Some amount of haggling is expected when purchasing items in informal circumstances, such as at outdoor markets in rural areas. Keep in mind that an extra few Maloti means much more to the seller than it will to you.
Clear, cold winters, with frosts and snow in the highlands, await you in Lesotho, so pack warm clothing. In summer (late November to early March), dramatic thunderstorms are common, as are all-enveloping clouds of thick mist. Summer temperatures can exceed 30°C in the valleys, though it’s usually much cooler in the mountains, even dropping below freezing. Nearly all Lesotho’s rain falls between October and April. Throughout the year, the weather is notoriously changeable. In 2017 it snowed in the middle of the summer.
Visits are possible at any time; autumn (especially March to April) and spring (especially September) are optimal.
Dangers & Annoyances
In Lesotho, there are some important safety tips to keep in mind.
- Rape is a problem; women should avoid walking alone in remote areas.
- Travellers should not flaunt valuables, especially in Maseru. Don't walk alone there at night either, as muggings are common.
- Bag-snatching and pickpocketing are the main risks during daytime.
- Occasional political unrest generally affects only the capital; stay off the streets and avoid crowds at these times.
- There are numerous police roadblocks; halt at the first stop sign and wait to have your papers checked and be waved forward. Some officers may suggestively tell you how thirsty they are if they see you have drinks.
- If you’re hiking without a guide, you might be hassled for money or ‘gifts’ by shepherds in remote areas and there’s a very slight risk of robbery.
- Hiking alone is not advised because rape is an issue.
- Children sometimes beg and throw stones at cars, especially 4WD vehicles, on remote roads.
- Lives are lost each year from lightning strikes; keep off high ground during electrical storms and avoid camping in the open.
- Waterproof clothing is essential for hiking and pony trekking.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Lesotho's country code||266|
|Ambulance||2231 3260, 112|
|Police||5888 1010, 5888 1024, 112|
Entry & Exit Formalities
- Entry permits are easy to get at Lesotho’s land borders and Maseru’s Moshoeshoe I International Airport.
- If you are a citizen of a country for which a visa is required, it’s best to arrange this in advance.
- If you have recently travelled in a yellow-fever area, or even transited for over 12 hours en route to Lesotho, you need to show a vaccination certificate to the country.
You may leave the country with souvenirs and presents with a value of up to M500. Anything more must be declared, and any good with a serial number must also be declared.
- Citizens of most Western European countries, the USA and many Commonwealth countries are granted a free entry permit upon arrival for stays of up to 14 days.
- If you ask for a stay longer than 14 days at the border (or the ministry), it may be granted. Otherwise, you may apply at the Ministry of Home Affairs to extend your permit for another 14 days.
- Travellers who require a visa can get one in Pretoria, South Africa. A new electronic visa system also allows travellers to apply online at http://evisalesotho.com. The process takes 72 hours.
- If you arrive at the Maseru Bridge border crossing without a visa, with some luck you'll be issued a temporary entry permit to allow you to get to Maseru, where you can apply for a visa. However, don't count on this method, which is unreliable.
- Hello Be sure to say hello to everyone, and if you don't, be prepared for people to become offended and ask why you haven't.
- Handshake There is a common three-part handshake that many Basotho use upon being introduced to a new person. This can be learned quickly.
- Time Being punctual is not a thing. If you set a meeting time with somebody, allow for the possibility that the person may arrive an hour or two late.
The country's law does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay sexual relationships are taboo, with open displays of affection frowned upon.
Web access is available in Maseru and a few accommodation options elsewhere have wi-fi, though it is often unreliable or pay-as-you-go.
- Foreigners caught with large amounts of drugs face heavy fines, imprisonment or deportation.
- Theft is widely prosecuted.
- If you are involved in a traffic accident, you must wait (sometimes hours) for traffic police to arrive and create a report.
The Sunday Express (sundayexpress.co.ls) and Lesotho Times (www.lestimes.com) carry Lesothan news.
ATMs are common in Lesotho, but international cards are rarely accepted outside the capital.
Maloti or Rand?
The South African rand is universally accepted in Lesotho, but even though it’s tied to its neighbour’s currency, the loti is not accepted in South Africa. Most ATMs dispense maloti, so don’t get caught with a pocketful. If you are spending a short time here before returning to South Africa, stocking up on rand will eliminate the worry of having to spend all your maloti before leaving Lesotho.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Maseru is the only place where you can reliably exchange foreign cash and travellers cheques.
- Rand notes are usually available on request.
