The kingdom of Eswatini is one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies.
The king rules by decree over his million subjects, most of whom live in the countryside and follow traditional ways of life.
In 2018 the king announced that the country, hitherto known as Swaziland, would henceforth be called Eswatini, a move critics said was made without consultation and needed a constitutional change.
The country exports sugar, and many Swazis work in South Africa and send their earnings home.
According to UNICEF, Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. The HIV-Aids virus has killed countless Swazis and left thousands of orphans. Some 210,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV.
Facts about Eswatini:
- Population 1.3 million
- Area 17,364 sq km (6,704 sq miles)
- Major languages Swazi, English (both official)
- Major religions Christianity, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy 54 years (men), 60 years (women)
- Currency Lilangeni
Currency & banking
$1USD = 19.21 Emalangeni
Emalangeni is the local currency but South African Rand (ZAR) is widely accepted. It’s a closed currency so you cannot purchase it before you arrive, We strongly recommend arriving with ZAR, especially for your first few days, Emalangeni cannot be used outside of Eswatini so make sure you spend/change your money before departing.
There are ATMs and banks for you to withdraw cash, especially in shopping centres. Visa debit cards can be used in most ATMs.
Many supermarkets, shops, hotels and restaurants accept card payments, so as long as your overseas bank has been advised that you are travelling you should be fine.
Credit cards can be used but American Express is not accepted.
Minibuses or small vans (a matatu) travel throughout the country and can be flagged down on main roads or at terminals in larger towns. They can be confusing and this country is so much easier to navigate yourself on a self-drive. Travelling distances are short and the roads are signposted. All the roads we travelled on were in fabulous condition!
Note that if you are driving from South Africa, you will need a letter of approval from your car hire company permitting you to enter Eswatini (our letter cost 550 ZAR / 40 USD).
Internet & Wi-Fi
To save yourself a lot of money when travelling in Eswatini, it is best to buy yourself a Swazi SIM card and take advantage of local packages to keep costs low.
Alternatively, good WiFi access is available at most holiday accommodation venues across the country (free / paid). Mobile data rates are a bit more expensive in Eswatini compared to South African standards (not just South Africa as the country, but South Africa as a region). However, they are still low compared to the world average, so you should definitely take advantage of the local rates.
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those travelling to Eswatini
They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
Additionally, malaria, yellow fever, zika virus, chikungunya virus and dengue fever are a risk in Eswatini so avoiding being bitten by mosquitos is advised. Also, ticks can carry diseases so when going through forested areas or long grass protect yourself by wearing long trousers and shirts.
Only eat food that is cooked and served hot. Eat fruits and vegetables that you have personally washed in clean water or peeled yourself. Never eat food sold by street vendors. Only drink boiled water that is sealed and has been filtered and disinfected. Prefer carbonated drinks, hot coffee or tea, and pasteurized milk.
Basic healthcare is available in Eswatini, but there are shortages of even common medications. Medical evacuation to South Africa is necessary for serious accidents and emergencies. Local private hospitals can arrange evacuation but only if you are fully insured or you can produce funds in advance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 933 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
As always when you travel you should take out the necessary travel insurance coverage. We always use World Nomads but there are plenty of other insurance companies that offer travel insurance
Crime is rife in eSwatini, in particular Mbabane, the capital city, and Manzini, the industrial centre. With limited police in the country, crime is rife in both urban and rural areas. Crime increases during holiday periods.
Busy urban areas are particularly dangerous at night, but daytime crime is not uncommon. Even if you are in a crowded area, do not take this as an indication you are safe. Many visitors have reported being robbed in daylight with witnesses surrounding them. Be discreet with any valuables, and try to limit carrying too much cash with you – conceal it in a place nobody will find it. Walking around at night, either alone or in a group, is strongly discouraged.
Stay alert to your surroundings. Avoid walking alone or travelling after dark. Keep vehicle doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight, even when moving.
Thieves sometimes follow people after they withdraw money from ATMs. Avoid using ATMs at night and be vigilant of your surroundings as you withdraw money.
- Drug taking and smuggling is an offence. Punishments can be severe.
- Same-sex relationships and acts are illegal in Eswatini. There is prevalent discrimination against LGBT people within society and many LGBT people are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is therefore advisable to refrain from overt displays of affection in public, such as holding hands or kissing.
- The drink driving laws in Swaziland state that you must have no more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in your system or 0.38mg per 1000ml of breath exhaled. The police are quite strict on enforcement, operating random roadside checks on a regular basis.
Useful emergency numbers
- Official contact numbers:
- Emergency Medical Services 977
- Royal Eswatini Police Services (REPS) 999
- Swazico Medics 0911
- Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) 990
- Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) 910
- Eswatini Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) 8003500
- Eswatini Water Services Corporation (ESWSC) 800 5000
- Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) 800 5000
Eswatini is defined by four climate regions: the Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld and Lubombo plateau. The seasons in Eswatini contrast those of the Northern hemisphere, as rain can often be seen during the summer months, taking the form of thunderstorms. Annually, there is less rainfall the further east you travel and the driest season is their winter.
The different climate regions also have variations in temperature. The temperature in the Highveld region is often temperate and rarely unpleasantly hot whereas the Lowveld region is likely to record temperatures as high as 40⁰C during the summer months.
A full passport valid for at least three months is required for entry into Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). For tourist visits, visas are NOT required by citizens of most Commonwealth countries, the USA, Japan, most European Union countries and certain other countries. Tourist or business travellers are allowed to visit Eswatini for up to 30 days. Following this you can apply for a further 30-day extension at the Ministry of Home Affairs. If staying for longer than 60 days, you will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP).
In Eswatini the power plug sockets are of type M. The standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Which power plugs and sockets are used in Eswatini?
In Eswatini the power plug sockets are of type M. Check out the following pictures.
|Type M: This socket has no alternative plugs|