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Lesotho travel guide

About Lesotho

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.

Key facts

Area:

30,355 sq km.

Population:

2,160,309 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

64.2 per sq km.

Capital:

Maseru.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

King Letsie III since 1996.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro since 2020.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Lesotho 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

Lesotho is at “Blue Stage” COVID-19 restrictions.

Movement across the Lesotho border is allowed. International travellers entering Lesotho must show a valid PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival at the border.

A PCR test is also required to depart from Lesotho and enter South Africa through the land borders. See our Travel Advice for South Africa for further information.

Lesotho residents may re-enter Lesotho using the same PCR test that they presented on exit for a period of 14 days from the test date.

The hours of operation at border posts are restricted in line with national curfews in Lesotho and South Africa. Some smaller border posts remain closed.

The latest published information states the following border gates area open. But you are advised to check before travel since the situation changes frequently. Further information is available by calling +266 5221 5555 or +266 2223 5555.

Maseru Bridge, 6am to 8.45pm

Van Rooyen’s Gate, 6am to 8pm

Qacha Bridge, 6am to 4pm

Caledonspoort, 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday ( 8am to 4pm Sat/Sun)

Sani Top, 6am to 6pm

Maputsoe Bridge, 6am to 7pm

Limited passenger air services between Johannesburg and Moshoeshoe International Airport have restarted. The COVID-19 PCR test requirements are the same as for the land borders.

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.

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

Entry and borders

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

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 Lesotho

COVID-19 regulations in Lesotho are managed by Lesotho’s National COVID-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC). Travellers should be aware that the information on the NACOSEC website is not always up to date. The NACOSEC Twitter feed and Facebook page generally have more current information.

Lesotho is under “Blue Level” restrictions. A curfew is in place from 10pm to 4am.

Public transport can now operate at full seated capacity. Masks must be worn at all times. Eating in the vehicle is prohibited.

Anyone leaving their place of residence must wear a face covering. This includes while walking in the street, and in shops and public offices.

Accommodation

Hotels are permitted to open at full occupancy. Conferences and workshops are permitted at 50% of the conference facility. Not all hotels have yet re-opened.

Public places and services

Lesotho is currently under “Blue Level” COVID-19 restrictions.

An overnight curfew remains in place from 10pm to 4am.

Supermarkets, grocery shops, hardware stores, cafes and clothing stores are permitted to operate normally but must observe COVID-19 Protocols on sanitisation and social distancing. Hair salons may operate an appointment-only service between 8am and 8pm. Off licenses can operate Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm with take-out service only.

All over the counter essential service providers are permitted to operate with 50% maximum staff capacity. Digital payment methods are encouraged. Fuel stations may operate 24 hours.

Schools and colleges have closed early for the winter holiday. Textile and manufacturing industries can operate at 50% capacity for both a day and night shift. Other businesses, public and private institutions and NGOs may operate between 8am and 4pm with 50% of staff on rotation.

Textile and manufacturing industries can operate at 50% capacity for both a day and night shift. Other businesses, public and private institutions and NGOs may operate between 8am and 4pm with 50% of staff on rotation.

Hotels and hotel restaurants may open at 100% capacity. Conferences and workshops can be held but numbers are restricted to 50% of the conference venue capacity.

Restaurants and fast food outlets may operate with 50% seated capacity between 6am and 9pm. Covid-19 protocols must be observed (including sanitisation and social distancing). Alcohol is only permitted to be sold as take-out.

Social and family gatherings of up to 50 people only are allowed. Alcohol is not permitted to be served.

Church services are permitted indoors only and with numbers limited to 50% capacity of the church. The service should not last more than two hours and one hour must be allowed for disinfection between services. All people must wear masks all times, including when singing. Weddings are permitted with a maximum of 50 guests inside only and a maximum length of 2 hours. Buffet service is to be avoided. Funerals are restricted to a maximum of 100 people and COVID-19 protocols must be observed. Only immediate family members may view the deceased at the mortuary. Night vigils and buffets are not permitted.

Gyms may operate outside with not more than 100 people and must observe social distancing. Contact and non-contact sports are permitted with no spectators. Contact sports are only allowed with police permits and players and technical teams must be tested for COVID-19 prior to training camps.

Public parks and recreational areas are closed.

Political rallies are not permitted. Indoor political meetings of up to 100 people are permitted if COVID-19 protocols are observed.

