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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > eSwatini

Eswatini (Swaziland) travel guide

About Eswatini (Swaziland)

On 19 April 2018, King Mswati III renamed Swaziland to Eswatini, meaning “Land of the Swazis”.

With traditional customs still central to everyday life, the Kingdom of Eswatini (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 untamed wildlife, and you have a nation ripe for exploration.

Eswatini (Swaziland) holds the accolade as the only absolute monarchy in Africa (and one of only a handful left in the world). The monarch plays a central role in political and cultural life, with the country’s most important annual events, such as Independence Day, closely linked with the royal 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.

The Incwala, or Kingship Ritual, takes place during the summer solstice and is a rare survivor of what was once common across southern Africa. The highlight of the 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.

Eswatini (Swaziland) also hosts a great diversity of landscape, ranging from river valleys and 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 the country’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, the country’s distinct and ever-present cultural traditions, together with its landscapes and wildlife, make this small land-locked country a unique and enticing destination.

Key facts

Area:

17,364 sq km (6,704 sq miles).

Population:

1,343,000 (2016).

Population density:

78 per sq km.

Capital:

Mbabane.

Government:

Absolute monarchy.

Head of state:

King Mswati III since 1986.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini since 2021.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Eswatini on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

From 4am on Saturday 9 January, visitors arriving into the UK who have been in or transited through Eswatini in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry. British and Irish citizens, and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK arriving in the UK from Eswatini, need to self-isolate on their return. Check the latest guidance for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

From 1 January onwards those with residence rights includes: holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Eswatini Air Link services between Johannesburg OR Tambo and Sikhuphe International Airport in Eswatini are currently suspended. For further information, follow our travel advice for South Africa.

Other countries may restrict movement or bring in new quarantine rules with little warning. You should check the travel advice for the countries on your route for the latest information.

Entry and borders

Entry and exit to South Africa via some land borders is restricted. Cross-border travel remains strictly for medical, educational and essential purposes. Business travellers providing services across the borders between South Africa and the Southern African Development Community are allowed multiple entry subject to producing a certificate of negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. It should be conducted by a certified medical practitioner, and should have the name and signature of the practitioner who conducted the test. This certificate is valid for 14 days.

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Eswatini.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Eswatini

Travel within Eswatini is possible, but road blocks or unexpected protests and road closures could occur. You should continue to avoid protests, demonstrations, or marches. Stay alert for signs of disturbances. Travel after 6pm is not permitted whilst the curfew is in place.

It is compulsory to wear a mask everywhere, even when travelling alone in a vehicle. There is a requirement for 1.5 metres of social distance with others.

Accommodation

A few hotels are open for business despite the partial lockdown. Strict hygiene measures are in place to ensure guest safety.

Public places and services

A curfew has been introduced from 6pm to 5am in response to civil unrest. No one should be on the street after 6pm.

From 14 June 2021, all retailers will be shut after 7pm.

Gatherings remain prohibited except for funerals, community meetings, weddings, professional low-contact sports and religious services. Gatherings are limited to 2.5 hours, with a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Only outdoor entertainment and arts activities are allowed. The maximum number of people permitted at an outdoor entertainment event has been reduced to 200.

It is compulsory to wear a mask everywhere, even when travelling alone in a vehicle. There is a requirement for 1.5 metres of social distance with others.

Healthcare in Eswatini

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should call the Government of Eswatini’s coronavirus hotline for further advice on 977.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Eswatini.

For contact details of English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Eswatini

As information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.

British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization COVID-19 vaccines page.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Crime

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 Eswatini by road at night. There have been numerous incidences of car hijackings on major routes from South Africa and Mozambique.

Political Situation

The number and intensity of protests and demonstrations across Eswatini have reduced but could resume at any time. Travel within Eswatini is possible, but road blocks or unexpected protests and road closures could occur. You should continue to avoid protests, demonstrations, or marches. Stay alert for signs of disturbances. Travel after 6pm is not permitted whilst the curfew is in place. For those wishing to travel to South Africa or Mozambique, check exit and entry requirements for countries as part of your planning, including the need for PCR tests.

Road travel

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 Eswatini, you will have to complete a customs declaration form at 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.

Air travel

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 Eswatini’s Civil Aviation Authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Eswatini was below the global average.

The EU operating ban on airlines from Eswatini was lifted in April 2014.

Airlink flights between Johannesburg and Sikhuphe’s King Mswati III International Airport have been cancelled in response to ongoing civil unrest.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Eswatini, attacks can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

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.

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.

Entry and exit rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Specific conditions must be met in order to enter Eswatini:

  • A COVID-19 test must be performed no more than 72 hours before departure and you must be able to demonstrate a negative test result on entry
  • Upon arriving in Eswatini, you will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and asked about your country of origin and any transit stops
  • If you do not present a negative COVID-19 result on entry, or if you display COVID-19 symptoms, you will be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival at your own cost
  • You may be required to undergo a quarantine period not exceeding 14 days, or isolation as advised by the port health officers

You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.

In addition, conditions apply on exiting Eswatini:

  • You should arrange to have a COVID-19 test no more than 72hrs before you travel. Testing will be at your own expense at a private laboratory.
  • You must be able to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test result when exiting the country
  • Upon exiting, you will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and asked details about your country of destination and any transit stops
  • If you display COVID-19 symptoms, you will not be allowed to exit the country
  • “Essential travellers” such as daily commuters (e.g. scholars, teachers and truck drivers) who have been making cross border travel during the travel restriction period, will continue to be able to travel following the protocols they have previously used

From 4am on Saturday 9 January, visitors arriving into the UK who have been in or transited through Eswatini in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry. British and Irish citizens, and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK arriving in the UK from Eswatini, need to self-isolate on their return. Check the latest guidance for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. See Coronavirus.

Regular entry requirements

Visa

Usually British passport holders do not require visas for Eswatini.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Eswatini and have at least 2 blank pages.

If you intend to visit South Africa before or after travelling to Eswatini, 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 Eswatini. 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.

Further information

Keep up to date with information from your tour operator, transport or accommodation provider on the impact of any existing travel plans.

If you need further information about entry requirements, contact the local immigration authorities or the nearest Eswatini High Commission.

Possession and smuggling of narcotics are illegal. Foreign nationals have been imprisoned on drug offences. Punishments can be severe.

Same-sex relationships and acts are illegal in Eswatini. There is prevalent discrimination against LGBT people within society and many LGBT people are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is therefore advisable to refrain from overt displays of affection in public, such as holding hands or kissing. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Eswatini on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Eswatini.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Local medical care

Basic healthcare is available in Eswatini, 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.

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.

HIV / AIDS

UNAIDS in 2015 estimated that around 210,000 adults aged 15 or over in Eswatini 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.

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.

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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.

Travel safety

The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

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.

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