Maputo is the capital city of Mozambique.
Maputo has been the capital of Mozambique since 1898. The city was previously called Lourenço Marques until the country's independence in 1975. It is the largest city in Mozambique and the country's most important harbour. It is situated at the mouth of the Santo River in the extreme south, 90 km from the border with South Africa.
In comparison with other sub-Saharan African cities, the urban area feels small and concentrated, with wide avenues and old trees. People are generally out and about in the streets, walking, driving and getting on with life. The vibe is healthy and active, with little begging and lots of street vendors and markets. There is no heavy presence of police during the day.
There are few tourists to be seen and at times the atmosphere is as much South American as African. Buildings range from old colonial palaces to new high-rise constructions, but the dominant architecture consists of Stalinist-looking concrete-walled boxes, generally with badly eroded paint and rusty security bars. Fortunately, these tend to fade into the background, and there are enough buildings with old charm and lush enough gardens (cycads, coleus, flamboyant, jacaranda, bouganvillea, etc.) to give a pleasing if shabby feel.
The city provides a range of accommodation, from many-star hotels (e.g. Polana, Cardoso, Southern Sun) to comfortable backpackers' hostels (Base and Fatima's) and reasonable options in between (Mozaic Guest House).
Most international flights to/from Mozambique use Maputo's airport (IATA: MPM). See the the Mozambique page for more information.
- LAM  and Air Corridor  operate a high number of domestic flights within Mozambique.
- TAP flies non-stop from Lisbon.
- SAA  operates two flights a day from Johannesburg to Maputo and SA Airlink has five flights a week from both Durban and Cape Town.
- 1time, the South Africa budget carrier, have announced they will be offering a service from Johannesburg starting February 2010.
Taxis from the airport to town should be around 350 Metecais (approx US$12). Hotels generally send their buses to meet flights, but only if they have passengers on the flight with bookings at their hotel. Local SIM cards can be bought at the shop near the exit from the terminal where there is also a bank.
Rail services to Maputo are slowly improving, altough the lines currently trafficed are of limited use to tourists. An execption is the daily service from Ressano Garcia at the border with South Africa, it is a convenient way of traveling here from Johannesburg and Pretoria as daily trains connects with the city of Komatipoort across the border.
The highway from Johannesburg to Maputo is very good. From Johannesburg, take the N4 towards Nelspruit (about 400 km). From Nelspruit, continue following the N4 to Komatipoort, the last town on the South African side (about 100 km). Just past Komatipoort is the Komatipoort/Ressano Garcia border post. NB: current car registration papers (or good facsimile thereof) are required to get a car past the border. On the Mozambican side, just follow the N4 (now called EN4) for a further 100 km or so to reach Maputo.
Also easy access from Manzini in Swaziland, around 186 km. With minivan/taxi the cost from Manzini to Maputo is around US$8 with luggage (price per October 2006). The drive time, including getting visa at the Namaacha border post, is 4 hrs. The price for visa is US$25.
From Durban, on the KwaZulu Natal coast (South Africa), Maputo is 600 km away and best approached via the Golele border post into Swaziland. The shortest route from Golele into Mozambique is at the newly opened Goba border post.
Komatipoort/ Ressano Garcia Border Control
The border control can be very intimidating to new (and even returning) visitors to Mozambique. As you drive into the Mozambican side of the border, you will have many people rushing to your vehicle (some even looking quite official) and then directing you to perform this or that activity. The goal is probably to intimidate you so that you use their services (expertise) to expedite the border crossing, which they do. They will then suggest that you pay them a fee that you believe is fair for all this.
In essence, the role of these helpers is to "fast track" your queue through the border control, meaning that they kinda bump the ordinary traveller out of the queue. This is done with the tacit approval of the border officials--implying that they are part of the tactic, and they quite possibly also receive some gain from it.
Depending on your standpoint, it may be viewed as encouraging an activity that is nor entirely legal but expedites your passage, or something you are vehemently opposed to.
