Updated June 2016.
This section suggests ways of avoiding the possible pitfalls and frustrations of travelling in a country where distances between places of interest are great, public transport is limited and often unreliable, credit cards are often not accepted, traveler’s cheques are almost useless, English is not widely spoken and the risk of becoming addicted to a remote corner of a national park or a long stretch of secluded beach is high – even if all of the usual precautions are taken.
Frequently Asked Questions
Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. You will still get an entry permit for up to 30 days stamped in your passport, but this is NOT the same as a visa and cannot be extended – you will have to leave Mozambique and re-enter on a new entry permit.
So here is my attempt to clarify a few things.
Let me be clear at the outset that what follows is by no means authoritative and reflects what MOSTLY HAPPENS and not what (according to Mozambique’s laws) should take place.
ARE MOZAMBIQUE VISAS ISSUED AT AIRPORTS AND LAND BORDERS?
Firstly, as a general rule, if you travel on the passport of a country for which Moz requires a visa, get one before departure. While visas have commonly been issued at airports and MOST land borders (Namoto, Negomano, Congresso, Metangula, Entre Lagos and Mecumbura are not equipped to issue visas), WHILE THIS IS LEGAL ON PAYMENT OF A 25% SURCHARGE, this is at best a formality requiring nothing more than handing in your passport and approx $80 (no photos or photocopies required) and at worst a nightmare if the officer on duty randomly refuses to issue a visa claiming some or other real or imaginary problem (it must be stated that this is rare, but does make the headlines if and when it happens).
So, getting a visa at the border or airport is generally a formality it is by no means guaranteed (despite what you may read on the internet!).
There are a number of categories of visa that can be issued, but I will only deal with the most common ones:
1) Visto de Fronteira (border visa – usual fee is $50 to $80 but can be cheaper if you pay in Mozambican Meticais or Rands, depending on which border you use). Note that this is a SINGLE-ENTRY 30 day visa. Despite what the official Moz govt websites may state, double, or multiple-entry visas are NOT issued on arrival. A possible advantage of a border visa, is that it CAN be (by law it should be, but you will be at the mercy of whoever attends to you) extended for one more period of 30 days at Migracao offices in provincial capitals and larger towns within Mozambique.
I have seen reports of visitors being issued with irregular (illegal) border visas at the Pafuri border post, either due to the official having run out of visa stickers, or due to corrupt practices. So see below for what your border visa should look like.
In order to extend ALL double or multiple-entry visas, it is required that you leave Mozambique and re-enter on a further 30 day permit.
If, for example, you have a six-month multiple-entry visa (of whatever type), you will still have to leave the country before the first 30 days is up, and re-enter on a further 30-day entry stamp.
Whether at one of the airports or land borders, this (Visto de Fronteira) is the ONLY type of visa that is issued on arrival in Mozambique. The LAW is that the Visto de Fronteira SHOULD only be issued to BONA-FIDE TOURISTS (business-people and work-seekers are not eligible for a border visa) who have traveled DIRECTLY from a country where there is NO Mozambique consular representation, i.e it would be impossible for them to obtain a visa from. for example, where their flight originates. IN PRACTICE, border visas HAVE BEEN (who knows what the future holds) regularly issued to most arrivals, wherever they come from, BUT if the official just happens to suspect that you are entering Moz to seek work, or do business, then you could be DEPORTED.
If you require a visa for Mozambique, and intend to apply for one on arrival, BEWARE as some airlines and bus companies will not allow you on board unless you can produce a valid visa.
2) Visto turístico (tourist visa): fee varies and the initial 30 day period can be extended for two more 30 day periods, BUT ONLY BY DEPARTING FROM, AND RE-ENTERING MOZAMBIQUE – can be done at a land border. The period you have to stay out of the country seems to be arbitrary and ranges between immediate re-entry to five days, from border to border
3) Visto de negócios (business visa): This can be extended AT A BORDER for two further periods of up to 30 days each. If you will be conducting any sort of business during your trip to Mozambique, this is the visa for you.
Note that, if the the purpose of your visit is to seek work, or to take up a job, then you will need to be in possession of a Visto de Trabalho, valid for 30 days, extendable AT A BORDER for a further 30 days.
The official MINISTÉRIO DOS NEGÓCIOS ESTRANGEIROS E COOPERAÇÃO (Mozambican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and cooperation) website link (Portuguese) to visas is: http://www.minec.gov.mz/index.php/viagens-e-negocios/vistos-de-entrada
Another useful website (Portuguese) is: www.consuladodemocambiqueporto.pt/vistos.php
Why visit Mozambique?
The more that I have experienced other parts of this peculiar planet, the more I am so relieved to be able to return to Mozambique to once again be surprised and intrigued by the diversity of the landscapes and humbled by the friendliness of the people.
