Costs and logistics of a RTW trip

Costs and logistics of a RTW trip

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Travel costs and information for Namibia - Windhoek, Sossusvlei, Keetmanshoop, Luderitz

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (November 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), and N (Namibian $).  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly N8.13=$1 and N13.33=£1.

Namibia
 
  • The Namibian $ is pegged to the South African rand within Namibia, and the notes and coins for both currencies are usable there.  It's probably best to change your remaining Namibian $ to South African rand before you leave, as they aren't much use elsewhere.
  • Like Botswana, there's not much in the way of public transport, so to visit the sights you need to either go on tours or have your own vehicle.

1st November 2009 30 day visa (free for Brits) at the border with Botswana (I came in at the Mamuno crossing).
1st November 2009 N100 Hitch from the border to Windhoek, taking about 3 hours 30 minutes including a couple of stops (though the guy really had his foot down - I think it's about 330km).  I simply hung around near the immigration building and asked the first guy who came through the border whether he was heading to Windhoek.  He insisted on dropping me off at my intended hostel.  I think there's also public transport from the border to Gobabis - I met another traveller who got a shared taxi from Gobabis to Windhoek for N130.


Windhoek
  • I got the impression that many of the people staying in hostels here are actually studying or working, rather than travelling.
  • I was warned by all and sundry to be wary of muggers even during the day - in fact, several people said to not even carry a bag with me if I went out.  You'll notice a high emphasis on safety by the fact that many buildings have security features - gates, security guard, barbed wire, etc.
  • There are several travel agencies in Windhoek offering a variety of tours in Namibia.  I was interested in seeing Damaraland and/or Kaokoveld, but unfortunately all the trips including these also involved safaris, which I wasn't interested in as I'd already done enough in East Africa.  Which meant I only did a tour to Sossusvlei - most available tours (e.g. Crazy Kudu/Wild Dog) are aimed at younger backpackers (i.e. cheap) and take 16 people or so, so I was glad to find something a little more exclusive (see below).  Note that the time I was here was the beginning of the low season, so there weren't that many tours heading out (I had to wait for 4 days for a suitable one).
  • Internet available for N24 per hour.
  • If you want to change money here, you'll need your passport.
  • There's a daily minibus service to Swakopmund for about N240, leaving at 2:30PM and returning at 7AM, costing about N300.  You can also go by Intercape Mainliner, but they only run Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
1st November 2009 N310 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Backpacker Unite, though there was water outage for the first day I was there (this seemed to only be this building, as none of the other hostels I visited said they'd had a problem).  There's a friendly Siamese cat.  No Internet.  This hostel seems to cater mainly for workers, and it was rare to find anyone on reception.
6th November 2009 N3,800 2 day/2 night trip to Sossusvlei, departing from/returning to Chameleon Backpackers.  This is more like a mid-range tour, with nice accommodation and full catering, and a maximum of 12 people (I was told that it never fills up) - it only runs once per week.  I was able to pay by credit card.  This was an excellent tour in every respect, though Deadvlei in particular would have been one of the favourite things I saw in 4 years of travel even if the transport/accommodation/food/guide/customers had been garbage.  The schedule was as follows:
Day 1: Picked up from hostel at about 11:30AM.  Had to hand in an indemnity form including details of my travel insurance.  Only 2 other customers.  Friendly and informative guide/driver.  Nice Toyota minivan with AC.  Picked up lunch from a filling station along the way.  Took 4 hours 45 minutes to get to Desert Camp at Sesriem - great views along the way, though the road was gravel from Rehoboth onwards.  Awesome camp, with small swimming pool, bar (bottle of beer N12), and gorgeous setting - the place is owned by the same people who own the much-more-expensive Sossusvlei Lodge.  Chalets have everything (2 beds, sofa, large ensuite bathroom, fridge/cooker/sink unit, fan, etc) - I shared with the guide/driver.  Dinner cooked by the guide/driver - good quality and quantity.
Day 2: Breakfast at 5:30AM and left at 6AM.  Drove to the entrance gate to the park (~5km) - it only opens at sunrise, so if you want to see sunrise over the dunes then you need to camp inside the park or stay at the one really expensive lodge there).  Drove to the 4WD shuttle point (where there are toilets) in about 1 hour 15 minutes, stopping off occasionally for photos.  For people not in a 4WD (e.g. us), there's a stretch where you have to take a shuttle for about 4km.  Note that at this time in the morning it's bloody FREEZING (though it'll be roasting come mid-morning).  Then walked to Deadvlei (amazing ...), walked up a dune, then climbed Sossusvlei.  We then returned to the minivan and went back to Dune 45, which we climbed (many groups go up here first thing, so if you don't want the crowds it's best to go there later on).  We also saw oryx/gemsbok, springbok, beetles, and lizards.  Note that if you wear sunscreen then sand in the air will stick to it, so it's probably best to cover up with clothes instead on your arms/legs - can't really avoid creaming up your face/neck, though.  You can go hot air ballooning for about N4,000 but our guide said the balloons don't go over the main dunes.  We then had a cold but filling lunch before driving to Sesriem Canyon, where we saw a horned adder.  Good dinner back at the camp.
Day 3: Breakfast at 6:15AM and left at 8AM.  Drove to Solitaire, where we had a wander and sampled the famous apple pie.  Then got back to Windhoek for lunchtime.
8th November 2009 N300 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Chameleon Backpackers, including a towel and a safe.  Nice rooms, and the hostel has plenty of travellers.  Internet available for N30 per hour.  Don't forget to reclaim your key deposit when you leave.  Chameleon offers a free transfer to the Intercape Mainliner bus station.
8th November 2009 N4.6 Stamp for postcard to anywhere - note that the stamps are quite long, so leave room for them when you do your writing.
9th November 2009 N315 Bus (Intercape Mainliner) from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop, leaving at 6:30PM and taking 5 hours 30 minutes.  I'd booked this online by credit card - they required a credit card imprint when I was boarding, and everyone had to sign an indemnity form.  Intercape buses are pretty good - not far off Argentinian standards.  You can also go by train, but it takes twice as long and is apparently rather cold.


Keetmanshoop
Unfortunately Intercape's drop-off point in Keetmanshoop is actually at a filling station a few km out of town.  My bus arrived at about midnight, by which time there was no transport heading into the town, so I stayed the night in a booth in the Wimpy fast food place at the filling station (the staff didn't mind).
10th November 2009 N10 Hitch from the filling station into the centre of town.  He dropped me at the Caltex filling station from which Luderitz-bound transport departs.
10th November 2009 N120 "Hitch" in a grocery van from Keetmanshoop to Luderitz, taking 3 hours 15 minutes.  Supposedly most of the transport to Luderitz originates in Windhoek, so you're best looking for transport from maybe 9AM onwards (rather than the 6AM that I started at).  The driver dropped me at my intended accommodation.


Luderitz
Internet available for N1 per minute, i.e. $8 per hour (!), opposite Standard Bank.
10th November 2009 N210 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Luderitz Backpackers.  Note that the kitchen is fairly small so if there are many other guests then it may be difficult to do any cooking (especially if they take over the dining table). 
13th November 2009 N120 Minibus from Luderitz to Keetmanshoop, leaving at about 9:20AM and taking just under 4 hours.  The hostel had phoned up for this for me, though it came 45 minutes later than expected.


Keetmanshoop (again)
13th November 2009 N200 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at La Rochelle B&B, including fan, AC, towel, kettle and TV.  This was a great room so it was a pity I got less than half a day's use of it.  With my bus to Upington leaving after midnight, I had the choice of either wondering around Keetmanshoop for 11 hours or taking a room that I wouldn't get to fully use.  At my age, it was a no-brainer to do the latter (!)  The staff gave me a lift to the Intercape pick-up point.
14th November 2009 N290 Bus (Intercape Mainliner) from Keetmanshoop to Upington in South Africa, leaving at 12:45AM and taking 6 hours, including about an hour of border formalities (not bad given there were ~50 people on the bus).  I'd booked this online a couple of days before.

Travel costs and information for Botswana - Kasane, Maun, Ghanzi

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (October 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), and P (Botswana pula).  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly P6.62=$1 and P10.79=£1.

Botswana

  • Botswana does not really want independent travellers, especially ones on a budget.  This appears to actually be government policy rather than simply a side-effect of relatively high prices.
  • There isn't much in the way of public transport, meaning that hitching is an accepted way of getting around. 
  • A minibus here is called a kombi.
  • People here are friendly and helpful, and in particular don't have the same wariness that I found in East Africa.

26th October 2009 I came in from Zimbabwe at the Kazungula Road border post.  A visa for Brits is free.  I was asked how many days I needed, and I went for 15.  You'll probably have to wipe your shoes on a disinfectant-soaked (?) rag.
26th October 2009 P3 Minibus from near the border to Kasane, taking about 20 minutes.  Though it's possible to get a minibus from the border, you'll increase your chances if you walk the 15-20 minutes to the main road - I caught mine about half way along.  This got really crowded!  Since I and another guy didn't have any pula, the conductor allowed us to pay $1 between us.


Kasane
  • You would be advised to book accommodation before arriving, as there isn't much of it and it's spread all over the town, so traipsing around with luggage is not fun!
  • None of the ATMs I tried here would accept my Mastercard ATM card, though it's possible I could have taken out money with it over the counter (this worked for me in Maun).
  • Internet access is available for P25 per hour.
  • Most people come here to do safaris in Chobe but, having already spent enough on safaris elsewhere, Kasane was simply an overnight stop for me.
26th October 2009 P410 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Liya Guest House, including TV and aircon.  You have to order your meals a couple of hours in advance, and service is slow.  Dinner is P72 - that would normally include meat, but you'll pay this price even if you ask purely for vegetables.  This place is a couple of km out of town on Plateau Road/Upper Road - I was told to be careful walking it because of elephants and buffalo.  Apparently a taxi from the centre of town to Liya should cost P10 but no cabbie would budge below P30 for me.  Phoning for a cab FROM Liya costs P20, or you can try to find a shared taxi (P3.2).
27th October 2009 P30 Taxi from Liya Guest House to the bus station.
27th October 2009 P54.4 (though I wasn't chased up for the P0.4) Minibus from Kasane to Nata (final destination Francistown), leaving at 5:50AM and taking 3 hours 40 minutes.  Note that this service is scheduled to leave at 6AM but will go when full - you might want to get there for 5:30AM to make sure.  There is at least one later service but if you're heading to Maun then that later service might get you to Nata too late to get a connection to Maun.  Keep an eye out for wildlife - I saw an enormous herd of elephants on this route.  You may have to get off at some point to disinfect your shoes.  Note that Nata "bus station" is actually a filling station that all buses/minibuses happen to stop at.

