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Maputo, Mozambique

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 harbor. 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,... Read more

Maputo, Mozambique

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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 harbor. 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. Especially outstanding buildings which shouldn't be missed are the Pancho Guedes creations: Guadiesque, surreal and difficult to find.


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Maputo, Mozambique: Port Information


Cruise liners dock or anchor at various locations depending on their size. In any case, the town will be within walking distance.

Get around Maputo, Mozambique


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. 

"Tuk-Tuks" are also a great way to see the city. The drivers are typically more fluent in English as they offer their services as tour guides to the passengers of visiting cruise liners.

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 either the downtown core/market area, called "Baixa" (pronounced BAA-SHAA) or in the middle of the city, on Av. 24 de Julho, called Museu. If you can speak Portuguese, then this is an excellent way to travel, or if you have a local friend to take you. Even if you don't know which Chapa to take, it's a great way to explore the city. If you get lost, just find a Chapa that is going to one of the two major chapa terminals within the city: "Museu" or "Baixa." Generally, the navigators (usually hanging out of the passenger side door) will be yelling the destination. Note that the destination which is written on the windshield may read "A. Voador" - but don't fear, this is just an archaic name for the terminal in the Baixa. Drivers cannot get away with overcharging you because you can easily see what the locals are paying, or the locals themselves will object. To get off, say "paragem" to the assistant.

Chapa routes can be identified by a colored bar on the windshield. Among the routes that tourists are most likely to want to use are:

  • blue chapas, which go west to Xipamanine
  • yellow chapas, which run north and south on Av. Lenine, or on one of the parallel avenues to its east
  • red chapas, which go north and south on Av. Guerra Popular
  • green chapas, which run east and west along Av. Eduardo Mondlane
  • black chapas, which run east and west Av. 24 de Julho
  • pink chapas, which use Av. Eduardo Mondlane, Av. Julius Nyerere, and the Marginal to connect downtown to Costa do Sol.

All of these routes continue far out into Maputo's suburbs, where they split off from one another, but this part of their journey is not likely to be part of your itinerary.

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).

Maputo has also been expanding its fleet of city-owned buses, which use the same terminals as the chapas. They have more varied routes than the chapas do, which can make them more difficult to use for the visitor, but you can always ask the conductor, or other passengers if it's going your way. To take a city bus, you board at the rear, pay the conductor, and exit from the front.

 

What to see in Maputo, Mozambique


  • National Art Museum, Av Ho Chi Min. Small but good collection of Mozambican art, including several large canvases by the world-renowned Malangatana.
  • Museum of Natural History (Museu de História Natural), Praca Travessia de Zambezi (close to Cardoso Hotel), +258 21 485 401. 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.
  • 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 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.

What to do in Maputo, Mozambique


  • 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.

What to eat and drink in Maputo, Mozambique


Eat

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.

Budget

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.

The fruit from roadside stands is usually fine, especially if it has a hard peel, which most do (banana, mango, pineapple, tangerine, papaya etc.). They expect to sell the fruit by the kilogram, so be prepared for strange looks if you want just a couple of individual fruits. Prices change with what's in season, except for bananas, which are always available.

The smaller cafes will have egg sandwiches, fries, grilled chicken, small pastries, and simple hamburgers.

Do not lose sight of your credit or debit cards or they may be cloned. Rather always pay cash at any restaurant.

  • Cantinho do Brasil, Av. Vladimir Lenine 1057. Good Brazilian snacks and feijoada. A good place to enjoy a snack, good coffee and good internet.
  • Gelati, Av. Julius Nyerere 794. Good ice cream, on its own or served with Crepes.
  • Mercado Janeta (Corner of Av. Vlademir Lenine and Av. Mao Tse Tung). Many food stalls located inside the market with a standard roster of dishes, consisting of a lot of starch, a piece of meat, and a lot of sauce. For starch you can choose rice or, occasionally, xima; for meat, chicken or beef; popular sauce options include peanut curry and guisado, a kind of tomato stew. Food is generally only served at lunch; at dinner a few places will be open but you'll be eating leftovers. If you want drinks, however, there are plenty of options at all hours.
  • Zambezia, Av. Mao Tse Tung. Very good Zambezian chicken, with coconut milk and spices. Convenient to Fatima's.
  • Twingo, Av. Vlademir Lenine. Broad and fairly inexpensive menu (the prato do dia is particularly cheap) with a good bakery.

