Bargaining over prices is part of everyday life in Mozambique. However, apart from tourist-oriented places, don't assume that quoted prices are inflated. Especially in markets in smaller towns, the first price is often the 'real' price (ie, the same price locals pay). A bit of good-natured negotiating is never out of place, but if the seller refuses to budge, assume their initial price was one they feel is fair.
Dangers & Annoyances
Mozambique is a relatively safe place and most travellers shouldn’t have any difficulties. That said, there are a few areas where caution is warranted.
Petty theft and robbery are the main risks: watch your pockets or bag in markets; don’t leave personal belongings unguarded on the beach or elsewhere; and minimise (or eliminate) trappings such as jewellery, watches, headsets and external money pouches.
If you leave your vehicle unguarded, don’t be surprised if windscreen wipers and other accessories are gone when you return. Don’t leave anything inside a parked vehicle.
When at stoplights or slowed in traffic, keep your windows up and doors locked, and don’t leave anything on the seat next to you where it could be snatched.
In Maputo and southern Mozambique carjackings and more violent robberies do occur, although most incidents can be avoided by taking the usual precautions: avoid driving at night; keep the passenger windows up and the doors locked if you are in a vehicle (including a taxi) at any time during the day or night; don’t wander around isolated or dark streets; avoid walking alone or in a group at dusk or at night, particularly in isolated areas or on isolated stretches of beach; and avoid isolating situations in general. At all times of day, try to stick to busier areas of town, especially if you are alone, and don’t walk alone along the beach away from hotel areas. If you’re driving and your car is hijacked, hand over the keys immediately.
When riding on chapas (converted passenger trucks or minivans) or buses, keep your valuables well inside your clothes to avoid falling victim to unscrupulous entrepreneurs who take advantage of overcrowded conditions to pick their fellow passengers’ pockets.
All this said, don’t let these warnings deter you; simply be a savvy traveller. The vast majority of visitors enjoy this beautiful country without incident.
Hassles & Bribes
More likely than violent crime are simple hassles with underpaid authorities in search of a bribe. The worst offenders here are regular (ie grey-uniformed, non-traffic) police. If you get stopped you shouldn't have any problems as long as your papers are in order. Being friendly, respectful and patient helps (you won’t get anywhere otherwise), as does trying to give the impression that you know what you’re doing and aren’t new in the country. Sometimes the opposite tack is also helpful: feigning complete ignorance if you’re told that you’ve violated some regulation, and apologising profusely. It’s also worth remembering that only traffic police are authorised to stop you for traffic infractions. If you're stopped by non-traffic police, you can ask to wait until a traffic-police officer arrives – often this will defuse the bribe attempt.
If you are asked to pay a multa (fine) for a trumped-up charge, playing the game a bit (asking to speak to the chefe (supervisor) and requesting a receipt) helps to counteract some of the more blatant attempts, as does insisting on going to the nearest esquadrão (police station); you should always do these things anyway.
As of late 2016, timed army convoys were escorting all road traffic on the EN1 between the Save River and Muxungue, as well as on the EN1 between Nhamapadza (Gorongosa area) and Caia, and on the EN7 between Nova Vanduzi and Luenha (en route between Chimoio and Tete). Before you set off, it's highly recommended that you check your country's government travel advisory for updates on the security situation.
Government Travel Advice
Some government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
- Australia www.smartraveller.gov.au
- Canada www.travel.gc.ca
- UK www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office
- New Zealand www.safetravel.govt.nz
- US www.travel.state.gov
Embassies & Consulates
All of the following embassies are located in Maputo. The closest Australian representation is in South Africa.
Emergency & Important Numbers
There are no reliable emergency numbers; it's better to seek help from your hotel or embassy.
Police crime reports can be obtained with time and patience at the police station nearest the site of the crime.
|Mozambique's country code||258|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
A valid passport and visa are required to enter Mozambique, and a yellow-fever-vaccination certificate is required if coming from an area of yellow-fever risk.
- It is illegal to export any endangered species or their products, including anything made from ivory or tortoiseshell.
- ‘Reasonable’ quantities of souvenirs for personal (rather than commercial) purposes can be exported without declaration.
Visas are required by all visitors except citizens of South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius and Zimbabwe.