When is it best to go?
Although showers are possible throughout the year, the rainy (and hottest) season is from around December to around May and this is also when the risk of malaria may be at its highest.
Beaches are cooled by sea-breezes year-round and beware that the winter months on high ground such as Manica and Niassa provinces can see temperatures drop to the low teens (deg C). Sometimes routes north of Beira and Pemba become impassable during the rains, but most resorts throughout Mozambique are accessible year-round. The whale (and windy) season is usually around June to September. May-June-July-August winds can be very strong reducing sea activities.
In northern Mozambique (Nampula and Cabo Delgado Provinces), while dirt roads are more difficult and it can be uncomfortably hot and humid for some (only December and January are really hot), the vegetation is lush, the wind is ideal for sailing & diving in the Quirimbas and the storms are magnificient.
What bits of advice do you consider to be most important?
By law everyone must always carry some form of official identification such as a passport or identification document (book).
To avoid your precious passport or drivers’ license falling prey to pick-pockets or bribe-seeking police, make notarised (at a Mozambican Registos e Notariado) copies of all your documents and then carry these with you instead. You will probably still be asked to produce the originals, but at least these can be kept in a safe place.
Carry spare passport-sized photos – they can be very handy if your passport disappears. Government officials and waiters are notoriously bad at calculating or providing change, so carry enough small notes and coins (in Meticais) to be able to pay exact amounts.
What is the best way to prevent malaria and what about the side effects of the tablets?
Short of staying out of Mozambique (the entire country is malarious), so you must take a suitable prophylactic. Consult the experts: https://www.netcare.co.za/live/content.php?Category_ID=34 , cover up dusk to dawn (wear boots – most bites are on the ankles),nuse repellent and (most importantly) sleep under a net or in a tent with sewn-in groundsheet.
Anti-malaria tablets do sometimes have various side-effects (a side-effect of malaria is death), but each individual is affected differently so take a few doses well before you go to find out what agrees with you best.
As prophylaxis, I use doxycycline (tetracycline), and my 14-year-old son takes Mefliam. Malanil for prevention and Coartem as a cure are also effective in Mozambique, but always under guidance of a doctor who is accustomed to dealing with malaria.
Can I use my credit card? ATM ‘s? Changing Travellers’ Cheques?
VISA credit cards can be used at many of the more upmarket lodges, hotels and restaurants in throughout Mozambique, but best to enquire in advance or when booking. As long as you have had a PIN number loaded on your VISA or MASTERCARD (Cirrus and Maestro) you can get cash at ATM’s which are now in almost all towns and service stations. Note that on Fridays and at months end there may be long queues and ATM’s may run out of cash. Travelers Cheques are not widely accepted but you may be able to change them at a bank, BUT AT A MINIMUM COMMISSION OF US$50.
What currency is it best to carry?
With the plethora of South African owned lodges and the influx of hundreds of thousands of South African tourists, the rand has just about become the currency of choice in Mozambique south of the Save river. Also in demand is US$ cash in large denominations ($50 and below are changed but at half the going rate). Many lodges also accept Euro and Pounds, but enquire in advance. SA rands easily exchanged from Beira southwards.
In northern Mozambique (Cabo Delgado and Nampula Provinces), SA Rands are not widely accepted, so either draw all your cash needs in Meticais from an ATM (best). or carry dollar and Euro in cash (not very safe, but widely accepted).
Is it cheap to travel in Mozambique?
The present exchange rate is Mt3,6 to the SA Rand and Mt52,3 to the US$. Prices of food (at markets), transport and accommodation may be lower than in ‘developed’ countries, but when compared with South Africa, for example, Mozambique is a fairly expensive country.
If you are camping, self-catering and/or using public transport, expect to spend (per person) about R600 (US$40) per day. If staying at self-catering chalets and eating one meal at a restaurant per day, budget on R800 (US$60) per day. For fly-in folk, lodges range from US$100 to $800 per person per day. If touring in your own car (petrol or gasolina is approx Mt50, diesel or gasóleo is Mt40 per litre)
How much time will I need to see the whole country (comprehensively)?
In your own (or hired) 4×4 vehicle, about 4 weeks, using public transport, about 6 weeks. Shorter if you leave out the inland provinces of Manica, Tete and Niassa. You can cover Ponta do Ouro to Inhassoro in your own car, or by using public transport, quite well in 2 weeks.
Is Mozambique safe?
If you envisage having unprotected sex, treating local authority with contempt, taking no precautions against malaria, ignoring local advice about the localities of landmines and insisting on driving at night, then Mozambique is a very risky place.
