Is Mozambique Safe? Here’s What You Need To Know

Is Mozambique safe? The question of safety in Mozambique, as with most other places in the world, is really difficult to answer. Safety is, of course, completely subjective from one person to another. One person’s experience in a country might be completely different from another’s based on their race, gender, lived experience, preconceptions, age and so much more.

Though we can’t answer this question for everyone, we want to share our lived experience of Mozambique and hopefully answer this tricky question for some tourists.

It’s worth us starting by saying that Mozambique is a beautiful and fascinating country. The people are, for the most part, very kind and generous and it is absolutely worth visiting. The beaches alone make the trip worthwhile, but the culture, marine life, food and history in Mozambique are also superb.

That aside, Mozambique can be a tricky country for tourists. A fractious history has left an unsurprisingly bitter taste in the mouth of some locals, and tourists are understandably not welcomed everywhere with open arms.

We also want to share some of the difficulties we experienced, why we experienced them and how you can best avoid them for your trip.

This article may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and they are often discounted, but we may receive a small commission if you use them to book.

Table of Contents

A jungle backing onto the ocean in Mozambique
Heading into the jungle in Mozambique

Political tensions

Please note that in this guide, we can speak only to the areas marked on the below map. These were the areas we visited.

The North of Mozambique is currently in the midst of a terrorist insurgency and almost all governments are advising against travel there. This has been the case for some time. For that reason, we did not visit the North and cannot speak to its safety. We would advise all of our readers to follow the advice of their governments to stay safe.

Is Mozambique safe?

Excepting the terrorist insurgency in certain areas, which obviously counts as exceptional circumstances, there are a few things to consider.

As tourists, we consider our safety with regard to: unwanted attention and hassle, petty theft and small crimes, physical safety with regard to things like disease, road safety, access to hospitals etc. and a few other things, which we have broken down with various sections below. In general, we didn’t get any kind of hassle in the streets, in the tourist areas or otherwise. If anything, actually, people tended to stay away from us, unless we needed to interact with them to buy something etc.

Something we did notice in Mozambique, which we had not seen anywhere else in Africa is that people seemed a little cautious around us as two white tourists, particularly around their children. Honestly we didn’t blame them at all. Mozambique has a troubled history with regard to colonisation, so it made sense, but we did notice it.

In terms of safety, this didn’t affect us much. People were generally kind and courteous. Our main issue was scams, which we’ll come to below.

A white sand beach in Bazaruto with very blue sea and sky
Bazaruto Archipelago was one of our highlights in Mozambique

Safety in ‘touristy’ areas

In terms of the ‘touristy’ areas in Mozambique, we’re specifically referring to the beaches. Essentially, this applies to you if you’re visiting Xai Xai, Tofo, Vilanculos, Bazaruto etc. These areas are generally quite safe for tourists. They are used to foreigners, generally well-lit at night and there will usually be other people around a lot of the time.

As with any major city, you need to take care of your valuables, particularly in crowded areas. The thing you will likely run up against a lot as a tourist in Mozambique unfortunately are tourist scams. It’s annoying, but these are quite unavoidable. The best thing is to learn how to spot them, and stop them before you are duped.

If you’re only visiting these areas or if you’ll be spending most of your time on the beach, we recommend to read our blog post about safety in Vilanculos, which covers that area. In our opinion, Tofo Beach area is even safer than Vilanculos. Besides anything, it is almost entirely made up of tourist resorts and locals who are very used to tourists.

Safety in Maputo

Maputo is probably the main city most tourists will visit in Mozambique. To our minds, that’s why most of the reports of Maputo from tourists are not very positive. It definitely does have a different vibe from the beaches and resort towns on the coast, but we actually quite liked it.

In style, it’s not much different from many capital cities in that it is quite busy and a little dirty. There isn’t too much to see and do in the way of tourist activities (except a few museums!), so most tourists will leave quite swiftly.

We did, however, find quite a few fun things to do like the tours below!

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We actually ended up walking around Maputo at night on our arrival because we needed to try and buy bus tickets. We wouldn’t recommend this, as it’s just a bit of a stupid move in a new city, but to be fair, nothing bad happened to us at all. In fact, people were extremely friendly, kind and considerate. Additionally, when we mentioned to our hotel receptionist that we were planning to walk down the road, he didn’t seem worried or tell us not to go alone, which is usually a good sign of an area being relatively safe.

