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- Published on 27 April 2011
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Visitors of all nationalities (except SADC Countries i.e South Africa & Malawians) wishing to enter Mozambique require a valid passport and visa. Motorists must purchase a temporary import permit (hand over your SA export permit of entering at Lebombo/Ressano Garcia) and third-party insurance on the Mozambican side of the frontier. They must be in possession of the original vehicle registration papers and their driver’s licence (an international driver’s licence is recommended but not obligatory).
FROM SOUTH AFRICA AND SWAZILAND
Visa are issued in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town (45 Castle Street), Durban (320 West Street) and Nelspruit (43 Brown Street). Luxury buses are run by Panthera Azul between Johannesburg and Maputo and between Durban and Maputo; tel. Johannesburg (011) 337 7409, Durban (031) 304 5104 and Maputo (01)49 4238. Intercape runs buses all over southern Africa including the Johannesburg - Maputo route, tel. (Pretoria) (012) 654 4114, www.intercape.co.za . A sensible stopover if heading for anywhere north of Xai-Xai is Casa Lisa campsites and chalets 48km north of Maputo, tel South Africa (013) 744 9412, ask for 433.
Minibus taxis leaving from outside Johannesburg's Park City rail and coach terminus go direct to Maputo. Spoornet (formerly South African Railways), tel. Johannesburg (011) 359 2960, fax 359 8376, www.spoornet.co.za operates a regular mainline passenger train service to Lebombo near Komatipoort (change trains for Maputo) which leaves from Johannesburg on Tuesdays. Thursdays and Sundays at 4.45 p.m. and reaches Maputo at 10.16 a.m. the next day. One-way fares: first class (luxury sleeper) R170; second class (sleeper) R118 and third class (seats only) R80. Trains leave from Maputo on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1 p.m. and arrive at 6.16 a.m. the next day in Johannesburg. Tel. Johannesburg (011) 820 2479 or 773 2944.
Get your visa in Dar es Salaam and then catch a bus (or boat if the Rufiji River is flooding, thus preventing the ferry from operating) down to Mtwara. Note that a bridge over the Rufiji was due to be completed by April 2001, and I’m told that the road from Dar to Mtwara should be all weather by now. Air Tanzania has scheduled flights weekly to Mtwara. Stay over at Mikindani Lodge and then get your passport stamped out at Kilambo, 4km from the Rovuma River. Travellers to or from Tanzania should note that the Rovuma River divides Mozambique and Tanzania and the only means of crossing for vehicles is the 7 ton ferry between Kilambo (Tanzania) and Singa (Mozambique customs and immigration post) near the river mouth. The present ferry is a Mozambican ocean-going vessel called the Mueda that can carry two light vehicles or one truck but can only cross at high tide. A German-built craft with a shallower draft is due to replace it shortly. Bear in mind before heading south from Dar es Salaam, that if you drive the 600km south to the border and find that the ferry has broken down or been discontinued, your only alternative route into Mozambique is a 3000km detour via Songea (on some very poor roads) through the length of Malawi.
Alternatively you can catch a dhow from Msimbati, 12 kilometres south of Mtwara to Mocimboa da Praia (the trip may take as long as four days) where you can have your passport stamped by the immigration authorities. The rate of exchange in Singa, Quionga, Palma and Mocímboa da Praia is poor, so don’t exchange much money before you get to Pemba, which is 484 km by road to the south - the trip by chapa (truck or mini-bus) taking 18 hours and costing around Mt300 000 (US$18). The provincial capital, Pemba is a tourist centre with reasonably priced hotels, pensões and campsites. Note that the track between Singa and Palma can become impassable from January to May.
After obtaining your visa in Lilongwe or Blantyre (Doogles Lodge next to the Stagecoach bus terminus can arrange same-day transit visas, but 30 day visas take 4 days), the best option might be a bus to Liwonde and then hitch to Cuamba via the Nayuchi/Entre Lagos (06:00-18:00) border, and from there catch the daily train (1st class costs Mt120 000, US$7) which leaves for Nampula. Both the railway line and road between Cuamba and Nampula have been extensively upgraded.
There is also the busy route from Malawi into Mozambique through Mwanza/Zóbué (06:00-18:00) to Tete. The escorted convoys have not been in operation (nor are they necessary) since the hostilities ceased in Mozambique in 1992. The border post at Mulanje/Milange (06:00-18:00) is open, while the road to Mocuba has been resurfaced. Users of the Likoma Island approach can check in at immigration in Cóbuè or Metangula.
