My flight to Maputo from Nairobi was scheduled for 4pm that evening. Max, a friend to my host Val had invited us to his house to spend the evening before I continue my trip to Mozambique. The hospitality we received from this gentleman was awesome and out of this world. Max had to prepare rice, stew, fresh juice and all sorts of things for us. Like if that was not enough, he had to vacate his room for me. May God bless you sir.
Anyways, I ate and slept like a king that evening and the next morning, I started making plans for my onward journey to Maputo. I however had promised another good friend of mine Fred that I was going to visit him before I leave Nairobi that day. Max drove us to all to Fred’s residence. It was a very wonderful time meeting a friend I had known for almost 5 years earlier for the first time. I was much more excited to meet his family but unfortunately, his daughter was asleep all the time we spent together in his house, hence I could not see her.
Being somehow agitated about getting to the airport on time and not missing my flight, I had to hurry my friends to go drop me off at the airport.
Fred, however insisted that he must go entertain me and my friends at a Mall at The Nairobi Capital Center, Mombasa Road. Despite all my pleas that I had eaten a lot that morning, this gentleman insisted that we must at least get a few things from him. I was later thankful I got those things because eventually, we got to Maputo very late and those things I ate sustained me till the next day.
Leaving the Mall, Max drove us all to JKIA – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and they waited until I was checked in before they left. I went straight to LAM Mozambique checkin stand. LAM Mozambique is Mozambique’s national carrier. The company which has been in operations since the 1960s has a fleet of 5 airplanes and their services were relatively good.
After checking in, things started becoming lonely again. I had said bye to my wonderful friends and am headed to Maputo, where I know no one. Where also language is likely going to be a barrier. I was initially excited about this but somehow, I felt there might be problems.
We were boarded at around 5pm local time and we left almost same time to Mozambique. The very cold weather formed a lot of cloudy skies. The plane was small but a new one. The plane was an Embraer – not sure I recall the model but is meant to take 90 something passengers.
Some two hours or so after flying over Tanzania, the pilot signaled he was landing in a place called Pemba. On arrival, I assumed it was just only passengers who were Pemba bound were to leave but lo, I was wrong. The cabin crew insisted that all passengers must leave the plane and come back after we have been given visas.
My earlier assumption was that we would be given visas at Maputo but the airline had other plans. They insisted that all the passengers would get visa at Pemba. This is because, from Pemba, the plane will operate as a local flight to Maputo, and would take in a few other passengers as well.
We walked to the airport terminal building and standing there was a slim-average heighted man wearing glasses and taking the passports of passengers who were not Mozambican nationals. Once done with the passport collection, he asked us all to come queue up where we would be given visas.
I watched with interest as the man asked a few people to proceed to the queue where they will be given visa or to stand aside when he does not find their documentation satisfactory. I was also surprised to see the man speaking Swahili with some Kenyans. It was eventually I learnt that some people around there speak Swahili as well.
This gentleman who held us down is the Immigration Chief at the Pemba Airport. He was actually looking at our invitation letters or our hotel reservations in order to determine if we are qualified for a visa or not. Normally, Mozambique was meant to be visa on arrival for visitors but unfortunately, I did not know that someone had to invite me. and such letters was meant to be authenticated by the Immigration in Mozambique
In my bid not to get into problem, I had asked my friend in Beira, somewhere in Central Mozambique to write me a letter of invitation which he did. I however did not know that he was supposed to send this letter to the immigration office for authentication before forwarding same to me.
After the guy speaking Swahili with the immigration chief, it was going to be my turn. In as much as I did not understand their conversation, the passenger was telling him the invitation to the event he was coming for which he had is a sufficient invite but the man wanted something authenticated from immigration. After a few back and forth, the man allowed him to go and then it was me.
I started by telling the man how I am an African blogger and I am travelling around Africa to write about Africa and… He told me to give him my invitation or I go to the other side…
I excused myself for a minute to go find the invitation letter my friend had sent me earlier. This he did not bother to read the content but looked for immigration approval on it and when he could not see it, he said: Não tem assinatura! That is to say that it not signed. I had to join the queue of those whose invitation letters were not acceptable.
After the immigration chief had attended to all the passengers. He now came to us and called us into his office one after the other to tell us what we must do or face our fate which may eventually see us arrested.