27th October 2009 P54.4 Bus from Nata to Maun, leaving at 11:10AM and taking 3 hours 20 minutes.  This bus arrived at Nata at 10:50AM - the wait was for the existing passengers to get food and/or go to the loo.  We had to stop for a passport check at one point.  Keep an eye out for wildlife on this leg too - I saw a lot of ostriches.


Maun
  • None of the ATMs I tried here would accept my Mastercard ATM card, but I was able to take out money with it over the counter at Barclays - the only drawback was the ~20 minutes of queuing each time.
  • Most of the accommodation is in Matlapaneng, about 7km from the centre of Maun.  A private taxi should cost about P30 and a shared taxi P4 but I was never able to find a shared taxi (the nearest I managed was when 1 other person was in the taxi and I paid P20, i.e. the fare for 5 people!)  You can also take a kombi (P2.75), or try hitching.  
  • Note that getting to Old Bridge Backpackers requires a bit of a roundabout route by car, so taxis are quite likely to want to drop you at a point where you can walk through a shortcut. 
  • Internet available for P30 per hour.
  • The BP filling station near the bus station has a toilet that they will let you use (you need to ask for the key at the checkout). 
  • To get to Windhoek, you can either fly (expensive), use the minibus company Tenna Express (charging Namibian $1250 (i.e. ~$170!) per person for a minimum of 2 people), hitch, or - as I did - go by public transport to Ghanzi and then hitch.  I also saw an upcoming service advertised at Old Bridge Backpackers that was offering a cheap ride to the border (can't remember the price but it was reasonable) - from there you can hitch or take public transport.
27th October 2009 P132 Nightly rate for a private chalet tent with shared bathroom at Old Bridge Backpackers (aka Back to the Bridge Backpackers).  The tent has just a light and a powerpoint - no mossie net, though there are plenty of mossies!  The restaurant/bar has a good atmosphere.  You can put everything on a tab.  There are also 2 dogs and a cat in residence.  This place offers all sorts of activities apart from mokoro (i.e. dug-out canoe) trips to the Okavango Delta (described below), e.g. horseriding is available for P200 per hour or P350 for 2 hours.  Internet available.  Note that the laundry is P35 per load, regardless of how much stuff, so don't just hand in 2 T-shirts (as I did ...) 
29th October 2009 P605 Mokoro day trip to Okavango Delta from Maun.  A motorboat took us to Boro (about an hour away), where we were allocated a poler (2 customers in each mokoro, plus the poler).  He poled us around for about 1 hour 45 minutes, then we stopped for an (included) packed lunch of 2 decent-sized sandwiches and an apple - no drink provided, so you would be advised to bring your own if you don't fancy drinking the delta water.  We then went for a nature walk for about half an hour, during which our poler described the uses of some of the plants - we also saw some zebras.  We were then poled back to a place we'd passed earlier, where we could have a cooling swim in the water.  After about an hour there, we were back at Boro, so there was about 4 hours of poling in total.  Note that the poler actually gets the best views of anyone, as when you're sitting in the mokoro you can pretty much only see reeds!  Our poler was paid P40 (!!) for this trip, i.e. P40 out of the P1,210 the 2 of us had paid, i.e. less than 4% of the cost.  I was rather disappointed to find this out, as Old Bridge Backpackers makes great play of the fact that they are in partnership with the polers' collective, whereas it sounds as though they're screwing the collective.  You might be better off trying to contact the collective directly - I think they're called the Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust.  Apart from day trips, Old Bridge Backpackers also offers a 2 day trip (P770) or a 3 day trip (P990).  You can hire camping/cooking equipment for P132 per night.
Friday 30th October 2009 P88 Nightly rate for a (small) private room with shared bathroom at Old Bridge Backpackers (see 27th October 2009 entry for more information about this place). 
Saturday 31st October 2009 P40 Taxi from Old Bridge Backpackers to the bus station, stopping also at the airport.
Saturday 31st October 2009 P47.3 Bus from Maun to Ghanzi, leaving at 8:30AM and taking 4 hours 10 minutes.  Make sure you're there in good time - it was already half full at 8AM.  There's at least one stop for people to disinfect their shoes.  I think there's also a later bus at 2:30PM.


Ghanzi
  • This is the last town before the border with Namibia, which is about 200km away on a good road.  A bus supposedly runs from here to the border at 1PM, but it seems to be rather erratic and will deposit you at the border quite late in the day to be able to get onward transport to Windhoek, so your best option is to hitch from Ghanzi.
  • There doesn't seem to be much in the way of accommodation here, so if you're on foot you'd be advised to try to book in advance.
Saturday 31st October 2009 P20 Taxi from Ghanzi to the turn-off for Thakadu Camp.
Saturday 31st October 2009 P150 Nightly rate for a private tent with shared bathrooms at Thakadu Camp.  The turn-off for this place is 5km out of town (on the road to the border), with the camp itself a further 3km down a track that's in poor condition (my taxi driver refused to go down it).  Apparently you can phone the camp from the turn-off and someone will come to pick you up (some other guests gave me a lift).  It's run by an English guy and his South African wife, and there's a restaurant too.  It's also a good place to hunt for possible lifts to the border :-)

Travel costs and information for Zimbabwe - Victoria Falls

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (October 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), and R (South African rand).  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly $1.63=£1, R12.16=£1, and R7.46=$1.

Zimbabwe


  • I was only here for 3 days so can't really comment on much beyond my experience of Victoria Falls.
  • The US dollar is the official currency (a move intended to curb hyperinflation), but other currencies - in particular South African rand - are also acceptable.  In order to simplify the sums, and perhaps reduce the need for small rand coins, many businesses will use a rate of R10=$1 if you want to pay by rand - this rate is undervaluing the rand by about a third, so be aware of this!  The supermarket in Victoria Falls was about the only place I found that offered a more reasonable rate.
  • Most people I met were friendly and helpful, though there were a few vendors who insisted on shouting at me to attract my attention when I was a hundred metres away from them.

Victoria Falls

  • This is the town on the Zimbabwe side near the falls - the equivalent on the Zambia side is Livingstone.
  • This time of year the falls are at their lowest and they are best viewed from the Zimbabwe side.
  • It's apparently possible to do a day trip to Zambia to see them from that side ($20 visa) without requiring a multiple-entry Zimbabwe visa, but I didn't try that.
  • Internet access is available for $4 per hour.
23rd October 2009 $55 Zimbabwe visa on arrival for British citizen.  I was asked what duration I wanted it for so I said 14 days (though I knew I would only be there for a few days).  I think you can get up to 90, so if you aren't sure what you need then ask for more rather than less.
23rd October 2009 $20 Taxi from Victoria Falls airport into the town itself.  Without me asking, my accommodation had arranged a transfer so I was again left in the awkward position of feeling obliged to take transport that I didn't really want - especially as I'd been told a taxi should cost $10, but the transfer was twice that!
23rd October 2009 $40 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Shoestring Backpackers, including aircon (but no towel).  The shower had so many leaks in the pipes that hardly any water was left to actually come out of the showerhead.  This place apparently used to be run by the same guy who now runs Shoestring Lodge in Joburg, but it's gone downhill since he was in charge.  The shared kitchen in particular was disgusting, with cockroaches and flies everywhere.  It didn't even have a can opener, which I had to borrow from the chef in the on-site Blue Baboon Cafe - I'm wondering if they're trying to dissuade people from doing their own cooking in order to drive custom to the cafe.  Also be aware that beers at the bar are $2 if you pay cash but only $1.50 if you run a tab for your room/bar/Internet usage - this is because they generally don't have enough 50c coins to keep giving out change.  In its favour, Shoestring has a good selection of cats and dogs - it also attracts a fair number of travellers, as well as locals in the evening. 
24th October 2009 $20 Entry to Victoria Falls National Park.  Even though this was the low season for water, there were still a couple of viewpoints where you would be liberally doused in spray.  There are plenty of rainbows if you're here on a sunny day, so make sure you have a polarising filter.  You can also see monkeys, birds, and butterflies in the forest that lines part of the path.
24th October 2009 $1 Stamp for postcard to US
24th October 2009 $0.75 Stamp for postcard to Europe
26th October 2009 $5 Taxi to the Botswana border-bound shared taxi pick-up point.
26th October 2009 $10 Lift on a whitewater rafting bus to the Botswana border, taking about an hour.  I had intended getting a shared taxi (about $6 per person) but this bus was waiting at the shared taxi pick-up point, and the driver agreed to take me to the border (though I think it probably violates their insurance agreement), where they were going to pick up customers to bring back to Victoria Falls for some rafting.  He initially tried to charge me $30 (!), but I said I was more expecting the shared taxi price of $6 - we compromised at $10.  Note that Shoestring will run a transfer to the border with Botswana for $25 per person (minimum 2 people).  Backpackers Bazaar in Victoria Falls had quoted $35 for me alone.  Apparently a taxi hailed on the street would be about $25.

Travel costs and information for South Africa - Johannesburg, Upington, Cape Town

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (September and then December 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), and R (South African rand).  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly R7.91=$1 and R12.77=£1 (September), and R7.31=$1 and R12.14=£1 (December).

