Swaziland


Overview

Swaziland travel guide, including map of Swaziland , top Swaziland travel experiences, and tips for travel in Swaziland

The land-locked kingdom of Swaziland is tucked between South Africa and Mozambique but is very different to each. Conservative and traditional in some respects, it is also easy-going and relaxed, with a low crime rate and a very warm and friendly welcome.

This is an absolute monarchy, and although there have been a some political rumblings over the last few years King Mswati III remains a popular and respected figure. He is perhaps best known on the world stage for being a polygamist, with 14 wives at the last count, but it has to be said his father had many more. The people are proud of their king and proud of their culture, and traditional dress, clothing, beadwork and dance still survive.

Most visitors only use the country as a stopover and shopping opportunity en-route to Kruger National Park, but this is to do Swaziland a terrible disservice. This is a very easy destination for the traveller, a microcosm of southern Africa that has the culture, heritage, game reserves, scenery and activities that merit a stay in its own right. It might not have the awesome scale of its sprawling neighbours but at 200km across it’s not tiny either. And don’t they often say that the best things often come in small packages?

Wanderlust recommends

 

  1. Spot Rhino. Swaziland has a surprising wealth of wildlife. You can track rare black rhinos, or the more common white, on foot or by 4WD in Mkhaya Game Reserve. Lion, leopard and cheetah can all be found in Hlane Royal National Park
  2. Raft White Waters. Inflatable two-person ‘croc’ rafts are ideal to surf the rapids of Swaziland’s rivers: the most popular is the Usuthu River
  3. Ride Horseback with Wildlife. Thoroughbred horses and humble bicycles quietly find a path between antelope, giraffe and zebra in lovely Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
  4. Take a Hike. There are some superb hikes in Swaziland’s north-western highlands, especially in the beautiful Malolotja Nature Reserve
  5. Shop till you Drop. Swaziland has strong traditions of handicrafts and folk culture: add coachloads of South Africans stopping off and it’s easy to see how the country has become a shopper’s delight. Traditional handicrafts, candles and glassware make good souvenirs

 

Wanderlust tips

Find a Festival. Swaziland is famous for its Umhlanga (Reed Dance) festival in August/September, when unmarried women parade in front of the king. The Incwala Festival celebrates the first fruits in massed displays in full warrior garb and is held in December or January: dates are chosen by astrologers. A more modern festival takes place in May: the Bush-Fire Festival is an international even of music and performing arts.

Further Reading

Swaziland – Vital Statistics

 

  • Capital of Swaziland: Mbabane
  • Population of Swaziland: 1.3 million
  • Languages in Swaziland: English, siSwati
  • Time in Swaziland: GMT +2
  • International dialling code in Swaziland: +268
  • Voltage in Swaziland: 230V 50Hz
  • Visa information for Swaziland: Not required for UK Nationals. Other nationalities should check for Visa information
  • Money in Swaziland: Lilangeni, plural emalangeni, (E) South African rands are accepted in most places. Mbabane is the only place to have ATMs that accept foreign cards. Travellers cheques can be exchanged in most banks.
  • Swaziland travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Swaziland tourist board: Swaziland

 

When to go to Swaziland

The climate varies according to altitude, but summer (October to March) is hot and wet, while winter is mild and dry, with occasional frost at higher altitudes.

Swaziland international airport

Matsapha International (MTS) is 5km northwest of Manzini.

Getting around in Swaziland

The roads are generally good, driving is on the left and distances are small so hiring a car is a good option. There are few signposts once you are off the main roads but people are helpful if you need directions. Buses and minibuses are plentiful and cheap, but standards of driving can be rather scary.

Swaziland accommodation

There is a good and varied range of accommodation in Swaziland as it has so many visitors from South Africa. Recommended places to stay include The Foresters Arms Hotel in the highlands, 27km from Mbabne, Reillys Rock Hilltop Lodge, Phophonyane Falls Lodge and Malandela’s B&B in Malkerns.

Swaziland food & drink

Traditional Swazi food is meat served with pap (maize) although international cuisine, including good curry, is widely available. The quality of meat, fish and vegetables is generally good. South African wine is widely available and excellent value.

Health & safety in Swaziland

Malaria is found in the low-lying areas of eastern Swaziland in the wetter summer months (November to April). Bilharzia is found in stagnating sections of some rivers. The water is safe to drink. Unfortunately Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDs in the world – and consequently the lowest life expectancy.

As for crime Swaziland is generally very safe and friendly, but take the usual commonsense precautions against petty theft and muggings.