With its azure waters, palm fringed beaches, and miles of white sandbanks, Mozambique is one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. I first became curious about visiting when I stumbled on some gorgeous photos years ago on Flickr and Tumblr, but was never able to ever find any real information about how to visit. The only details I could find online were stories of people getting robbed in Maputo or warnings about getting pick pocketed in the "dangerous" city. Thankfully I didn't let that stop me from going and was excited to have my sister come along when I asked her to join me. So with just a week to explore, we made the most of it falling in love with the coastline, taking in the culture, eating delicious food, and enjoying of some of the fun activities around available.
Flying in from Johannesburg, our route was Maputo > Vilanculos > Tofo > Maputo, where we did a combination of road tripping and flying from place to place. And while I wish I could tell you that it was all a dream of a vacation, the reality is that it was extremely challenging to make happen - mostly because traveling in Mozambique can be very difficult (and can get very expensive if you're not a budget backpacker). Getting visas, booking flights, and even finding great quality (yet affordable) places to stay was sometimes painful, but always always always worth it in the end.
To help make it easier for you as you plan your trip there, I've partnered with Uber and the new Uber Visa Card on this post to give you all my tips and recommendations on some of what I learned to make your planning more seamless. Hope you'll find it helpful!
GETTING A VISA
Before going, I was a little confused on whether or not Americans could get a visa on arrival. Though some websites online said it was possible, I heard quite a few horror stories of people being turned away once they were boarding their flight (the horror!). To be on the safe side, I went ahead and got my visa at the Mozambican embassy while I was still in Johannesburg and before my trip. I was able to get my visa pretty hassle free on same day at the embassy in Pretoria, but the application guidelines are a little grueling. Before you get there, make sure you:
Bring 2 passport size photos, a credit card (they do not accept cash) for the roughly $62 fee, and a printed + completed application form (they'll charge you if you don't print it out ahead of time).
Try to get to the embassy between 8am-10am so that you can get your passport same day by 3pm. They typically go to lunch around noon, so you don't want to get there too close to then and have to wait until the next day.
Bring a print out of your confirmed (not reserved) accommodation including their contact and business details. This is very important because without this they would not grant me a visa. I was almost denied when I went because I brought a reservation and not a confirmation, but thankfully managed to go get it sorted in time.
CREDIT CARDS + CASH
My general rule when traveling anywhere is that cash is best, but found that having a credit card with good rewards in Vilanculos would have made things a lot easier and cheaper for me in the long run regarding my big travel expenses like flights (total cost about $500), accommodations (total cost about $400), and restaurants (total cost $100). For instance, since the amount I spent on hotels and flights in Mozambique were far more than what I typically spend, it would have been nice to take advantage of the 3% of all that money spent on hotel and airfare if I had the new Uber Visa Card.* Similarly for all my restaurant expenses, I could have earned 4% back on dining out had I had the Uber Visa Card (note that terms apply + link).* But alas, I did not have the card and at least know about it for the future. You live and you learn, right?
For the times that I used cash, local currency (meticals) was best. This gave me more leverage when haggling or negotiating prices, but USD and South African Rands were also accepted in some places. Be sure to always carry enough cash to rely on because ATMs often run out of cash (some of them wouldn’t even accept my debit card). Something else to remember is that you can’t exchange meticals once you're outside of Mozambique, so make sure to do that before you leave the country.
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW
How much time you'll need: I was there for just around a week and only managed to scratch the surface of all that Moz has to offer. I wish I would have spent 2-3 weeks at least, though i would have needed quite a big budget to sustain it (insert crying Jordan face meme here).
Language barrier: Portuguese is the official language and you'll have a hard time finding anyone that speaks English outside of towns that cater to tourists. Try to to learn a few Portuguese phrases if you can if you plan to go off the beaten path, though it will be hard to find a local who can speak English.
Things to Do: Mozambique is home to some of the best diving and snorkeling around the world, so if you’re like me and love underwater adventures you will love it. You have the option to dive or snorkel with Whale Sharks, Sea Turtles, Manta Rays, Dolphins, Small Eyed Stingrays, Sharks and even Humpback Whales or go kitesurfing or horseback riding.
TRAVELING WITHIN MOZAMBIQUE
To be honest, traveling within Mozambique is either going to be expensive or time consuming because there is no simple way to get from one city to the next. With that said, the only safe options I recommend are:
By Airplane: This is the quickest and most expensive way to get anywhere in the country. After flying into Maputo from Johannesburg, I chose to continue on to Vilanculos via plane the next day. I had a few complications with booking my flight (prices went up by $300 while I was trying to book my flight online), but managed to get one after taking a risk of going to the ticket counter the day of the (sold out) flight. The hope was that there would be no shows and thankfully, we got a very lucky break and were able to get one way tickets for the original $350 price. I would of course not recommend you do that though (because I clearly live on the edge), though using SA Airlink and LAM are the only (non private) airlines you can use.
Car Rental/Private Car: After spending a few days in Vilanculos, we wanted to continue on to Tofo but couldn't justify spending another $350 to fly less than an hour there. And though we noticed a wide variety of reputable car rental offices at the airport in Maputo when we first arrived, we didn't want to deal with navigating roads in a country where we don't speak the official language (Portuguese) or take the chance of being pulled over by police who would likely want bribes. Instead, we went the private car route. My sister and I hired the official taxi driver at our hotel in Vilanculos who then drove us from there to Tofo, before continuing back to Maputo for about $150 USD (plus all costs to fuel the car). This was a great deal for us, which allowed us to also see far more of the country than we would have been able to by air.
Hitchhiking: This one is not something I personally did (or recommend), but discovered that it is the main way that locals and other travelers on a budget get to different cities in Mozambique. There is a huge hitchhiking culture throughout the country, so if you're up for the adventure and can speak Portuguese, it's definitely an option you could consider.
WHERE TO VISIT: VILANCULOS
We didn't spend much time in Maputo, choosing to spend just one night there before flying into Vilanculos in the northern Inhambane province. Vilanculos has a very laid back vibe because it's fishing town with a gorgeous beach, but what is most memorable about it is the Bazaruto Archipelago. It's hard to put into words how beautiful this place was, but it's where you can island hop any one of the 5 islands and take in surreal landscapes. Sandbank after sandbank on Bazaruto Island create the most beautiful optical illusions where tall 30km dunes meet teal colored waters. To get to each of the islands, we booked dhow safaris with the Kitesurfing Centre which also came with lunch and snorkeling equipment. It was hands down the best part of my trip!
WHERE TO VISIT: TOFO
Tofo has a bit of a reputation for being a party destination for backpackers, but if you can get past that you'll see why so many come to visit in the first place. It's another one with laid back vibe, though the sea of palm trees, long stretch of golden white sand, and insane surf breaks attract less honeymooners and more hipsters. You also have the option to go diving and see manta rays, turtles, dolphins, eagle rays, and humpback whales before ending your day with deliciously affordable seafood, so it's a shame we were only able to spend one night before continuing on to Maputo before leaving the country.
Where to stay: Baia Sonambula
While it was worth every single penny, traveling in Mozambique wasn't the easiest or cheapest destination for me. I loved everything about my time there and would highly recommend it to anyone. I can’t wait to go back and spend more time exploring more of the culture and some of the places further in the north like Ibo Island, Pemba, and Benguerra Island.
Photography by yours truly
Photos of me by Eplleseed
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
*Terms Apply. Please review the FAQS and Rewards Summary for important information about program benefits and features listed above and the Terms and Conditions for full details about the rewards benefits (such as how points are earned), interest rates and account fees and terms for this particular offer before applying.