South Africa

  • No hassle at all, with generally helpful and friendly local people.  Most people speak English.
  • All the ATMs I tried would accept my Mastercard ATM card (didn't try Visa).
  • I changed some rand to $, for which the bank needed to see my passport, proof for how I'd obtained the rand in the first place (the ATM slip was fine for this), and my ATM card, plus they wanted to know why I needed the money, where I lived in the UK, and where I'd be in Zimbabwe (my next destination and the reason for me needing $). 
  • Internet throughout South Africa is expensive.
  • Books are expensive. 
  • It's difficult to buy a South African SIM card outside of an airport because you'll need to get your accommodation to provide a letter confirming that you are residing at their address (which they may not be willing to do) - this is some legal requirement to try to stop people using phones for criminal activities.  However this requirement is waived if you buy the SIM at the airport, so if you think you'll need a SIM, get it at the airport.
  • Sodas (US) or soft drinks (UK) are called "cool drinks" here.
  • A "waitron" is the non-gender-specific term for a member of the waitstaff.
  • A "robot" is some traffic lights. 
19th September 2009 I entered initially from Swaziland at the Oshoek border crossing on the Baz Bus (see Swaziland entry for more information).  Brits are given a free 3 month visa, but you don't necessarily get a new one if you exit/re-enter before that time is up, i.e. you may need to get an explicit extension if you're planning on popping in and out of the country for more than 3 months.  It really depends on the customs officials.  It was maybe 30 minutes from the border to Nelspruit, then maybe another 5 hours to Joburg (this was about 2 hours faster than the overall schedule because of the general lack of passengers).


Joburg
  • The only Internet cafe I tried was R40 per hour.  I inquired about getting a couple of my camera cards burned to CD and was told it would cost R30 for a maximum of 200 images, i.e. bloody expensive!
  • A taxi from Shoestring Lodge to the bus station in central Joburg will cost R250.
  • Though I didn't use this service, there are buses from Joburg to Gaborone in Botswana for R220, leaving at 2:30PM and arriving at 9:10PM.
19th September 2009 R150 Nightly rate for a dorm bed in an 8 bed dorm (shared bathroom, obviously) at Shoestring Lodge, a hostel near the airport.  Basic breakfast included.  There's a shared kitchen, swimming pool, and free Internet (though the Internet may be shut down if the owner feels guests are using it excessively - I think the cost of it is quite high).  There are some shops about 15 minutes' walk away, and a big shopping mall (Festival Mall - the biggest I saw anywhere in Africa) maybe 40 minutes' walk away.  The hostel owner will give round trips to the mall by car for R50 if you can't be bothered walking.  Even this far from the centre of Joburg, I was warned that it was unsafe to walk around at night.  The hostel has a lot of 1 night guests, partly due to being close to the airport and partly due to offering free lifts to/from the airport, and I met a real variety of people in the times I was there (first when I came in from Swaziland, then when I returned from Madagascar in October, and again just before I flew to Paris in December at the very end of my Africa jaunt).  I was allowed to leave some of my stuff here in between October and December, which was really helpeful.  The only slight downer is that the owner's family lives there, so sometimes it can feel as though you're intruding on someone's home (well ... you are!)
21st September 2009 R250 Nightly rate for a private room (still with shared bathroom though there was a toilet and sink in my room) at Shoestring Lodge.
22nd September 2009 R5,763.3 Return flight from Joburg to Antananarivo in Madagascar, taking about 2 hours 30 minutes.  I bought the ticket from the Flight Centre in Festival Mall.  This was R363 more than the price on the Air Madagascar site but I wasn't convinced that I would be able to get an order through on the web as the site was rather unstable.  Either way, this is ludicrously expensive but there is very little competition for the route.  I think you may be able to get it cheaper if you buy the ticket in conjunction with your original ticket coming from Europe (or wherever) to South Africa.
22nd September 2009 R149 Globetrotters guide to Madagascar (purchased at Joburg Airport).  A slim book, but a good example of how expensive books are in South Africa - 25% more than the cover price in $.  The Lonely Planet guide was R280! 

23rd October 2009 R1,650 Flight (Comair - a subsidiary of British Airways) from Joburg to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, leaving at 11:30AM and taking 1 hour 30 minutes.


Upington
  • I don't know if it was just the time of year, but it was quite difficult finding anywhere doing tours to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (aka the Kalahari).  I went with the cheapest place, as recommended by the owners of my accommodation, but it was still really expensive for just me on my tod.  The guy said that his company only charges a 5% profit - certainly the other quotes I got were anything up to twice what I paid.
  • Internet available for R15 for 20 minutes then R1 per minute thereafter, i.e. R55 per hour, at Postnet.  I also found a place nearby (can't remember the name) for "only" R7.5 per 15 minutes but it was so slow I couldn't log in to Hotmail and they eventually let me off without paying. 
13th November 2009 R420 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Affinity B&B, including a towel, TV, AC, fridge, kettle, and a massive buffet breakfast (which stops at 9AM). 
16th November 2009 R5,400 3 day/2 night safari to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.  This included everything except the park entries and campsite pitches (see next entry), i.e. food, fuel, camping equipment, etc.  The guy's name was Theo and he was based at the place that does river cruises in Sakkie's Ark (if I remember correctly).  Theo was full of information, was a good driver and animal spotter, and could happily chat non-stop for hours.  Downers were his smoking (though he did refrain from doing it in the car) and his casual racism.  The itinerary was as follows:
Day 1: Theo picked me up at 8:15AM in his nice Mazda "bakkie" (pick-up truck), which was spacious and even had a freezer in the back.  We then did some food shopping before heading for the park entrance at Twee Riveren, which took 2 hours 45 minutes on good roads.  The trails in the park are all gravel, on which inexperienced drivers can easily come to grief.  We drove up to Auchterlonie then crossed over the old river beds, stopping occasionally when we saw things, e.g. wildebeest, jackal, springbok, red hartebeest, rain birds, ostrich, eagles, oryx/gemsbok, etc.  Arrived in Nossub at about 5PM.  Nice facilities here - each campsite has its own braai (barbecue), stone chairs, a stone table, and use of the ablution block (hot showers).  You'll be amused by the umpteen curious sand squirrels.  Went for a pre-sunset drive but the air was too clear for a good sunset, which was a bummer as the sunsets are one of the most famous things about the park.  Dinner was chops and sausages done on the braai.  Note that the water here is slightly salinated, which won't be to everyone's taste.  Even though there's a fence around the camp, jackals have found a way to get in, and they came close in the hope of getting some scraps.
Day 2: Went for a pre-breakfast drive at 5:40AM.  Unbelievable number of lions and cubs.  Then breakfasted before leaving camp at about 9AM.  Drove to Mata-Mata camp, arriving at 12:30PM - it was 45C!  There's a swimming pool here but the other facilities aren't as good as at Nossub - the campsite has a braai but nothing else, and the showers are smaller (and don't have hooks - grrr ...)  Light lunch then napping during the hottest part of the day.  Went out for a drive at 4:30PM, seeing a load more lions and some giraffes.  Again no sunset, this time because of massing rain clouds.  Another meaty dinner.  There's a waterhole just outside the perimeter fence, where animals can sometimes be seen.  Several hyenas were prowling the perimeter, having presumably smelled everyone's dinner.  The electricity goes off somewhere around midnight then comes on again at about 5AM.
Day 3: Left camp at 5:40AM, seeing more lions and a hyena den with a couple of cubs.  Stopped for breakfast at Auchterlonie.  Go back to Upingham at about 3PM. 
16th November 2009 R636 Entry to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and use of two campsites.
19th November 2009 R300 Bus (Intercape Mainliner) from Upington to Cape Town, leaving at 9PM (about 2 hours 30 minutes late ...) and taking 14 hours 10 minutes (i.e. we lost about another 2 hours during the journey).  I'd booked this online a few days before.  This was a Sleepliner, rather than the Mainliners I'd taken previously, the differences being that there were fewer seats and they could recline 150 degrees. 

20th November 2009 R2 Use of the filling station toilet at Springbok. 


Cape Town
  • Internet available for anything from R5-10 per hour.
  • Couldn't find any fast food places that were open late (as in after 1AM).
  • Security seems to be a concern here, as you can't even enter some shops until the staff have given you a visual once-over and then unlocked the door.  There are also plenty of security guards and tourist police floating around.
  • The Dubliner bar at Kennedy's on Long Street is a good place to go if you want to watch football and listen to cheesy music.  You'll pay about 10% more if you order from one of the waitrons rather than getting it yourself at the bar.  Also, the prices go up after 10PM.  There's live music (generally playing chart stuff) several times a week.  Good atmosphere.
  • Apparently the cheapest way to get to Cape Point (no public transport) is to hire a car, which can cost as little as R240 per day.
20th November 2009 R260 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Backpackers on Castle, including a fan, a towel, and a sink.  When I arrived, the person on reception claimed that someone had been waiting for me at the Intercape stop at 8AM but I'd never showed - in actual fact, I'd mailed them a few days before to ask for directions to the hostel (i.e. I hadn't asked for an escort) and they'd never replied.  I then found that my room was infested with bed bugs and some other insectoid beasties.
23rd November 2009 R190 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Blue Mountain Backpackers, including a sink. Helpful staff.  This place gets a lot of travellers.  There's a nice balcony for sitting and watching the world go by below.
26th November 2009 R110 Haircut at the barber on Long Street.
27th November 2009 R69.95 Copy of Q magazine (i.e. about a 30% mark-up on the cover price in £)
30th November 2009 R20 Entry to District 6 Museum
30th November 2009 R88 Entry to Two Oceans Aquarium 
1st December 2009 R225 Increase in the nightly rate for my room at Blue Mountain Backpackers, because of it now being high season.
1st December 2009 R200 2-day ticket on the Citysightseeing bus, a hop-on/hop-off bus linking Cape Town's main sights on 2 routes, called red and blue.  The 2-day ticket is good because it lets you use both routes on both days - if you buy the 1-day ticket (R120), you have to choose just 1 of the 2 routes.  The reason you need both routes is that 2 of the best sights (Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens) are on different routes.
1st December 2009 R160 Return ticket on the Table Mountain cable car (a single is R85, if you fancy walking up or down).
2nd December 2009 R35 Entry to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (plus an extra R2 if you want a map)
3rd December 2009 R7 Stamp for postcard to US/Europe
6th December 2009 R180 Taxi from Long Street to Cape Town airport.  I booked this through the hostel.
6th December 2009 R685 Flight (Mango) from Cape Town to Joburg, leaving at 8:40AM and taking 1 hour 45 minutes.  I'd reserved this online, then paid in cash at Shoprite.  I had to pay a R10 service fee for doing it like this, but at the time it was cheaper for me to take out money from an ATM (1% commission) than pay by credit card (3% commission) - nowadays the commission rates are equal.  Note that taking the bus is at least R500 and takes 20 hours, so the flight isn't bad value.