- Restaurants Wages are low, and tipping is expected (10-15%). The main exceptions are in rural parts of Lesotho, where it's generally the custom to simply round up the bill.
Opening hours can vary, sometimes without notice.
Banks 8.30am–3.30pm Mon–Fri, 8.30am–noon Sat
Businesses and shopping 8.30am–6pm Mon–Fri, 8.30am–1pm Sat; many supermarkets also 9am–noon Sun; major shopping centres till 9pm daily
Government offices 8am–12.45pm & 2pm–4.30pm Mon–Fri
Post offices 8am–4.30pm Mon–Fri, 8am–1pm Sat
Restaurants 11.30am–3pm & 6–10pm (last orders); many open 3–6pm
- Camera and equipment selection is limited in Lesotho, with a modest selection available in Maseru.
- Don't photograph or film soldiers, police, airports, defence installations, border posts or government buildings.
- You should always ask permission before taking a photo of anyone, but particularly so if you're in a remote village.
- Pick up Lonely Planet’s Travel Photography for inspiration and advice.
Delivery is slow and unreliable.
The country's main post office is located in downtown Maseru.
New Year's Day 1 January
Moshoeshoe's Day 11 March
Good Friday March/April
Easter Monday March/April
Workers' Day 1 May
Africa or Heroes' Day 25 May
Ascension Day May/June
King's Birthday 17 July
Independence Day 4 October
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
There are no laws against smoking, but it is rarely done indoors.
Taxes & Refunds
A tax of 14% is included in the stated price of hotel rooms and restaurant meals. Travellers generally cannot receive tax refunds.
- Lesotho's telephone system works reasonably well in the lowlands, but even landlines are temperamental in the highlands.
- There are no area codes.
- Lesotho's eight-digit landline and mobile phone (cell) numbers respectively begin with 2 and 5 or 6.
- International calls are expensive.
- For international reverse-charge calls dial 109.
- Booths selling phone services generally have a landline, offering calls to Lesotho and South Africa for about M8 per minute.
- Mobile phone signals are rare in the highlands and can only be picked up on a few mountain passes.
- The main mobile phone service providers are Vodacom Lesotho (www.vodacom.co.ls) and Econet Telecom (www.etl.co.ls).
- Most villages have a Vodacom or Econet booth selling credit and SIM cards (about M20; bring your passport).
- Mobile credit comes in R5, R10 and R20 vouchers; international bundles are available. Some South African SIMs work on roaming.
- Lesotho is on SAST (South Africa Standard Time), which is two hours ahead of GMT/UTC.
- There is no daylight-saving period.
- Most timetables and businesses use the 24-hour clock.
- Sit-down toilets are the norm.
- Public toilets are common.
- Septic systems can be delicate; don't dispose of items that might clog toilets.
There is a tourist office in Maseru; elsewhere they are thin on the ground.
Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (http://visitlesotho.travel)
See Lesotho (www.seelesotho.com)
Travel with Children
Lesotho can be a welcoming destination for children, though the rugged terrain and conditions are better suited to older children who would enjoy hiking or pony trekking. Most pony trekking centres arrange treks only for people over 12 years old.
Be aware that everything is rougher around the edges than in many parts of South Africa. If you (and your children) are of an adventurous bent, you'll likely find travel here enjoyable. A little advance planning is recommended because some accommodation options, such as the trading post lodges, are family friendly while others are less helpful and comfortable. Discounted accommodation rates for children are common.
Informal childcare arrangements can be made; if you are staying in a good lodge or hotel, staff may be able to assist.
There are reasonable medical facilities in Maseru, but for anything serious you'll need to head to South Africa.
Nappies, powdered milk and baby food are available in Maseru, with only a limited selection in smaller towns.
Lesotho is not in any way an accommodating place for travellers with disabilities.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Weights & Measures
Lesotho uses the metric system.
There are a number of volunteer opportunities in Lesotho, particularly when it comes to work involving HIV and agriculture. Here are a few organisations that may be able to accommodate travellers intent on volunteering, particularly if they'd like to do so over a longer period.
Work permits for foreigners are difficult to obtain in Lesotho, and paying jobs are rare. But if you're lucky enough to find somebody willing to employ you, you can begin the process of getting a residence permit (you can apply online with a passport, a passport photograph, details of where you'll live and a letter from the employer).
It is also possible to enter Lesotho on a tourist visa and then apply for a residence permit, which is done in Maseru at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The residence permit can be obtained for up to two years.