Get your visa in Lusaka (ADDRESS). From here the only routes by road into Mozambique are through Chanida/Cassacatiza on rough road down to Tete and the Feira/Zumbo border post after which the roads east are definitely for 4x4’s only and there is no public transport.
There are plenty of buses and lift opportunities from Harare (VISA OFFICE IS AT) (try ‘Stagecoach’) east to via Nyamapanda/Cuchamano (06:00-18:00), where there is a basic campsite, to Tete and Blantyre, or catch the shuttle from Hill 19 lodge in Harare to Doogles in Blantyre. There is a good passenger train service from Harare to Mutare but passenger trains have stopped operating between the border (Machipanda) and Beira, but travellers use the chapas (minibuses) which do the run when full during the hours when the border is open. The road from the Mount Selinda/Espungabera (07:00-17:00) border post to the junction with the E.N.1 is in a fair condition, but it may be impassable immediately after heavy rain due to flooded river crossings.
The secret to success at the often frustrating and confusing border posts with sometimes snaking queues is to be friendly, relaxed and prepared – this means at the very least everyone has their own pen. If you are asked to pay any unexplained fees, courteously ask to see the regulation (regulamento) and the supervisor (chefe) - if you can muster up enough Portuguese. Adopting a completely stupid (but friendly) façade is often the most effective approach when faced with difficult officials. There will be a fee for third party insurance and a temporary import permit for your car, and motorists will also need a driver’s licence and the original registration papers for their vehicle. Note that it is becoming common that, despite having all the necessary documentation, motorists are increasingly being accused of driving a stolen vehicle so it is advisable that you obtain a police clearance certificate.
- Enter Mozambique from South Africa at the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia (near Komatipoort, 06:00-19:00) customs post, or enter from Swaziland through the Lomahasha/Namaacha (06:00-18:00) gate. The distance to Maputo from Komatipoort is 92km on the old road, 50km on the newly opened toll road which has toll plazas at Moamba (R30 or US$5) and at Matola (R15 or US$3). From Namaacha to Maputo is 77km.
The main ports (from south to north) are Maputo, Beira, Quelimane, Nacala and Pemba. The Mozambique Channel between the mainland and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean makes up the country’s entire eastern border. Contact Unicorn Lines, Durban tel. (031) 301 1476, about their passenger/cargo service between Durban and Nacala.
L.A.M. (Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique), S.A.A. (South African Airways), Aeroflot and Air Portugal are among the carriers offering direct flights to Maputo. It may be cheaper to fly to Johannesburg and then to take a connecting flight or bus to Maputo. When flying out of Mozambican airports, a departure tax of U.S.$20 on international flights, U.S.$10 on regional and US$5 on domestic flights is payable.
Car Hire options and Internal Air and Sea Transport
Car hire companies operate in Maputo, Beira, Nampula and Pemba;; however, due to the rough roads and high incidence of vehicle theft, charges are very high. Buses and minibuses operate on a regular basis between large towns on main routes at present, while only only one or two overloaded trucks per week may serve quieter roads.
The domestic service of L.A.M. does fly to all the provincial capitals except Chimoio and Inhambane but as flights are usually full, it is essential to book well in advance. A fatigued old ferry chugs irregularly between Beira (booking office next to ‘Johny’s Place’ – Restaurant Arcadia) and Quelimane, while dhows cover the coast from Angoche northwards.
International airlines land at Maputo International Airport, while the airports at Inhambane, Vilankulo, Beira, Songo, Nacala, Pemba, Mecula and Lichinga now have customs and immigration facilities so they are also ‘airports of entry’. If you have made advance arrangements with a reputable travel agent or hotel (see page 50), you may be met at the airport by a city shuttle, your host or guide otherwise take a taxi (agree on the fee before you get in and pay no more than U.S.$10 or the equivalent in meticais or South African rands) into Maputo. Use a map and the guidance of the driver to locate your hotel or pensão and if you have not made a booking, head for ‘Fatima’s’ at 1317 Avenida Mao Tse Tung. If you plan to arrive by car, always take note of the border hours, and try to enter the country before midday to avoid having to drive after dark when it is more difficult to see unlit vehicles, pot-holes and pedestrians and easier to get lost.