Joburg (again)
6th December 2009 R250 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Shoestring Lodge (see 19th September 2009 for more info).
9th December 2009 Since I was going to be leaving in the evening, I asked if I could keep my room and pay half the daily rate - this was granted. 
9th December 2009 £263 Flight (Egypt Air) from Joburg to Paris via Cairo

Travel costs and information for Swaziland - Mbabane, Ezulwini Valley, Mkhaya Game Reserve, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (September 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), R (South African rand) and E (Swazi lilangeni (plural: emalangeni)).  Note that rand and emalangeni are interchangeable in Swaziland (at a 1-to-1 rate), but you can't use emalangeni outside of Swaziland so swap them for rand before you leave (your accommodation should be able to do this).  I'll give all prices in rand, for convenience.  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly R7.91=$1 and R12.77=£1.

Swaziland
No hassle at all, with extremely helpful and friendly local people.  Most people (at least in the main towns) speak English.
All the ATMs I tried would accept my Mastercard ATM card (didn't try Visa).
Internet throughout Swaziland is expensive and slow (apparently due to a lack of competition). 

Public transport is delightful, when compared to Mozambique!  It's frequent, not overcrowded, and doesn't leave at unsociable times.  Obviously it helps that Swaziland is so small that you can cross it in a couple of hours ... 
The Swazi equivalent of a boksi/chapa/dala-dala/minibus is a kombi.
Note that there is a second reed ceremony 2 weeks after the main one, which is not as well attended by either locals or tourists but there are still the attractions of the King, Queen(s), and hundreds of maidens.  It's in Nhlangano (I think). 

9th September 2009 I entered at the Goba border crossing from Mozambique, which was fairly new so was pretty much deserted.  No visa needed for Brits.  It took about 1 hour 30 minutes to get from here to Manzini.
9th September 2009 R15 Minibus from Manzini to Mbabane, taking about 30 minutes.  Note that the minibus park where you arrive from Mozambique is a few hundred metres from the one where the Mbabane-bound minibuses depart from - anyone should be able to give you directions. 

Mbabane

  • I was told that a taxi within Mbabane should start at about R28.
  • Tourist Information has moved to the Cooper Centre, over the road from Nando's.  The sign in the window had a font size of about 3.  They have maps and brochures but little other information.
  • Swazinet Internet in Swazi Plaza costs R25 for 50 minutes and is slow.
9th September 2009 R150 Nightly rate for a private double room with shared bathroom at Sunset Backpackers.  Sunset was the new name (and new location) of a well-regarded place called Grifters, but that hadn't been reflected on the Internet (I was the only guest for nearly 2 weeks) and it seemed to have really gone downhill.  The staff (of whom there were tons) couldn't/wouldn't tell me anything about Swaziland or even Mbabane, and the kitchen (in particular the cooker) was constantly in use by them - even though I was the only guest, I still had problems finding space for what little cooking I did.  It didn't help that the can opener didn't work.  The bathroom had no shower curtain, so using the shower will wet the floor.  The only window in my room was opposite the kitchen door, meaning anyone going by would look in, and the (weedy) electric light was at the opposite end of the room from the bed, meaning I could barely read anything in bed.  No towel, no rubbish bin, no hooks, and ~20 minutes' walk from the town centre.  Even though there are Baz Bus adverts all over the place, Sunset isn't on the Baz Bus circuit.  Avoid!
11th September 2009 R7 Minibus from Mbabane to The Gables shopping centre in Ezulwini Valley, taking about 15 minutes.  

Ezulwini Valley

  • The "hub" of this area seems to be The Gables, with a supermarket, several restaurants, and a Big Game Parks (the body that looks after Swaziland's parks/reserves) office.
  • Internet is available in The Gables for R40 per hour and is slow.
  • Almost everything closes on Sunday in Ezulwini except the supermarket and restaurants.
  • I could not believe how little information there was regarding transport for getting to Mkhaya Game Reserve (which has black rhinos - one of the main reasons I'd come to Swaziland), despite it being only 60km away from Ezulwini.  I can only assume it's because 99% of visitors have their own vehicle.  Whatever, the estimates I had included "very difficult" (Legends Backpackers), 3.5 hours (Mbabane Tourist Information), and 2 hours (Big Game Parks, i.e. the people who run the park!)  Swazi Tours, the country's biggest tour operator (and with the same owners as Legends Backpackers), wanted R1,250 (per person) for a day trip to Mkhaya, which - granted - included the R475 safari fee but was still R775 per person for transport/wait time.  As you can see below, it took me less than 2 hours (including waiting for minibuses at The Gables and Manzini) and cost R32, though I did get a free lift back to Ezulwini with one of the other customers (thus saving R32).  I was told that minibuses for Manzini go past Phuzamoya until nightfall, after which it's possible to hitch.
11th September 2009 R180 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Legends Backpackers, including a fan and a rubbish bin.  One of the bathrooms has the only loo in the corner, out in the open, but there's no lock on the main door (!)  Legends advertises free broadband, but it was broken when I was there.  This place is a 10 minute walk up behind The Gables across a field - the hostel manager said it wouldn't be safe to cross this at night, but it was maybe no coincidence that the guy also ran a taxi service ...
12th September 2009 R12 Minibus from The Gables to Manzini, taking about 25 minutes (part-way, I had to transfer to another minibus, but I don't think that's normal).  There are loads of minibuses doing this route.  On arriving in Manzini, I was helpfully pointed in the direction of a Phuzamoya minibus.
12th September 2009 R20 Minibus from Manzini to Phuzamoya, leaving at about 7:50AM and taking about 50 minutes.  I don't know how often these run, but I would guess it's fairly frequently.
12th September 2009 R475 Day safari at Mkhaya Game Reserve (though it's possible this might be more if there are only a few customers - my safari had 6 in total).  I booked this through the Big Game Parks office in The Gables - normally they want credit card bookings (to avoid people backing out), but I didn't have my card on me and they must have seen some shred of honesty in my face (!)  I paid in cash at the reserve itself.  They need at least 2 people to run the safari, but if others have already booked then you can tag along with them.  You have to be at the Phuzamoya entrance for 10AM for a pick-up, and you're dropped off there at about 4PM.  The guide Thulani was truly excellent - full of information, and a brilliant spotter even though he was driving too.  The vehicle is an open-topped Landrover (so you'll need sunscreen and a hat).  After a welcome drink (pear juice in a champagne glass), we did a morning safari, then had a buffet lunch, then did an afternoon safari.  You also get a free 500ml bottle of water.  The park is small, e.g. they only have about 15 elephants, but that was a nice change from, say, Masai Mara.  Note that black rhinos generally don't graze if it's windy or if there are strange sounds around (such as helicopters) so a sighting is by no means guaranteed - Thulani said he only saw one once per week (sadly this wasn't that one occasion, though we did see nyala, sable antelope, roan antelope, warthog, mongoose, helmeted and crested guinea fowl, white rhino, zebra, giraffe, impala, waterbuck, hippo, crocodile, martial eagle, red-billed oxpecker, and topi.
14th September 2009 R80 Taxi (actually a lift with the owner of Legends) from Legends to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.  You could probably get this for cheaper.  From the drop-off at the park gate, I had to walk a further few hundred metres to the hostel itself.  You can get to the park entrance by public transport, but it involves 2 minibuses and then you still have to walk a couple of kilometres.  Note that there are (at least) two entrances to the sanctuary, so make sure your transport is going to the correct one!

Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary

  • There's Internet access at the main camp but it never worked during my stay.
  • Not really related to Mlilwane, but I heard from a traveller here that he'd paid a mere R85 for his Mozambique visa in Mbabane (i.e. less than a quarter of what I'd paid in Lilongwe).  He'd also been quoted R470 in Nelspruit.
14th September 2009 R25 Entrance to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
14th September 2009 R155 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Sondzela Backpackers, with a fan.  I booked this at the Big Game Parks office in The Gables.  Really relaxing place with rooms and rondavels available, a swimming pool, lots of trees, a resident ostrich, and a family of warthogs.  Breakfast and dinner are available but you have to book them in advance - for lunch you can walk the few hundred metres to the main camp, which has more (expensive) accommodation and a restaurant.  Food basics (e.g. baked beans, beer, chocolate) are available at both sites, but stuff is cheaper at Sondzela.  Note that the kitchen at Sondzela is large and has plenty of cupboards and drawers - unfortunately it has little in the way of utensils.  You can see various types of antelope wandering around, plus the main camp restaurant overlooks a hippo pool containg at least 1 crocodile, birds, and (at certain times of the year) hippos.  You can do self-guided walks from the main camp (you're given a laminated map for a R10 refundable deposit).
17th September 2009 R80 Taxi from Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary to Southern Cross Lodge in Ezulwini.  Booked the taxi at Sondzela, for which I had to pay R2 as the staff member used her own cellphone.  This was one of the few bits of BS I had in Swaziland - the staff at Sondzela had said the taxi would be R60, the driver told me it was R100 when I got in, we ended up having a threeway conversation with the taxi owner before I could haggle it down to R80, and then it turned out the driver had no idea where we were going and clearly didn't trust my instructions as he ignored me and stopped about 5 times to ask passers-by (none of whom knew either). 

