How To Get From South Africa to Mozambique (Tofo) By Bus

Table of Contents

Bus travel in Mozambique

If you’re backpacking in Mozambique and will be travelling by public bus, we suggest starting here with our full guide to backpacking in Mozambique, which covers the main points you’ll need to get by. This post covers everything you need to get from South Africa to Mozambique.

To be completely honest, we found backpacking in Mozambique via public bus really hard, as information online was limited (to say the least!). The problem is that there are no actual guides on how to book or get onto these buses once you’ve made that decision, which does make the whole thing pretty difficult.

So the aim of this article is to give some more concrete information and make this journey very easy to book!

This article may contain affiliate links, which means we may make a small commission if you use them to book something. This is at no additional cost to you, in fact many of the prices are discounted.

Insurance for travelling through Africa

It’s always a smart idea to have good comprehensive travel insurance, especially when visiting ‘off-the-beaten path’ places.

We use SafetyWing for our travel insurance and we love them. They are really easy to talk to when things go wrong and have a very easy to use pricing calculator below. Their nomad insurance is also brilliant for longer trips and you can even purchase it when you’re already travelling.

Glossary for this article

Chapas – these are small 9-12 seater ‘taxi buses’, which are common in many countries in Africa. under different names.

When we talk about ‘big buses‘, we are referring to coach style vehicles. These often have around 30-50 seats and have a much better reputation in Mozambique than chapas.

When backpacking in Mozambique, you will probably find you use both a lot.

Getting from South Africa to Mozambique (Tofo)

To get from South Africa to Mozambique, we personally were going from Nelspruit (Mbombela) Maputo, then from Maputo to Inhambane/Tofo Beach area. Getting from Nelspruit to Maputo was relatively easy, but then getting from Maputo to Inhambane turned out to be trickier.

Note: You can very easily book the bus from Johannesburg to Maputo instead. We’ll cover this below.

If going to Tofo (Inhambane) from Nelspruit, you will likely need to stop in Maputo overnight. Like I said, the bus there comes all the way from Johannesburg, so you can also start your journey there if you want to.

A selfie of Emma and Murray on a balcony after they have travelled from South Africa to Mozambique.
New Year’s Eve in Tofo kind of made it all worth it!

Step 1: getting from South Africa to Maputo

Quick information

  • 12:20pm departure from Intercape Office, 15 Samora Machel Street (opposite the Promenade Hotel)
  • You need to arrive 30 minutes before
  • Tickets can be booked through Intercape Link on Busbud here, this is the easiest way to get them
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In depth guide

This is an extremely easy journey to book and organize.

Instructions for what you need to do are on your tickets if you book through Busbud, so you will know where to go from the email you’re sent and when to arrive (30 minutes before departure). Occasionally these buses are late (our bus for example was an hour and a half late since it was delayed in Johannesburg), but the staff at the Intercape office are great at keeping you up to date on what is happening and when the bus is expected.

There is also a toilet at the depot (albeit not the most pleasant one) and places nearby to buy food and drinks. The depot is just on the side of a main road, so there are not too many places to sit, but the staff did kindly bring out chairs for us while we were waiting. You’re just on the side of the road, but it is shaded.

Find things to do in Maputo

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What to expect on board the bus from South Africa to Mozambique

The bus with Intercape is really comfortable. The seats also have a pretty good recline and comfy cushions for your head. The bus stops fairly regularly for toilet breaks and for people to get food, and they will wait for everyone to come back.

Similarly with the border crossing, the bus will wait on the South African side, drive you over the border and then wait for you again Mozambique side. I would say try not to be the last ones back on the bus, just in case they forget about you, but basically you’re in safe hands.

Overall, this was a completely stress-free journey and very much as expected, thanks to the capacity to book online. We have heard some people say that Intercape generally broadcast religious messages on board – we didn’t have any of that, but maybe take headphones if that would really bother you.

How to book

You can easily book tickets online on Busbud here or via the banner below. This is the easiest way to arrange this trip.

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Know before you go

  • Since you can pay for the bus online, you do not need much cash, but you may stop at small shops on the way so it is a good idea to have a bit. You will need South African Rand, as other currency is not accepted.
  • Most people in South Africa speak great English
  • If you want to know more about staying safe in South Africa, check our comprehensive guide here
A white sand beach in Mozambique
Beaches in Mozambique are something else!

Step 2: Getting from Maputo to Inhambane / Tofo / Gunjata

Quick information

  • 5am departure from Etrago booking office in Junta (Maputo)
  • You should arrive by 4am in case the bus departs early
  • Book tickets the day before in person at the Etrago booking office (ask a taxi driver where to go)

In depth guide

Right, so this is quite a bit more confusing and we’ll try to be as clear as we can be!