If you are a little adventurous, it is possible to cycle by means of a mountain bike from Maputo to Ponta do Ouro. But be warned that you will have to push your bicycle for about 30 km through thick sand. The trip is well worth it, and the look on the locals faces when they find out where you are going is not to be missed.
Be warned though that it can be dangerous at times so try to travel in a group.
You can walk the center of the city by day but steer clear of the central business district at night.
Metered (yellow-roofed) taxi longer distances or at night but agree to a fare beforehand as many don't have meters. Ask hotel desks or locals for guidance on reasonable fares (e.g., Hotel Cardoso to Feira Popular or Mercado Central is around Mts 80 - 90,000 (US$4-5).
A very inexpensive way to get around is by mini-bus or "Chapa" (pronounced SHA-PAA). They work like small busses and have routes that criss-cross the city. All major routes begin and end in the downtown core/market area called "Baixa" (pronounced BAA-SHAA). If you can speak Portuguese, then this is an excellent way to travel, or if you have a local friend to take you. Prices are low, around Mts 5,000 (US$0.20) for most trips and Mts 10,000 (US$0.40) for longer ones (all one way). Even if you don't know which Chapa to take, it's a great way to explore the city, and to get back to the core market area just find a Chapa that goes to "Baixa." Generally asking the navigator (usually hanging out of the passenger side door) if they go to "Baixa" will either result in them motioning you to jump on, or them pointing to where you need to go. Drivers usually cannot get away with overcharging you because you can easily see what the locals are paying, or the locals themselves will object.
While chapas are an interesting and authentic form of transport, they are not particularly safe. Even locals suffer from frequent pickpocketings on chapas, or while waiting for chapa stops. The minibuses are always packed far beyond their originally intended capacity, seats are frequently broken, and many travelers have to stand up while riding, though there are no handrails or appropriate places to hang on like in a larger bus.
Chapa drivers are notorious for disrespecting traffic rules and taking unnecessary risks with passenger safety to cut a few minutes off the journey.
Beware of the safety issues regarding chapas when you decide whether or not to experience this form of transport as a tourist (or resident).
- The Railway Station on Praca dos Trabalhadores is sometimes mistaken to be the work by Gustave Eiffel. However, the building is an imposing structure and well-worth a visit, especially at Friday or Saturday nights where live music often is played.
- The National Art Museum has a small but good collection of Mozambican art, including several large canvases by the world-renowned Malangatana.
- The Jardim Tunduru is a very pretty (albeit small) botanical garden.
- The Museum of the Revolution chronicles Mozambique's fight for indepedence from Portuguese colonialism(Closed in 2008 and by the looks of it will not re-open soon)
- The Mercado Central in the Baixa district has fresh fish, crabs, calamari, fruits and vegetables, and many household staples. Safe, lively and recommended, especially if cooking for yourself.
- Walk up Avenida Julius Nyerere. Start from the Hotel Cardoso or Natural History Museum along R Mutemba to Nyerere then left (north) to the Polana Hotel. Boutiques, restaurants, curio vendors, video stores, etc. to be seen in the relatively upscale Polana neighborhood.
- Praça dos Trabalhadores is a building built by Gustave Eiffel.
- Museu de História Natural, Praca Travessia de Zambezi (close to Cardoso Hotel). Enjoyable little museum. Lots of stuffed animals, birds and reptiles with full-size models of elephants. Interesting collection of wooden carvings, including a selection of traditional and very uncomfortable looking wooden pillows. Mtn 50.
- Visit some beautiful beaches, such as Catembe and Ponta d'Ouro. It is very jovial in these atmospheres and are generally safe, but beware of pickpocketing and avoid bringing valuables with you on a beach stroll .Ponta D'Ouro and Ponta Malongane have some beautiful scuba-diving spots, with either campsites or chalets right on the beach.
