24 days,  August 09




Kind of travel: me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel

When: 08th Aug- 02nd Sept09

Do I need a visa?: yes, and you can get at the land borders (not in all) even if it takes his time. We paid our 30-days single entry visa 60$ at the Mandimba entry point from Malawi

How I moved: run-down buses connect all the main towns, or at worst there'll be crowdy minibuses. The Cuamba- Nampula train is an unmissable adventure, and sometimes the back of the trucks is the only option. Moving around in Mozambique is not a cup of tea, but the efficient LAM airline can help a lot

Freezing or baking?: the temperature ranges from 16C to 30C: in the North in the very early morning or in the night in the inland areas you'll need a thick sweater, while on the coast it gets more than warm. Southern of Vilankulo is definitely colder and a jacket'll help

Where I slept: no lack of cheap places (13- 18€ for a double room) but standards drop at the bottom and running water gets a dreams. In Maputo it'll be hard to find a double for less than 26€. In Ilha de Moz accommodations get fancier without prices soaring

What I liked: the remote red-dusty road from the Malawi border to Mandimba on foot, the sculptureus enormous baobabs around Massinga, and the ghostly old town in the Ilha de Mozambique

What I disliked: the domain of the cell phone company of people without even the electricity, the agrressiveness among locals on the public means of transport, the scaring atmosphere in Beira at dusk and the money-eager soldiers in Maputo

How much daily: definitely cheaper than Zambia, slighter than Malawi the budget as couple for transp+ accomm+ food will be around 23€ each per day

Dangers/ hassles: in towns as Beira at dusk a taxi is a must, while in Maputo ashole soldier ask us for money, stand the ground in pushing them back

What you do need: if you travel cheap carry your mosquito net and the stuff to put up with traveling in the back of the trucks as a wind-jacket, a cap or a bandana. Flash lamp is a must and studying a minimum of portuguese language will make your travel more funny and easier


[Traveling in Malawi]

From the Mozambique border it took 1h on foot to cover the 4km were separating us to the first village. We realize we entered the ex Portuguese colony not only for being given a full page visa glued on our passport, but also for the kids shouting us 'Olà, como esta?' instead of 'Hello, how are u?' heard so far. We pulled in Mandimba in the late afternoon, when we were told no more minibuses were leaving to Cuamba, but there was free space on the back of a truck.
We waited 1h and we got convinced the truck was our only choose, hence we jumped on it. Obviously as soon as we were on, a comfortable minibus passed collecting people, they called at us, we tried to dash in, but the drivers started to beat each other, so we kept our first choose.
The tough travel to Cuamba took almost 4h, if initially the dust was our only concern, after the twilight, we were suffering more for the coldness.
One of our travelmate on the back of the truck was a young guy the following day would have taken the train heading to Nampula. We felt lucky of our acquaintance when he told us there wasn't the train we had planned to take the day after the next. So we opted to skip the spare day we wanted to spend in Cuamba. We went to the station the same night and the found out just the 3rd class was running. We took the ticket anyway, been unaware we were doing a huge error: in the day since the beginning we planned to travel, not only there was the train, but there was even the 2nd class.
Nampula station at 4.00 am: we were queuing in the darkness to get on the train, that then left on time at 5.30am. At the beginning the temperature was chilly and the wagon already crowdy, but almost empty compared what it would have been in few hours time after passengers began to shop at the stations stuffing it with every kind of vegetable or animal. The travel took 11h in 3rd class and it turned out both amazing and painful. The positive part was the impressive trading of any dead or alive commodity at the stations, while on the other hand we were packed like animals in the dirt for such long time, unable even to enter the un-walkable toilet.
Nampula is the hub of the North of Mozambique, and even if at the end we spent there 2 days, it's not one of that places you are gonna to fell in love with. Take into account that both the hotels we visited were without running water: then we stayed in a shitty place for 13€ a double. Nampula- Ilha de Mozambique are 'quick' 5h by minibus, that'll drop you at the beginning of the 1km long bridge, where for free a small truck shuttles to the Ilha.
We were immediately amazed by the beauty of such island that definitely deserves its fame as the main highlight of Mozambique. Being 3km long and 0.5km wide is a tiny place but especially in the northern part the abandoned old Portuguese buildings create an atmosphere of movie-set ghost town. Moreover the background is the light blue sea, although beaches are used by the locals instead of their missing toilets.
We enjoyed the island for more than 2 days staying at the recommendable 'Patio dos Quinalinhos' that, given the atmosphere and the cleanness, is very worth the 20€ a double.
After bargaining a lift with a fisherman to the northern mainland, we started a long walk to the village of Chocas mostly on the dry sea-bed chased from the rising tide. It took more than 2h on bare foot to cover the 6km up to Chocas. Then we ran out of energy at such extent that the first private house of the village was the one were we settled, even if looking dodgey and quite disgusting. The village itself turned out not that much better mainly due to its run down and bleak atmosphere, nevertheless the fish dinner at the only restaurant was remarkable. Luckily the only other guests here were some Italian doctors who, the next day, gave us a 30km long lift up to the nearest tarred road where we jumped on a truck to reach the first minibuses in turn heading to Nampula.
From here by the efficient LAM (103€ each one way) we flew to Beira that initially well impressed us, maybe for the nice hotel we found 400mts from the bus station with hot running water in a double for 18€!
However when we were caught by the dusk while looking for something to eat, the deserted town scared us. So we dashed into the first (empty) place resembling a restaurant and here we got acquainted with the Italian- Ethiopian owner Paris. He was so kind, that after having served the dinner, he offered us the taxi paying also the lift for the following early morning to the bus station (THANKS PARIS!).
The trip to Maxixe was 9h long and the usual pain, although the giant Baobabs dotting the landscape as huge sculptures make it quite scenic.
In Maxixe we felt almost as being in another country compared with the north of Mozambique. In fact this is the northernmost place where the South African tourism carries its wealth.
It's immediately evident by the clean and uncrowdy ferry crossing the sea-tongue to reach Inhambane. This town is a nice and convenient hub for the several nearby beaches well known by the South African masses. We found two beds in a dorm for 17€ each and we spent some hours loitering around the town characterized by two mosques, a church and even an Hindu temple.
The following day in 1h by minibus we were in Tofo, one of the most famous beaches of Mozambique, where the main activity is to lay down and being given a tan.
To reach Maputo then it's another long 9h odyssey on a big orange bus; the capital is one of that places you might not want to spend more than half day to buy the souvenirs, so we did. Don't expect cheap accommodations unless you haven't booked (we found the hotels full), and the second cheaper option we found was 26€ for a double. When it comes the dusk it's not the case for outdoor strolls, but there's a wide choice of restaurant to spend indoor your evening.
The 70km separating Maputo to the border crossing to Swaziland are an easy 40min by minibus, but the border town of Namaacha well deserves a 2h stopover to have a taste of its colorful atmosphere, the church, and even the casino with swimming pool. For those as us, coming from Mozambique it's a pleasant introduction of Swaziland.

