The exchange rates for the metical against the most common currencies are published daily in the Noticias newspaper. You can also look up www.mbendi.co.za/cyexch.htm, which lists most of Africa's currencies against the US$.
Meticais, the local currency (denominations of coins: 500, 1000 and 5000 and notes: 10 000, 20 000, 50 000, 100 000 and 200 000), are accepted throughout Mozambique, even at places that advertise their charges in U.S. dollars, but expect a poor rate of exchange. Apart from at the more upmarket hotels and in some restaurants in Maputo (ask when booking or before sitting down to a meal), your credit card will be of limited use. The Banco Comercial de Moçambique (B.C.M) 1965 Av. 25 de Setembro, Maputo, will give the meticais equivalent of US$100 per day against a VISA credit card. The Banco Internacional de Moçambique (B.I.M) 773 Av. 24 de Julho, Maputo, have installed Mozambique's first VISA automatic tellers (make sure your card has a PIN number) and B.I.M can give cash advances against credit cards at their branches in Xai-Xai, Maxixe, Beira, Chimoio, Tete, Quelimane, Nampula, Nacala and Pemba .
Traveller’s cheques in U.S. dollars are safe and recommended. Cash dollars will attract the best rate of exchange, but because of a proliferation of forgeries, $50 and $100 notes may be rejected. There is an insignificant but often very convenient currency black market, but as it illegal, it is a matter of personal discretion whether you use it. If you fall foul of officials, polite ignorance is best. You will usually get the best rate at the agências secundârio de câmbios (secondary exchange bureaux) and banks anyway.
American Express traveller’s cheques in U.S. dollars are readily exchanged at banks and hotels, and you can use them to pay for your meal or accommodation if prices are quoted in U.S. dollars. If you are planning to travel away from the provincial capitals, carry sufficient cash in U.S. dollars or South African rands.
Avoiding being overcharged
Unsuspecting tourists are ripe for the rip-off all over the world, and Mozambique is no exception. Apart from in the unlikely event (unless you break the speed-limits) of the payment of fines and the unavoidable ‘official’ government taxes and duties covered under ‘The law and your rights’, shopping is the most important arena in which you will be confronted by inflated charges. You may well feel that, as a ‘rich’ visitor, it is part of your civic duty to alleviate poverty, in your own small way, by paying, without complaining, prices at the mercados and barracas (stalls) that you know are above the normal going rate. Unfortunately, while your motives might be admirable, the effect of this approach is inevitably a general increase in prices and a growing reluctance on the part of vendors to sell to the local people who cannot afford to compete with tourists. Basically the bottom line is that the poor do not benefit from the misguided charity of well-meaning visitors so instead donate your money directly to an organisation or NGO working with the destitute.
As the metical is a very weak currency, the price of even basic items such as a cup of tea (chá) and a bun (bolo) reaches thousands ofmeticais. Familiarise yourself with the prices of basic items that are quoted in this chapter (bearing in mind an inflation rate of about 5% per month). When shopping at markets or supermarkets or ordering food in a restaurant, you will notice that prices are often not displayed anywhere and may not be written on the menu. It is here that a notepad and a pocket calculator come into their own. Point at the item and ask the waiter or vendor to write down (escrever) its price. If you suspect you are being overcharged, show the amount to a Mozambican shopper or patron of the eating house. The calculator will facilitate an otherwise laborious process of offer and counter-offer when haggling over items ranging from tomatoes and prawns by the kilogram, (use your own scale) to exquisite Makonde (northern Mozambique tribe) carvings.
Avoiding paying bribes
Avoid turning Mozambique into yet another ‘rip-off stop’ by staying scrupulously with the law, politely refusing to pay bribes and insisting on what you reasonably consider to be value for money. Don’t become angry with officials, but always ask to be shown where the regulation (regulamento) states what fines (multas), if any, are due and insist on official receipts (recebos). Patience is not only a virtue, but it will confound underhanded officials.
The unit of currency is the metical (Mt), its plural meticais (pronounced ‘metti-caaysh’). One thousand meticais are referred to as amil or conto (pronounced conch). The metical has just about stabilised against the U.S. dollar, thus inflation is now minimal. Meticaisare acceptable even at hotels and restaurants which advertise prices in foreign currency, but the exchange rate will be very poor.
United States dollars (U.S.$) in cash are best as these are most easily exchanged, and are sometimes the only currency accepted by officials. South African rands are also widely accepted and easily changed (unless there has been a recent crash in value against the US$), as some fees (e.g. border taxes and visa extensions) are cheaper at the rand rate. If you are asked for dollars, point out that you are from South Africa, and thus cannot be expected to carry other currency.
As a rule of thumb, the closer to Maputo you are (Lichinga in Niassa is an exception), the better the rate offered by banks and other official moneychangers.
Note that any bank transactions involving pound sterling can attract an automatic £20 handling charge. Avoid US$50 and $100 notes, as they can be difficult to exchange, due to a proliferation of forgeries.
The ‘black market’
The legal situation regarding foreign exchange transactions is fairly vague. Unless there is no alternative, you should not deal with any touts who approach you in the street or at border posts, rather go to a shop or fuel station and change (câmbio) there. In the bigger towns confidence tricksters may operate highly skilled traps involving the police.
Remember that as an obvious visitor you will be a prime target. Distinct signs of a snare are over-friendly people and offers of a currency deal well above the going rate. If you don’t want to risk the streets or falling foul of the law, use the secondary exchange markets (mercados secundários de câmbios), which offer a better exchange rate than the banks, but exist only in Maputo and Beira.
Taking the cumulative effect of various currencies, differing black-market rates, as well as official exchange rates into account, in addition to United States dollars (U.S.$), Zimbabwe dollars (Z$) can be useful to have with you in central Mozambique (or Malawi Kwacha when you are close to the Malawian border). In the southern parts of the country, South African rands and United States dollars are useful, with rands being especially cost-effective if you extend your visa or have to pay any government levies or fees.
Even though not yet frequented much by tourists, Mozambique is not a particularly cheap place in which to stay. This is mainly due to the chronic shortage of accommodation, and the deterioration (and even closure) of some hotels during the civil war. The influence of relatively affluent South Africa becomes more evident the closer to Maputo one gets.
There are very cunning confidence tricksters operating wherever there are visitors to Mozambique. Do not encourage folk who approach you with illegal items or suspicious deals. Although cash is easiest to use, if backpacking (no vehicle in which to hide money) do carry at least half of your money as traveller’s cheques.
WEAR A FLAT MONEY BELT UNDERNEATH YOUR CLOTHES.
BANKS. Open Monday to Friday from 7.45 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2pm to 3pm. Banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
SHOPS. Open on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. (some open earlier); Tuesday to Saturday from 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. Shops are closed on Sundays.
MAPUTO POST OFFICE. Open on Monday to Friday 7.30 Am. to 12.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. Post offices are not open over the weekend.