Travellers residing in a country with Mozambique diplomatic representation are required to obtain visas in advance of arrival in Mozambique or they must pay an additional 25% for visas obtained at the border. However, in an effort to encourage tourism, the government announced in early 2017 that one-month single-entry tourist visas could now be obtained on arrival at 44 land borders (including all major aiports and many major borders, but not the border with Tanzania) for Mtc2000. It is too early to tell how this new announcement will be implemented. Our advice is to try to get your visa in advance, especially if you will be arriving in Maputo via bus from Johannesburg. But failing that, it is well worth trying your luck at the border.
For visas purchased in advance, fees vary according to where you buy your visa and how quickly you need it. The maximum initial length of stay is three months. Express (24-hour to 48-hour) visa service is available at several Mozambican embassies and high commissions, and same-day visa service (within 24 hours) is available at several places, including Johannesburg and Nelspruit (South Africa) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), but at a price.
No matter where you get your visa, your passport must be valid for at least six months from the dates of intended travel, and have at least three blank pages.
For citizens of countries not requiring visas, visits are limited to 30 days from the date of entry, after which you’ll need to exit Mozambique and re-enter.
The length of each stay for multiple-entry visas is determined when the visa is issued, and varies from embassy to embassy.
Visas can be extended at the migração (immigration office) in most provincial capitals, provided you haven’t exceeded the three-month maximum stay, at a cost of Mtc2000 for one month.
Processing takes two days (with payment of an approximately Mtc200 supplemental express fee) to two weeks.
Don’t wait until the visa has expired, as extensions are not granted automatically; hefty fines are levied for overstays.
Most Mozambicans are fairly easy-going towards foreigners. However, keeping several basics in mind will help smooth your interactions.
- Greetings Always greet others and inquire about their well-being prior to launching into questions or conversation. It's also usual to greet people when entering or leaving a room.
- Photography Ask permission before photographing people, especially in remote areas.
- Elders In traditional Mozambican culture, elders and those in positions of authority are treated with deference. It smoothes things considerably to follow suit.
- Gifts When receiving a gift, it's polite in many areas to accept it with both hands, sometimes with a slight bow, or with the right hand while touching the left hand to the right elbow. When only one hand is used to give or receive, make it the right.
- Thanks Spoken thanks are not as common as in the West, so don't be upset if you aren't verbally thanked for a gift.
Mozambique tends to be more tolerant than some of its neighbours, and in 2015 it officially decriminalised homosexuality. However, gay sexual relationships remain for the most part culturally taboo. The country's small gay scene, centred on Maputo, has traditionally been quite discreet, but things are starting to open up. The main (only) local organisation is the quietly vocal and very helpful Lambda Mozambique (www.lambdamoz.org).
Internet access is easy and fast in Maputo and other major centres, where there are numerous wi-fi spots and internet cafes. Most upmarket hotels also offer wi-fi, either in guest rooms or in lobby and dining areas. Elsewhere, there are internet cafes in most provincial capitals and some larger towns. Rates average US$2 per hour and connections range from reasonable to good.
The use or possession of recreational drugs is illegal in Mozambique. If you’re offered anything, it is often part of a set-up, usually involving the police, and if you’re caught, penalties are very stiff. At the least, expect to pay a large bribe to avoid arrest or imprisonment (which is a very real risk).
If you’re arrested for more ‘legitimate’ reasons, you have the right to talk with someone from your embassy, as well as a lawyer, though don’t expect this to help you out of your situation with any rapidity.
Driving on the beach, driving without a seat belt (for all vehicle occupants), exceeding speed limits, driving while using your mobile phone, turning without using your indicator, and driving without two red hazard triangles and a reflective vest in the boot are all illegal, and are common ways of attracting police attention and demands for a bribe or multa (fine).
All foreigners are required to carry a copy of their passport when out and about.
Rather than carrying the original, carry a notarised copy of the name and visa pages, plus notarised copies of your drivers licence and other essential documents. If you’re stopped on the street or at a checkpoint and asked for any of these, always hand over the notarised copy rather than parting with the original, and always insist on going to the nearest police station (esquadrão). The more you can do to minimise the impression that you’re a newly arrived tourist, the lower your chances of getting stopped for a document check.
Notary facilities are available in Maputo and provincial capitals. Some Mozambique embassies will also provide this service before you travel.
Excellent but difficult-to-find Coopération Française maps cover Maputo, Beira, Quelimane, Nampula and Pemba; check at the local municipal council. Also useful are Reise Know-How's Mosambik & Malawi and Globetrotter's Mozambique map.
