We have driven this stretch of road multiple times for the last three years and I have decided to compile some hints and tips for driving this stretch when visiting Mozambique. These are my own opinions and experiences and we have chosen and paid for any places mentioned and there are no paid links in this article.
This article is specifically aimed at South Africans planning a holiday in Mozambique and who may need some extra advice on their journey as well as links on where to find more relevant information online. This article does not contain official legal advice, simply hints and tips to make life a little easier.
Crossing the border from South Africa to Mozambique.
First of all, be legal. Research what you need to legally cross the border and make sure you know the basics. This will help you to be confident when crossing the border. For a list of legal requirements and what you need to have in your vehicle and what you may legally take through the border, you can visit the following website. Border Crossing Info – DIRCO. Also, consult some online Mozambique travel forums and Facebook groups for relevant questions and information. There are various Facebook groups available with loads of information to use when travelling to Mozambique. I am going to include a link to Drivemoz here, as it is a group with the specific intent of helping foreigners travel through Mozambique safely. Drivemoz Facebook. Two other groups, I find useful are Moz info and Mozambique for All
Please remember that the only borders that are currently open from South Africa are the Ressano Garcia/Lebombo Border post and Kosi Bay/Ponta du Ouro. This ‘Club of Mozambique’ article states the latest border open and closing times. Please make sure you familiarize yourself with the curfews in place for covid measures in both South Africa and Mozambique. You currently need a valid Covid Test to pass the border both ways, please follow the news and official announcements to make sure you know exactly what is allowed at the time you are planning on travelling.
Always make sure your passports are stamped with the correct date at every port, this might sound basic, but if you are on holiday and excited to be in Mozambique, you might not check this. Once you get to the border gate or even somewhere on the road towards your destination an official might want to check your passport and if your passport doesn’t have stamps in, you will have a hard time. This can be easily avoided by double-checking when you are at the border.
Third-party insurance is compulsory to travel through Mozambique, even though you can buy it at the border, it is extremely easy to buy it online and then it is one less item to stress about when crossing the border. We use Hollard and I will be adding the link to buy online. Hollard Travel Insurance for Mozambique
One last note on the border post. Just like any other place in Africa (and the world), there might be an opportunist waiting. Double-check that your vehicle is locked when you go inside to stamp.
Travelling Time with suggested fuel, food and toilet stops.
When calculating travelling travel time in South Africa it is fairly easy. You enter the destination into a map app and voilà, you have your travelling time. You can then add in your stops and it should be fairly accurate. The EN1 is not a highway like the South African highways. It is a two-way road, with one lane on each side that runs past villages, schools, pedestrians and livestock. Travelling speed before a village is generally 80km/h, in villages 60km/h and be very aware that there are even 40km/h stretches. The travelling speed is almost never 120km/h. We calculate travel time by taking the journey in kilometres and then divide the total by 60 (60km/h) to get the average travelling hours. This is normally fairly accurate and includes a few short breaks to refill and time for refreshment and toilet stops.
Road condition on the tarred main road is generally fine. You can drive with any normal vehicle, no 4X4 needed. You will however come across some stretches with potholes.
Toll fees and route.
On the abovementioned route, taking into consideration you are driving past Maputo on the ring road (depicted in the picture below) you will pass two tollgates. The Ringroad has recently been finished and bypasses the centre of Maputo with all its traffic.
The first tollgate on the road from Ressano Garcia is at Moamba where the fee for a normal vehicle is 210 Meticais and the second one is on the Xai-Xai bridge, where the fee is 50 Meticais. Four tollgates are currently being built on Maputo Ring Road.
It is not advised to travel at night and as a family, we generally like to be off the road at 16h00. Loads of people live next to the road and during this time up to about 21h00 besides increased traffic, pedestrians are everywhere. As for the rest of the night, besides that there currently is a curfew in place, it isn’t safe to travel at night because of a lack of visibility and unroadworthy vehicles on the road. Keep this in mind when you plan your route so that you can overnight if necessary.
It is worth noting that things are constantly changing on the official roads of Mozambique, loads of new fuel stations are being built and this might affect the service and cleanliness of the ones I mention in this blog post as a result of competition, amount of traffic and other reasons. Have some small change ready as you can expect to pay between 10 and 20 Meticais per person to use a public toilet, sometimes it is free. Below is a list of fuel stations we regularly make use of for filling up. I don’t mention anything about the fuel experience in the comments below. These fuel stations we have tried and tested and never had any fuel or fraud-related issues with them, we also stop here for buying coffee (we like the Delta or Segafredo espresso’s), juice and toilet breaks.
