Lesotho - Consular Information Sheet
December 11, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Lesotho is a very mountainous developing
country in southern Africa completely surrounded by the country
of South Africa. Facilities for tourists are limited. The capital
city of Maseru is at 5000 ft. (1500m) above sea level, and the
mountains reach to 11,400 ft. (3500m).
Visitors to the interior of Lesotho should bring clothing and
equipment suitable for cold weather. In the mountains, weather
conditions can deteriorate rapidly. In winter (June-October),
snow will often close mountain passes, and temperatures, even
in the lowlands, often drop below freezing during the night.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required, but no visa
is needed for visits of 30 days or less. For more information
concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy
of the Kingdom of Lesotho, 2511 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 797-5533. Overseas inquiries may be
made at the nearest embassy or consulate of Lesotho.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Despite significant civil disorder
and riot conditions in September 1998, social peace and stability
have returned to Lesotho. The regional military task force invited
by the government to restore order withdrew combat elements in
April 1999. Although the likelihood of renewed political violence
is low, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street
demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. The
process to resolve political differences is underway, and a date
for new national elections is being discussed. Commercial activity
and the supply of consumable goods have returned to normal levels.
A limited number of restaurants are available in Maseru. Tap water
is not reliably potable.
CRIME: Deteriorating economic conditions in the country,
aggravated by the return from South Africa of large numbers of
unemployed miners, have caused an increase in armed robberies,
break-ins and car-jackings. This occurs primarily in Maseru, but
it can occur elsewhere as well. Victims have included foreign
diplomats and members of foreign aid missions. Traveling alone
or at night is particularly dangerous.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or
consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad
for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa, for ways to promote a
more trouble-free journey. Both are available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are minimal. Many
medicines are unavailable. There are no reliable ambulance services.
Good medical care is available in Bloemfontein, South Africa,
90 miles to the west of Maseru.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether
your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical
evacuation and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems
requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United
States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain
whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor
or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur.
Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric
treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international
travelers hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747), fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Lesotho is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
The authority for road safety issues rests with the Lesotho Mounted
Police. Travelers should never assume right-of-way because aggressive
and undisciplined local driving habits result in frequent collisions.
Lesotho has a high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries
given its small size. Even the previous king died in a road accident
in 1996. Driving after dark is dangerous due to the absence of
street lighting, animals on the roads and the prevalence of crime,
including occasional carjackings.
Travel is best accomplished by private car. Rental cars are available,
and cars rented in neighboring South Africa may be brought into
Lesotho with written permission from the rental company. Although
bus and public taxi services exist, chronic overloading combined
with inadequate vehicle maintenance and lack of driver training
make them unsafe for foreign visitors. Some private taxi service
exists in the capital, but roving mini-bus taxis should be avoided.
There is no train service in the kingdom.
Approximately 25 of Lesotho's 5000 miles of roads are paved in
some fashion. A few main rural highways compare to U.S. two-lane
rural roads, but lane markings, signs, shoulders and guardrails
are not to U.S. standards, and unfenced livestock pose a particular
danger. Lesotho's mountainous interior makes driving on secondary
roads hazardous. Unpaved roads in the interior, although often
narrow, twisting and steep, are poorly maintained. For travel
in the interior, especially in wet or snowy weather, a high ground
clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. A four-wheel-drive
is required for entering Lesotho through the Sani Pass on the
There are no auto club or reliable ambulance services. Drivers
should contact the police in emergencies.
For specific information concerning Lesotho driving permits,
vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please consult
the Lesotho government official web site via the Internet at http://www.lesotho.gov.Is/tourism.
For additional general information
about road safety, including links to foreign government sites,
please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority
to operate such service between the U.S. and Lesotho, the U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lesotho's
Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign
air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at telephone 618-229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Lesotho law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Lesotho are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail
sentences and heavy fines.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in
or visiting Lesotho are encouraged to register at the Consular
Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on
travel and security within Lesotho. The U.S. Embassy is located
at 254 Kingsway, Maseru West; the mailing address is P.O. Box
333, Maseru 100, Lesotho. The telephone number is 266-312-666.