- Take in a wedding. Beautiful tribal singing and women ululating. Civil ceremonies next door to Avenida Hotel. Several weddings on Saturday morning.
- There are some wonderful walking tours organised by Jane Flood (824 190 574) focusing on local painters and sculptors; also the fantastic architecture of Pancho Guedes, a must for Maputo.
Nucleo de Arte. Nucleo D'Arte, 194, Rua D'Argelia, Maputo, Mozambique
Artist's working atelier that is home to over 100 sculptors, painters, and other artists. Anyone is welcome to visit or to meet the artists next door in the Cafe Camissa. Live music especially on Sunday evenings or on one of the (many) public holidays.
Work is now available to the locals, but if you are a foreigner and thinking about taking a sabbatical, it is a perfectly safe and comfortable place to do it. However, new regulations on expat workers in Mozambique have imposed quotas on the number of foreigners a business can employ, and it is getting increasingly difficult to obtain work permits as a foreigner in Mozambique, in particular with small companies or organizations.
On July 1, 2006 Mozambique officially introduced the second metical, dropping three zeros off the old currency. As a result, all prices you see in this article, or else where on the internet that are in thousands should be converted down by a factor of 1,000. As a result Mts. 10,000 would now be MZN 10. The local abbreviation for the new currency is MTn. As of January 1, 2007 only the Bank of Mozambique will convert the old currency, but only until December 31, 2013.
- African fabrics both waxprint and woven in the fabric shops along the Avenida de Guerra Popular
- Cashews all over the place, roasted, salted, plain, any which way and nearly anywhere. The number two export of the country, selling for about US$3.20 per pound (Mts.140,000 per kg).
- Wood carvings, boxes, picture frames from curio vendors.
- Batik cloth ranging from the tacky animal stuff to glorious works of art. Most of what is on offer is on the lower quality end, but persistent searching will yield some gems among the dross.
The local cuisine is a mixture of African, Portuguese, Middle Eastern and Indian/Pakistani cuisine. All these different cuisines are served at various areas in the city.
Any number of small cafes serve simple dishes and juices that are affordable. Unless you are adventurous, stay away from most roadside stalls especially if they are serving meat. Safe roadside fare includes cashews (usually fire roasted without salt served in small paper cones), fried bean cakes called Bhajia, uncut and unwashed fruits (cut and wash yourself with bottled water), and soft-serve ice cream. Expect to pay between Mts 5,000 and 20,000 (US$0.20-$1).
The fruit from roadside stands is usually fine, especially the bananas. They expect to sell the fruit by the kilogram, so be prepared for strange looks if you want just a couple of individual fruits. A couple of bananas should set you back 5 or 10 MTn.
The smaller cafes will have egg sandwiches, fries, grilled chicken, small pastries, and simple hamburgers. Expect to pay between Mts 15,000 and 75,000 (US$0.60-$3).
Do not lose sight of your credit or debit cards or they may be cloned. Rather always pay cash at any restaurant.
- Gelati Av. Julius Nyerere 794. Good ice cream, on its own or served with Crepes.
- Zambezia Av. Mao Tse Tung, just east of Av. Vlademir Lenine. Very good Zambezian chicken, with coconut milk and spices. Convenient to Fatima's.
- Gracianna In the Parque dos Continuadores, which is bound by Av. Mao Tse Tung, Av. Armando Tivane, and Av. Martires de Machava, one block west of Av. Julius Nyerere. Mozambican food, generally around 150 - 180 MTn. Quite tasty. Try the mucapata.
- Mamma Mia Also in the Parque dos Continuadores, right next to Gracianna. Mozambican and Italian dishes, all very tasty. Slightly more expensive than Gracianna.
- Chicken Piripiri near the corner of Avda. 24 de Julho and Avda. Nyerere serves grilled chicken and also very good prawns.
