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|Introduction to Mozambique
Mozambicans are putting their shattering past behind them and are rebuilding their country at a remarkable pace. And there's a fair number of things to see, including stunning beaches, World Heritage sites, funky colonial architecture and colourful local culture.
A long, horrific civil war scarred the country and left a million land mines scattered about the countryside. Much of its wildlife was decimated, and cyclones have ravaged its coastline. Droughts and floods take turns rubbing salt in Mozambique's wounds.
It has been estimated that more than one million land mines - laid by both sides during the war - remain unexploded in Mozambique. For this reason it is simply not safe to go wandering off into the bush anywhere without first seeking local advice - and even then your safety isn't guaranteed. Stay on roads and well-worn tracks where other people have obviously gone before.
There are a lot of guns in Mozambique, and a lot of desperately poor people. Armed robberies and drive-by theft at gunpoint in Maputo are not uncommon. Women are advised not to walk alone along any beach in Mozambique, and travel by convoy is recommended throughout the country, owing to the risk of banditry.
The border with South Africa has had its share of bandit problems. Take precautions if you are making the crossing alone.
Full country name: Republic of Mozambique
Area: 801,600 sq km
Population: 17 million
Capital City: Maputo
People: African (99%, including Shangaan, Chokwe, Manyika, Sena and Makua)
Language: Portuguese, Bantu, Swahili
Religion: Indigenous beliefs (50%), Christian (30%), Muslim (20%)
GDP: US$12.2 billion
GDP per capita: US$670
Annual Growth: 3%
Major Industries: Food, beverages, textiles, chemicals, petroleum
Major Trading Partners: South Africa, Spain, US, UK, Portugal, France, Japan
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Visas: All visitors need visas, which are good for up to three months, and proof of onward travel.
Health risks: schistosomiasis (bilharzia), hepatitis, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, meningococcal meningitis, malaria, HIV/AIDS (HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) develops into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is a fatal disease. Any exposure to blood, blood products or body fluids may put the individual at risk. The disease is often transmitted through sexual contact or dirty needles - body piercing, acupuncture, tattooing and vaccinations can be potentially as dangerous as intravenous drug use. HIV and AIDS can also be spread via infected blood transfusions, but blood supplies in most reputable hospitals are now screened, so the risk from transfusions is low. If you do need an injection, ask to see the syringe unwrapped in front of you, or take a needle and syringe pack with you. Fear of HIV infection should not preclude treatment for any serious medical conditions. Most countries have organizations and services for HIV-positive folks and people with AIDS. For a list of organizations divided by country, plus descriptions of their services, see www.aidsmap.com)
Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 2
Dialling Code: 258
Electricity: 220/240V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
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1 January - New Year's Day
3 February - Heroes' Day
7 April - Women's Day
1 May - Workers' Day
25 June - Independence Day
7 September - Victory Day
25 September - Revolution Day
25 December - Christmas Day
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|Best time to Visit
The best time to visit is the months of June to August, when both rainfall and temperatures are at their lowest. Later in the dry season, in late August and September, the temperatures start to climb, but this is the best time to see big game. The best time for birdwatching, on the other hand, is smack in the middle of the rainy season, usually November and December.
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|Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending
As a result of widespread destruction of its infrastructure, Mozambique is an inexpensive destination. Very comfortable travel is available for US$100 a day or less, though luxury hotels and chartered planes will be significantly more. If you're travelling on a moderate budget you should expect to spend around US$50 a day or more, depending on your taste for restaurant meals and safaris. If you do a lot of self-catering, take the train or bus and don't load up on artefacts, you can keep your costs below US$20 a day.
The most readily accepted currencies are US dollars and South African rands. In the south you can pay for a lot of things (such as accommodation) with rands. The best places to change money are the private bureaux in Maputo, which give better rates than the banks. Local banks have branches in most cities. Changing money on the street is not safe anywhere.
In general, tipping isn't expected, and you may find yourself having to explain that you really don't want your change. Things are a little different in Maputo, where prolonged exposure to foreign tourists and expats has given the locals a taste for tips. Plan on leaving between 5% and 15% of your bill, depending on the kind of place you're in - and, of course, on the quality of service. In general, the more upscale the place the higher the rate. Bargaining, especially in the open air markets, is commonplace.
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Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques), is one of Africa's most attractive capitals. It's set on a small cliff overlooking Maputo Bay, with wide avenues lined by jacaranda and flame trees, a plethora of pleasant sidewalk cafes and a relaxed atmosphere.
For decades, the city's charms were overshadowed, first by colonialism, then by war, and it's only recently that the city has come into its own. Today Maputo is a lively, bustling place with colourful markets, intriguing architecture, a wealth of cultural offerings, and great nightlife.
Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique, is a major port and rail terminus. Its compact central area and old Mediterranean-style buildings give the place some faded glamour. The heart of the city is the Praça (main square), which is surrounded by shops, markets and offices.
The cathedral, just southeast of the centre, is looking a bit worse for wear these days but is definitely worth a stop. The bustling market at Tchunga Moyo (Brave Heart) is full of imported goods, contraband and some unsavoury characters, so travel light and walk carefully.
Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique - commonly called 'Ilha') is a small chunk of land anchored about 3km (2mi) off the mainland, and linked by a bridge. Once the capital of Portugal's East African colony, the island is now known for its array of mosques and churches and its Hindu temple.
Most of the sites are on the northern half, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The number one attraction is the Palace and Chapel of São Paulo - the former governor's residence - dating from the 1700s. This large building overlooks a large square inlaid with patterned stones.
Pemba is a coastal town at the mouth of a huge bay. It boasts some interesting buildings (especially in Baixa - the old town) and a lively atmosphere. Most visitors come for the beaches - particularly Wimbi Beach (sometimes spelt Wimbe) - and the coral reefs. Wimbi is about 5km (3mi) east of town.
The reef is close enough to swim to. A fledgling tourist industry is already transforming the place with bars, restaurants, diving, snorkelling, boating, fishing, etc. The Makonde workshop on the road between town and the beach has good wooden carvings for sale at good prices.
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