Mozambique is still an unknown place on the map for most of us. Back in 2011, I spent 6 months in the capital Maputo where I worked as a volunteer with neglected children and aids orphans in a village called Massaca. It was a wonderful experience that taught me a lot. For our round the world trip, Michael and I decided to make Mozambique our first stop as we brought two suitcases full with toys, school supplies, clothes and games for the kids in the daycare center.
„What is Mozambique like?“, my friends asked. It's difficult to explain. It's a country with beautiful landscapes, undiscovered beaches, excellent diving spots, traditions, and warm-hearted people. You will have great experiences with locals.
However, if you are not an adventurer, Mozambique is not the right travel destination for you. Let me explain you why. Everything takes a little bit longer. Public transportation is at times difficult, hostels will not have same standards as in other parts of the world yet they can be quite expensive and poverty is still a big issue
Here are a few things to consider to help make your stay more smooth and comfortable.
1. Take your time for dinner
Take your time for dinner. Depending on the restaurant you decide to visit, you're going to wait for a while. In the city it won't take as much time as in villages or remote areas. It doesn't matter whether you plan dining in Tofo or Inhaca, always allow 1 hour up to 1.5 hours to receive your plate. So, make sure you're going there early enough. The staff will make your food completely fresh. There is no chicken in the world which is as good as the Mozambican chicken together with homemade fries and rice. But don't miss out on their fish!
I'm still not very good, but after a few days I got back into the swing of it. Always, and I mean always, discuss about the price (except hotels and hostels). If you get out of a bus at your travel destination and someone asks you if you need a cab, do not take the first option. Usually the bus driver and the cab driver work together and they will charge you way too much. It happened to us as well. It's better to get out of the bus and ask locals what a cab usually costs and then call the company. Or, ask someone to call the company and give them a few Meticais. Do not go with people who drive privately, as their prices are too high.
If you travel as a couple or with friends, always asks if the price is for one or for all. It happened to us that after the ride they asked the price per person.
Here are some actual prices from April 2015: A chapa ride (minibusses in Maputo) within the city costs 7 Meticais, bananas from the streets should be 1 MT per banana, 20 MT for a pack spaghettis. If you think they're overcharging you, tell them you want the real price. You can tell from people's faces if they're lying to you.
Be patient. You're in Africa, not somewhere else. You're most probably going to visit Mozambique when it's hot. People walk slower, need more rest and take it easier. So should you. If there is no bus, try to talk with people who are waiting as well. Or enjoy the view and street life. Whenever something takes longer or is simply not happening, Mozambicans use one word: Paciência. Patience. Even in restaurants servers sometimes have to ask you several times to write down your oder. Take it as it is and enjoy your time the best you can. Enjoy slow traveling.
The main language in Mozambique is Portuguese, next to lots of other local dialects. Around Maputo the most used dialect is Xhangana. Especially old people in villages do not speak Portuguese as they never had the opportunity to go to school. It helps to speak a few words in Portuguese as you will have a different access to locals. They appreciate the effort. In the city as well as in famous tourist spots like Tofo, the locals speak English.
A few vocabulary musts:
Obrigado (as a man), obrigada (as a woman) - Thank you
Bom dia - Good morning (until 12 AM)
Boa tarde - Good afternoon (after 12:00 AM until evening)
Boa noite - Good night (after around 6:00 PM)
Quante ê? - How much is it?
Xhangana (if you're in the south of Mozambique):
Kanimambo - Thank you
U bom? - How are you?
Ni bom. - I'm good.
Try always to have small notes with you. In lots of villages and towns, people do not have any change. This is especially the case on an island called Inhaca where the ATM is broken since months and the people have to go to Maputo by a boat to bring cash back home. It is weird that there is no change around as you only get large notes from the ATM. Also, depending on the bank, you can only withdraw between 3,000 and 5,000 Meticais (78 - 129 €) maximum.