Mid-range

  • 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. 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.
  • Mimmo's, two locations, one on Av. 24 de Julho and Av. Salvador Allende, the other on Av. Vlademir Lenine near Av. Agostinho Neto. Mostly Italian menu. Tuesday features half-price pizza (takeout only) and commensurately long waits.
  • Chicken Piripiri near the corner of Avda. 24 de Julho and Avda. Nyerere serves grilled chicken and also very good prawns. Famous, and in a posh location; the chicken also costs twice as much as it would from a takeout joint.
  • 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 favorite 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 min 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, +258 21 301408. Good, mainly seafood, restaurant on the seafront.

Splurge

  • Restaurante 1908, Av. Eduardo Mondlane/Av. Salvador Allende. Decent food in a very nice old building.
  • Cristal, Av. 24 de Julho/Av. Tomas Nduda. Very popular with the Portuguese. A mostly expensive and mostly Portuguese menu. Try the accorda.
  • Monte Alentejano, Av. Julius Nyerere. Another popular Portuguese place.
  • Costa do Sol restaurant, Av. Marginal in Costa do Sol (5 km north of Maputo by the sea - take a taxi, they will wait and bring you back), +258 21 450115. Icon over 70 years old. Average seafood in low-key atmosphere. Booking recommended at weekends and if you want an outdoors table. It's also possible to stay overnight as they have a few hotel rooms.
  • Restaurant Sheik, Av. Mao Tse Tung. 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, Av. 10 de Novembro (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.

Drink

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.

Pepsi and Coca-Cola are widely available, including Sprite, Mirinda, and Fanta fruit-flavored pop (Orange and Pineapple are most common, Grape is also sometimes available). Coca-Cola is more common than Pepsi. "Sparletta" brand fruit-flavoured pop is also widely available. 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 ('dois-em'), Laurentina, 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. The larger beer bottles are also expensive and should always be returned or purchased.

Drink water from a bottle, not the tap.

Shopping in Maputo, Mozambique


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. The Bank of Mozambique stopped converting the old currency on 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.
  • 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 easiest place to buy touristy things is in the Parque dos Continuadores (also known as FEIMA) at the corner of Av. Julius Nyerere and Av. Mao Tse-Tung. The selection is large, with many vendors. Be prepared to bargain. There are also vendors lined up along the Marginal and some in the baixa, particularly on the weekends.

For counterfeit DVDs, cell-phone parts, used clothing, etc., go to one of the many city markets; the two most convenient are probably Mercado Janeta, at the corner of Av. Mao Tse-Tung and Av. Lenine and Mercado do Povo, on Av. Karl Marx. Or you can just browse the many sidewalk vendors - there is a particularly heavy concentration in the baixa, near the chapa terminus at Av. 25 de Setembro and Av. Guerra Popular. From here you can also catch a chapa to the massive market at Xipamanine, which sells just about everything imaginable.

  • Eco Bank and Standard Bank have mater card / visa card ATMs all over Mozambique.

Safety in Maputo, Mozambique


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). Mozambican notaries can be found at (among other places) Av. Lenine, close to the park, and Av. Armando Tivane. Look for the signs that say "Cartorio Notarial." The lines look long, but they move surprisingly fast.

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.

Stay healthy

  • 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.

Language spoken in Maputo, Mozambique


Portuguese is the official language. English is widely used, too, especially in international business places and tourist areas.

LOCAL TIME

9:39 am
June 19, 2019
Africa/Maputo

CURRENT WEATHER

21.51 °C / 70.718 °F
light rain
Thu

20.45 °C/69 °F
overcast clouds
Fri

23.36 °C/74 °F
few clouds
Sat

23.53 °C/74 °F
sky is clear
Sun

20.75 °C/69 °F
overcast clouds

LOCAL CURRENCY

MZN

1 USD = 0 MZN
1 EUR = 0 MZN
1 GBP = 0 MZN
1 AUD = 0 MZN
1 CAD = 0 MZN

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