Ezulwini Valley (again)
Seems as though Swaziland Backpackers only attracts a one-night pass-through clientele.
17th September 2009 R180 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom and kitchen at Southern Cross Lodge, including a towel.  This place is run by a friendly Spanish guy, Jesus, and his wife (who was away), together with 2 dogs (a crazy young one called Luna and an older one called Jackie who will keep her distance), and is spotless.  It has a garden and swimming pool.  Jesus has lots of good information about Swaziland and beyond - he can also arrange Baz Bus bookings.  I chose Southern Cross because I didn't like Legends and other travellers had recommended Southern Cross, but it's about 3km from The Gables (though you can catch a minibus between The Gables and the turn-off for Southern Cross's road (the stop is called Mangozeni, but if you mention Woodlands Restaurant people will probably know what you mean), which is about two-thirds of the total distance and costs about R4). 
18th September 2009 R24.6 Postage for parcel to UK (1.3kg seamail - it was apparently small enough to go at "letter" rates rather than "parcel" ones.)  Empirical evidence that Swaziland's mail is cheap and reliable (it arrived).  However the rigmarole in finding a PO from which to send this was an adventure in itself.  First I went to the PO in Lobamba (a couple of km past The Gables heading east), but the postmaster wasn't due in until 2:30PM.  Then I was sent to one in the market next to the Sondzela turn-off - they couldn't do anything there because they didn't have any scales to weigh my parcel.  I was then sent to the one in Malkerns (maybe 5km along the Sondzela road), which did the business.
18th September 2009 R1.8 Postage for postcard to US/Europe.  Note that the 2 stamps required (plus the airmail sticker) are quite large, so leave plenty of room for them when you're writing your postcards! 
19th September 2009 R430 Baz Bus ticket from Southern Cross Lodge to Shoestring Lodge in Joburg, leaving at about 8:15AM and taking about 7 hours in total (though that was partly due to the lack of passengers - it would normally take another 2 hours or so).  We got to the Oshoek border crossing in about half an hour (see the South Africa entry for further info).  The bus was a comfortable VW minibus with trailer and contained just 2 other passengers.  Baz Bus is a bus company whose main network is in South Africa but they also have a couple of stops in Swaziland and Lesotho.  They specialise in hop on/hop off tickets for backpackers - over some fixed period of time, you can use their services as often as you like.  They generally link hostels, so if you choose hostels in their network then you'll get a door-to-door service.  My ticket was a "direct" one, which was slightly cheaper than the hop on/hop off one (R490) but I had to specify the date of travel and could not do any off/on-hopping in between, and I also had to pay R20 for the phone call to book it.  If you intend going from Swaziland to Johannesburg and staying near Joburg airport then the Baz Bus is good value, as any public transport from Swaziland (perhaps R200) won't stop near Joburg airport (some kind of "closed shop" agreement between minibuses) and you'll have to get an expensive taxi (more than R200) back out from the centre of Joburg.  This is without even considering the "fun" reputation that the centre of Joburg has vis a vis tourist muggings.  However in general Baz Bus is more expensive than public transport, so you're really paying for the convenience and comfort (plus it's a good way to meet other travellers, if that's your thing).

Travel costs and information for Mozambique - Mocuba, Nampula, Ilha de Mocambique, Beira, Vilankulos, Bazaruto Archipelago, Inhambane, Maputo

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (August 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), K (Malawi kwacha) and M (Mozambique metical (plural: meticais)).  I'm mentioning kwacha because I paid for my entry tax and bicycle taxi in kwacha.  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly M29=$1 and M17.3=£1, and K140=$1 and K230=£1. 

Mozambique

  • Little hassle, though I was a little surprised at how many people came up to me simply to ask for money.  There are fewer English speakers in the north so you may well need to use some Portuguese, but in the south I had no problems using English (perhaps because the south sees lots of South African holidaymakers).
  • If you're coming from the north/west, it's noticeable how ethnically diverse the population is in Mozambique.
  • All the ATMs I tried would accept my Mastercard ATM card (didn't try Visa).
  • It's hot and humid at this time of year!
  • A useful web resource is MozGuide.com 
  • Public transport is generally quite slow and, in the case of chapas (aka minibuses), rather uncomfortable courtesy of overcrowding.  You may be charged extra for your luggage, but feel free to haggle.
  • Try not to get a seat in the front row of a chapa, as there's a chance people will be squeezed into the space in front of you.
  • Note that it is really difficult to get rid of meticais once you have left Mozambique - I couldn't find anyone who would take them even in South Africa, a neighbouring country.  So make sure you use them up before you leave!

I crossed at the Muloza-Milanje border, but I heard the following from other travellers.  Visas are NOT issued at the Nayuchi border.  They ARE issued at the Mandimba crossing, which is supposedly the easiest as there are regular transport connections to Cuamba.  The Cuamba-Nampula train runs in each direction on alternate days except Monday, i.e. Nampula-to-Cuamba on Tu, Th, and Sa, and Cuamba-to-Nampula on W, F, and Su.  It takes about 11 hours and leaves at (I think) 5AM.  3rd class costs M175, second class M331, and there's no first class.  The dining car apparently doesn't look sufficiently appealing to want to spend the journey in it.

It's a walk of only a few hundred metres to get from Malawi immigration to Mozambique immigration.

12th August 2009 K500 Entry tax to Mozambique.  I'd bought my visa in advance in Lilongwe due to hearing that the Mozambique border guards had a reputation for overcharging, but no-one tried to screw me.
12th August 2009 K200 Bicycle taxi from the border to the town of Milanje itself (2-3km).  I'd been told this should cost K50 but I couldn't get below K200.  Frankly, I shouldn't have bothered as it would have been more comfortable walking, and I don't think the guy that took me quite realised how much of a load a 14 stone tourist and his backpack would be.
As we approached Milanje, we passed a couple of moneychangers - had to haggle pretty hard in order to get close to the "real" rate. 

Milanje

  • There is at least one ATM here but I didn't try it.
  • There are two ways to get out of Milanje - by minibus or by hitching.  The "bus station" is on the left hand side as you approach the town from the border.  A minibus leaves for Mocuba at 4AM (NB in the morning!) and costing M200 but if you choose to use this, you should buy your ticket in the afternoon of the previous day as they tend to sell out.  One problem with this also is that you're likely to have to spend a night in Milanje in order to catch it, though there is at least one pensao near the bus station (I was told it was M4-500 per night).
  • A preferable option is to hitch, because with luck you'll be able to get to Mocuba the same day and it's almost guaranteed to be more comfortable than squeezing into a minibus.  Just standing by the side of the road, I was "found" by a random guy who appeared to make his money from finding lifts for stranded tourists.  He kept wandering off and coming back with various tales of potential rides.  After about 1.5 hours, an 18-wheeler pulled up, and I got a prime seat, with suspension, in the cabin.  Result :-)  I suppose you could also try just waiting at the border post, as much of the traffic from Milanje to Mocuba will have come from Malawi anyway (e.g. my truck).  If you have the option, get in a vehicle with large wheels, as the road is in bad condition and wouldn't be much fun in a car or anything small.
12th August 2009 M50 Tip to transport tout for finding me my ride.
12th August 2009 M250 Payment to truck driver for journey to Mocuba.  It took about 4.5 hours, though that did include a stop to pick up some people to carry in the trailer. 

12th August 2009 M90 The cost of a live chicken (apparently). 

Mocuba

  • I saw pretty much nothing of Mocuba because we arrived after dark and then I left the following morning.
  • Supposedly there are 2 daily buses from Mocuba to Nampula, leaving at 5AM and 7AM.  If you can't make it to the bus station in time, go to another stop (called Cruzeiro - opposite Pensao Cruzeiro) where the bus will appear ~20 minutes later.
12th August 2009 M100 Nightly rate for a private room at "Eduardo's Place" (not sure if it's called this, but it's part of a small complex also containing Eduardo's Auto Repair and Bar Dona Luisa, where many long distance trucks stop).  I stayed here because my truck driver knew Eduardo - actually Edward from Malawi.  Edward speaks English and Portuguese, his wife Portuguese, German and some French.  The accommodation is basic, with no running water and plenty of mossies (but no net) and cockroaches - I also couldn't find the lightswitch (!) to turn the light off so had to use my eyeshade.  It's a motorbike taxi ride from the bus station.  Food is available (I had a good wodge of rice and beans for M50 - a Coke is M40).
13th August 2009 M280 Bus (Grupo Mecula - supposedly the best bus company in the country) from Mocuba to Nampula, taking about 8 hours 15 minutes.  There were already people standing when I got on at the Cruzeiro stop at 7:20AM, but I got lucky in that barely 45 minutes later a guy sitting next to where I was standing got off.  I took my rucksack on board as there was clearly no chance of fitting it in the luggage bay.  The road is mainly tarmac, hence isn't too uncomfortable, but the bus does make a few detours down dirt roads.  It took 4 hours to reach Alto Molocue, then another 4 hours 10 minutes to the final stop in Nampula (off Avenida 25 de Setembro and a couple of blocks from Avenida Eduardo Mondlane). 

