instead we used our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle.

Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up aLonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.

Mozambique Travel Was Definitely an Experience of a Lifetime. So What are You Waiting For?

 

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