If you want to go from Mozambique to Malawi on land, using public transport, you will first need to take a train. And this is going to be an unforgettable train adventure! The second part of the route is hard, long and exhausting because there is no official public transport. Be ready for the epic journey from Mozambique to Malawi!
Buying the train ticket in Nampula (Mozambique)
Nampula is one of those typical rundown ugly African towns. I was scared to walk on the streets there but needed to get some money from the ATM, and it was a big mission to find someplace where nobody was staring or even accosting me.
I went to the train station the day before my departure because I had to purchase the ticket in advance. The ticket office was still closed when I got there. There where only men around, watching me. I felt very uncomfortable. Luckily some policeman noticed me and unlocked the ticket room and said to me: ‘you better go inside and wait there’. So I did.
When the ticket room officially opened, I queued up. After a few seconds, the policeman came to me and kindly asked me to change the line to a woman-only line. I didn’t even notice that there were genderizes rows. I looked around, and I noticed that every woman in the room was wearing a long skirt – except me. My short (knee-long) pants were a big mistake. That was the moment I realized that I’m entering a more conservative part of Africa. After that day, I never put short pants when I was in public areas again. I bought the ticket for the executive class and went back to my hostel as fast as possible.
Departure from the train station in Nampula (Mozambique)
On the next day, I woke up before 4 am and went to the train station. I met two other fellows, who were about taking the same train, so we all joined together. The girl, who was one of the fellows, just wanted to take this train and come back in a few days, without leaving the country. When we all got on the train, we have been asked for our passports. This girl didn’t take her passport with her, because she was not planning to leave the country. The policeman said he would not let her go without the document, and then he openly asked for a bribe.
The girl decided to get her passport, so she took a taxi back to her hostel and came back just a few seconds before the train left. The cab cost her more than the bribe that policeman asked for. But she made the right choice. You should see this policeman’s face after he saw her with the document in her hand.
The train journey from Nampula to Cuamba (Mozambique)
I took a seat next to the window. The ticket in the executive class was totally worth it. The wagon was clean, and I had the whole row for myself – pure luxury. The train left punctually at 5 am. I fall asleep for the first hour.
I woke up as the train stopped at its first station and I looked out of the window. The landscape changed from dirty town views to a green, fruitfully scenery. The sunrise gave the whole view a pleasant and dreamy look. Since that moment I didn’t close my eyes for the next 10 hours.
Whenever the train stopped, local people welcomed us. There were local people selling food: bread, bananas, mangos, papayas, avocados, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, boiled eggs, chicken, drinks and snacks.
‘Amiga! Banana! Onion!? Amiga! Husband?’
Those who know me will guess what I got for breakfast: bananas and eggs. I didn’t understand why I should buy neither eggs nor husband so early in the morning.
This train, which operates only four times a week, is a real attraction for the communities that live along the route. It is an opportunity for the villages to earn some money and to see some other people. And of course, my white face in the window caused additional excitement! Kids and adults were screaming friendly ‘hola!’ or ‘mzungu!’ (‘Mzungu’ is a common word in African countries, and it means ‘a white person’) and smiling into the camera.
We got to Cuamba after 3 pm. Although the journey was long, I felt very relaxed and filled with positive energy.
How to get from Cumaba (Mozambique) to Malawian Border?
We were in Cuamba. My two other travel buddies and I had dinner together, and after that, we went to bed early. The next day the girl took her train back to Nampula and Patrick, and I went to the bus station to figure out how to continue our journey.
There was absolutely no information about how to get from Cuamba to the Malawian border. The last google results were published in 2015, the accommodation owners didn’t know, and there was no information at the bus station. Nothing.
We started to talk with bus/car/truck drivers. People were telling us two different options. One option was to get the minibus Entrelagos, which would mean to change the transport at least once, and the other way was to take a ride in a truck that would take us directly to Mandimba, from where we could ‘easily’ get to the border post in Chiponde. We checked on the map, and both ways were similar according to the distances, but the road to Mandimba seemed to be a national road, which indicated better road conditions to us. We decided to jump on the truck to Mandimba.
The journey from Cuamba to Mandimba (Mozambique)
The distance between Cuamba and Chiponde is 140 km. The journey took us 9 hours. How?! Look at the pictures! The road was in a terrible condition – we were driving on average 10-30km per hour. The fastest was 60km, which we could drive a few times for about 500m. I’m glad that I could seat in the front and not like other passengers just in the back of the truck, without any sun protection!
The drive was interrupted many times because other big trucks got stuck in the middle of the way and blocked the road for other cars. I think it happened five times during the journey. However, our driver Zack was incredible. He was so relaxed and positive – every time we saw a bogged car in the front, he used to look at me and say: ‘let me have a look’. Then he stopped the truck, went out to check the situation, and he came back with a big smile: ‘we will make it’. And we did, every time!
On our way, we saw tiny villages with people who were starring at us. Zack told me, he has never seen a white person taking this road, so the kids probably have never seen a Mzungu in their lives!
Once, during the shortstop, I saw kids taking a bath in a river, and I went to greet them. I’m glad I took my camera with me because the kids loved it! Even other passengers started to film the whole situation with their phones. All those kids were screaming, laughing, jumping and my white face in the middle of it! It was a precious moment.
From Mandiba (Mozambique) to Chiponde border (Malawi)
We got to Mandiba in terrible shape – we were exhausted. It was already getting late, and the borders were closing soon, so we had to rush.
Patrick and I got off the truck and were immediately surrounded by about 20 guys on motorbikes. Someone needed to take us to the border… The guys were pushing each other and screaming: ‘I will drive them’, ‘no, I do it!’. Finally, we got two motorbikes that could take us away from this hassle. The driver asked 1.5$ for the drive to the border.
We arrived, and we got the visa. Welcome to Malawi!