Top Ten Tips for Driving in Mozambique

1. Avoid driving at night. Many people ignore this advice assuming they are prepared for the worst, If you haven't driven in Mozambique at night you probably are not prepared for: 

 * minibuses and buses that frequently overtake on bends and hills - suddenly you have a vehicle bearing down on you in your lane

 * goats and other livestock that roam free and frequently onto roads

 * farmers walking to their fields on road's edge - many farmers take advantage of the cool temperatures at night and work very very early in the morning

 * Broken down trucks, buses, and other vehicles either partly on the road, or still in the middle of the road with no lights

2. Ensure car has all legally required items

All vehicles in Mozambique must have: 

 * two warning triangles

 * one reflective vest (it's better to have two to avoid long arguments with police)

 * jack

 * a belt holding down the battery

 * A fire extinguisher if vehicle has more than 8 seats, or is a commercial vehicle (also best to have anyway to avoid arguments with Police)

 * Yellow triangle on blue background stickers on front of car and back of trailer if towing

 * Note that ZA stickers are popular on vehicles from South Africa but they are not a legal requirement

3. Make sure your vehicle is legal

 * If the vehicle is Mozambican it must have valid third-party insurance, car taxes paid, and Radio Tax, and up-to-date vehicle inspection

 * If the vehicle is from outside of Mozambique it should have its registration, and if bought on credit a letter from the bank authorising it entering Mozambique. Even if your insurance policy says it is valid in Mozambique you still need to buy 3rd Party Insurance when you come to the country

4. All passengers in your vehicle must be wearing a seat-beltIgnore that fact that you will see dozens of Mozambican vehicles with people piled into them - if you are a visitor to Mozambique the laws will apply to you when they are often ignored for locals.

 * Passengers can not sit in the back tray of vehicles - canopy or no canopy. Every passenger must have a seat-belt.

5. All alcoholic beverages must be closed, and packed in the back of your vehicle

Whilst drink-driving is universally illegal, Mozambique is a little more strict when it comes to alcoholic beverages in vehicles. Passengers are not allowed to drink either. Indeed, the driver will receive a fine if any open alcoholic beverages are found within the vehicle. Best to have any drinks packed in the back of your vehicle

6. Deal correctly with Police: Know Mozambique Road Rules, Speak to Police Respectfully and never pay Bribes

 * It's important to know Mozambique road rules as you will probably be pulled over at least once. Many travellers have said they paid bribes when they were told the fine was outrageously high. The largest fine in Mozambique is 5.000mtn - less than $100USD. See summary of common transgressions, the fine, and frequently invented fines in Mozambique here

 * Many travellers have been frustrated by what they see as unfair fines - don't lose your cool, speak with respect, if you disagree with the police officer request to talk about it at the latest police station (esquadra), or request a written fine. Once they see that you are not going to just hand over money they most frequently will tell you to keep going

 * Never pay bribes. People have recently been caught offering bribes in Mozambique and have been jailed. If you have committed an offense, pay the fine (usually 1.000 or 2.000mtn) only if you receive a receipt. 

7. Stick to the speed limit!Many travellers get very frustrated with the continual drops of speed along the main Mozambican highway. Repeated, frequent drops of 100km/h to 60km/h are very common.. Many travellers ignore them despite there being speed cameras at regular intervals between Maputo and Inhambane.

 * reduce down to the limit and make sure you don't accelerate until you are absolutely sure that you are out of the limited zone. Many of the signs showing that you can accelerate again have been removed so you need to always look backwards to see where 60 and 80 zones end.

 * If you are pulled over near Xizavane with an old speed camera that does not show a video of your car, politely request your written fine and the police will back down. This old camera is illegally used still today

 * Make sure you know the fines for speeding - many travellers are scared into thinking they owe a fortune when the fine rarely more than 1.000mtn (~$15 USD)

 * Note that if you are towing you should never exceed 100km/h

8. Estimate your time travel on an 65-75km/h average, Mozambique is steady going

Driving in Mozambique often takes longer than you would imagine. A 500km highway drive doesn't take 5 hours, it can take up to 8 hours. In the past it was the roads that made driving difficult but now long-distance driving is slowed down by constant drops in speed to 60km/h, and the main highway that can be congested with slow vehicles. Once you leave Maputo there are essentially no dual carriageways up the whole EN1. This can be particularly problematic as you pass through cities like Xai Xai, Maxixe, and Massinga. Xai Xai especially can take a long time to drive through if you get caught in peak hour traffic

9. Avoid Maputo if you are heading north

If you are driving near Maputo, but have no need to go into the city, avoid the chaos and traffic jams by taking the ring road around the city. Now when you are coming in to the outskirts of Matola you can join the new ring road that will lead you to Zimpeto, and then a little later you will be past Marracuene and on your way to your beach location. Maputo is a great city to visit, but if it is not on your schedule avoid its terrible traffic and take the new Maputo Circular

10. Be prepared if going to a sandy destination

Much of Mozambique's amazing coast is still only accessible by 4x4 vehicles. Some locations like select lodge in Macaneta, Bilene, and Xai Xai, and Tofo, Barra, and Vilankulo, can be accessed by standard vehicles. There are a few locations however, like the notorious Ponta do Ouro (please, not Punta du Oura!) require good 4WD vehicles, high clearance, deflated tyres, and good driving. Make sure you check with your lodge before you leave about the difficulty in arriving at your destination and be prepared. Always good to have a pump, and a shovel in many of Mozambique's most magical destinations.