- Mercado do Peixe The fresh fish market. Behind the Sasol Garage on Av. Marginal, you chose you own prawns, clams, crab, Grouper, Coral and Rock cod, Squid and a galaxy of other tropical fish still flapping at the market, then retire to one of the many small restaurants behind the stals where they are cooked beautifully. Everyone's favourite Sunday afternoon.
- Mundo's next to Avenida Hotel on Av. Julius Nyerere. Multiracial meeting place with bar and restaurant, including pizza. Lots of televisions tuned to sport from South African channels. Internet free for 30 mins. per day, after that for moderate charge.
- Restaurante Escorpiao, in the Feira Popular (in the Baixa district). Has a huge menu, a decent wine list (by Mozambican standards) and caters to moderate budgets. Not fancy, frequented by locals. Delicious arroz mariscos (seafood stew with rice). Soggiest vegetables in town; for better Portuguese-inspired fare, try Restaurante Cristal, Costa do Sol or Monte Alentejano.
- Waterfront, Av. 10 de Novembre, ☎ 21301408. Good, mainly seafood, restaurant on the seafront.
- 1908, Av. Eduardo Mondlane and Av. Salvador Allende. Decent food in a very nice old building.
- Cristal, on Av. 24 de Julho, intersection with Av. Tomas Nduda. Very popular with the Portuguese. A mostly expensive and mostly Portuguese menu. Try the acorda.
- Monte Alentejano, Av. Julius Nyerere, just down from Av. 24 de Julho. Another popular Portuguese place.
- Costa do Sol restaurant, on Av. Marginal in Costa do Sol (5 km north of Maputo by the sea - take a taxi, they will wait and bring you back). Icon over 70 years old. Average seafood in low-key atmosphere. Booking recommended at weekends and if you want an outdoors table. ☎+258 21 450115. Also has a few rooms.
- Restaurant Sheik, part of the Sheik entertainment complex. Offers high-end Chinese and African cuisine in an elegant atmosphere. The disco below has dancing, drinks, and fun until the wee hours of the morning.
- Zambi, on the bay in the center of town, a few kilometers south of Club Naval. Modern, sleek eatery, good menu selection. Big terrace in the front overlooks the road to the bay, with an open kitchen dining room inside. Worth the money (which is still cheap by western standards!).
- Filini, restaurant and bar, located in the Radisson Blu Maputo, offers exquisite italian cuisine in a stylish atmosphere. Straight forward simply cooked italian food. Friendly and fast-paced unpretentious service. Wide selection of wine.
Fruit juice is (sadly) usually sweetened nectar and not fresh 100% juice. The usual selections of fizzy sugar water in a bottle (soft drinks) can be found too. Pressed sugar cane juice is available in some markets.
Coca-Cola products are also widely available including Cola, Sprite, and Fanta fruit-flavored pop (Orange and Pineapple are most common, Grape is also sometimes available). "Sparletta" brand fruit-flavoured pop is also widely available. Expect to pay between Mts 7,000 and 10,000 (US$0.25-$0.40). Shop owners are usually very strict when it comes to the empty bottles as they are expensive and reused, do not try and keep one without trying to pay the full price for the bottle first.
The wine selection is reasonably good, and depending on your budget you can get a range of South African, Portuguese and Chilean wines. Most common are cheap South African and Portuguese wines, but you can find nice wines (for a price) in upper-end restaurants and certain bottle stores or delis. Wine by the glass generally comes from a box.
Beer is widely available, with 2M ('dosh-em'), Laurentina (brewed by 2M), Manica, and Raiz being the common selection. Laurentina comes in two varieties, 'Clara' a lager, and 'Preta' a very dark Lager with hints of coffee and chocolate. Locals tend to order the Laurentina varieties simply by saying Clara or Preta, and leaving out Laurentina. Preta is the most expensive beer, followed by Manica and then 2M. Raiz is a newer beer intended for the budget market and is considered a 'cheap' beer. Beer bottles are also expensive and should always be returned or purchased. The beer itself is very inexpensive and reasonably good ranging from Mts 9,000 to 15,000 (US$0.35-$0.60).
