VISITING MOZAMBIQUE: A SHORT LIST OF REQUIREMENTS AND THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR 1ST TIMERS (Travel Tips/Quick Check list)
Following a 7-day visit to the Paindane (near Inhambane), a list of important things to remember!
1. You need the following:
i) Passports are needed by all adults and children alike. Passports must not expire within 6 months of the visit and you need a blank page per country to visit. South Africans do not need formal visas in their passports (a local tourist “visa” (piece of paper) can be obtained at the border post for South Africans visiting less than 30 days—it costs about R20 per person)
ii) Your vehicle registration certificate (RC1) (also for trailers). Note: Many South African banks take in the vehicle registration documents when financing vehicles—just call them for a faxed copy of your registration certificate. Secondly, also a faxed letter from the bank authorising the cross border (also if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle). If your vehicle is not under finance you MUST still bring its registration documents with. Same applies to rental cars. Remember to make a plain paper copy of any thermal fax paper versions
iii) Your insurance company confirming by letter (fax) that your vehicle is insured and for which countries. This will typically cover all Southern African countries excluding Zambia, Tanzania and Angola (you will have to get special insurance for your vehicle when visiting those countries).
iv) All South African vehicles (including trailers) must have a “ZA” sticker on the back.
v) You must have two red warning triangles with reflectors inside your vehicle (although this doesn’t seem to apply to locals that use tree branches in the road if their vehicles break down!)
vi) From January 2010 a reflective over-jacket in your vehicle (buy it from Outdoor Warehouse or Midas for appr R60). All colours are acceptable: red/orange/lime green/yellow.
vii) If you tow a trailer, a sticker that has a yellow triangle on square blue background must be displayed at the front of your vehicle as well as the back of the trailer (you can use red warning triangles with reflectors tied to the front of the vehicle and back of trailer as a temporally measure). These stickers must be displayed towards the right hand-side of the vehicle and trailer (ie. towards the centre of the road) and relatively close to the edge of the vehicle. Buy them at 4x4 stores.
viii) You will need special 3rd party Moz insurance. This cost appr R180 for a vehicle + R130 for a trailer and can be obtained at the BP garage just after Komatipoort. Also from most AA and Outdoor Warehouse stores throughout South Africa.
ix) It is important that you declare all valuables on the SARS Customs form (ask for it) when leaving SA as this form is checked upon returning. Also declare all electronic equipment, GPS’s, laptops, cameras, binoculars, fridges, etc. Use up all diesel, etc from jerry cans as these create unnecessary explanations/problems when returning to SA.
x) A “temporary import permit” must be purchased at the Moz-side border (about R40) declaring all vehicles AND things like fridges, cameras, etc for Mozambique officials (remember to declare them otherwise you can be made to pay import duty on them). Keep this document with you in case you are stopped at a road block.
xi) Keep ALL receipts/documents (i.e. the SARS form) in a single file as you are required to show them at Police checkpoints and even at Border posts when returning. Officials get irritated when you don’t have them close by.
2. Moz border posts all have different open times and also during summer/winter. In winter Komatipoort border post opens at 08:00 and closes at 18:00. Things go SLOWLY in Africa and you must in general plan for at least 1 hour to pass through any border post. The South African side of the Komatipoort border was the slowest, most inefficient and dirty, especially when returning to SA (it took us more than an hour to pass through the SA side alone as there were only two officials working compared to the six of Mozambique).
3. Check with your medical aid/insurance company that you have cover in Mozambique. Many do, but just make sure.
4. Petrol and diesel are about 10% to 25% more expensive than in SA—garages are generally in poor condition (although some better ones have small convenience shops). Diesel and petrol are readily available up to Xai-Xai. We could not pay for petrol with credit cards and South African Petrol/Garage Cards are generally NOT accepted. Some garages accept credit cards (+5% commission). Rands/US$ were also sometimes acceptable. Rather have Meticans. Avoid using very small garages (low pump rates=dirty fuel)
5. Avoid driving alone in Mozambique as breakdowns can be tough to deal with (no infra structure/spares). Have basic spares and a good quality tow-rope with you (NOT a local hardware shop “nylon ski rope”!).
6. Speed limit on open roads is 100 km/h but you will often come across speed limits varying between 60 km/h. to 80 km/h. when approaching villages and crossings. If you tow a trailer then 60 becomes 50 in towns! We have come across a number of speed traps (all radar/laser based) in these lower speed zones.
7. Main roads are mostly tarred but in very poor condition (you don’t need a 4x4 to travel between major towns) but watch out for the many deep potholes! The toll road between Komatipoort and Maputo is excellent. The new road between Maputo and Xai-Xai is in reasonable good condition. North of Xai-Xai it varies a lot—from reasonable to poor (potholes/broken shoulders).
8. Lesser roads are virtually all 4x4 (lots of sand, mud) and don’t risk it with a 4x2 vehicle (not even with a diff-lock). Also never risk driving them alone and definitely avoid unknown dirt roads or cross county (risk of landmines)
9. When driving remote and sandy roads, the time it takes to drive them is often much more important than the actual kilometres. Some GPS maps (such as Tracks4Africa) now include this information. Check this out carefully as failing to do so can leave you stranded in the wilderness by nightfall, far from your destination.
10. Travelling at night is very dangerous. Apart from vehicles without lights and reflectors, there are many pedestrians/cyclists next to and often in the road. If you have to drive after dark, drive slowly! We also came across someone doing the infamous “big injury act” by “fainting” next to the road just as you approach —watch-out as they are likely roadside robbers!