Depending on the area where you're planning to go, take a roll of toilet paper with you. Might sound funny or weird, but many accomodations didn't have toilet paper when we arrived. A big bar of soap is the easiest for taking a shower and also does a good job when you have to wash your clothes. If you travel low budget like we did, you won't find an opportunity to wash your clothes in a washing machine unless you opt to pay for it in some hostels.
Before we left for our round the world trip ,we both bought solid shampoos from Lush. So far the experience has been good as it doesn't take up much space in your luggage. I bought Godiva solid shampoo. I chose Godiva is because my hair is blond and I usually use a high quality shampoo and conditioner. In the description, it says that conditioner is included. The funny part is, I used to work at Lush when I was a student, but I never tried their solid shampoo. So, I was quite excited to see the results. But unfortunately, due to the sun and outside factors my hair still dried out. I now additionally use Argan Oil for the ends. The next shampoo I will buy from Lush is one without conditioner as it makes the bar more loose.
One of the best things I took with me is my toiletries bag from Jack Wolfskin. I already traveled quite a lot before this trip, but I always thought of it as too much of a "backpackers style". Now, I wouldn't go without it. It doesn't matter how bad a bathroom looks like in Mozambique, there is most always a chance to hang it somewhere and I really liked that aspect.
6. Trust people
Mozambicans may try to charge you higher prices sometimes, but they are good people in the end. They will do a lot to show you their beautiful country and are happy if you enjoy it. Even if they have not much, they will share their food with you. They are very welcoming as well. If you have the opportunity to go to someone's house or get to know their grandparents, please, do so. It is an incredible experience to be in touch with locals. If you shake hands with an elderly person, hold your left hand to your right wrist in order to show your respect. Never forget to be polite. If you are invited for dinner, try whatever is offered to you. If you're a vegetarian, please tell your host early. It is very likely that they will kill a chicken to prepare dinner for you.
7. Be careful
The less you take with you, the less you have to worry about. Either you leave your fancy phone in your hotel room or you don't pull it out of your bag or your pocket when walking around at night. Avoid streets where there are no people. At night, do not go to the baixa or to the port. If locals tell you that an area is not safe, listen to them. Also, never take too much cash with you. In general, I felt safer in Mozambique than in parts of South Africa, but it is never a bad idea to be cautious.
8. Public transport
If you do have a bigger budget than we did, I would highly recommend exploring Mozambique with a rental car. Public transport takes a long time and is exhausting. But, it is doable. Look up where the big bus stops are and try only to travel by large bus. One of our biggest mistakes was to book a bus through Fatima's backpackers in Maputo to Tofo, Inhambane. We asked the staff twice if it is a big bus, but in the end, it wasn't. We left Fatima's and got in a little bus only to end up at a big bus station later where we had to wait for two hours until the bus was completely full. We arrived late in the afternoon and were completely exhausted. For longer distances, only go with big busses.
If you visit Mozambique, you want to avoid having problems with the police. They don't earn a lot and therefore they are sometimes looking for opportunities to make money. First of all, if you need a visa, make sure you have one before you enter the country. If you leave the country one day too late, you have to pay a fine. It happened to us, so make sure you don't make the same mistake. Also, always take a copy of your passport and visa with you, wherever you go. Especially at night Mozambican police are eager to control white people. They see it as a good chance to get more money. If you have your copy with you, there is nothing they can do. No matter what happens, if they make you pay a fine you don't understand, ask for a receipt. I heard a story from a man who got a receipt and went back to the hotel. Later, the hotel manager showed up at the police station and asked for the money back.
Never take pictures of political institutions, police, or the airport. This is strictly forbidden.
If you travel by car through Mozambique and police asks you to stop, slightly crack the window to talk with the officers. Hold your drivers license against the window but do not hand it to them. They might take it away and ask for money to have it returned later. For other tips concerning driving a car, see these travel tips.
Have you ever traveled through Mozambique? What were your experiences? Is there anything else you want to know about this country? Just let me know.
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