Drink water from a bottle, not the tap.
- Coconut Club, Maputo, Costa de Sol. 10PM till late/early. A hip dance club. Expect to be blown away by the architecture, the dancing, the buzz, if not the prices. 301Mts.
- Xima's bar, on Av. Eduardo Mondlane, is popular with the locals and has live music on the weekends.
- Africa Bar nightclub is on Av. 24 de Julho near Av. Karl Marx.
- Gil Vicente is a bar attached to the Gil Vicente theatre, across from the 'Jardim Tunduru.
- Centro Cultural Franco-Mozambicain has live music and cultural events.
- Central Train Station houses a jazz lounge on weekends.
- Feira Popular is in the Baixa, and houses many bars and restaurants.
- Dolce Vita Av. Julius Nyerere 800. New, upmarket bar with blue lighting.
- Fatima's Place, 1317 Mao Tse Tung Avenida, Maputo, [email protected], ☎ +258 82 4145730, +258 82 3070870, Fax: +258 1300305, . Dorms from US$12. Many people really enjoy this place, but it has more of a party atmosphere and is quite a bit larger than Base Backpackers. Some have found the staff and the other guests to be quite standoffish. Others have had more serious issues such as being forced to pay for bookings they did not agree to. It's a bit out of the main part of downtown, but still a very easy and generally safe walk to the business district. Fatima's also offers shuttle service to Fatima's nest in Tofo beach, around 7-8 hrs north of Maputo. While this bus is very convenient, it can also be extremely dangerous and the motorist has stolen from expat passengers in the past. Take at your own risk.
- The Base Backpackers, 545 Avenida Patrice Lumumba ☎+258 21 302723, not so great rooms, balcony with a view over the sea, 2 computers with fast internet, a small room with a tv and news, a self-service fridge and kitchen facilities. Members of the staff can be extremely flaky, and told a guest whose laundry was not returned clean as promised, "It's not my problem, it's your problem." The place needs to be sprayed for bedbugs, and needs to undergo a total renovation, but its one positive quality is its central location. The dorms become very hot during the spring and summer due to a lack of a fan. US$10. Base is small, with only two small dorms, so you should call ahead for a reservation. If you are traveling by yourself, you could walk up and get lucky, but there are no guarantees. If you find their email address online, don't use it to make a reservation. They do not respond to email reservations.
- Maputo B&B, Backpackers, at Triunfo, 4 Avenida, House 98, (look for saure blue sign with yellow letters), ☎+258 82 4672230. Clean, small bar, free pool table, restaurant with home cooked seafood, garden space to sit, secure parking in and out. Info on trips to Tofo, diving, culture, and very important great location close to the beach. Takes long term resident. City tours, Inhaca-Portuguese Island boat trips, live music bar.
- Pestana Rovuma, Rua da Sé, 114 Caixa Postal 4376 - Maputo, ☎ +55 21 254 86 332, +258 21 305000 ([email protected], fax: +258 21 305305), .
- Pestana Inhaca Lodge, Pestana Inhaca Lodge, Ilha de Inhaca (40 km out of Maputo), ☎ +258 21 305305, +258 21 760003 ([email protected], fax: +258 21 305305), .
- VIP Grand Hotel Maputo is a conference-hotel near the commercial centre of town, the Feira Popular, the ferry to Catembe. The rooms are pleasantly clean and modern with good wireless internet included in the room rate, but service is poor, and food is awful.
- Catembe Gallery Hotel, . 14 luxurious rooms that are individually decorated by leading Mozambican artists. Inconvenient to find, approximately 45 mins from the CBD (via crowded public boat, then taxi), located on a remote dirt road on the opposite side of the bay. It has a bar, beach, library, pool table and swimming pool. Internet access is available. Rates start from about €60, up to €380, depending on type of room selected.