11. Road side toilet facilities (i.e. at garages) are in very poor condition and most of the time simply filthy. Remember your own toilet paper for the whole trip (“white gold”)! Also some physical hygiene protection for toilet seats.
12. There are nowadays some South African convenience shops in bigger towns (although not nearly as many as in Botswana/Namibia). Local supermarket shops are also getting better. This is convenient to buy basic supplies from and reduce the amount of food, bottled water, etc you have to take with you. Prices are 15 – 35% more expensive than in SA.
13. We have’nt come across any veterinary check points (road blocks) but South Africa does not want you to bring any meat & dairy products back. Buying meat is not easy in Moz and we brought ours from SA. You may have to pay tax on fish/crayfish brought back into SA.
14. It is possible to drive from Johannesburg to Xai-Xai during day time (winter), but then you must leave the Komatipoort Border Post by not later than 10:00. If you want to drive to the north (Inhambane) you will need another 3 hours. I do not recommend driving from Komatipoort to Inhambane in one go— with the delays at the border post, the pedestrians in Maputo, the not-so-good roads especially north of Xai-Xai, pot-holes, many radar speed traps etc. will put a lot of strain on the driver (fatigue) and you are then likely to end up driving at night which is very dangerous.
15. There are only a few camping sites along major routes and one doesn’t have to make reservations ahead of time (unless in high season). We can recommend the following camp site: Casa Lisa (40 km North of Maputo) with bungalows, a restaurant and grass camping site. No electrical points however. (Tel +258 82 30-4199. GPS waypoint/coordinates S25”35.0610; E32”39.3190).
16. Take your own bottled water or sterilising tablets for the whole trip as Moz has cholera. Camping sites seem to use borehole water—check with owners whether it is safe to drink.
17. There are only a few pharmacies in Moz and most seem to be poorly stocked—rather buy your medicines in South Africa.
18. Make sure you have a well thought through medical emergency kit to suit your family’s particular requirements (adults and kids alike).
19. Malaria is a BIG problem in Moz and on the increase. It is strongly recommended to consult a doctor before leaving South Africa. We found surprisingly many mosquitoes for mid-winter—so be careful! Prevention against being bitten by mosquitoes is important and you are also urged to use anti-mosquito spray (or cream lotion) generously in the morning but especially in the afternoon and evening. Also wear long trousers, closed shoes and long-sleeved shirts after dusk We also burnt mosquito coils/candles every evening.
20. Credit cards don’t seem to be much in use throughout Mozambique (except perhaps in bigger hotels/resorts, etc.). I have seen only MasterCard/Visa signs.
21. Although it is difficult to give guidelines on how much cash (Meticans) you need, I would recommend at least 2,000—3,000 rands worth per week for a family of 4 (excluding fuel, accommodation). Border crossings must be paid in Meticans/Rands/US$ (cash only) and varies between R20 and R30 per person plus R40 vehicle permit tax. Meticans cannot be obtained from South African Banks although you may find Bureau de Change outlets at Nelspruit and Komatipoort. We bought money at a Bureau de Change at the BP garage just before the border (be careful of road side money traders—they will rip you off if you don’t know the exchange rates!). South African Rands are widely accepted, although you must always check the exchange rate offered.
22. In order to buy money, South Africans MUST remember to bring a certified copy of an official document that shows your RESIDENTIAL address as per the FICA Act requirements (a utility bill, TV license, insurance document, etc will suffice but not your ID-book’s address). If you forget, you may have to buy money from road-side traders.
23. Keep ALL receipts/documents in a file as you can be required to return them when leaving a country.
24. We found winter night temperatures colder than expected—remember warm clothes/jackets and extra blankets to put on top of sleeping bags. Also protection against rain/wind (it did rain mid-winter)!
25. A map-based GPS is strongly recommended. I have found Tracks4Africa on Garmin to be the best although Garmin’s maps are also getting better. I also like to have a good paper map and again Tracks4Afrrica’s new paper map is excellent, although Shell and InfoMap paper maps are also good. See: http://www.tracks4africa.com/, http://www.infomap.co.za, etc. Ask Kevin Bolton’s Warehouse, Safari 4x4, Outdoor Warehouse, etc for advice if you are not sure.
26. As there is limited cell phone reception in Mozambique (main towns and some bigger villages), Google Mobile Maps are of little use as you cannot pre-load Google maps (watch out for expensive data roaming costs if it attempts to download maps there). Nokia/Blackberry Maps work if you download the Southern Africa maps prior to your departure (again files are relatively large and rather disable data roaming on your phone!). Nokia Maps have a free Mozambique download from their web-site, although it is lacking detail for remote areas (rather rely on dedicated GPS’s such as Garmin, etc.)
27. We stayed at Paindane (near Inhambane, south of Tofu) —a beautiful camp site with excellent swimming and safe snorkling (also for kids). Very friendly staff. Nice sea facing chalets and “casitas” (very large type of thatched shelter with a private toilet, hot shower, dish wash basin, braai and 220v electrical point (10 hrs/day, 2 amps max). You can even put two small tents underneath it—excellent). Also visit nearby Ganjuta camp (very nice restaurant!). See http://www.paindane.com/
Plse let me know if you have found this info useful! Any omissions/updates?
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Christiaan Mostert firstname.lastname@example.org