Lesotho travel guide
Tucked away in the heart of South Africa sits the Kingdom of Lesotho, known to locals as the Kingdom of the Sky and to travellers as the Switzerland of Africa.
As the nicknames suggest, Lesotho is mostly made up of the rolling highlands and dramatic, rugged peaks of the Maloti Mountains, the tallest of which stands at a shade under 3,500m (11,482ft) above sea level. Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that is entirely above 1,000m (304m) altitude.
The high altitude and mountainous geography lend a spectacularly scenic backdrop to the numerous outdoor activities on offer, including pony trekking, rock climbing, fishing, abseiling, hiking, bird watching, mountain biking and even skiing on the snow-covered slopes below the Mahlasela Pass.
The existence of valuable mineral and water resources led developers to build roads through some areas of Lesotho, but much of the kingdom and its villages remain remote and can only be reached on foot, by horseback or by light aircraft.
But Lesotho’s remoteness is a large part of its appeal, and this also helps preserve the rich traditional culture of the Basotho people, which you can experience at a number of cultural villages dotted across the kingdom. Lesotho also boasts some prominent examples of ancient rock paintings made by the nomadic San people that once inhabited this area.
Since Lesotho gained its independence from the British, poverty and unemployment have seen this protectorate lose a large percentage of its population to South Africa’s mines, while those that stayed behind have had to live with one of the world’s highest rates of HIV, which in turn has had detrimental effects on the country’s economy.
But while Lesotho might not be able to boast the wealth and infrastructure of its much larger neighbour, when it comes to raw adventure and natural beauty it can certainly hold its own.
30,355 sq km.
2,160,309 (UN estimate 2016).
64.2 per sq km.
King Letsie III since 1996.
Prime Minister Tom Thabane since 2017.
Last updated: 26 November 2019
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.
Consular support is not available from the British government in Lesotho. However, the British High Commission in Pretoria (or alternatively Consulate-General in Cape Town, South Africa) can provide consular support to British nationals.
Most visits to Lesotho are trouble free.
There are ongoing political tensions and occasional spontaneous political demonstrations in Maseru. You should avoid demonstrations, rallies and large public gatherings. There is often an increase in criminal activity, especially property crimes, leading up to the holiday season. Take extra care and be vigilant during this period.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Lesotho, attacks can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism
Safety and security
Muggers in central Maseru frequently target foreign nationals. Don’t walk alone in isolated areas or after dark and avoid driving in rural areas at night. When driving in urban centres, especially Maseru, keep doors locked, windows shut and valuables out of sight. Park in well-lit areas and do not pick up strangers. Take care at the approaches to main border crossings, particularly at night. There have been cases of armed car-jacking. If you are involved in such an incident, offer no resistance.
Take precautions to safeguard valuables and cash. Leave them in hotel safes, where practicable. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place.
There is often an increase in criminal activity, especially property crimes, leading up to the holiday season. Take extra care and be vigilant during this period.
There is no effective public transport system. Taxis can be arranged through hotels and you should use pre-booked taxis where possible.
A British driving licence or International Driving Permit is valid for use in Lesotho for up up to three months. If you wish to drive for a longer period, you will need a local driving licence.
Driving standards in Lesotho are poor and you should drive carefully. Local mini-bus taxis are often poorly maintained and uninsured, and ignore road safety rules. Animals roaming on the roads are a hazard, especially at night.
The European Commission has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union.
There are occasional spontaneous political demonstrations in Maseru. You should avoid demonstrations, rallies and large public gatherings.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Lesotho, 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.
Local laws and customs
Homosexuality is illegal. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Possession of drugs is a serious offence and punishments can be severe.
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).
Lesotho has basic medical facilities. Expatriates use medical facilities in Bloemfontein, South Africa, a 90-minute drive (140km) from Maseru. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, including evacuation by air and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 121 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
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 nationals can obtain entry visas on arrival. Overstaying without proper authority is a serious matter. You may be held in detention.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 90 days from the date of exit from Lesotho. You must have at least 2 blank pages in your passport when you present it at immigration to enter or leave Lesotho.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry into, transit and exit from Lesotho. 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.
If you intend to visit South Africa before or after travelling to Lesotho your passport should have at least 2 additional blank pages when you present it at immigration to enter or leave South Africa.
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.
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.
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