- Hotel Cardoso, . Opposite the traffic circle from the Natural History Museum. Recently refurbished and is a solid 4-star hotel although things often tend to go wrong. Staff fluent in English. A great garden to have a drink in and watch the sun set over the Baixa and Rio Santo. Doubles with a river view and airconditioning were US$140 or more in May 2009.
- Hotel Polana, . The grande dame of Maputo hotels, a colonial era masterpiece by Sir Herbert Baker, famed South African architect (who also did the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town). As close to perfection in service, food, pool, view, etc. as can be found in Maputo. Small casino can be a fun diversion. Doubles from US$217. Good place to have a drink, or to have lunch in the Tea Room.
- Hotel Avenida . 5-star hotel on Avenida Julius Nyerere. Has large and fairly comfortable rooms. Rooftop pool and bar for excellent sunsets and a good way of appreciating the rather confusing geography of Maputo. Several restaurants (Thai, Greek, Indian and pub style) within a few minutes. Hotel shuttle to and from the airport available. Free access to the Internet. Rooms from around US$170 (April 2009) including good breakfast but really the only thing that is 5-star about this hotel is the price.
- Radisson Blu Hotel  The international hotel chain, Radisson Blu has begun construction of a 12 storey building with 154 rooms in one of the city's trendiest spots on the marginal road along the beach. This new property will feature a striking design, ocean views and will be competing with the best hotels in the city. There are several restaurants and bars accross the road. Free Internet for guests and delegates. The hotel will hosts, an ocean view bar, a Filini restaurant (offering exquisite Italian cuisine in a stylish atmosphere), a cigar bar and a lounge bar. The hotel is due to open beginning of April 2011. Opening rate at US$220, breakfast included. Note: Opening has been delayed until early October 2011 at the earliest.
Violent crime does not rise to the Johannesburg level but is still a problem. Occasional pickpocketing attempts do occur and are almost guaranteed on busy streets. At night, it is better not to walk around alone but you are generally fairly safe in the well-lit areas along Avenida 24 de Julho. Regardless of the hour, be smart when walking around: don't carry much around in the streets with you, and if you have a bag, keep it close to you.
If you have a cell phone, do not flaunt it: pickpockets have been known to take cellphones right out of people's hands while they are talking on them.
The local police are out of control and will target foreigners in the area around popular backpacker hostels, bus stations, etc. Carry a certified copy of your passport (not your real one) and a copy of your visa too, so that there is no potential problem with the police (you are legally obliged to carry both at all times).
Also, very obviously, do not carry drugs or knives (penknives) around with you at all. One backpacker arriving by bus from Tete was detained and taken to the police station where he was robbed. Do not expect the police station to be a sanctuary if police hassle you. However, if an officer tries to fine you because he believes something is wrong with your passport, demand to be taken to the Chief of Police. He will almost certainly let you go because usually he is only trying to solicit a bribe.
- Malarial prophylaxis is essential in all parts of Mozambique.
- Do not drink the tap water. "Your stomachs are not used to it."
- There is high HIV incidence. For your own safety, do not have unprotected sex.
- Prostitution is not prudent.
English (and some Portuguese) language radio transmissions are available from BBC World Service on 95.5MHz.
Embassies and High Commissions
- Greece, Av. Mao Tsé Tung no. 930, P.O. Box 90, Maputo, ☎ +258 21 492115 ([email protected], fax: +258 21 492491).
- "Ireland, Avenida Julius Nyerere 3332 Maputo, ☎ +258 21 491440 ([email protected], fax: +258 21 493023).
- United Kingdom, Av Vladimir I Lenine, 310 (CP 55) Maputo, ☎ +258 21 356000, .
- United States, .
Take the short ferry ride across the bay to visit Catembe. Its relaxed atmosphere is a pleasant retreat from Maputo.
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