At all times beware of muggers in the bigger cities and petty thieving almost everywhere away from resorts. Note that it is essential to carry a medical evacuation insurance. I use TIC Travel Insurance to cover emergency air evacuation: www.tic.co.za
South Africa has excellent private hospitals and for example for emergency trauma you can do no better than the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg tel + 27 11 – 480 5600, www.netcare.co.za)
Can I take a hired vehicle into Mozambique?
Some Zimbabwe and many South Africa – based companies do allow their vehicles into Mozambique so inquire before booking. In South Africa (Johannesburg) contact Southern Offroad (4x4hire.co.za) Hertz: tel. (011) 390 2066, www.hertz.co.za, for Safari-equipped 4×4’s www.bushlore.com see also www.getawaytoafrica.com and in Zimbabwe (Harare) contact Cameron Harvey Safaris: tel. (04) 86 0978, e-mail: email@example.com or Elite: tel. (04) 73 8325, fax (01) 72 0414. Note that an “Across – border” fee of about $100 – $200 may apply and if you need the vehicle delivered from South Africa or Zimbabwe to an airport in Mozambique (and collected) a hefty ferry-fee will be charged.
Do I need a ‘Carnet de Passage’ for my vehicle?
No, but you will need the original vehicle registration papers (notarised or copies certified by a Commissioner of Oaths usually acceptable) and a letter of authorization from the registered owner and bank (with drivers name and travel dates) if the vehicle is financed.
All land borders issue a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) at no charge. Third Party (MVA) insurance is compulsory and is sold at MOST land borders (Pafuri, Entre Lagos, Vila Nova and Rovuma are exceptions) or can be purchased in advance at AA and Outdoor Warehouse, Sasol Service station near the border and online at https://www.hollsure.co.za/Page/About.
Have your documents ready to hand as you may be asked for these by the white-shirted transit police. For comprehensive cross-border vehicle insurance look up: http://www.ccic.co.za/ultimate-overview/
Do I need an International Drivers License?
No. South African and other drivers licenses are accepted. It is however very useful to carry an International License.
What should I do if my car breaks down?
If you have a cellphone (and reception) phone the nearest lodge (I assuming that you have a guidebook such as Globetrotter Guide to Mozambique). If alone with no phone (it is advisable to travel together with other vehicles) take all valuables and immediately hitch or catch public transport to the nearest tourist facility and arrange a tow back. Once occupants and vehicle are safe, see if essential repairs can be done locally, but ask locally first for a reliable mechanic.
Contact your insurance company to arrange for your vehicle to be repatriated to South Africa, or other country. P.C Autobody in Komatipoort can assist with cross-border repair and recovery at an extra charge: 076 848 4057 or 082 893 4679.
What inoculations are required or advisable?
ONLY If coming from an infected area (see: www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/maps) a Yellow-Fever Inoculation certificate is required. If you are likely to come into close contact with the local population for long periods, then Hepatitis A, Typhoid, T.B, Meningitis, Polio, Rabies and Tetanus shots could be advisable – ask your doctor.
Isn’t Mozambique full of landmines?
At the start of 2016 Mozambique was declared to be land-mine free, however do not wander off well-used routes or into the bush on the roadside. Always rely on local advice (take along a local guide when walking or driving ‘off the beaten track’).
Is it safe for a lone female traveler?
A large proportion of travelers using public transport are other local women who will take you under their wing. Mozambican men can be fairly chauvinistic so if you do not have male company expect some stares at restaurants and unwelcome (perhaps) approaches at bars and nightclubs.
Can I use my mobile (cell) phone?
The GSM900 network now covers much of Mozambique including most stretches of the main arterial roads. Mtn and Vodacom South Africa have a roaming agreement between South Africa and Mozambique, as well as with many other countries, so contact your service provider for advice.
If you don’t have international roaming buy an Mcel or Vodacom Mozambique starter pack pakot inicial) which is sold almost everywhere, even at the most basic of roadside stalls (barracas). For advice on how to register your Mozambique SIM card and for coverage maps see www.mcel.co.mz Vodacom also operate in Mozambique, see www.vm.co.mz for their coverage maps. Another popular network, particularly in rural areas is Movitel: movitel.co.mz
Where can I get access to the Internet?
Data links can be slow and unreliable but all 3 cell phone networks offer data packages.
Should I pack a tent?
The inner section of most tents makes the most effective mosquito net and – as Mozambique is a beach destination – camping is a good, cheaper (and sometimes only) option. Away from the tourist areas where there is no campsite or other official accommodation, ask for the local regulo, chefe or Nfumo, and indicate that you would like to camp – the community will look after you. Bush camping along the coast is illegal and can be quite risky so best to take advantage of the security, comfort and facilities of a proper campsite or lodge.
Is fuel readily available and what does it cost?
