After staying in South Africa for seven weeks, we were supposed to go to Brazil. But plans changed because after hearing so many positive stories about Mozambique, we decided to go there for three weeks. As we don’t like to rush, but rather absorb the atmosphere and a country’s culture, we only drove from Maputo to Vilanculos and back. If you would like to know more about this route, where to stay and what to do, this is the right article for you.
The interesting thing about Mozambique, is its undiscovered, romantic jungle book vibe. While driving from one place to the other, you will be surrounded by lots and lots of Palm Trees, alternated with authentic villages and beautiful waters. We felt like Mozambique is a sort of undiscovered Zanzibar, which brings us to another reason for visiting Mozambique: the beaches.
In Mozambique people speak Portuguese as their main language, so it can be quite challenging to communicate in English. Nevertheless, you will always find a way to get people to understand you. This experience of self-sufficiency is definitely something that we liked while staying in Mozambique. Everything in Mozambique is still so raw, that it brings you back to the essentials in life!
Tips for an uncomplicated stay
- Rent a car
Public transport is not very common in all places. There are some options tho, however, with backpacks and lots of other stuff, it just doesn’t really make things easier. A small (2×4) car would be sufficient if you are not driving further than Vilanculos, but expect some challenges while driving more up north. We were renting a Kia Picanto and got stuck lots and lots of times in the sand. While driving from one place to the other, the main road is good enough. But almost every accommodation can only be reached with off-road sand “ways”. The good thing is that people are always willing to help you get out of the sand. Before you rent a car, make sure to check how many kilometers you are allowed to drive, as there might be some restrictions. Also make sure to fill up your tank every time you can, because you will come across some areas where there are no gas stations.
- Take enough water and food with you
Supermarkets the way you might be used to, are in general not very common. There are lots of small stalls or small local restaurants, but not in every area. So make sure you will always have enough water and some food with you, while driving longer distances.
- Money, money, money, is so funny…
Make sure you always have enough cash with you. There are quiet some places where you can pay by card, but it happened quiet often that the terminals didn’t work. And when you want to eat in local restaurants, or buy things from a stall, they only accepts cash.
- Drive carefully
Make sure you drive carefully and always keep an eye on your speed. Along the way you can expect many potholes, and there are a lot of police officers checking your speed. When driving in Mozambique you might see some branches on the road. Don’t ignore them, it is usually put there by someone as a warning signal. This can be because of a car that broke down, or because you can expect a dangerous road part. Also there are no street lights, so avoid driving in the dark as much as you can.
- Get yourself a local SIM card
SIM cards with internet are super cheap in Mozambique. You can easily buy 5 Gb for around 4 dollar. Make sure you don’t purchase one at the airport, because you would pay way more. A local sim can be useful especially when in need of Google Maps, and its way cheaper than renting GPRS from the car rental company.
- Always negotiate
People in Mozambique are very open for negotiating. Especially in low season, tours and accommodation prices can be negotiated.
- Check the roads beforehand
Ok, we have a confession to make, we obviously didn’t do this and that’s why we got stuck with the car many times. Contacting the accommodation to check the conditions of the roads, can safe you some trouble. Some accommodations will offer you to pick you up from a point where the roads will get worse. Or you can use our strategy: don’t prepare, getting shocked by the off-road you will have to take, look each other in the eyes and say 1, 2, 3, lets do thisssss GASSS! After a couple of meters you will get stuck anyways, but at least you will enjoy the kind-hearted people who will immediately help you out. In our case, one guy even helped us with making our own “road” because we we got stuck too deep in the sand, so pushing the car wouldn’t even help.
We started our trip in Maputo. Honestly, it was nice to experience, but 1 day would be enough. There is not so much to do and the coastline villages are way more beautiful. We experienced two types of accommodation in Maputo. If you are looking for something luxurious, we would recommend Hotel Maputo. A more cheap option would be Angel Guest House.
In Bilene we stayed at Hotel Aquarius. In Bilene the accommodation was quiet expensive (relatively), but Hotel Aquarius was one of the cheapest options. We found out that the more north you go, the cheaper the accommodation will be. Staying in Bilene for 1 night will be enough. It is a nice small village, but other then some sightseeing, there isn’t much to do. Unless you are up for some quad biking and kite surfing.
After Bilene we drove to Chidenguele, where we stayed at Zona Braza. It is quite challenging to get there, once you go off-road. Be prepared to pass lots of cows on very sandy roads. But it is definitely a nice experience if you have all the time of the world. The accommodation itself has a nice swimming pool and a good restaurant. They don’t serve anything special, but what they offer is good. The lodges are very big and you don’t have to share them. We were just with the two of us, sleeping in a lodge for 6 people. While staying in Chidenguele you can enjoy deep sea and shore fishing. And when you pay a visit between May and January you might have the opportunity to see whales.
In Tofo we would recommend you to stay for a couple of days. There is a lovely beach, lots of tours, and the village is very nice to experience and there is more to do. We stayed at Fatima’s backpackers, a very cheap backpackers place. It is located next to the beach, the restaurant is good and they offer different kind of rooms. Tofo is a great place to dive, do an ocean safari and just stroll around the village and market.
- Praia da Barra
Praia da Barra is only 15 minutes away from Tofo, but we just felt like we wanted to stay there. And it was a good choice. We stayed at Palm Grove Lodge. Also a very big, but affordable lodge next to the beach. When staying at the Palm Grove Lodge, we would recommend to do a tour to Ilha dos Porcos. A nice small island, where you will walk around and have lunch together with the local chief. Also we would recommend to pay a visit to Inhambane, which is the capital city of the province Inhambane. There is a nice local food market with delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. In the afternoon you will find lots of Fishermans on the beach. Together with a local that we have met, we bought some straight out of the ocean fish, and prepared it together. Those experiences are really the best!
In Vilanculos we spend most of our time and we would definitely recommend that to others as well. When it comes to accomodation, there are some great options. We spend most of our days at Casa Chibububo and we absolutely loved it. First of all, their lodges are huge and give you the ultimate jungle book feeling. But for us, the best reason to ever visit them again is their food. Their chef definitely prepares the best seafood ever! Check out our vlog to experience it yourself. Another big plus, is the super kind staff. They are constantly willing to help you with anything and know exactly what to do when in Vilanculos. Casa Chibububo is very affordable and great for families, or group of friends. After Casa Chibububo we went to Dolphin Dhow. Dolphin dhow is especially great for backpackers and is located within the center of the village. Take a look at this accommodation with our vlog.
Our last stay was in Casa Cabana. Also a very nice place. Casa Cabana is more a luxurious option, but is definitely worth the money. It is close to the beach as well. The way to get there, can be a little challenging, as you can see here, but you will find a way anyways.
While in Vilanculos there are many things you can do like horse riding, surfing and making your own clothes at the market. As we spend here quiet some time we published a separate article on what to do in Vilanculos (with tips from a local).