To be clear, we’re really not endorsing doing this, especially if you’re not used to travelling alone in Africa. You never know who you might encounter, and you may be in a dangerous neighbourhood without knowing it, but we were lucky on this occasion.

Basically, there is no need to worry about Maputo in our opinion during the daytime, provided you keep your belongings close and are sensible.

A sandy beach in Mozambique with small fishing boats in the sea

Safety in other cities in Mozambique

As you can see from our itinerary, we ventured slightly further North than most tourists do, to Inchope, Chimoio and Tete. We needed to do this to get from Mozambique to Malawi. We had hoped to find a few hidden gems in those cities but, at the risk of being dismissive, there isn’t much for tourists in this area.

Apparently, near Chimoio, there is a nice National Park bordering Zimbabwe (but it seems completely impossible to enter from the Mozambique side) and Tete is a pleasant city. Apart from that there is little to keep tourists entertained. The atmosphere we found very similar to Maputo.

Ironically we did find that we encountered fewer scams in this area of the country, perhaps because the locals are not as used to tourists. The cities of Chimoio, Tete and we believe Beira, have quite a lot of expats (comparative to the Southern beach towns) but they are mostly cities built for and around locals.

We found the cities further North quieter than Maputo and actually quieter than the beach towns too. There were quite a lot of kids begging for money around, but they weren’t super persistent. We’d advise the same caution, as in any city, with belongings.

Walking around at night

This is not advisable in cities like we said. In fact, we would avoid this in most unfamiliar cities altogether. The only place we didn’t feel uncomfortable doing this was in Tofo, and we did end up walking home in the dark one night in Vilanculos. Though nothing happened to us, and we didn’t feel scared, we felt a little uneasy.

This was probably just because the city really does empty in the evenings, as most people are on the beaches. We felt a bit like we were in a ghost town!

Pickpocketing and petty theft

This does happen in Mozambique, especially in cities.

We advise taking care of your belongings in busy areas, and on public transport, and not flashing around expensive items, such as tech equipment or jewellery.

A jungle style scene in Mozambique looking onto the sea.
Mozambique beach and jungle

Safety on board public transport

There are a few forms of public transport in Mozambique:

  • Chapa is a ‘taxi bus’, a.k.a. a minibus. They’re super common around Africa but known by different names. Basically small 12 seater buses. The drivers tend to pack them full of people and they are generally thought to be very unsafe. We took these everywhere in Africa and must say that we didn’t really have a problem with them, but we would advise avoiding them if you are not very used to public transport in Africa. We did also encounter a few that were honestly very rickety and we didn’t feel very safe with.
  • Big buses – large, coach-style bus that must be pre-booked in Mozambique at a ticket office. These tend to be relatively reliable (compared with chapas) but they do still break down often. Additionally it can be very hard to get a seat if you have not prebooked and often the drivers will allow people to sit on the floor and stand in the aisles (even for extremely long journeys). Obviously this makes them a bit sketchy. The seatbelts are also often non-existent.
  • Taxis – similar to the rest of the world. Scams, such as overcharging or driving you to the wrong place, are the biggest thing to look out for here
  • Motorbike taxis – we wouldn’t advise tourists to take this option of public transport. It’s not very safe

Public transport in Mozambique is not exactly unsafe, but it isn’t an option we’d advise if you have another choice. We do go through this in our backpacking guide to Mozambique in depth, but put simply, they’re extremely unreliable and hard to navigate unless you’re a local.

If you have a car, we would advise this option instead.

Road safety in Mozambique

As with much of Africa, Mozambique has a different level of road safety than you might be used to as a tourist. The main roads are usually reasonably well-serviced, but there will be some neglected areas with pot-holes etc. Major cities are generally connected by wider motorways, which are not too difficult to drive.

Driving can be a little erratic, and there don’t seem to be many rules of the road so to speak. As long as you are sensible and opt for a sturdy vehicle, you should be fine.

Safety as a woman in Mozambique

I can’t speak to safety as a solo female traveller, but as a woman travelling with a male companion, I didn’t feel unsafe in Mozambique. We had visited a lot of countries in Africa on this trip (including South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt etc.) and Mozambique was one where I barely noticed any issues.

The thing I notice most as a woman travelling with a man in Africa is that a lot of the time, questions and comments are directed to Murray, my husband. People tend to look at him as the first point of interaction. It’s interesting because, of the two of us, I speak a few other languages and Murray does not, so usually I need to be the spokesperson. This was the case in Mozambique because, although my Portuguese is not great, it’s much better than Murray’s!

