What you need to know
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 to give a pleasing if shabby feel.
Population: 1,766,184 (2007)
Are: 133.6 mi²
The Mozambican Metical is the currency of Mozambique. The currency code for Meticais is MZN, and the currency symbol is MT. It is nominally divided into 100 centavos.
Maputo has a tropical wet and dry/ savanna climate with a pronounced dry season in the low-sun months , no cold season, wet season is in the high-sun months. Average monthly temperatures vary by 6.5 °C (11.7°F). This indicates that the continentality type is hyperoceanic, subtype truly hyperoceanic.
The only official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, which is spoken mostly as a second language by about half of the population. Common native languages include Makhuwa, Sena, and Swahili.
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.
Avoid the footpath between Jardim dos Professores and Avenida 25 Setembro at all times (day and night). Despite being a popular shortcut frequented by many locals, muggings do occur by groups of armed thieves, wielding knives and other rudimentary weapons, who hide in the dense brush and corner you from both sides.
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). Corruption is everywhere in this town, be careful during both day and night. Always have a companion and carry a copy of your passport.
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.
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.
Maputo has several hospitals and clinics, including the city and country’s largest hospital, the Hospital Central de Maputo (Maputo Central Hospital). Other hospitals include the public Hospital Geral José Macamo, and the private Clinica Sommerschield, the Clínica Cruz Azul in baixa and Hospital Privado located across the Portuguese School.
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.
“Tuk-Tuks” are also a great way to see the city. The driver’s 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.