Cycling is a good way to see the real Mozambique, but you'll need plenty of time to cover the long distances. You'll also need to plan the legs of your trip fairly carefully and to carry almost everything with you, including all spares, as there are long stretches with little or nothing en route, including no water supplies. Avoid cycling in Maputo and along main roads whenever possible, as there's often no shoulder, traffic is fast and drivers have little respect for cyclists.
Carrying a tent is essential; always check in with the local régulo (chief) before pitching it. Bicycles can be transported on buses (from Mtc50 to Mtc200, depending on the journey).
On Lake Niassa there is twice-weekly passenger service on the MV Chambo between Metangula, Cóbuè, Mbueca and several other villages along the Mozambican lakeshore.
- Direct services connect major towns at least daily, although vehicle maintenance and driving standards leave much to be desired.
- A large bus is called a machibombo, and sometimes also an autocarro. While there are several larger companies, most routes are served by small, private operators.
- Many towns don’t have central bus stations. Instead, transport usually leaves from the bus-company garage, or from the start of the road towards the destination. Long-distance transport in general, and all transport in the north, leaves early – between 3am and 7am. Mozambican transport usually leaves quickly and close to the stated departure time.
- There is no luggage fee for large buses. For smaller buses and chapas (converted passenger trucks or minivans), if your bag is large enough that it needs to be stowed on the roof, you will be charged, with the amount varying depending on distance travelled and size of the bag, and always negotiable.
- Where there’s a choice, always take buses rather than chapas.
- The more luggage on the roof, the slower the service.
Etrago and Nagi Trans buses should be booked a day in advance. Otherwise, showing up on the morning of travel (about an hour prior to departure) is usually enough to ensure a place.
If you are choosy about your seat (best is in front, on the shady side), get to the departure point earlier.
Sample journey fares, times and frequencies:
|Route||Fare (Mtc)||Duration (hr)||Frequency|
Car & Motorcycle
- A South African or international drivers licence is required to drive in Mozambique. Those staying longer than six months will need a Mozambican drivers licence.
- Gasolina (petrol) is scarce off main roads, especially in the north. Gasóleo (diesel) supplies are more reliable. On bush journeys, always carry an extra jerry can and top up whenever possible, as filling stations sometimes run out.
- Temporary import permits (US$2) and third-party insurance (US$10 to US$15 for 30 days) are available at most land borders, or in the nearest large town.
- There are rental agencies in Maputo, Vilankulo, Beira, Nampula, Tete and Pemba, most of which take credit cards. Elsewhere, you can usually arrange something with upmarket hotels.
- Rates start at about US$100 per day for 4WD (US$80 for 2WD), excluding fuel.
- None of the major agencies offers unlimited kilometres.
- With the appropriate paperwork, rental cars from Mozambique can be taken into South Africa and Swaziland but not into other neighbouring countries. Most South African rental agencies don’t permit their vehicles to enter Mozambique.
- Private vehicles entering Mozambique must purchase third-party insurance at the border (from US$10 to US$15 for 30 days).
- It’s also advisable to take out insurance coverage at home or (for rental vehicles) with the rental agency to cover damage to the vehicle, yourself and your possessions.
- Car-rental agencies in Mozambique have wildly differing policies (some offer no insurance at all, some that do may have high deductibles and most won’t cover off-road driving); enquire before signing any agreements.
- Drunk driving is common, as are excessive speeds, and there are many road accidents. Throughout the country, travel as early in the day as possible, and avoid driving at night.
- If you are not used to driving in Southern Africa, watch out for pedestrians, children and animals on the road or running onto the road.
- Tree branches on the road are the local version of flares or hazard lights: they mean there’s a stopped vehicle, crater-sized pothole or similar calamity ahead.
- Traffic in Mozambique drives on the left.
- Traffic already in a roundabout has the right of way.
- The driver and all passengers are required to wear a seat belt.
- Other relevant provisions of Mozambique’s traffic law include a prohibition on driving while using a mobile phone, a requirement to drive with the vehicle’s insurance certificate, and a requirement to carry a reflector vest and two hazard triangles.
- Speed limits (usually 100km/h on main roads, 80km/h on approaches to towns and 60km/h or less when passing through towns) are enforced by radar.
- Fines for speeding and other traffic infringements vary, and should always be negotiated (in a polite, friendly way), keeping in mind that official speeding fines range from Mtc1000 up to Mtc5000, depending on how much above the speed limit you are travelling and where the infringement occurs.
- Driving on the beach is illegal.
- As anywhere in the world, hitching is never entirely safe, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. That said, in parts of rural Mozambique, your only transport option may be hitching a lift. Payment is usually not expected, but clarify before getting in. A small token of thanks is always appreciated. If you do need to pay, it is usually equivalent to what you would pay on a bus or chapa for the same journey.
- To flag down a vehicle, hold your hand out at about waist level and wave it up and down; the Western gesture of holding out the thumb is not used.
- Hitching in pairs is safer. Women should avoid hitching alone.
- Throughout the country, the prevalence of drunk drivers makes it essential to try to assess the driver’s condition before getting into a vehicle.
The only passenger train regularly used by tourists is the twice-weekly slow line between Nampula and Cuamba. Vendors are at all stations, but bring extra food and drink. Second class is reasonably comfortable, and most cabins have windows that open. Third class is hot and crowded. Book the afternoon before travel. If you have the time, it’s one of Southern Africa’s great journeys.