Tracks for Africa (www.tracks4africa.co.za) Downloadable GPS maps for self-drivers in the bush.
Instituto Nacional de Hidrografia e Navegação Coastal and maritime maps (cartas náuticas) and tide tables (tabelas de marés); at the capitania (port office) behind the white Safmar building near the port.
Direcção Nacional de Geografia e Cadastro Detailed but dated topographical maps.
- Newspapers Notícias and Diário de Moçambique (dailies); Savana (weekly). Mozambique News Agency (AIM; www.poptel.org.uk/mozambique-news) website for English-language news.
- TV TVM (www.tvm.co.mz; state run), STV (private), RTP África (Portuguese TV).
Mozambique’s currency is the metical (plural meticais, pronounced ‘meticaish’) nova família, abbreviated as Mtc. Visa-card withdrawal from ATMs is the best way of accessing money.
- All larger and many smaller towns have ATMs for accessing cash meticals. Most accept Visa cards; Millennium BIM and Standard Bank machines also, and less reliably, accept MasterCard.
- Many machines have a limit of Mtc3000 (US$120) per transaction. BCI’s limit is Mtc5000 (US$200) and some Standard Bank machines dispense up to Mtc10,000 (US$400) per transaction.
- Note denominations include Mtc20, Mtc50, Mtc100, Mtc200, Mtc500 and Mtc1000, and coins include Mtc1, Mtc2, Mtc5 and Mtc10. One metical is equivalent to 100 centavos (Ct); there are Ct1, Ct5, Ct10, Ct20 and Ct50 coins.
- Carry a standby mixture of US dollars (or South African rand, especially in the south) and meticals (including a good supply of small-denomination notes, as nobody ever has change) for times when an ATM is nonexistent or not working.
- Credit cards are accepted at most (but not all) top-end hotels, at many midrange places, especially in the south, and at some car-hire agencies; otherwise they're of limited use in Mozambique.
- Visa is by far the most useful, and is also the main (often only) card for accessing money from ATMs.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
In low-budget bars and restaurants, tipping is generally not expected, other than perhaps by rounding up the bill. At upmarket and tourist establishments, tipping is customary (from 10% to 20%, assuming service has been good). Tips are also warranted, and always appreciated, if someone has gone out of their way to do something for you.
Travellers cheques are not accepted for exchange or direct payment in Mozambique.
- US dollars are easily exchanged everywhere; together with South African rand, they are the best currency to carry.
- Only new-design US dollar bills will be accepted. Euros are easy to change in major cities, but elsewhere you’re likely to get a poor exchange rate.
- Casas de câmbio (exchange bureaus) are the most efficient places to change money. They usually give a rate equivalent to or slightly higher than that of the banks and are open longer hours.
- You can also change money at some banks; BCI branches are generally good. Most banks don't charge commission for changing cash. Millennium BIM branches will let you change cash only if you have an account.
- Changing money on the street isn’t safe anywhere and is illegal; asking shopkeepers is a better bet.
Banks 8am to 3pm Monday to Friday
Bars 5pm to late
Cafes 7.30am to 9pm
Exchange bureaus (casas de câmbio) 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, to noon Saturday
Government offices 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants Breakfast 7am to 11am, lunch noon to 3pm, dinner 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Shops 8am to noon and 2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 1pm Saturday
International mail from Maputo takes about seven to 10 days to reach Europe. Domestic mail is more sporadic, with letters taking between a few days and a few weeks to reach their destination. Post offices are found in all provincial capitals.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Mozambican Heroes’ Day 3 February
Women’s Day 7 April
International Workers’ Day 1 May
Independence Day 25 June
Lusaka Agreement/Victory Day 7 September
Revolution Day 25 September
Peace & Reconciliation Day 4 October
Christmas/Family Day 25 December
For South African school-holiday dates, see the calendar link at www.saschools.co.za.
- Smoking Most upmarket hotels offer nonsmoking rooms. Some (not many) cafes and restaurants also have nonsmoking sections.
Taxes & Refunds
Mozambique has a 17% VAT that is usually included in quoted hotel and other prices.
Land-line area codes must be dialled whenever you're making long-distance calls. As with mobile numbers, there is no initial zero.
Mobile phone numbers are seven digits long, preceded by 82 for Mcel, 84 for Vodafone and 86 for Movitel.