When I would speak first or approach people, no one seemed that surprised. We sometimes got an initial confusion where people would turn to Murray but as I persisted and he just looked baffled, they were fine with interacting with me.

In terms of excessive attention, I didn’t get too much. I dressed conservatively, as I did in the rest of Africa, in light clothing. I would advise anyone else travelling to do the same, as some locals do prefer conservative dress for religious reasons.

Safety with regard to food safety and drinking water

You probably should not drink the tap water straight from the tap in Mozambique in general. In tourist areas, the water is treated, so most parasites and viruses should be killed, but it might still contain pollutants. Additionally, foreigners in any country can get sick from tap water if the mineral concentration is different from what they are used to.

Since there is a real plastic problem in many parts of Africa, particularly on beaches, we really advise you not to buy bottled water. In Mozambique, the waste disposal system is not very good and they don’t have a means of disposing of plastic. We therefore always recommend taking water filtration tablets or a filtered water bottle. We use Lifestraw and we love them.

We didn’t get sick from food in Mozambique and found food hygiene to be quite good. Seafood is very popular, particularly on the coastal towns. We would advise sticking to seafood from coastal towns only, so that you can guarantee it is fresh.

A beach in Mozambique with palm trees, white sand and beautiful blue sky. The tide is really far out so there are small fishing boats stranded on the sand.
Vilanculos

Medical Care in Mozambique

Luckily, we did not get sick in Mozambique. For those worried, there are hospitals in most major towns and pharmacies. We would advise taking out comprehensive travel medical insurance for travelling through Africa. If you don’t have time to do this now, bookmark this link, so you can come back to it when you need it!

Insurance for travelling through Africa

As with any trip, we always hope nothing will go wrong, but it’s best to be completely covered, just in case it does. We use SafetyWing for our travel insurance and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them when visiting Africa or any other region. The best thing about them, in our opinion, is how no-nonsense they are. The policy wording is super straightforward, and you can very easily add on anything you need, such as adventure sports (like diving etc) or electronics cover.

Another really good thing about SafetyWing is that you can purchase it at any point, even if you are already on your trip. Check prices for your own cover below.

Do you need anti-malarials for Mozambique?

You can view the NHS’s handy malaria map here, but essentially, yes you do need anti-malarials for Mozambique. You should consult your doctor as to which type of anti-malarial is best for you.

A selfie of Emma and Murray, a white British couple, on a beach in Mozambique
Loved the beaches in Mozambique

Scams and tourist traps

Sadly, scams in Mozambique for tourists are very common. We’ve been scammed before, and we understand that they kind of come as part and parcel of being a white tourist in some cases, especially when there aren’t many others around.

We’re generally quite good at spotting a scam, for example, taxi drivers using a long-winded route to charge you more, the old ‘putting the bracelet on your wrist so you have to buy it’ technique, overcharging for currency exchange, short-changing money etc. The problem we encountered in Mozambique was that we would agree a price or think we had agreed on a solution, and then the person we were negotiating with would just straight up lie, or opt to have very selective memory about what we had just agreed on.

A good example is when we were taking a bus from Chimoio to Blantyre (Mozambique into Malawi). The first bus from Chimoio to Tete was fine, but then at Tete we had to haggle for a chapa (taxi bus). The bus drivers were filling up a bus at the time and we did need to get going pretty fast to make our next bus, so when someone offered us a cheap private transfer, we decided to take them.

We haggled a price in English and Portuguese, and were very clear that it would be just us and we would get going pronto. Of course that didn’t happen and the driver stopped to pick up other people. We didn’t really mind this, but we had paid for a private bus, and they were charging the newcomers way above average too. Anyway it all turned to arguments from us and the newcomers, who also thought they had booked a private bus.

We settled it, but he kept stopping every couple of minutes to pick people up and then at the end, tried to charge us more! It was just all a bit ridiculous. Of course we were late too. This was one of quite a lot of scams we encountered and sadly, it was our last exposure to Mozambique so it did sour the taste a little.

It’s worth saying that most of the scamming came about from public transport! So maybe, just take our earlier advice and avoid buses where possible. Most people in Mozambique are lovely, but it’s good to be sensible if backpacking.

Don’t forget to bookmark this post to refer back to! We’d also love to hear from you, so please do leave us a comment.

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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