What comes to your mind when you hear Mozambique? For many, it is endless coastlines, people-less beaches, and water so clear, your conscience could never.
The Southern African country is a lot of that, and more.
After Somalia, Mozambique has Africa’s longest coastline. What makes it even more charming is the fact that it still hasn’t been clogged by tourists. You know, saving you from whatever comes with tourist-infested areas? Have you all read the case of Zanzibar? You should.
When we visited a few weeks ago, there was barely any information online. I mean, we wanted to wing it, as always, but it helps to have general information on an area. That’s the reason this post is important. Here are a couple of things you should keep in mind before visiting Mozambique, to make sure your trip is as memorable as can be.
- Most nationalities need a visa.
This is incredibly important to note cuz it could easily frustrate your trip. Now, I was sure that Kenyans do not need a visa to Mozambique. I still am. Mambo ni different kwa ground. This remains one of my most dramatic experiences at any border – this coming from someone who has been through hell, I keep vouchers and imma tell when I can.
So we got to the Mulanje border at around 5 p.m. We were just from hiking the Mulanje Massif (this is another story you need to read) so you can only imagine how eager we were to cross over and rest. Satan comes in many ways and top on the list is through immigration officers, more so when you travel on a Kenyan passport.
Swift exit out of Malawi – they were even sad to see as leave. On the Mozambican side, things took a complete turn. The energy changed, smiles faded, our fatigue multiplied. Our passports were passed across multiple individuals for about 10 minutes before anyone said anything to us. When they finally did, they wanted our contact person in Mozambique. We had one but my phone was off. That was quickly brushed aside. Further “examination” of our passports. All this time, there were other guys getting their stamps with no questioning. To be clear, we weren’t expecting the same treatment as, say, Malawian citizens. I go into Uganda like it’s home – just like it should be. In a perfect world the same would hold everywhere across Africa but it isn’t.
White people didn’t have to explain where they would spend the night. They didn’t have to have an itinerary. They did not have to say how much they have in their accounts, nor where they get it from. These are some of the questions were asked. All this time I was sure they wanted to buy time cuz the border closes at 6.
When it clocked 6, after harassing us endlessly with senseless questions, they said it was their time to leave and that we should go back to Malawi. We refuse. They call the police who want to forcefully remove us. We stand our ground. They agree to let us into the country (without a stamp). You don’t need superpowers to know this is a bad idea. I tell them that the only way that will happen is if they write a signed note to that effect. Not fool proof, but later learned that they do this then send police on you. So we spent a night in Mozambique with no stamp.
Early in the morning we went to make it right. Different stories. They send us back for our huge bags – they had not told us to bring them with us. More harassing for about 3 hours. I’ve learned to not care at these borders cuz they can take an unbelievable toll on you. They ask for $50 each, meant to be visa fees. A visa I still insist we don’t need. We bulge, obviously. Okay, mainly cuz we have flights from Maputo in 10 days. At about midday they take us to the “interview room” for further questioning (this time separately), take our pictures and stick a visa on our passports.
Before you visit Mozambique, go to the embassy and confirm whether or not you need a visa. If you need one on arrival, I’d rather you get it at the embassy. Those at the border ask for whatever amount comes to their mind. I know someone who paid $90, another one $75…
- Corruption is everywhere
It is said that after Columbian police, come the Mozambican ones. You can tell from the visa story there, I hope. My friend had warned me so we managed not to be in trouble with them. We avoided the police, even faking death when on public transport 😁. When they learn you’re a foreigner, they will want to reap you off. Normally, they ask you how much money you have and won’t be afraid to ask you for all of it. Happened to me at the airport on the way out, I told them I had nothing. Keep that in mind it will save you a lot. On that note, have your passport on you at all times so they don’t have grounds to ask for cash or arrest you (they arrest foreigners a lot).
- It is an expensive country
Remember I mentioned we did not have a lot of information prior to visiting? This would be welcome info, tbh. Everything in Mozambique is expensive. We kept asking each other, and the locals, how everyone there survives. It is not a rich country so that remains a riddle. Coming from Malawi made it worse since Malawi is cheap any way you look at it. Beer is cheaper than water.
- Getting from one place to the other is a hustle
I’ve never been as frustrated by transport. I was not ready for this, especially given we thought Mozambique would be where we rested after journeying the beautiful Malawi. At some point we had to wait on a cold veranda for transport down south. It took us 48 hours from Quelimane to a town that should be around 6 hours (I forget the name and Google doesn’t have it – will edit). Plan accordingly. This is the country that had me hitchhike on trucks. Not really hitchhiking though, cuz you pay. A lot. It gets better from Vilankulos all the way down to Maputo.
- It has beautiful beaches.
Thought it would be all gloom? Doubt there is a place like that in this world. What you’ve heard about Mozambique’s beaches is true: most have white sand, are clean, and the water is perfect. Love snorkelling? Go to Mozambique? Prefer surfing? There’s beaches for that as well. If you’d rather sit on a beach and do nothing, plan for Mozambique. The weather is (mostly) beautiful, too.
- There is always something to do.
While most places haven’t been as commercialized, there are dozens of activities one could engage in. Granted, they mostly involve the ocean. Go island hopping, snorkel in the clear waters, try locate whales, dolphins, and other sea animals, go quad biking on the sand dunes… there’s always going to be something to do.
- The people are amazing
I know I say this a lot so I’m probably very lucky with people everywhere I go but the Mozambican ones are special. I have many memorable moments but here goes one:
We met at night while hitchhiking on a truck. We had no place booked, as always. BTW this was right after we got our visas – we couldn’t spend another day near the border. You know, just in case they change their minds and all that? Okay, we were just eager to explore. This guy helped us find accommodation. We had to look for close to an hour cuz what they had was either incredibly expensive or severely dirty. We finally find the balance and he leaves us to rest. Early the next morning he drops everything to come see if we’re okay and help us navigate the area. We have to leave later that day. He organizes everything for us. We thank him for going out of his way to help us, strangers. He sheds a tear and says we are family. I cry, LG cries. I will never forget.
So yea, people there are good. Maybe one day there should be a comprehensive post on all these experiences? There is a short one already. Check that out.
- You will have fun
Regardless of all the nays, I promise you’ll have fun. That’s if you want to. Give the country a chance and let randomness chart an unforgettable adventure. At least you have some info and you know at least one person who’s been there 😉
Here are (extra) pro tips to ensure you make the best off your trip:
- Get a movitel simcard for your data once you get there. There’s others but this one worked great.
- Talk to the locals. Could be difficult unless you speak Portuguese but hey, you’re both humans, there’s always a way.
- Trust the journey. If you rush Mozambique you will be frustrated. I know there are guys who are okay with visiting one town and adding a country to their “list”, this one’s not for you. If you’re the type who wants to genuinely explore and understand a country, please be patient with Mozambique. It will be worth it.
- If you can, have a car. Expensive but I can only imagine the things one could see.
- Be safe. Shit happens anywhere but it’s also unwise to trash common sense. There has been a history of militia activity in Mozambique. You’d be wrong not to keep this in mind as you travel across some areas.
- If you’re short on money, Mozambique would probably not be the best choice. There’s many other cheap(er) destinations.
There were a lot of requests for posts on Mozambique so this is part one of maybe 2 or 3. Let me know if you have any questions on the country cuz despite being there for about 10 days, we just don’t skim over.
Cheers to the unknown!