Diesel (gasoléo) and petrol (gasolina) are readily available in the provincial capitals as well as along the main routes. In remote areas diesel is far easier to find than petrol. Where there are no service stations, try at the roadside barracas (stalls) or at the ‘mercado’ (market) and/or speak to the transport and bus drivers. Fuel is cheapest in Maputo, Beira, Quelimane and Nacala and increases in price with distance from these ports. Diesel costs Mt40 (ZAR13, US$0.95), petrol Mt50 (ZAR15, US$1) per litre.
Once in Mozambique can my visa be extended?
NOTE THAT ONLY THE 30 DAY SINGLE ENTRY VISAS CAN BE EXTENDED IN MOZAMBIQUE. Tourists can spend up to 90 days per year in the country, but you will have to have your 30-day visa extended at an Imigração office in a provincial capital and many large towns. BUSINESS AND DOUBLE OR MULTIPLE ENTRY VISAS CAN ONLY BE EXTENDED BY EXITING AND RE-ENTERING MOZAMBIQUE.
Is the water safe to drink?
Municipal tap water should be avoided so drink bottled or boiled and filtered water in cities and towns. Most tourist lodges and campsites pump water from boreholes and this should be fine but ask the management first.
What should be in my first aid kit?
Anti-malaria and treatment (quinine and fansidar) tablets, mosquito repellent, antihistamine cream, antibiotic cream and tablets, diarrhoea pills, de-worming pills (vermox), fungal cream, baby powder, plasters, scissors, eye-bath (and sterile water), tweezers and a clinical thermometer (to be used whenever you feel down, as fever may be your first sign of malaria). If heading for very remote areas where outside assistance will not be available or accessible, take along a comprehensive medical kit such as that supplied by http://www.medicalman.co.za/ .
What to take home
While parts of Mozambique are still the best spots in the world to buy prawns, a very limited shelf life (2-3 hours) makes old prawns good for nothing but attracting flies. Cashew nuts are a better bet if you need to nibble to sustain you during a long bus journey or as a present to impress your family and friends with. Although available throughout Mozambique, best value for money is obtainable at the cashew-processing factory at Monapo between Nampula and Ilha de Moçambique.
Arts and crafts have certainly attracted increasing attention in Mozambique since the return of tourists to this country in 1993. Coming to Mozambique and leaving without a colourful capulana, a Makonde statuette or a Malangatana painting (if you can afford it) would be like visiting Italy and not eating pasta. Although the Makonde group originates from a very limited area straddling the Rovuma River in Cabo Delgado province and Tanzania, Makonde co-operatives have been set up in Maputo, Beira, Nampula, Pemba and Mueda (the Makonde ‘capital’). Prices depend on the fame of the artist, the quality and size of the piece of wood used and the degree of intricacy inherent in the sculpture.
Mozambican painters are producing works that are presently highly coveted by some of the world’s art collectors. Although brightly coloured romanticised depictions of local scenery are enthusiastically produced by amateur artists even in the most unlikely corners of the country, watch out for names like Malangatana, Fatima (at Pemba or on Wimbe Beach), the Fundação Chissano Gallery at Matola near Maputo, Jorge Almeida and Luis Souto at the Co-operativa Alpha in Maputo, Conde and Paulo Soares at the Muséu Nacional de Arte, Maputo.
Beautifully woven baskets, bags, hats and furniture are sold on many of the main national routes, in the parts of towns most frequented by visitors (e.g. next to the Café Continental and close to the Hotel Polana on Av. Julius Nyerere in Maputo) and at themercados – Inhambane has excellent woven products.
Silver jewellery is crafted by traditional smiths on Ilha de Moçambique in the crowded bairros) and Ilha de Ibo (in the fortress and in a house near the main market [mercado]). The genuine article (much is in fact made from nickel and tin) is made from melted-down, old Portuguese coins.
- 1 JANUARY: New Year’s Day
- 3 FEBRUARY: Heroes’ Day (death of the first Mozambican president, Eduardo Mondlane)
- 7 APRIL: Women’s Day (the date Josina Machel died)
- 1 MAY: Workers’ Day
- 25 JUNE: Independence Day
- 7 SEPTEMBER: Victory Day (the date of the Lusaka Accord, when the Portuguese agreed to independence)
- 25 SEPTEMBER: Armed Forces Day
- 19 OCTOBER: Samora Machel Day
- 10 NOVEMBER: Maputo Day (in Maputo only)
- 25 DECEMBER: Family Day (Christmas Day)
Easter and Boxing Day (26 December) are at present not official public holidays, but this may be changed. Islamic holidays, although not officially recognised, are observed by Muslim communities (who make up the bulk of the retail sector, so many stores may be closed).