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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


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


1,343,000 (2016).

Population density:

78 per sq km.




Absolute monarchy.

Head of state:

King Mswati III since 1986.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Russell Dlamini since 2023.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Eswatini set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Eswatini High Commission in the UK.

You may need to complete a health form if travelling by air.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Eswatini.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Eswatini, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the date you arrive and at least 2 blank pages for entry stamps.

If you’re also travelling to South Africa, your passport must have 2 additional blank pages. 

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You can visit Eswatini without a visa for up to 30 days.   

You can apply for a 30-day extension from the Ministry of Home Affairs. If you want to stay longer than 60 days, you must apply for a temporary residence permit.

Make sure you get your passport stamped.    

Check the stamp in your passport has the correct date. If you do not have the correct dates, the Eswatini authorities may stop you from re-entering the country for up to a year.

Vaccine requirements

To enter Eswatini, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Eswatini guide.

Travelling with children through South Africa

If you’re travelling with children through a South African airport, see South Africa travel advice for information about the documents you must carry.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Eswatini. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Entering with your own vehicle

If your vehicle is not registered in Eswatini, you must complete a customs declaration form at the border post and pay a 100 Swazi emalangeni road fund levy. You must always carry proof of your customs declaration and levy payment in the vehicle. Vehicles may be searched at borders.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.  

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Eswatini

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

Political situation

There were a series of security-related incidents in 2021 and 2022 , including:

  • arson attacks
  • targeted assassinations
  • kidnapping of security forces personnel
  • ATM robberies
  • retaliatory police raids

This led to demonstrations taking place at short notice. These have subsided over the last year but violent confrontations between protestors and security forces have been known to lead to fatalities and injuries. You should:

  • avoid protests and marches
  • be aware of your surroundings, especially after dark
  • monitor local media
  • keep up to date with developments


Protecting yourself and your belongings

There can be casual theft, pickpocketing and occasional muggings, particularly at the edges of towns and cities. Armed robbery has happened but is not common. You should:

  • avoid walking in the downtown areas of Mbabane and Manzini after dark
  • not travel in remote rural areas alone
  • keep valuables in a safe place
  • avoid carrying large amounts of money
  • keep expensive-looking jewellery and watches out of sight

Criminal activity usually increases during the pre-Christmas festive season.


Criminals steal vehicles at gunpoint. There have been many carjackings on major routes to Eswatini from South Africa and Mozambique and along the Mbabane-Manzini corridor. Avoid travelling by car at night.

If you break down or get a flat tyre, do not accept help from strangers, who could be carjackers or muggers. Carjackers also sometimes pose as distressed motorists. You should:

  • park in well-lit areas
  • not pick up strangers
  • not stop to assist motorists
  • report incidents to the police

Laws and cultural differences

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Punishments for possessing or smuggling narcotic drugs can be severe. You can be imprisoned for illegal drug offences.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Eswatini. LGBT+ people experience discrimination, and many are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Showing affection in public will most likely be frowned on by locals. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Eswatini, see information on driving abroad.

You’ll need to have both the 1949 version of the international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

Hire car companies often require their customers to have a year of driving experience.

Drink-driving is a serious offence in Eswatini. If you are tested and found to have more than a 50mg per 100ml of alcohol in your system (in England it is 80mg), you may get a fine and possible imprisonment. The police operate random roadside checks regularly and strictly enforce the law.

Road conditions

The standard of driving in Eswatini is poor. Speeding is a problem. Minor roads are not well maintained, and road markings are poor.

Take care driving in rural areas as animals stray on to roads and cause serious accidents and deaths. Avoid driving on rural roads at night – there is a risk of hitting abandoned, unlit trailers and poorly lit heavy vehicles.

Public transport

Travel by public transport can be dangerous due to poor standards of driving, lack of rest periods for drivers, the poor quality of vehicles and poor road conditions. However, the airport transfer coaches between Johannesburg and Mbabane are generally safe. Minibuses used in urban areas are usually severely overcrowded and poorly maintained.

Extreme weather and natural disasters


In the wet summer months from November to April, violent thunderstorms with lightning, heavy rain, and hailstones are common, especially in the highlands (‘Highveld’). These sometimes damage property and road infrastructure and cause flooding in some areas.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 977 or 933 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:  

See what health risks you’ll face in Eswatini.


In 2015 UNAIDS estimated that around 210,000 adults, aged 15 or over were living with HIV in Eswatini. This is around 28.8% of adults, compared to 0.2% of adults in the UK. Take the normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV and AIDS. 


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Eswatini

Basic healthcare is available in Eswatini, but there are shortages of common medicines. For serious accidents and emergencies or specialised treatment, it’s likely you would need to go to South Africa. Local private hospitals can arrange evacuation 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 medical evacuation to South Africa and repatriation.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Eswatini

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Eswatini 

Ambulance: 977

Fire: 933

Police: 999

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Eswatini and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, who provide consular assistance for Eswatini.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

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