Boat To Cobue From Malawi To Mozambique

Traveling Northern Mozambique by Boat, Truck, Van + Train

Traveling from Malawi to Mozambique

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My intention of a journey down the Swahili coast – from Lamu Island in Kenya to northern Mozambique, via Tanzania – stopped at the embassy in Dar es Salaam, facing a bureaucratic brick.

Mozambique Travels
Mozambique Overland Travel: from Lakoma Island in Malawi to Cobue and over to Mozambique Island.

Mozambique required travelers coming from Tanzania to have a visa beforehand.

However, at any other countries’ border into Mozambique – entry is simple with a visa on arrival.

Beach On Cobue Border Mozambique
Taking a small boat from Lakoma Island – across Lake Malawi, to the Mozambique side and the village of Cobue. (Expect to wait until early afternoon in Lakoma for enough passengers to make the trip.)

After viewing the visa rules at the embassy: $100 for the visa and a 5 day wait, usual passport pics and forms, invitation letter as to why I wanted to go to Mozambique, bank statements declaring that I had $5000 in my bank and other petty shit; I just walked out – muttering obscenities.

I knew a week (I had already waited 3 days over a long weekend) of waiting around in Dar es Salaam would be too much frustration, and expense.

Studying a map of Africa, I found an alternative travel route into Northern Mozambique: a remote border crossing at Cobue village on Lake Malawi.

But it added an extra 1500+ km to my Cairo to Cape Town overland trip.

NEW PLAN: Cut south-west from the coast across the highlands of southern Tanzania and down into northern Malawi, then across the lake to remote north-western Mozambique.

I would arrive at the tiny settlement of Cobue on the eastern shores of Lake Malawi and hope for a visa on arrival.

And from there, travel east to Mozambique Island and the Indian Ocean.

Boat To Cobue border crossing From Malawi To Mozambique
Sunset over the “port” at the Cobue border crossing in Northern Mozambique.

In Cobue, I got a visa on arrival for $US30.

AND no extra paperwork and all done within 15 minutes.

Travel By Truck Across Northern Mozambique
Traveling northern Mozambique. On the road in the back of a truck – the only public transport – that would later be packed with timber, a bicycle, and loads of people. It was an uncomfortable 6 hours sweltering along dusty roads from Cobue to Metangula. I shared sack of pebbles as a cushion with a young woman. Every time the bumps and sloping roads sent passengers and stuff moving  – sometimes into each other in crushes of agony. Sometimes “passengers” had to get out and walk so the truck could climb the hill (= the RIGHT SIDE photo).
Cuamba Street Scenes Mozambique
Hanging out in Cuamba for 2 days, awaiting the train’s departure to Nampula.
Train Journey Cuamba To Nampula Mozambique

Kids at village stop. RIGHT: Inselburgs – granite humps – dominated the landscape and along with bright summer leaves, it reminded me totally of Korea in Autumn. BELOW: Inside the “executive class” carriage. (I had decided to treat myself with movable feast – it was only $5 more.  BUT despite it being a new addition to the train service, after only 2 months in service this A/C carriage was now broken, so it was sweltering. But at least not over-crowded like the other carriages – where luggage safety posed issues. A South African para-medic, working for the railway company and doing this journey regularly as his job, told me that some months ago, he’d had his entire backpack – including laptop – stolen when traveling 2nd class).
Vendors At Train Station in Northern Mozambique
At stops, vendors swarmed the train.
Cuamba To Nampula Train traveling Northern Mozambique
The weekly train from Cuamba to Nampula in Mozambique. It took all day, and arrived 5 hours late … But it was an amazing, dreamy train trip traveling Northern Mozambique. Hunger and sweltering heat was offset by my red wine picnic – and additional cold beer bought from vendors. I arrived that evening in Nampula, trashed and elated. Next stop: Mozambique Island …

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