I am a stats junkie when it comes to all things Internet.  Looking through the incoming links for this blog, it seems that a good few people came to the site looking up the various articles to do with backpacking through Mozambique – something that I have only spoken about from a personal point of view, or through talking about specific backpackers (if you don’t read the post, stay away form Fatima’s in Tofo – it is a dank hole).  It seems useful then, with the dust now having settled and hindsight being a bit clearer, to put together a list of useful things that I think you should bear in mind if you intend to go exploring Mozambique.

Bear in mind, that I only covered the southern coastal section of the country, and cannot speak for the north – which I am told is cheaper, more architecturally beautiful and harder to get around in. That said, what you should probably know before you go includes:

So if you see a policeman, cross the road. You will generally be safer on the side with the criminals.

Do not trust the police

Unless you really have no choice – i.e. you need to report a crime (and it wasn’t perpetrated by a policeman), give these folk a wide berth. Like most countries where the police carry AK47s, customer service is not high on the list of popular electives at police academy. If a policeman can speak decent (or even semi decent) English, then he has probably learned how to turn it to getting bribes from foreigners. Nearly every traveller I met from Maputo to Inhambane had a nasty story of some sort involving a policeman. Ranging from being stopped on bogus pretences to make life difficult in exchange for a bribe, to being outright thrown in a cell until someone from the ministry of tourism (or whatever it is called) came to rescue them, none of the stories were particularly pleasant and most involved some degree of personal expense. So if you see a policeman, cross the road. You will generally be safer on the side with the criminals.

Lonely Planet was wrong about the walk to Baobab

The LP guide, who I generally respect highly in all matters of guidance and warning, was (I believe), probably wrong in stating that the walk from the bus arrival point in Vilanculo to Baobab Beach Backpackers was unsafe. I walked it numerous times in the middle of the night around Christmas and twice at 2am in the morning with pack and all en route to catch the bus back to Maputo. All of those times, although eerie, it seemed safe enough. Walking around in the day seems to pose no danger whatsoever either. There are no lights (at all), and so it can be hard to find your way, and if someone wanted to mug you, they would be hard pressed to find a more opportune place to do it, but in spite of that, there seemed to be no suggestion that it was unsafe. I asked the barman at Zombie Cucumber about the walk as well, and he confirmed my suspicions, not regarding the walk as in any way dangerous.

That said, I am a guy – a tall one – and am talking on limited experience here. So I take no responsibility whatsoever for you enriching the criminal underworld through silliness. Further disclaimer, etc.

Junta is a cheap way to leave Maputo going north

If you are in Maputo and want to travel north, and don’t mind putting up with (frankly terrible) poorly maintained buses or crowded chapas, then it is most cost effective to depart from a place called Junta. Some distance from town proper, it is a large, dusty open place where buses of all manner congregate to die (and occasionally act as transport) and you can get an excellent deal on a bus north (I went as far as Vilanculo – 12 hours, 550MTN), but I suspect you can go further if you wanted. When returning to Maputo, odds are good that you will be dropped at Junta as your final destination. Rather than catching a meter cab for a few hundred Meticais to get back into town, take one of the public transports instead. They look like small buses (often with Japanese writing on the side – god knows why, I imagine they are old stock, dumped in Africa or something) and ask to be taken to Pandora. This is a church maybe 500m or so from Fatima’s in Maputo and will cost you 25MTN for the whole trip – a considerable saving.

If you can find a mercado (market) , buy stuff there

Beer is around half the price, and vegetables and fish are much cheaper in the markets. Do not buy stuff from supermarkets, or worse, from the backpackers directly, as this will cost you a large amount more than in the markets. If drinking is your thing, try to find the local rum, called Tipo Tinto (and written rhum on the label). It is local, cheap as water (well, almost), and makes a halfway decent mixer for Mojitos.

Portuguese is useful

Who would have thought. Duh.  If you are travelling remotely off the main routes, knowledge of English rapidly tapers off to nil. If you can familiarise yourself with some basic Portuguese phrases and learn basic counting, you will find life a world easier. Also, learn your five times table in Portuguese (especially the words for 15, 50 and 25) and you will be able to understand the response to many price requests.

December is very hot

Very hot. Super hot. Sweat so much you think you will cry hot. If at all possible, try a drier season to go adventuring – your skin will thank you for it. If you have no choice or, like me, are stubborn, then take light clothing and try not to do too much walking. If, like me, you are insistent on doing too much walking, then do it outside of midday. If, like me, you insist on walking around in the midday sun, put on sunscreen regularly. If, like my brother, you get badly burned because you followed none of the preceeding advice, you will likely become an object of fun and ridicule among your friends. At this point, the sympathy train has left the station and you will have a sad and burning set of days ahead.

Mosquito nets are not necessary, but repellent is

If you are staying in backpackers, nearly all of them will have mosquito nets provided for you, so you need not worry about carrying one around with you.  Repellent is useful, however, for the times when you are outside, hanging around at the bar or otherwise being out of your bed in the evenings, and will save you a world of mosquito bites. There really are a lot of mosquitoes, so taking an anti-malaria prophylactic is a must.