Entertainment events are prohibited.

Healthcare in Lesotho

Medical care in Lesotho is limited. Most expatriates use medical facilities in South Africa. Emergency access to these facilities may be delayed due to the requirements for COVID-19 testing.

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

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should call the Lesotho Government hotline on +266 58862893 or +266 80032020. The healthcare providers in the list above can also direct you to appropriate testing facilities.

View Health for further details on healthcare in Lesotho.

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

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Lesotho

We will update this page when the Government of Lesotho announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Lesotho national vaccination programme started in March 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Government of Lesotho has stated that British nationals resident in Lesotho are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme, in line with the priorities in the national vaccine plan (currently health and port workers and those with certain health issues in a limited number of districts). Information about vaccination dates and eligibility are released by the Ministry of Health on local television and radio stations,NACOSEC Facebook page and twitter channels. Your local healthcare provider may also have information.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad. If you’re a British national living in Lesotho, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

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

Crime

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.

Local travel

There is no effective public transport system. Taxis can be arranged through hotels and you should use pre-booked taxis where possible.

Road travel

A British driving licence or International Driving Permit is valid for use in Lesotho for 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.

Air travel

The European Commission has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union.

Political situation

There are occasional planned and spontaneous political demonstrations in Maseru. You should avoid demonstrations, rallies and large public gatherings and stay at home if there is any unusual activity by the security forces.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Lesotho, 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.

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.

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 rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Lesotho

There are no longer any COVID-19 restrictions on the categories of traveller permitted to enter Lesotho.

A negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours is required for entry. This should show:

  • the name of the traveller (which must correspond with their travel document)
  • a serial number which is not duplicated
  • clear and visible proof that the certificate was issued within 72 hours
  • the date on which the swab was taken and the date the results were provided to the traveller
  • the name of the testing laboratory approved by the Minister responsible for health

Travellers departing from the UK 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.

Limited passenger air services between Johannesburg and Moshoeshoe International Airport have restarted. The the COVID-19 PCR test requirements are the same as for the land borders.

A PCR test is also required to depart from Lesotho and enter South Africa through the land borders. See our Travel Advice for South Africa for further information.

Lesotho residents may re-enter Lesotho using the same PCR test that they presented on exit for a period of 14 days from the test date.

The hours of operation at border posts are restricted in line with national curfews in Lesotho and South Africa. Some smaller border posts remain closed.

The latest published information states the following border gates area open. But you are advised to check before travel since the situation changes frequently. Further information is available by calling +266 5221 5555 or +266 2223 5555.

Maseru Bridge, 6am to 8.45pm

Van Rooyen’s Gate, 6am to 8pm

Qacha Bridge, 6am to 4pm

Caledonspoort, 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday ( 8am to 4pm Sat/Sun)

Sani Top, 6am to 6pm

Maputsoe Bridge, 6am to 7pm

Transiting via South Africa

All visitors to Lesotho must travel through, or transit via, South Africa.

See our Travel Advice for South Africa for further information.

Screening on arrival and departure

Everyone entering Lesotho will be screened for coronavirus.

You should comply with any additional screening measures.

Quarantine requirements

Travellers showing symptoms of coronavirus will be required to self-isolate at their permanent or temporary residence or may be placed in an isolation facility in a government hospital at their own expense.

Data collection

Travellers entering Lesotho may be required to provide details of where they will be staying to aid the Government’s efforts to tackle COVID-19.

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

Regular entry requirements

Visas

British nationals can obtain entry visas on arrival. Overstaying without proper authority is a serious matter. You may be held in detention. 

Passport validity

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.

South Africa

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Lesotho 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 Lesotho.

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).

Medical treatment

Lesotho has basic medical facilities. Most expatriates use medical facilities in Bloemfontein, South Africa, a 90-minute drive (140km) from Maseru. Access is affected by the current travel restrictions. If you are in Lesotho and need urgent help from the UK Government call +27 12 421 7500.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 80093030121 and ask for an ambulance Ambulance service in Lesotho are limited. In Maseru or surrounding areas Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (+266 2222 0319) or Willies hospital (+266 2233 3600) may be able to assist. Many expatriates also use private South African emergency response including the Bloemfontein Mediclinic who have an ambulance located in Ladybrand just across the Maseru border post. (Mediclinic +27 51 404 6225 and ambulance ER24 +27 102053588.)

You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

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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