Nampula

  • I was told that the same guy owns pretty much all the tourist accommodation in town, so there's nothing cheap.
  • I was also told that it's dangerous to walk around at night, but I didn't really venture out to confirm this.
  • There's a Shoprite where you can buy cheese and meat slices if you want to make some sarnies - I couldn't find many eating establishments at all.
  • Internet is available in the main shopping centre on Avenida Eduardo Mondlane (containing the Girassol hotel) for M40 per hour, however their Opera installation is very pernickety, the connection occasionally goes down (for which you don't get a refund), and it's closed all weekend.
  • Upstairs from the Internet place, there's a travel agent with at least one English-speaking member of staff, who will try to help with any travel-related queries. 
  • Regarding flights, it seems as though availability is often an issue - I heard that if you simply turn up to the airport you may get lucky with a cancellation, however the one person I met who'd tried this tactic for 2 days had had no luck, said the staff at the airport were very unhelpful (though she praised the staff in the LAM airline office in Nampula), and had been told at the very end that even if a seat did become available then it couldn't be paid for at the airport itself.  From other travellers, I heard that a flight from Pemba to Maputo is $220, and from Nampula to Maputo is $300 - this is because the flight actually goes Nampula-Pemba-Beira-Maputo, so it costs more to get to Maputo from Nampula than from Pemba even though Nampula's actually closer to Maputo (!)
  • There are occasional power cuts.
13th August 2009 M800 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room (cold water only, though if you have a shower in the afternoon it will be warm/hot as presumably the water is sitting in a tank in the sun) at Residencial Farhana on Avenida Paulo Samuel Kankhomba, with aircon, fan, and fridge.  No towel or mossie net (yet there are mossies ...), and the only light in the bedroom is a bedside light.
15th August 2009 M75 Doxycycline (50 capsules)
16th August 2009 M179 Mosquito net
17th August 2009 M150 Chapa from Nampula to Ilha de Mocambique, leaving at about 7:30AM (though there are several through the day) and taking about 3 hours.  These chapas leave from the minibus park east of the railway station on Ave do Trabalho, about 15 minutes' walk from Residencial Farhana.  The driver will drop you off wherever you like on the island (so have your intended guesthouse name to hand). 

Ilha de Mocambique

  • A superb place to spend a few days/weeks/months - sea views, pastel colours, decaying buildings, slow pace of life, prawns, and blue, blue skies.  You will encounter people selling beads, coins, etc, especially if you frequent any of the tourist cafes, but the hawking is never done in an aggressive way.
  • It would be a good idea to book your accommodation in advance, as there aren't millions of rooms on the island.  There certainly weren't tons of tourists when I was there, but there were still enough to fill up several of the accommodation options that I visited. 
  • There are occasional power cuts.
  • In Ilha, you're actually further east than Tanzania, even though Tanzania is an hour ahead, which can be confusing from the point of view of expected sunrise/sunset times if you've come from Tanzania.
  • The light here seems very strong, so a polarising filter would be useful for your camera.
  • Internet is available in the Telecom office just to the east of the Church of Sao Paolo (i.e. the big red one) for M80 per hour but it's slooooow.
  • Cafe d'Ancoura d'Ouro is a pleasant place to eat/relax, though it's priced at tourists and attracts a fair few.  It's opposite the Church of Misericordia, which is attached to the Church of Sao Paolo.
  • I met a traveller on Ilha who had paid M5,000 (i.e. over $170!) for a return taxi between Nampula and Ilha - his driver was simply hanging around for a couple of days until the traveller was ready to go back.
  • I also heard that if you come into Mozambique from the border with Tanzania, you can expect umpteen police checkpoints between the border and Pemba, at which you may be asked for bribes - didn't meet anyone that had actually paid one though.
17th August 2009 M600 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom (cold water only) in Casa do Gabriel (aka Patio dos Quintalinhos), including mossie net, towel, soap, toilet roll, and a basic breakfast.  This place is gorgeous, partly due to the fact that its owner is an Italian architect (he also speaks English).  It has a roof terrace for breakfast and for sunset watching, as well as a small library.  Note that the water in the bathroom is salinated, but fresh water is available in the kitchen.  You can also buy bottled water, soft drinks, and beer.  This place is popular, so best to book in advance.
18th August 2009 M100 Entry to the museum in the Church of Sao Paolo.  You must have a guide, though there is an English-speaking chap who was very informative.  The neighbouring Museum of Sacred Art is included in the ticket and also requires you to have a guide, but that one only speaks Portuguese.  You can't take pictures in any of the rooms of either museum.  The Maritime Museum is also included in the ticket but it was undergoing renovations when I was there.
20th August 2009 M600 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom at Casa de Luis (now known as Omakhthini and close to Casa do Gabriel), including mossie net, fan, and a reasonable breakfast.  No towel, and the sheets seemed to contain some polyester (I'm not a fan, especially in hot climates).  Rather a dark room and poky bathrooms - certainly the place is not as nice as Casa do Gabriel.  Luis speaks reasonable English but his wife will expect you to speak Portuguese and won't slow down the speed of her delivery even if she knows you're not fluent.  What appears to be a small library is actually Luis' personal collection, so ask him if you'd like to borrow anything!  This place seems to attract a younger backpacker crowd, whereas Casa do Gabriel is more of a family/couples/older travellers place.  Soft drinks available (M10).
24th August 2009 M100 Chapa from Ilha to Nampula, leaving at ~4:30AM and taking 2 hours 15 minutes.  Direct chapas leave between 3AM (!) and 6AM from the corner of the hospital and the church, though any chapa that sees you wandering around at that time will hail you - even if you don't want to go all the way to Nampula, they might accept you as a passenger. Any later departures aren't direct.  I don't know whether the lower cost (vs M150 from Nampula to Ilha) was due to a supply/demand thing, or if Luis (i.e. the owner of Casa de Luis, who was also on this chapa) got me a better price. 

Nampula (again)
25th August 2009 M1,610 TCO (Transportes Carlos Oliveira) bus from Nampula to Beira.  This is probably the best bus in all of Africa, resembling something from Argentina, with 2-aisle-2 configuration, a loo, AC, the "entertainment" (Westlife ...) on at low volume, breakfast (cheese roll, muffin, juice), lunch (pre-ordered on the bus then picked up from a filling station - not a great chicken and chips), and dinner (same as breakfast).  However TCO has done an appalling job with marketing it, to the point that hardly anyone even in the tourist/travel industry knows about it.  Their office in Nampula is unmarked, hidden away in the back of the Galp filling station in Casa Fabiao on the corner of Ave 3 de Fevreiro and Av de Independencia.  Though I couldn't understand much of the agent's Portuguese, it would appear that they have 2 buses per week to Beira on Tuesday and Thursday (departing 4AM, arriving at 6:30PM), with a subsequent bus on Wednesday morning connecting Beira and Vilankulos (see Beira section below).  This is by no means a cheap ticket but the alternative is to get the Grupo Mecula bus to Quelimane (but get off at Namacura), then cross the Zambezi to Caia, stay the night there, then go to Beira the following day - the crucial difference being that TCO takes only 1 day rather than 2, meaning no accommodation required in between, meaning that the price becomes significantly more reasonable.  Note that the TCO bus starts from the Bombas da Sacor filling station, at the corner of Ave Josina Machel and R. Cidade de Mocambique, i.e. NOT the ticket office.
If you are planning on going through to Vilankulos, you might be able to save some money (and get some more sleep) by buying a ticket from Nampula-Inchope then one from Inchope-Vilankulos, as I think the Nampula-Beira bus and the Beira-Vilankulos bus both pass through Inchope.  I don't know that for sure, though. 

Beira
I really didn't see any of Beira, since it was simply an overnight stop on my bus journey from Nampula to Vilankulos.
25th August 2009 M150 Taxi from the TCO bus station (no idea where it was) to Hotel Infante (no idea where that was either, as I simply plucked it out of my guidebook).
25th August 2009 M800 Nightly rate for a private ensuite (cold water only) room at Hotel Infante, with fan, mossie net, (broken) TV, and towel.  Had it for less than 6 hours.
26th August 2009 M250 Taxi from Hotel Infante to the TCO bus station (at 3AM, hence the greater cost than going the other way).
26th August 2009 M800 TCO bus from Beira to the Vilankulos junction, leaving at 4AM and taking about 7 hours.  This was a double-decker, of a similar standard to yesterday's TCO single-decker.  I heard later that the non-TCO buses take about 14 hours (!) to do this route, but they obviously cost much less too.

26th August 2009 M50 Chapa from the Vilankulos junction into Vilankulos itself, taking about 25 minutes.  It's possible I misunderstood the driver and it was actually M15, but I didn't get any change ... 

Vilankulos (aka Vilankulo/Vilanculo/etc)

  • This was the first place I visited in southern Mozambique, and it had a totally different vibe to the north, with many more English-speaking people and much more of a touristy air.  Many of the tourist establishments are owned by South Africans.
  • The mossies here are pretty aggressive.
  • Vilankulos is rather spread out, so it's best to have your accommodation already booked, to avoid traipsing around in the heat with your luggage.  I was lucky in that a Portuguese woman in a car saw me and my companion, and kindly (i.e. no ulterior motive) drove us to a couple of different places until we found rooms.
  • I was warned umpteen times about walking around at night here, as apparently it's not safe.  Given how small the place is (in population terms), it's ludicrous that it could be unsafe, as soon everyone would know who the culprits were - you would think.
  • The BIM ATM here only gave out money in M3,000 chunks, but you could make multiple withdrawals on the same day.
  • Internet is available at Complex Muha or Dolphin Dhow for M100 per hour.  Complex Muha was a new backpacker hostel at the time and it looked nice, so might be worth trying out as an accommodation option.
26th August 2009 M500 Nightly rate for a private hut with shared bathroom (including outdoor showers with hot water (!)) at Baobab Beach, including mossie net and power socket.  This place is about 15 minutes' walk from the centre of town, which isn't ideal, and the road you go down is supposedly unsafe after dark.  The bar and restaurant here are good for an evening's entertainment.  There are also several dogs in residence, all friendly.
27th August 2009 M4,590 2 day/1 night dhow safari to the Bazaruto Archipelago, with Dolphin Dhow, including hire of flippers and (poor quality) mask, lunch/dinner on day 1, breakfast/lunch on day 2, and bottled water.  My group consisted of me, my (at that time) travelling companion, 4 American guys who'd all recently been fired and were spending some of their redundancy package (!), and the 3 crew - it would probably have been more expensive with fewer customers, and the dhow would not have been comfortable with any more.  Note that there is an overhead sunshade, but light still comes in from the side so make sure you've put on plenty of sun block.  The engine was used predominantly rather than the sail.  You might be able to choose your itinerary, but the one we had was not one I'd recommend.  We left Vilankulos at about 10:30AM, taking about 1 hour 30 minutes to sail to Bangue Island, which is small and featureless, other than a few dead trees and bits of scrub - there's no shade whatsoever.  We camped on the island (which I think is, strictly speaking, forbidden).  It didn't help that the staff hadn't brought enough tents for everyone so, as I didn't know my travelling companion well enough to want to share a tent with her, I was forced to sleep outside, which was not only really cold (plus the supplied sleeping bag was too small for me to fit in to!) but there were lots of little cockroaches crawling around.  On day 2, we sailed to Magaruque Island, taking about 1 hour 30 minutes.  We then walked around the island (which is inhabited and has more features than Bangue, not to mention some shade), had our solitary snorkel session of the 2 days, had lunch then started heading back to Vilankulos at about 1PM, stopping briefly to harvest some fresh oysters, before arriving back at 3PM.  Though the archipelago is scenic above water, it's renowned for its marine life so really snorkelling should have been a centrepiece of the trip - 1 session wasn't enough, and even that one wasn't particularly astounding.  Note that the captain was also supposedly the guide, yet he said nothing about the islands or their history or their flora/fauna during the entire trip.  So overall I would not recommend this company or this itinerary - I also don't know how the (surprisingly high) price breaks down, but all the companies are in this ballpark so it's either a cartel or there are some hidden costs I'm unaware of.
30th August 2009 M250 Chapa from Vilankulos to Maxixe (you should get off the chapa near the ferry terminal), including an excessive surcharge for my backpack (I think it should have been closer to M200), leaving at about 9:20AM and taking just over 5 hours.  This journey time was entirely because of the appalling condition of the road between Nhachengue and Massinga, which more than offset the good progress we made in the decent sections on either side.  At one point, the driver ignored a policewoman gesturing to him to stop, meaning that the police "chased" us and we had to visit a police station.  I had to give up my passport (for reasons unknown), but eventually got it back and we moved on.  The last Maxixe-bound chapa leaves Vilankulos at about midday. 

