Beira, Mozambique - lively, gritty, poor, warm, youthful
I wanted to be somewhere in the developing world on my year abroad and I got an interesting job in Beira, working for a British NGO. It has to be said that Beira is not what you'd call scenic. From the sprawling slums to the Soviet-era blocks of flats, many parts of the city look as though they are slowly dying. Yet even amidst the urban decay, there is a unique Mozambican spirit that brings Beira to life - I felt really welcome in this country and more safe than I had expected. Golden sandy beaches are undoubtedly the highlight of any stay, and with the exception of the white-supremacist Bique’s, the bars that line the beach are a superb starting-point to an evening out. Ponta Gêa is the best place to reside, followed by the affluent Macuti. It’s important to note that unless you opt for the resorts around Tofu, you meet all that many expats. Almost everyone speaks Portuguese, but hardly anyone knows English. So it’s a good idea to get a steady job placement with the appropriate support, should you need it. While the country remains stable and peaceful, street crime is an issue. Don’t expect mod-cons either. Hot water and television are fairly hit-or-miss in Mozambique. But don’t let this put you off. The rough-and-ready feel becomes part of the appeal.
Useful local words: 'Faz favour'.
What not to pack: Too many clothes, they are oh so cheap in Mozambique!
What to pack: A few weeks' worth of malaria tablets and a good Portuguese dictionary.
Couldn't have done without: Background reading about the country - the novels of Mia Couto, a local author now celebrated as one of Africa's greatest living writers, are a good place to start.
Word of advice: Go prepared!
MT, Spanish and Portuguese, Bristol University