What makes Mozambique a unique country to travel to?
Mozambique is a developing country in southern Africa that has been steadily rebuilding its economy and civic institutions since ending a 16-year civil war in 1992. The country stabilized following Mozambique's first multi-party elections in October 1994, and the current president was reelected in October 2009. The next presidential elections will be held in 2014. Despite high economic growth rates in recent years, Mozambique remains among the world's poorest countries, with a GDP per capita of under $400. Facilities for tourism in Maputo, the capital city, are steadily improving but remain limited in other areas. Many goods and services have extremely limited availability. The official language is Portuguese, although English is spoken in many tourist areas, and in some rural areas only local languages are widely spoken.
Although the vast majority of visitors complete their travels in Mozambique without incident, the most serious threat facing U.S. citizens visiting Mozambique is crime. Street crimes, including mugging, purse-snatching, and pick-pocketing are common, both in Maputo and in secondary cities. Carjackings have become rare, but still do happen. Visitors must be vigilant when out in public areas and should not display jewelry or other items —even those of low value, like cell phones and personal music devices. Avoid isolated areas. Joggers and pedestrians have frequently been mugged, even during daylight hours. Visitors should take caution when walking at night, even in well-known tourist areas. Due to an increase in violent crime, pedestrian activity is discouraged on Maputo's Avenida Marginal between the Southern Sun hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) and the Waterfront Restaurant.
Mozambican police do not operate at the standard that U.S. citizens are accustomed to in the United States. Visitors should not expect the same level of police service.
Many airline trips from Mozambique to the United States, Europe, or African destinations transit Johannesburg, South Africa. Baggage pilferage is an ongoing problem at Johannesburg's Oliver Tambo International Airport. Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage, use an airport plastic wrapping service, and avoid placing currency, electronics, jewelry, cameras, cosmetics, running shoes, or other valuables in checked luggage. Having a complete inventory of items placed in checked baggage can aid in processing a claim if theft does occur.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Mozambique, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods.Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Mozambique, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Persons violating Mozambican laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mozambique are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Arrest notifications in Mozambique: While some countries will automatically notify the U.S. embassy if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the U.S. embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical facilities are rudimentary, and most medical providers do not speak fluent English. Medicines are not always consistently available. There are both public and private medical facilities in the city of Maputo and most provincial capitals. All health care institutions and providers require payment at the time of service, and may even require payment before providing service. While some private clinics accept credit cards, many medical facilities do not. Doctors and hospitals outside Maputo generally expect immediate cash payment for health services. Outside of Maputo, available medical care ranges from very basic to nonexistent.
Safety and Security
Overland travel after dark is extremely dangerous due to the increased potential for vehicle hijacking. Visitors should be particularly vigilant when driving on the main thoroughfares connecting Mozambique and South Africa as incidents of vehicle theft, including assault and robbery, have been reported. U.S. government personnel who work at the U.S. Embassy in Mozambique are strongly discouraged from overland travel outside Maputo city limits after dark, and are encouraged to travel in convoys of two or more vehicles when outside of the city. They are prohibited from using “chapas” (local minibuses) due to frequent accidents involving these vehicles. Due to residual landmines, overland travelers are advised to remain on well-traveled roads or seek local information before going off-road outside of Maputo and other provincial capitals.
Although demonstrations do occur in Mozambique, they are infrequent and there have been no recent demonstrations against U.S. interests. If any demonstrations do occur, they should be avoided.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Mozambique, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mozambique is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Serious traffic accidents, one of the greatest threats to U.S. citizens in Mozambique, occur regularly throughout the country. Accidents involving drivers and pedestrians are common, sometimes resulting in pedestrian casualty. Pedestrians often walk in the road and may not be visible to motorists, especially at night. If a serious accident occurs, or if a driver hits a pedestrian, crowds quickly gather. Some drivers involved in accidents of this nature have felt threatened by the crowds and fled the accident scene. We urge any driver involved in an accident to immediately report the accident to the nearest police station and to contact the Embassy.
Drivers should obey police signals to stop at checkpoints, which are common throughout Mozambique. Foreigners visiting Mozambique for more than 90 days are required to have an International Driver’s License or to obtain a Mozambican driver’s license.
The main north-south thoroughfare is passable north of Maputo until the city of Caia (Sofala province), where vehicle passengers must disembark and cross the Zambezi River by ferryboat. On the north side of the river, the road continues to the Northern provinces. The road network connecting provincial capitals is in fair condition, but can be riddled with potholes and other obstacles.
The EN4 toll road between Maputo and South Africa is well-maintained. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling outside cities after dark because of the increased risk of banditry, poor road conditions in some areas, poor maintenance of many vehicles in the country (e.g., no headlights or rear lights), as well as the threat imposed by livestock grazing on roadsides. Travel outside Maputo often requires a four-wheel drive vehicle, which creates an additional security risk since these vehicles are high-theft items. Public transportation is limited and often has poor safety standards.
The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens not to use “chapas” (local minibuses) as a method of transportation due to frequent, often fatal accidents involving these vehicles. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. We also suggest that travelers visit the web site of the Mozambique’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.