In terms of ease of booking and finding information, the experience could not be more the opposite of booking the bus in South Africa. Firstly, it is worth us saying that if you are not very comfortable with overland bus travel in Africa, we would recommend hiring a car instead. We use Rentalcars.com (a part of booking.com) and we really like them. They’re generally a lot cheaper than other booking platforms, and really straightforward to use:

If, however, you’re find with the bus, then to get to Tofo Beach, you need to take a bus to Inhambane, and then a taxi or hire car from there. The bus company you need to get from Maputo to Inhambane is Etrago. There is, however, no website (as far as we can tell) for Etrago, and the number on their Facebook page is incorrect.

If you’re coming from Johannesburg or Nelspruit, there is quite a high likelihood that your Intercape bus will be delayed. For example, we arrived in Maputo around 6pm but should have arrived at 2pm. Therefore we would highly recommend to book at least TWO NIGHTS in Maputo before continuing your journey.

With only one night, you may run into the same issue that we did, which is that it’s very difficult to book a bus in the evening, and you need the luxury of day time (working hours) to be able to find someone to help you.

If, however, you really don’t want to stay two nights, you can book a bus to Maxixe (pronounced Masheesh), from where you can a very easy 15 minute ferry to Tofo/Inhambane peninsula. We’ll cover the ferry below, but essentially it is very, very easy and will not take you long at all.

Find somewhere to stay in Maputo here

A beach in Mozambique. All you can see is the beach and the sea
One of the beaches near Gunjata

How to get to Tofo/Inhambane

If you need to get to Tofo/Inhambane and don’t want to go to Maxixe, you need to get to Junta, which is a roundabout in the middle of town. Dotted around Junta are lots of different bus booking offices and some bus stands. The 5 main bus companies in Maputo (Entre Rios, CityLink, Mazenga, Etrago and Nagi) all go from here, as well as a few others and lots of chapas.

We would suggest asking a taxi driver to take you to Junta, as it is a bit confusing on Google Maps, but the taxi drivers all know it. If you tell them you want to book an Etrago bus, they will know exactly where to take you.

Most of these booking offices close around 5pm, and the Etrago office definitely closes around this time (if not a little before). The bus to Inhambane goes between 4 and 5am most days, so the ticket office will still be closed.

You need a pre-booked ticket to board this bus and cannot easily buy one from the conductor, so if you will be arriving after 5pm and need to get to Inhambane/Tofo, it is better to stay two nights in Maputo, and arrange your bus ticket the day after you arrive.

If you arrive at Junta mid-afternoon, you should easily be able to arrange a bus ticket to Tofo (or really most other places in Mozambique) in person at a ticket office. The bus time is usually between 4 and 5am most days (though don’t be surprised if there are some delays); the booking office will let you know at what time the bus is going the next day and they should also write it on your ticket.

Additionally, you can also pre-book a transfer to Tofo overland!

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A paper sign stuck to a doorway that reads:
lichinga
4:00 Partida
MAPUTO
INHAMBANE
2a, 4a, 6a e Domingo 
5:00 Partida

Maputo - Inhambane 
Vice-Versa
>Domingo
>Segunda-Feira
>Terca-Feira
>Quarta-feira
>Quinta-Feira
>Sexta-Feira
Information at the bus station. The best advice is to ask at the booking office, as the sign was a bit misleading.

How to get to Maxixe

If, instead, you are happy to adjust your plans and go to Maxixe, it will be much easier for you to book a ticket, even late at night. One of the bus companies (we believe it is Nagi) stays open all night at Junta and they sell tickets directly from Maputo to Maxixe (but not to Inhambane).

We were there at 2am and they continued selling tickets right up until 5:30am when our bus to Inhambane finally left.

From Maxixe, as mentioned, you can very easily take a 15 minute ferry if you arrive early enough in the day (which most buses do) to Inhambane, and go from there to Tofo. It really is very easy and if you do not want to spend any time in Maputo, we highly advise to do that.

Facilities at Junta

At the time of night when you’ll be taking the bus, there are no facilities at Junta. This means there are no toilets, no street vendors selling food or shops nearby, nowhere even to get water. I would advise to go prepared and stock up on bus snacks the day before.

A swimming pool on a balcony overlooking the sea in Mozambique
Views out over Gunjata

What to expect on board the bus

The bus from Maputo to Tofo with Etrago is not uncomfortable.

There is usually space on board and the seats are adequate, though there isn’t much by way of facilities.

The bus does not have a toilet or proper air conditioning, though they will stop reasonably regularly for toilet and snack breaks (about every four hours or so). If you need the toilet you can actually ask the conductor if they will pull over and let you go – there seems to be quite a relaxed view on this on board Mozambique buses. They really are quite flexible with stops.