30th August 2009 M10 Ferry from Maxixe to Inhambane, taking about 25 minutes.  You'll need to leave your luggage on deck rather than take it inside, and it will then be dumped on the dock at the end of the crossing.  The ferry runs about once per hour or hour and a half but, if you miss it, you can get on one of the many dhows that do the same route - they should cost the same. 

Inhambane

  • Another nice, quiet place with some interesting architecture.
  • Internet is available for M80 per hour at Verdinho's (which also sells reasonably cheap Dairy Milk bars for M25) on Ave de Independencia.
30th August 2009 M600 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom (hot water!) at Pensao Pachica, with mossie net but no towel, and a decent restaurant/bar.  Heard from several people (while I was in Inhambane and later) that the South African owner is a piece of work, but I'm not sure how much alternative accommodation there is.
2nd September 2009 M400 Chapa (actually more like a half-size bus) from Inhambane to Maputo, leaving the bus station at 6AM and taking about 8 hours 45 minutes with assorted stops along the way.  I think this should have cost more like M350.  The guesthouse had phoned the bus company the previous day to pick me up at 5:15AM, though it then went to the bus station to wait for more passengers.  Rather a hot journey, and the road until Xai-Xai (i.e. the first 5 hours) was in poor condition.  The first stop in Maputo was at the Juntos bus terminal.  I had no idea where it was going after so, when a guy came on and quoted me M300 to get to my intended hotel, I accepted it.  Probably worthwhile checking if your bus is going to terminate right in the centre of town, meaning a cheaper taxi ride. 

Maputo

  • Well worth booking your accommodation in advance, as it's in short supply and is expensive - the first place I tried could only give me a room for 1 night, then I plodded around on foot to 5 further places before finding one that could take me for the rest of my stay.
  • Yet another place in Mozambique that I was told was unsafe to walk around at night, though it seemed busy enough then that I couldn't really see how you could come to any harm.
  • It's illegal to photography government buildings, so be careful what you point your camera at - I heard enough stories about policement on the make trying to extract bribes from careless photographers. 
  • There's a decent craft market on Saturdays in Praca de 25 Junho.  I paid M900 for a scary face mask supposedly from Nampula (though it looked Congolese) - it started at M1,800 but I have no doubt I still overpaid.
  • It cost M10 per minute to call the UK from a TDM (some telecoms firm) office.
2nd September 2009 M300 Taxi from Juntos bus terminal to Residencial Hoyo-Hoyo, taking just under 15 minutes.  The guy opened at M350 then immediately accepted my offer of M300, hence the real price must be less than that.
2nd September 2009 M1,250 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Residencial Hoyo-Hoyo, including aircon, hot water, a towel, and breakfast.  No mossie net (but mossies!)  The rooms are advertised as having TVs but mine didn't.
3rd September 2009 M1,350 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Pensao Martins, including aircon, hot water, towel, TV, and a free, fast Internet terminal in the lobby (though obviously you're competing with all the other guests to use it).  Mossies but no mossie net.  The rooms are advertised as having fridges, but mine didn't.  The staff are friendly but incompetent.
5th September 2009 M33 Stamp for postcard to US/Europe
8th September 2009 M1,650 (New) nightly rate for my room at Pensao Martins
8th September 2009 M795 Postage for parcel to UK (2kg).  This was pretty expensive compared with other countries I've sent stuff home from, though it did go via airmail (I didn't necessarily want airmail but I wasn't given any other option).  Note also that you must take your parcel unsealed to the PO because staff will want to inspect the contents first - you'll then need sellotape to seal it.  The PO will supply a box if necessary.  On the plus side, the staff are helpful and I never went into a Mozambican PO that had more than a handful of other customers in it.
9th September 2009 M150 Taxi from Pensao Martins to where the Swaziland-bound minibuses depart from on Ave Albert Luthuli (near the Ave de 25 Setembre end).
9th September 2009 R80 Minibus from Maputo to Manzini in Swaziland, leaving at about 8AM.  Apparently these minibuses only leave between 7AM and 9AM.  I was given the option of paying either M350 or R80 (South African rand) - at the time, R80 was worth slightly less.  (As mentioned at the beginning of this Mozambique entry, make sure you use up as many of your meticais as possible before you leave!)  Don't allow anyone to try to tack on an extra charge for luggage.  Interestingly, my minibus had a small trailer on the back so there was no luggage inside the minibus.  A guy came round at the beginning and took everyone's passports, but he soon returned them (I'm guessing he must have been checking that everyone was going to be able to get into Swaziland.)
Reached the Goba frontier post in about 1 hour 15 minutes, which was a fairly new frontier that was almost deserted - one consequence being that there were no money-changers there.  The toilet costs 50c (South African cents), but the attendant accepted M3.  See the Swaziland entry for details of the rest of the trip.

Travel costs and information for Malawi - Karonga, Mzuzu, Nkhata Bay, Lilongwe, Mount Mulanje, Blantyre

Note that all information in here was valid at the time (July 2009) - it may well have changed since.  It's also possible that I was ripped off, that I did some exceptional haggling, or that I accepted a price that I should have haggled over :-)  Currency indicators are £ (British pound), $ (US dollar), and K (Malawian kwacha).  At the time, the official exchange rates were roughly K140=$1 and K230=£1.

Malawi

 
  • Little hassle at all, and certainly a very pleasant change from Tanzania.  In fact the only hassle I encountered was from "rastas" in Nkhata Bay, who were pretty persistent in trying to get me to visit their stalls but weren't aggressive.
  • ATMs will generally accept foreign ATM cards on the Mastercard network (didn't try Visa).  The only place I went to that didn't was Karonga.  Some of the ATMs had a limit of K20,000 per withdrawal, meaning if you needed a larger amount then you would have to make multiple withdrawals.
  • Note that there is a black market for kwacha, giving rates for $ that are ~15% better than the bank rates. 
  • Long distance buses often come in both local and express versions, with the former cheaper but stopping at more places (and hence taking longer).
  • If you buy anything in a bottle (e.g. beer, lemonade, etc) from a shop then there will quite likely be a refundable deposit on it.  Sometimes you can simply redeem this at a checkout, sometimes you have to hand it in elsewhere and are given a credit voucher that you can then redeem at a checkout.
  • Note that minibus prices are not always fixed - sometimes you're charged a tourist rate, sometimes you can get it cheaper if there are 2 or more of you, and often the price going one way is not the same as the price going the other due to supply/demand.

17th July 2009 Free 30-day visa for a British citizen at the border.  Remember to put your watch back an hour.
17th July 2009 K500 Shared taxi (a real squeeze ...) from the border to Karonga, taking about 45 minutes on a good road.  For such a short journey, it was slightly surprising to be stopped and inspected several times at police roadblocks. 


Karonga 
  • There seem to be regular power cuts here. 
  • The National Bank would not accept my Mastercard ATM card.
  • Internet available at K5 per minute.
17th July 2009 K3,000 Nightly rate for a large private ensuite room (cold water only) at Safari Lodge, with fan and breakfast.  Water only available in the room in the morning - any time later, you have to use an outside tap to fill up a bucket.  There were lots of mossies in my room.  A bit of a plod from the centre of town, but compensated for by the presence of black cats of all ages.
18th July 2009 K500 Entry to Karonga Museum. They also have Internet available, but it's rather dear at K10 per minute.
19th July 2009 K750 Bus (Axa) from Karonga to Mzuzu, leaving at 12:30PM and taking 4 hours 15 minutes, including a food break after 1 hour 30 minutes. 


Mzuzu
  • I originally intended staying at Mzoozoozoo hostel but no-one at the bus station knew where it was, so I ended up at my second choice.
  • I was told that taxis within the town are K300, and bike taxis K50. 
  • Internet available at K5 per minute.
19th July 2009 K3,000 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room (with hot water) at Flame Tree Guesthouse, with breakfast.  There's also a small library.
21st July 2009 K350 Minibus to Nkhata Bay (many throughout the day) taking about an hour.  Seems as though it will only stop in the centre of town, so don't waste your time trying to get off earlier.  I also heard that, once per day, an Axa bus goes from Mzuzu to Nkhata Bay, costing only K250 and having more room for luggage. 