[Traveling in Swaziland]



There's no way to describe Mozambique without, first of all, splitting it in the Northern and the Southern part. The former is definitely the wildest and the most Islamic, this makes the travel here tougher but far more rewarding. The latest is the right place to lie on the beach, enjoying some comfortable accommodation (even with running water!), but a little spoiled by the South African tourism, also in term of expensiveness.
On the other hand the element that still unifies the country is its language; moreover the Portuguese gives Mozambique a special exotic charm compared to his 'British neighbors'. In fact, unlike Zambia, here the Big Five aren't the real draw, but the culture with its population. Anyway you shouldn't underrate it's also the poorest country of the area, that's why traveling here can't get tough and at times it might be not the African Paradise you would expect.


Mozambique travel tip


EU citizens need a visa and they can get it at most of the entry points as airports or crossing borders (but not in all). A single entry visa 15 days valid is 60$ and it's a full-page nice sticker + a stamp on another page



The currency is the Metical, the plural is Meticais (1€= 38 Meticais). You can change almost everywhere against € or $




I took Lariam against Malaria; having a mosquito net, wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts and abounding with insect repellent, you avoid the famigerated Lariam profilassys, but you are always taking a risk
Take into consideration to buy Malarone instead of Lariam, although it's a daily dose (Lariam weekly) and more expensive, it is said to not give the Lariam side effects.
If you r gonna staying for a long period in the country, obviously you have to do your counts on risks, money and side-effects!

Morevoer I had the usual vaccinations: Ephatite A, B, Typhus, Tetanus, Meningitis.
I hadn't any problem with the food or the drinks, never drinking tap water, obviously.



I used Lonely Planet 'Mozambico 2007' (in italian translated from 2nd edition Feb 07). I found it particularly shallow in the details of the frequency of the public means of transports (especially to reach the villages) and also giving the distances, but it's still a helpfull travelmate





- Train Cuamba -Nampula

This train leg will be for sure your headache planning your trip if you cannot afford to waste a day waiting for a train. Consider the schedule are volatile since the operators seem to change frequently, so check out on the LP thorn tree for confirmation. However at the time of traveling (Aug09), the trains Cuamba- Nampula and also viceversa were daily except on Monday, when no train was running in both ways. From Cuamba to Nampula on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday also the 2nd class is available, all the other days just the 3rd one.
The ticket can be bought till the late evening even the day before, if not full booked.
The departure is at 5.30 am, but I recommend to be at 4.00am at the station.
Don't count too much on both the restaurant and toilet, but at least you are not going to starve since it's plenty of food vendors at each of the several station.
The arrival is around 16.30pm.
Good luck

- LAM airlines

Don't underrated the convenience of using the national flight carried LAM.
Its standards are European ones and the prices very competitive.
Check the LAM website.

- Policemen in Maputo

In Maputo while taking a picture to the Eiffel house we have been stopped by a jeep with 5 policemen.
They asked for our passport and we gave them the photocopy saying the original was at the hotel.
they complained it was not regular since we needed a stamp to authenticate it. This is actually true and we knew it, but I would have never given my passport in the hand of the first person with an uniform stopping me. Hence we politely said we wanted to go to the police station and call our embassy for supporting us. We really stood the ground without hesitating while looking for the embassy phone number on the Lonely Planet. The began saying bullshit like:' we want to close it as among friends'; we didn't give up and at the end they left.