We’d suggest bringing some snacks and entertainment, as it’s quite a long trip. Additionally it’s worth knowing that they do pack the buses quite full and sometimes allow people to stand or sit in the aisles. Not every driver allows this, but it’s common enough that it’s worth mentioning.

Murray is walking down a sandy path flanked with palm trees. He is carrying a purple umbrella like a parasol.
The ‘roads’ into Gunjata!

Know before you go

If you are backpacking through Mozambique, we do suggest reading our full guide here, but for now, here are the basics:

  • Some basic Portuguese is a must for booking buses in Mozambique. We’ve seen some online guides claim that you don’t really need Portuguese in Mozambique. We are not sure if maybe these people only stayed in tourist areas, but even if they did, that was absolutely not our experience at all. Yes, there will normally be some random person in the area who can help you with basic English translations but this is not something we would recommend relying on
  • The currency is Mozambique Metical. You can’t pay in other currency, except in very touristy areas, which might accept USD. You need cash to pay for the bus, as they do not accept cards.
  • ATMs do not always work, and some will only work for visa, not Mastercard. It’s best to try and take out some currency as soon as you arrive as many places do not accept card
  • Additionally, it is worth us reiterating that bus travel in Mozambique can be quite gruelling, and we think, given our time again, we would have hired a car. So, if you are uncertain, we suggest doing this. We use Rentalcars.com whenever we hire a car, as they’re generally cheaper and better than other booking engines. You can use the search bar below to book.

Different areas of Inhambane peninsula

There are several other areas you can stay in Inhambane, besides Tofo beach and the main town of Inhambane. We’ve marked a few of the main areas on the map below, with some key information.

Tofo Beach is on a peninsula on the coast of Mozambique – the peninsula juts out a bit from the mainland, and the main city on the peninsula is Inhambane in the North. From Inhambane, you can get easily to Tofo town, which is a 30 minute drive away. You can take public transport (chapas) or a taxi. Both are easy, it just depends on the level of comfort you want.

From Inhambane, you can also get to Gunjata, a beach resort on the peninsula in the South, which is beautiful but much more remote. The main road to Gunjata is a beach road/sand track and you need a 4×4 to access it. Taxis will struggle, so arrange transport with your accommodation or self drive in a 4×4. This would be the better option, as you really need a car for getting around Gunjata anyway.

Maxixe is a larger town on the mainland, not on the peninsula, opposite Inhambane, a short sea crossing away. Most, if not all, buses going North from Maputo will pass Maxixe. If you cannot get to Inhambane it is a good option, as from there, the Inhambane/Tofo peninsula is only a short and easy 15 minute ferry ride.

You need to go first to Inhambane to get to Tofo or Gunjata, as they’re a long way from Maxixe. Luckily, the ferry is nice and easy.

Find somewhere lovely to stay in Tofo or Inhambane:

An empty beach in Mozambique
Our NYE sunset

Getting between Maxixe and Inhambane

Quick information:

  • Regular departures in each direction, ferries go when full
  • Arrive early if you are on a time limit
  • Book tickets on the day with the ticket sellers at the start of the pier – no need to pre-book

It really is as simple as head to the ferry port in each town and get a ticket. Each ticket is around 20 Mets (about 25p) and then they might also charge you an extra 10 Mets for a large bag. There is not really a ticket office as such, but there will be ticket sellers wandering around or standing near the entry to the pier selling tickets. They also can’t really overcharge you, as the price for the ticket is written on it (and the price for the bags).

The boats are a bit crowded and they do wait to fill up before leaving, so allow plenty of time if you need to be somewhere at a certain time, but once they get going it’s a breezy 15 minute crossing.

There doesn’t seem to be a set time for ferries to go, but there are times that are busier than others. Mornings, for example, are busy, so it’s sensible to go then so that you get going quicker. However, the ferries just seem to run consistently most of the day. If you arrive late into Maxixe, it’s probably best to stop in Maxixe for the night, as the ferries seem to stop between 5 and 7pm.

There are smaller boats for quieter times – this is what we took and it really was fine, even with large bags, just a little cramped. The journey was so quick that it didn’t matter.

Facilities at the ferry port

They do have toilets, but no shops or anywhere to buy anything. The toilets are often closed at the ferry port and there aren’t any toilets onboard the boats, so go before you leave. You can easily get food in Maxixe, just not near the port.

A shot of a very small boat filled with people about to set off from the dock. There are people still walking towards it trying to get on the boat.
Ferries Maxixe-Inhambane-Maxixe

Other bus journeys we took while backpacking in Mozambique

Getting from Maxixe to Vilanculos in our best beaches in Mozambique post
Getting from Vilanculos to Chimoio in our Safety in Vilanculos post
We also talk about our journey from Chimoio to Malawi (Blantyre) briefly in our backpacking Mozambique guide

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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