Nkhata Bay
  • Internet available in the centre of town for K300 per hour.  Or you can visit Jessie's (next to Big Blue Star Backpackers) and pay K8 per minute (K19 per sheet for printing).
  • There are umpteen "rastas" wandering about the place, most with stalls that they will try to lure you to. Be very careful if you are offered weed - I heard from a guy later that he had bought some, and the "rasta" had then attempted to blackmail him with the threat of informing the police.
21st July 2009 K1,000 Nightly rate for a bamboo hut (with shared bathrooms with hot water) at Big Blue Star Backpackers. Hut has power sockets, mossie net, and a small balcony.  The place also has a friendly cat (plus two shy ones).  Food available too.
24th July 2009 K2,900 Nightly rate for a really nice stone chalet with private ensuite bathroom at Mayoka Village.  Free lift from town (though when you leave you have to arrange your own transport - they charge K700 for a taxi) - it's walkable if you don't have much luggage.  Though very nice, this place attracts hordes of teenage backpackers.  Prices are higher than average, and ludicrously don't include the 16.5% government tax that then appears on your final bill.
26th July 2009 K350 Minibus to Mzuzu (many throughout the day) taking about an hour.  I also heard that, once per day, an Axa bus goes from Nkhata Bay to Mzuzu at about 1PM, costing only K250 and having more room for luggage.


Mzuzu (again)
26th July 2009 K3,000 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room (with hot water) at Flame Tree Guesthouse (see 19th July 2009 for further info).
27th July 2009 K1,180 Bus (Axa) to Lilongwe, leaving at 6:30AM and taking about 6 hours 30 minutes.  Unlike the bus from Karonga to Mzuzu, this one was overfull (i.e. all seats taken and people standing in the aisles).  Axa also has another bus at 7:30AM but I think it's slower.  I got off at the main bus station in Lilongwe, but it's possible that the bus actually terminated at the Axa terminal (at the corner of Murray Road and Downs (Street?)) - the latter is pretty much in the centre of town so would save on a taxi fare.


Lilongwe
  • Yet another place for which some people forecast a dire ending if I ventured out after dark, whereas others said it was perfectly safe.  I had no problems, except that streetlights are few and far between, and there are stray dogs that bark like crazy.
  • Frequent power cuts.
  • An expensive place for taxis - I was told that, even as a local, you can't get a taxi anywhere for less than K500.
  • Little in the way of cheap accommodation and seemingly high occupancy rates too - I had to try 3 different places before I found an empty room for any price (in this case, ~$40!)  Even a dorm bed at the Golden Peacock was K2,000.  Plus the town is quite spread out, so traipsing from place to place is either tiring (on foot) or expensive (by taxi).  In other words, probably best to book in advance.
  • The restaurant Huts has some decent but expensive Indian food, but the waiter may tell you not to put any tip in the bill wallet, as apparently the owner (who does all the cash transactions) won't then pass the tip on.
27th July 2009 K700 Taxi from the main bus station to the Golden Peacock, taking about 10 minutes.
27th July 2009 K5,500 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Crescent Guest House, with fan, TV, hot water, mossie net, breakfast, and the use of a kitchen.
28th July 2009 K5,250 Nightly rate for a private ensuite room at Mufasa Lodge, with mossie net and usage of a kitchen (oddly, the sink is in a separate room to the kitchen).  The staff are annoyingly efficient, and will swipe any dirty kitchen implements to wash them up, even if you haven't finished with them.  There's a bar on the premises.
29th July 2009 K80 Minibus from just outside Shoprite to near the Mozambique High Commission.  Basically you want something going towards the City Centre, e.g. to Area 12.  Get off just after you turn into African Unity Avenue.  It's the same stops for coming back, just on the opposite side of the road.
29th July 2009 K6,700 30-day visa for a British citizen at the Mozambique High Commission. You need to hand in 2 photos and fill in the form they give you.  The visa gives you a 2 month window in which to use your 30 days.  I paid for "urgent" (i.e. same day) processing - other options were K5,800 for 10-15 day's processing, or K5,200 for a transit visa.  In theory the High Commission opens at 8AM and you can pick up your "urgent" visa after 2PM the same day, but give it maybe 30 minutes' leeway each time.
30th July 2009 K110 Stamp for postcard to Europe (however I don't think there's a stamp for this standard amount, so instead you'll get ones for K75, K20, K10, and K5)
30th July 2009 K115 Stamp for postcard to US
31st July 2009 K500 Haircut at Beatrice barbers
1st August 2009 K3,000 Bus (Axa) from the Axa terminal (at the corner of Murray Road and Downs (Street?)) to Blantyre, leaving at 7AM and taking 4 hours 20 minutes.  This was one of the most luxurious buses I took in Africa - it had aircon, a loo, and a small breakfast.  The first stop in Blantyre is very close to Doogles (see below).


Blantyre 
  • Limbe is the sister city of Blantyre (~6km away) - I think that most transport out of Blantyre actually leaves from Limbe.
  • When entering larger shops, you may be asked to leave your bags at a cloakroom.
  • Internet available at K4 per minute. 
  • The Tourist Information place on Victoria Avenue seemed permanently closed. 
1st August 2009 K3,450 Nightly rate for a private ensuite (with hot water) room at Doogles.  There's a projector TV, a swimming pool, Internet access (expensive), laundry, and information boards about different parts of the country.  Ended up here because it was the only accommodation I had any info for.  It's overpriced, not very welcoming, and fills up with expat South Africans every evening, however it's also where many backpackers seem to end up so the bar is extremely lively and they also play some excellent cheesy music.  It's close to one of the bus stations.
1st August 2009 K50 Minibus from near Doogles to Limbe (or anywhere on the route, e.g. the Chichiri shopping centre) - same price for the return journey.
1st August 2009 K2,950 Hugo "Learn Portuguese" book from the bookshop in the Chichiri shopping centre.  Despite Malawi neighbouring Portuguese-speaking Mozambique, this shop - supposedly the best book shop in Malawi - had no Portuguese dictionaries at all.  Chichiri shopping centre also has a load of large shops and restaurants.
5th August 2009 K450 Minibus from Limbe to Chitakale (one half of Mulanje Town next to Mt Mulanje), taking 1 hour 25 minutes.  I think there are many throughout the day.


Chitakale (one half of Mulanje Town - the other is Mulanje Boma)
  • Info Mulanje in Chitakale is a pretty good place to get information about hiking the Mulanje Massif.  You can hire sleeping bags for K700 per night and can leave your luggage with them (however they said they'd be open at the time I intended returning from my hike but they weren't, meaning I had to find someone to phone them up and send a person along to let me retrieve my stuff).  Maps are K100, but you won't need one if you get a guide.
  • Note that in theory you should ONLY hire guides and porters at the national park registration centre at Likubula (i.e. where the hikes start from), as that means that some kind of a fair rotation can be used, but you will no doubt be approached by would-be guides in Chitakale (or even Blantyre).
  • Huts should be booked and paid for at the national park registration centre at Likubula, except if you want to stay at the Hope's Rest CCAP hut at Lichenya, which must be booked at the CCAP mission near the registration centre.
  • The huts on the massif have running water and firewood, but you will need to bring all your own food and cooking utensils and there's no electricity.  You can buy (poor quality) cooking utensils in Chitakale market, as well as some basic foodstuffs (e.g. pasta) in the shops, but I couldn't find any pasta sauce anywhere - make sure you bring some from Blantyre if that's what you're planning to eat.  Also make sure you bring a torch and candles.
  • Your guide should provide his own food - in all likelihood, he will eat with the watchman at the hut rather than with you.
  • The National Bank in Mulanje Boma wouldn't accept either my Mastercard ATM card or my Visa credit card.
5th August 2009 K850 Nightly rate for a private room with shared bathroom (cold water only) at the Chididi Motel.  The staff seemed to be drunk, and the place was not pleasant at all - avoid!
6th August 2009 K150 Minibus from Chitakale to Likubula.  I had an argument with the conductor because everyone else (with tons of luggage) was paying K150, whereas he expected me (with little luggage) to pay K200, i.e. a tourist tax.  I don't normally bother quibbling this, but it was so blatant that I couldn't stop myself.
6th August 2009 K1,300 Price for a Mt Mulanje guide (per day).  Speaking to other people who did this hike, they all had good guides so I think I was just unlucky.  Mine clearly wasn't 100% well - he had some kind of abscess on his leg (for which I gave him some sticky plasters and Ibuprofen), was climbing as slowly as me (and I'm hardly fit), and fell into such a deep sleep whenever we had a break that I had to keep waking him up.  He hadn't brought enough food for himself so I had to give him some, and he volunteered an absolute minimum of information about the massif.  Plus he kept banging on and on about some European woman who used to send him money but had recently stopped doing so.  The best that can be said is that we didn't get lost.
6th August 2009 K100 Entrance fee to Mulanje National Park
6th August 2009 K700 Nightly rate for a bunk in France's Hut at Chambe.  You're provided with a foam pad "mattress" and a blanket.  The kitchen has a fire and a metal grill on which to cook - you can also buy beer (K250) and Coke (K150).  There are a couple of pit toilets, plus a washroom into which you can take a bucket of water and wash yourself in peace (there's a standing tap outside).  You're expected to tip the watchman (I gave K200).
7th August 2009 K885 Nightly rate for a bunk in Hope's Rest CCAP hut at Lichenya.  This hut is larger than France's, and also has its own cooking utensils, but the toilets are just holes in the ground.  You're expected to tip the watchman (I gave K200).


Blantyre (again)
8th August 2009 K100 Minibus from Likubula to Chitakale (cf reverse journey on 6th August 2009)
8th August 2009 K300 Minibus from Chitakale to Limbe, taking (cf reverse journey on 5th August 2009)
12th August 2009 K600 Minibus from Limbe to the border at Mulanje, taking 1 hour 20 minutes to Chitakale, where we waited for 50 minutes for more passengers, then another 30 minutes to the border (I think it might be best to buy a ticket just to Chitakale, then find the next departing minibus to the border, which should minimise the wait time).