When it was my turn, he requested for $150 for the visa as against the $50 I was meant to pay. I tried all I could to plead with this man to allow me because I was only a travel writer but those provoked him the more and he ordered me to leave his office if I cannot pay.
All other passengers were able to pay what he asked them to pay. I personally had up to $500 dollars there with me but I insisted I was not going to pay. At a time, some LAM Mozambique airline staff came to put pressure on me to pay. In fact, they told me it was a norm there and that if I do not pay in a few minutes, they would remove my name from the manifest of the plane for the onward journey to Maputo. And that for me to come to Maputo, I would have to pay a whooping $300.
I was still adamant and they eventually removed my name from the manifest. I was the only passenger left and it was certain I was going to jail. I noticed one immigration officer who was sad about the whole thing and he walked up to me and asked me what the problem was. I explained to him and he advised me to pay. At that point, I could not do anything. Some of the junior immigration officers there started making fun of me. Especially the one who had issued visas to the passengers. He boasted he would personally take me to the police station where I would be kept till they deport me. Well, I later found out he meant exactly the opposite of what he was saying – he was a friend.
After a little while, the immigration chief left the premises and instructed them to send me to jail. It was at the point where the immigration officers were documenting all the valuables I had on me that another immigration boss came around. This other man who was second in command was nicer and listened to me like a father. He went through all my documentations and call the immigration boss to notify him that he should please let me in. The chief still insisted it is $150 or I go to jail. The man advised me to pay that amount and stay out of trouble which I did.
He was so kind to me that he even got the officers to change some of the dollars I had to their local currency – metical and the rate they gave me was even not obtainable elsewhere in Mozambique – I checked in Maputo and Beira and his rates were thte best.
In the process of all these, the airline had already taken my name away from the plane’s manifest and hence I could not continue to Maputo. In the process I met a security boy at the airport. The lanky looking boy in the midst of all these my predicament was able to bring smile back again to my face with his funny attempts to speak English. He introduced himself to me as Eduardo and even though he knew a few things in English, we were able to communicate. I mentioned to him I was going to Beira and he told me he is from Beira as well. He told me it would take me two days to get to Beira from Pemba where we are. Meanwhile, I needed a sim card so I could come on social media and contact my friends in Mozambique as well, when I told him, he decided to take me to a local shop outside the airport where I could buy sim cards.
On our way out, about 500 meters outside the airport, we noticed someone running towards us and we had to stop. He came and told me that the immigration officer is calling me that he wants me to join the plane to continue to Maputo. Eduardo told me this was a good plan as it would be easier to travel from Maputo to Beira.
Back to the airport now and now waiting. The same guy who was issuing visa to passengers who mocked and boasted he would throw me into prison walked up to me and touched me on my shoulders and started apologizing to me in English. He told me he saw my passport and understand I travel a lot, just like himself. He told me we are age mates and that he was not happy the way their boss treated me. He told me the reason why he sounded as if though he hated me was that he wanted to help me. He even told me he was the one that called the second boss who came to my rescue. He told me that our plane was delayed and that they were working to get me back into the plane to continue my trip to Maputo, but I should not worry, even if I missed the plane, he will make sure I was fine.
At that moment, I was still angry of the $100 extra payment I made. I however thanked him and he left. I really felt bad I did not thank him very well or even collected him contact. I hope to see him someday in the future. I even was so angry that I did not get his name when he told me.
Eduardo has been a good friend since then. I have met several people going to Mozambique (Pemba precisely) and Eduardo has helped them get in without problems.
In a few minutes, I was told that my name is now back on the manifest and that I can now join the plane to continue my trip to Maputo. It was around 11pm that night and we flew almost additional two hours to Maputo. What a day!
Process for obtaining Mozambique’s Visa on Arrival:
a. Get a Mozmabique National to write you a letter of invitation.
b. This letter of invitation should specify your port of entry. Ports of entry includes airports, seaports and borders. Depending on your journey, advice the person writing the letter to you to specify the one you will be coming from. Most people prefer to use Maputo Airport
c. This letter must be taken to the immigration for approval. This costs around 120 meticais (not more than $3)
d. Have an authenticated copy of the approved letter of invitation emailed to you. This is what you will have to present to the immigration officer in order to get a visa.