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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Swaziland

Swaziland - Consular Information Sheet
November 1, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Swaziland is a small developing nation in southern Africa. Several well-developed facilities for tourism are available.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. Please contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland, 3400 International Drive, N.W., Suite 3M, Washington, D.C., 20008, (202) 362-6683 regarding visa requirements. Visas are not generally required for tourists and businessmen traveling to Swaziland for short visits (less than 60 days) on standard U.S. passports.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Deputy Prime Minister's office in the capital city, Mbabane, sustained extensive damage from a bomb explosion on November 20, 1998. A previously unknown domestic group claimed responsibility for this bombing. On November 12, 1999, a second explosion occurred in Mahlanya (an area between Manzini and Mbabane). The single-room Tinkhundla (local government authority) Administrative building was destroyed. No one has claimed responsibility for this incident. No Americans were targeted. The police authorities have stepped up security, but the perpetrators' motives remain unclear, and the possibility of further violent incidents exists. No arrests have been made in either incident.

In the past, differences between the government and the trade union movement have led to mass labor stay-aways that can virtually close the nation for several days at a time. The most recent such action, in February 1997, lasted one month on sugar and forest plantations. Further labor and political unrest remains possible at any time pending the settlement of unresolved disputes between the trade unions and government. Although such demonstrations have been peaceful, the potential for violence exists when labor actions are in progress, especially in the streets of Mbabane and in the largest city, Manzini, as well as in the sugar and wood pulp belts.

U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

CRIME INFORMATION: Petty street crime, primarily theft of money and personal property, occurs with some frequency. Since mid-1994, occasional armed hijacking of automobiles has taken place in Manzini and, less frequently, in Mbabane and outlying areas of Swaziland.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available 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 limited throughout Swaziland. The Mbabane Clinic in the capital, though small, is well-equipped and well-staffed for minor procedures. For advanced care, Americans often choose to go to South Africa where up-to-date facilities and specialists may be found. A helipad is available at the Mbabane Clinic, or medical evacuation via fixed-wing aircraft is available from Matsapha airport. Most prescription drugs are available or may be imported from South Africa.

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.

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. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses 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 hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); 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 that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Swaziland 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: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Swaziland has a basic network of paved, two-lane routes, including a new divided super-highway between the two largest cities, Mbabane and Manzini. However, the remaining are graded dirt roads, even in urban areas. Several other factors make driving in Swaziland hazardous. Traffic circulates on the left in Swaziland (as elsewhere in the region) rather than on the right, as in the United States. Many drivers travel at high rates of speed, well above the generally posted limit of 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. Except on stretches of super-highway, there is little lighting. Poor visibility is exacerbated by frequent fog conditions and severe storms, especially in the Highveld where Mbabane is located. Free-range cattle and people attempting to hitch rides along the roadways pose further hazards, especially at night.

For additional information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Swazi driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Swaziland.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Swaziland, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Swaziland's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 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 DOD at 1-618-229-4801.

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 Swazi law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Swaziland 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/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Swaziland are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland and obtain updated information on travel and security within Swaziland. The U.S. Embassy is located in the Central Bank Building on Warner Street in the capital city of Mbabane. The mailing address is Box 199, Mbabane, Swaziland. The telephone number is (268) 404-6441/5; fax (268) 404-5959.

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