Quick Guide to Lesotho: Visa-free travel for South Africans

2018-06-18 16:49 - Kavitha Pillay
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Lesotho's Maletsunyane River valley. (Photo: iStock)

While most visitors to Africa come to view our rich wildlife and get a feel of our hot climate, the Kingdom of Lesotho offers a unique African climate for all travellers to enjoy.

Lesotho, meaning "the land of the people who speak Sesotho", was previously known as Basutoland.

Enclaved by South Africa and sharing the Drakensburg mountain range and highlands with our country, Lesotho is one of the few African countries boasting a winter wonderland under African skies.

SEE: Gateway to Lesotho: 8 Winter must-dos in the Drakensberg

No matter what the weather may be, this country offers holidaymakers remote countryside, varied natural landscapes and unique cultural heritage to explore.

Here’s what you need to know when planning your trip to Lesotho:

Visa requirements:  No. Visa-free for South Africans with a valid passport, staying for less than three weeks. If the visit extends three weeks then a visa can be obtained free of charge from the Lesotho High Commission or at the border post on entering.

Medical requirements: It is recommended that travellers get vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid - which can be contracted through contaminated food or water.

National Carrier: None.

Airport Hub: Moshoeshoe I International Airport in the capital city Maseru.

Flight Route: Fly direct from Johannesburg with SA Airlink. However, driving into this relatively small, enclaved country is more common. There are 11 border posts into Lesotho from South Africa.

SEE: #FindYourEscape at the Gin, Wine and Jazz Festival in Lesotho's Maluti Mountains

Currency: Lesotho Loti - 1 Loti = R1.

Travel adapter: Type M.

Time Zone: Same time zone as South Africa (GMT+2).

Public Transport: Travellers can use minibus taxis or buses, however, these are overcrowded and not the most reliable option, although the cheapest mode of transport. Self-driving is the most practical way to get around or make use of one of the few privately-owned taxi companies operating in Lesotho’s capital. Click here for more info.

Climate: Temperate climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Summer is from November to January and is usually hot, while autumn is warm and ideal for outdoor activities. Winter, from May to July, welcomes snow to the Maluti mountains and the opportunity to ski.

Best time to visit: Summer months or between October to April is ideal, unless you would like to experience skiing in Africa then winter is the perfect time to go.

ALSO SEE: AfriSki Winter Fest: How to have a Lesotho snow adventure

Languages: Sesotho and English.

Useful Phrases: Here are some words and phrases worth learning for smooth communication when travelling this country:

  • Hello - Lumela
  • How are you? - U phela joang?
  • I am fine - Ke phela hantle
  • What is your name? - Lebitso la hau u mang?
  • My name is - Lebitso la ka ke
  • Help - Ke kopa thuso
  • I am sorry - Ke kopa ts'oarelo
  • What is the price? - Ke bokae?
  • Stay well - Sala hantle (Salang hantle - plural)
  • Goodbye - Tsamaea hantle (Tsamaeang hantle - plural)
  • Thank you - Kea leboha

Food to try: People in Lesotho usually eat bread, rice, cassava, wheat and dried food. Traditional foods include oxtail stew, curries, kebabs, braais, and sea food dishes. Ting – which is a porridge - and Maluti beer are also local favourites.

Travel tips

What to pack:

  • Your passport, arrival and return tickets, adequate money.
  • A camera, notebook/ tablet or smartphone, power-bank to stay charged on the go.
  • Comfortable, lightweight, and casual clothes.
  • Comfortable sandals, sneakers and strong shoes if you decide to go on hikes.
  • A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
  • An umbrella/ rain coat during the rainy season.
  • If travelling in spring and autumn then carry a jersey for the colder evening, while in winter, heavy, warm clothing is needed.
  • Hand sanitiser, tissues, wet wipes, insect repellent, prescription medication.
  • Binoculars for safaris/sightseeing, waterproof bag to store personal belongings when on boat cruises/ water activities.

Tips while exploring:

  • Learn the common phrases in the local language and about local culture, and respect cultural norms.
  • Show respect to older generations.
  • Be friendly and courteous.
  • Dress modestly, even when casual.
  • Only do foreign exchange at authorised places.
  • Beware of pick-pockets.

SEE: WATCH: #LesothoRoadTrip - Discovering more than just majestic mountains

Must-visit places

- Visit Kick 4 Life  and their Number 7 restaurant to learn about how they are changing people’s lives through Football.

- Visit Thaba Bosiu, King Moshoeshoe’s famous stronghold.

- Learn about the country’s history by visiting the local museums and other interesting historical sites around Morija.

- Explore the Ramabanta Trading Post via the famous Maletsunyane Waterfall.

PICS: Surreal, must-see pics of Lesotho's Malestunyane Falls

- Make time for Mountain action with Mountain Biking, Pony trekking.

- Take a scenic drive to Mount Moorosi to climb Chief Moorosi’s Mountain Fortress.

- Enjoy a 4x4 Sundowner expedition in the Roma Valley.