- Galp Moamba Try their espresso, the toilets are not the best… but better than the Sasol just past the Ressano Garcia border.
- Engen Manhica Exceptionally clean and modern toilets. Food, coffee and drinks can be bought from the Padaria (Bakery)
- Total Macia Toilets used to be great, they can do with an update. Shop is fine and well stocked.
- Galp Zavala, Quissico Toilet experiences may vary greatly depending on the time you visit, the last time I had to pay to use it, but there was no toiletpaper. The shop is in an exquisite condition and especially well-run when the owner is there.
- Bombas Alcar Chidenguele I think I like to stop here, because of all the travel memories I have with this place. The toilets have last been updated more than ten years ago, but they are usually clean. We like to get out and stretch our legs here and have an espresso or three sitting at the little cafeteria.
- Engen Maxixe This is currently our go-to fuel-stop in Maxixe. The toilets are normally sparkling clean, not very fancy, but very clean. They serve coffee from a machine in the shop, but it is not bean or pod coffee, but if we want coffee in Maxixe, we get it from the One Stop restaurant which I will mention in a next section.
- Total Vulanjane Bathroom is clean and basic, the shop is well stocked with some surprising selections of treats sometimes and we can get our beloved espresso here.
Food for the road.
Ordering food at a restaurant in Mozambique can take a lot of your travelling time, an average of an hour waiting after ordering. For this reason, we normally travel with a camp-fridge and pack all our meals and water for the trip. We are sometimes in the mood for some warm food on the road and we have tried the following restaurants and enjoyed them.
- Restaurante Incomati – Casal Figuereido (Marracuene)
- Stop Snack Bar (Maxixe)
- Papilone Restaurante (Vulanjane)
- Nyama Star (Rio Save)
Budget-friendly Roadside Accommodation options with location map links
In this category, I would like to mention three places on the road which we normally use depending on how we are able to plan our journey and when we cross the border or leave our home in Mozambique. These are basic roadside overnight accommodation options.
- Jo Moz, 4 km after the Ressano Garcia/Lebombo border post. Basic overnight, very close to the borderpost and ideal for a late border crossing. Very friendly service, rooms are clean and the option of sitting around a bonfire and relaxing. The ensuite room has a double bed and we asked to have bedding arranged for my 4-year-old daughter. The room has a small fridge, kettle with coffee and tea and an aircon. This is not a self-catering facility, so if you want to self-cater, you need to bring all the utensils with you. Speak to Johan about options to order food.Even though this is close to the border and road we have never had any trouble falling asleep and enjoying a good night’s rest here.
- Honeypot, Xai-Xai. From the three options I mention, this one is the most spacious with regards to accommodation, but the premises are also quite spacious and enjoyable. There is a swimming pool and a restaurant and some rooms are self-catering. Even though we have had a very enjoyable stay there. I have read recent comments and received messages since I posted this blog,that the place is run down and there is currently no electricity. If you have recently stayed here, please mention your experience in the comments.
- Quinta Santo Antonio, Lindela. This is almost on the split in the road between Maxixe and Inhambane. There are quite a few rooms available, all with an en-suite. We usually sleep in a room with a double bed and a single bed to suite our family. There is a tv in the room, a kettle with coffee and a small fridge and there are selfcatering options available. You can pre-book to have dinner there. Dinner is served in a communal dining area and is arguably the best warm meal you are going to get on the road. Speak to Vic or Adelaide for bookings and dinner bookings.
Sometimes we choose to overnight at beach locations as it is good for the soul to fall asleep with the sound of the waves. I am not going to discuss our tried options in this blog post. If there is an interest, I could do a blog post with seaside accommodation options at various places on the road.
Roadblocks – police, cops and officials, what if they pull you off the road?
This is a highly discussed topic on forums and Facebook groups. One cannot talk about the road without mentioning the uniformed officials next to the road. We have had very variable extremes with this. We had journeys where nearly every single cop pulled us over and checked our documents or vehicles and another journey where we have never been stopped once and simply have been waved through all roadblocks.
First of all, familiarize yourself with the rules. Secondly, be friendly and stay calm. When you open your window to chat with the police, put your mask (for covid prevention) on. Usually, it is a simple document check, a quick chat and you are off again. There is always the possibility of an official who tries to intimidate you. If you know the rules, you will feel more confident if you know what is allowed. Stay friendly and stay calm. If you were speeding and are in the wrong, admit it and apologize and pay the fine. Be kind. In the unlikely event that you are being harassed, you can use the Zello 2-way channel app, with locals on standby who can come and help out. Find out more about it here DRIVEMOZ – Zello app
Lastly, enjoy your trip. Mozambique is a special place and a most beautiful country. Go make memories.