It is a beautiful country

It really is. In Vilanculo, there is bathwater-warm sea and bone-white sand beaches. There are friendly people and more coconuts and palm trees than an angry monkey could shake a stick at, and it is most definitely worth your time to properly explore. While the country is poor (largely a product of South-African-sponsored civil war and Portuguese colonisation), you will find yourself paying above average tourist prices for most things if you buy them from places on the tourist routes (above average meaning more than in South Africa by 20 – 40%). The exception to this is the markets, which will give you closer to local rates and save you a bundle of money. I understand that in the far north, general vegetable and grocery prices are less than in the south (driven up by South African tourists), but I didn’t get to see this myself, as I did not go further north than Vilanculo. It’s definitely worth seeing, and is one of those special places in modern backpacking, where you actually feel at times like you are in a different world properly – not surrounded by a comfortable bubble of backpacker tourism, or that you are walking the same path as a ton of other backpackers before you.

Finally, as Douglas Adams so wisely mentions in the Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy series, bring a towel. To that I would only add, keep it dry. Mine got damp and I didn’t – so it grew mould. Which made me sad. So do not make such a silly error when you explore this beautiful country.

Footnote

If you have been in Mozambique, I would love for you to leave your own impressions here for others. This writeup gets a lot of traffic from folk headed to the country, so any information you could add would likely benefit them a great deal too. Thanks!

Categories: Africa, Mozambique, Travel
  • Again, reading your blog to get a fix of armchair traveling. I might give Mozambique a miss though as it doesn’t sound good for a 5’3″ woman.

  • Andrejohndutoit

    I am a regular visitor to Moz, specifically Tofo , inhambane, and i agree with buying everything from the markets, if in tofo try to get a taxi to Inhambane (was about R3 which is very cheap, but be prepared for a overcrowded trip with chickens crab fish, babies, etc etc :-)), they usually stop at the market, buy your goods, there is a bakery close by where you can buy beer as well, the chinese have also opened up a hop where you can basically get anything you need, in tofo we made friends with one of the shop assistants, and he gave u very good prices on everything, just a tad bit more expensive that Inhambane, avoid the commercial places, if you want to save money on eating out, if you have the facilities, order prawns or whatever fish they catch form the street vendors, or the fisherman, and negotiate the price, don’t trust their scales, as they are rigged. :-

    best of all have a open mind, and soak in Moz and its people.

    and avoid the cops, haha

  • The cops there were, ironically, the most dishonest people I met. I had forgotten about the local taxis – such memories :) In one, someone brought a large fish and stashed it under their seat, to our great joy after a couple more hours in the sun.

    But yeah, I absolutely agree. Go with the flow and you will have a beautiful, beautiful time.

  • Tee

    I am a child from vilankulo i have lived here for 8 years knowing all the ins and outs of the town and roads in town it is completly safe but the off roads you must be cautious if you go for a walk on the beach and so on do not take valubles seeing as there are always people on the beach who would like a blackberry you will not get mugged if you carry visible valubles so try and hide then as much as possible 5 is ciqu 10 is desh simply hold your hands together as if claping to simbilize 10 to say how much is this say qunto qer iso……

    there have never been serious crimes and from my experiance a stabb in the leg is as far as they go if you report this to the police use a translator crimes like this the criminals will always be caught i can assure you you kids are always safe the people there do not touch children but when letting them do whatever make sure there are no chinese around those are the ones you need to watch when in town never leave anything on the back of your car and i mean anything otherwise you can kiss it goodbye……..

    the best grocers are probably tourus and select servises supermarket close bye Smugglers bar resturant and accomodation the malaria in vilankulo is not bad seeing as i have only had it twice in 8 years there is a south afrcan school there where i used to attened all i can say is i have never had so much fun at school before i suggest you try do all the activities april is the best time to go the school organises activites such as cricket tournaments amazing races and volley ball i suggest you go with sailaway to the island they are more expensive but you have more to do with everything organised from snorkaling to a cup of juice and to dive go with odessey they are the best well organised i can suggest ….

    to get a really good taste of traditional food go to nasombra middle class beach lodge and up market casarex the clothes market is cheap and full of beautiful clothes if you are blonde like me wear a hat for some reason they are obssessed with that hair colour and stay away from stray dogs and and enjoy the place of my dreams a man once told me that the water there was so clear the only other place he saw it was the carrabien i miss it there i really do i send my love to all my friends of all ages

  • Thanks for the feedback Tee – that’s pretty comprehensive! I can second Sailaway and Odyssey – they were fantastic. Not sure about Chinese people stealing things as much though.

  • Melanie

    Good Day.
    I am very interested in going to Mozambique during December for a few weeks.
    How safe is it for a woman to go on her own. I have a small budget and would like to do backpacking to see as much of the country as possible. Do not nessisarily want to go to the overcrowded holiday resorts.
    What are your suggestions and where do I even start with my planning??!! I am totally clueless.
    PLEASE HELP.
    With thanx and kind regards.
    Hope to hear from you soonest.
    Melanie.

  • Andrejohndutoit

    I dont think it is really safe for a woman to travel alone anywhere in Africa, how are you planning on traveling to moz? i would recommend that you skip Maputo the capital, and travel directly to one of the smaller coastal towns (tofo -inhambane my fav) book into fatima’s or bamboozi (although they have been commercialized a bit). and in no time you will have a couple of friends.

    are you coming from far?
    are you flying in? arriving in RSA or Moz?

    if you can fly to inhambane and the catch a taxi to tofo.

    If everything works out i will also be going over December.

  • Bruce Ungersbock

    If you want to travel to Moz then look no further than http://www.mozambiquetourism.co.za/

Twitter updates

No public Twitter messages.