Swaziland travel guide
With traditional customs still central to everyday life, the Kingdom of Swaziland offers an unparalleled insight into Africa’s tribal societies in a setting that is safe and welcoming to visitors. Combine this with a varied landscape and the most iconic species on the continent, and you have a nation ripe for exploration.
Swaziland holds the accolade as the only absolute monarchy in Africa (and one of only a handful left in the world). The king, Mswati III, plays a central role in political and cultural life, with the country’s most important annual events closely linked with his household.
Though smaller events involving traditional dress and celebrations can be found across the country at almost any time of year, it is the set piece ceremonies that draw the largest number of participants. In fact, the Umhlanga (Reed Dance) festival is one of Africa’s biggest cultural events. Thousands of unmarried Swazi women travel to the round, mud-brick buildings of the royal compound at Ludzidzini, where they pay tribute to the Queen Mother with reeds, song and dance.
Around the turn of the year, the Incwala or Kingship Dance is a rare survivor of what was once common across southern Africa. The highlight of the week-long festival is the spectacular sight of Swazi men in full battle regalia the likes of which you will not have seen outside a Hollywood blockbuster.
Swaziland also hosts a great diversity of landscape, ranging from river valleys, cool mountainous Highveld in the west, and hotter and dryer Lowveld in the east. A typical African landscape of acacia-dotted grasslands, the Lowveld is where Swaziland’s most iconic wildlife can be viewed. Mkhaya Game Reserve, one of 17 protected areas, is considered one of the very best places in Africa to witness rhino in their natural habitat.
Friendly, safe and spirited, Swaziland’s distinct and ever-present cultural traditions, together with its landscapes and wildlife, make this small land-locked country a unique and enticing destination.
17,364 sq km (6,704 sq miles).
1,304,063 (UN estimate 2016).
82.7 per sq km.
King Mswati III since 1986.
Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini since 2008.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. South African-style plugs with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin are in use.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There’s no British diplomatic representation in Swaziland. If you need emergency consular assistance, you can contact the British High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa.
Most visits are trouble-free. Crime levels are relatively low for the southern Africa region, but you should take sensible precautions as there is often an increase in criminal activity during the festive season.
You should avoid rallies, demonstrations and gatherings as these can be dispersed forcefully by the police.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Swaziland, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Safety and security
Crime levels are low, but street crimes and burglaries do occur, sometimes involving violence. Vehicles have been taken at gunpoint. Avoid walking in the downtown areas of Mbabane and Manzini after dark and do not travel around in remote rural areas unless in a group. There is often an increase in criminal activity during the festive season.
Keep valuables in a safe place and avoid carrying large amounts of money or wearing conspicuous jewellery.
Avoid travelling into or out of Swaziland by road at night. There have been numerous incidences of car hijackings on major routes from South Africa and Mozambique.
The political situation is generally stable, but there are occasional political demonstrations. Some political parties have been banned and designated as terrorist organisations. Avoid gatherings as these can be dispersed forcefully by the police.
You can drive using a UK driving licences or an International Driving Permit.
The standard of driving is lower than in the UK. Drivers often cross the central reservation to avoid obstructions. Speeding is a problem (the maximum speed limit is 120 km on motorways and 80 km on other unrestricted roads). Minor roads are not well maintained and road markings are poor.
Take care on rural roads; there have been a number of serious accidents and deaths as a result of animals straying onto roads. Avoid driving on rural roads at night. As well as the possibility of hitting animals, there is the additional risk of abandoned unlit trailers and poorly lit heavy vehicles.
Be wary of anyone who offers you help if you breakdown or need to change a tyre as it presents the opportunity for theft, muggings and hijackings. You should park in well-lit areas. Do not pick up strangers. Do not stop to assist apparently distressed motorists, as this is a technique sometimes used by hijackers. Instead, report the incident to the police.
If you travel in a vehicle other than one registered in Swaziland, you will have to complete a customs declaration form at Swazi border posts on entry and departure. A road fund levy of E50 is payable at the border. You must carry with you in the vehicle at all times proof of your customs declaration and payment of the road fund levy. Vehicles may be searched at borders.
Do not use public transport (buses and taxis). Vehicles are generally poorly maintained and overloaded.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
In 2007 an audit of Swaziland’s Civil Aviation Authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Swaziland was below the global average.
The EU operating ban on airlines from Swaziland was lifted in April 2014.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Swaziland, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British passport holders do not require visas for Swaziland. Visitors will normally be given entry permission for up to thirty days. This can be extended at the Swaziland Immigration Department in Mbabane. All Swaziland border posts open daily throughout the year, but hours of operation are variable.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Swaziland and have at least 2 blank pages.
If you intend to visit South Africa before or after travelling to Swaziland, you’ll need to have an additional 2 blank pages to enter and leave South Africa.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry into, transit and exit from Swaziland. Your Emergency Travel Document should have a minimum of 6 months remaining validity.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travelling with children via a South African airport
If you’re transiting through a South African airport with children, see our South Africa travel advice page for information and advice about the documents you’ll need to carry.
Local laws and customs
Possession and smuggling of narcotics are illegal. Foreign nationals have been imprisoned on drug offences. Punishments can be severe.
Male homosexuality is illegal.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Basic healthcare is available in Swaziland, but there are shortages of even common medications. Medical evacuation to South Africa is necessary for serious accidents and emergencies. Local private hospitals can arrange evacuation but only if you are fully insured or you can produce funds in advance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
UNAIDS in 2015 estimated that around 210,000 adults aged 15 or over in Swaziland were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 28.8% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 933 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
In the wet summer months (November to April) violent thunderstorms with lightning and heavy rains are common in the highveld areas.
The local currency (Emalangeni) is not convertible. South African notes (but not coins) are legal tender, as are most major credit cards. ATM machines are readily available.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.