Do not use an initial zero; seven-digit mobile numbers listed with zero at the outset are in South Africa and must be preceded by the South Africa country code (27) when dialling.
All companies have outlets in major towns at which you can buy Sim-card starter packs (from Mtc50), fill out the necessary registration form, and buy top-up cards.
Mozambique time is GMT/UTC plus two hours. There is no daylight-saving time.
- Toilets in Mozambique are either 'Western' sit-down style with a toilet bowl and (sometimes) a seat, or 'Eastern' squat style, with a hole in the ground, often rimmed by a tile frame with rests for the feet. For the uninitiated, the keys to a successful outcome with squat toilets are positioning the feet well, and ensuring that odds and ends from your pockets don't fall into the hole.
- Running water is a luxury in many areas. With public toilets, if you have a choice, go for a squat-style toilet, as these usually come equipped with a bucket of water and tend to be more sanitary than flush toilets, which are often clogged. Public toilets rarely have toilet paper. For those that do, the custom is to dispose of the paper in the nearby basket, rather than into the toilet itself.
- Bidets – a hangover from colonial days – are ubiquitous, though, outside upmarket hotels, most don't have running water.
The national tourist organisation, Instituto Nacional de Turísmo (Inatur; www.inatur.org.mz) is primarily geared to advertising and tourism promotion. However, it also sponsors the English-language website www.visitmozambique.net, which provides a useful introduction to the country.
Travel with Children
For adventurous, Africa-savvy families, Mozambique can be a wonderful destination. The beaches and coastal resorts, especially in the south, are the main attraction for children of all ages. Many resorts also have swimming pools and most offer children’s discounts.
Considerations for travel here include the scarcity of decent medical facilities away from major centres, the length of many road journeys, and the difficulty of finding clean bathrooms outside midrange and top-end hotels.
Be aware of the risk of hookworm infestation in populated beach areas, as well as the risk of bilharzia in lakes. Other things to watch out for include sea urchins at the beach (beach shoes are a good idea for children and adults) and thorns.
Bring mosquito nets from home for your children and ensure that they sleep under them. Also bring mosquito repellent from home, and check with your doctor regarding the use of malaria prophylactics. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are the best protection at dawn and dusk.
- Cots & spare beds Easily arranged; average cost Mtc500.
- Child seats for hired cars Occasionally available; confirm in advance.
- Restaurant high chairs Occasionally available.
- Formula, disposable nappies and wet wipes Available in pharmacies, large supermarkets and markets in larger towns.
- Child care Easy to arrange informally through your hotel.
- Prams Impractical; use a Mozambican-style sling carrier instead.
While there are few facilities specifically for the disabled, Mozambicans tend to be very accommodating and helpful to people with disabilities. Those who are mobility impaired are especially likely to meet with understanding, as there are many amputees throughout the country – most of them victims of landmines set during the war.
The most accessible and easily negotiable area of the country is Maputo. Many upscale hotels have wheelchair access and/or lifts, and taxis and rental cars are readily available (though taxis don't have wheelchair access, and most are small).
For travel upcountry, getting around on public transport usually means crowds, heat and jostling. Travelling by hired car is the best option. Along the coast you'll rarely need to deal with long flights of steps – just soft, deep sand. Also, chalets at some resorts are built on stilts.
The squat-style toilet facilities common throughout Mozambique outside tourist hotels can put a strain on anyone's knees. Except at top-end hotels in Maputo, there are rarely hand grips on the walls, and few bathrooms are large enough for manoeuvring a wheelchair. As far as we know, there are no facilities anywhere in the country specifically designed for deaf or blind visitors.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Most volunteer work is in environmental projects, with occasional opportunities in teaching or healthcare.
- Go Overseas (www.gooverseas.com/volunteer-abroad/mozambique) A good place to start your search, with links and reviews for volunteer opportunities in Mozambique.
- Livro Aberto Has some positions available in Maputo.
- Mozambique Horse Safari Offers opportunities near Vilankulo.
- All Out Africa (www.alloutafrica.com) Has some marine-conservation projects based out of Tofo.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
You may not work in Mozambique if you enter on a tourist visa. In order to get the required residency (Documento de Identificação e Residência para Estrangeiros, DIRE) and work permits, you need an offer of employment. Your employer will be required to pay various fees, including one equalling a month or two of your salary.
Work permits are costly and time-consuming to obtain. Applications are generally best made prior to leaving home.