LesothoOfficial Name: Kingdom of Lesotho
Must be valid at time of entry
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required if stay is less than 180 days
Yellow fever vaccination if coming from a country where yellow fever is endemic
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
254 Kingsway Avenue
Maseru 100, Lesotho
Telephone: +(266) 2231-2666
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(266) 5888-4035
Fax: +(266) 2231-0116
The Kingdom of Lesotho is an enclave located entirely within the Republic of South Africa. It is roughly the size of Maryland and has a population of about 1.8 million people. Nearly all of Lesotho lies above 5,000 feet (1,500M) and the country features Africa's highest mountain south of Kilimanjaro, Thabana Ntlenyana, at 11,400 feet (3,500M), as well as one of Africa's only ski resorts. Facilities for tourism are expanding. The capital city of Maseru provides shopping, dining and entertainment options, and Lesotho’s countryside offers an array of outdoor activities, including off-roading, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking. Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy currently ruled by a fragile three party coalition. Disputes among coalition members have led to disagreement about who leads the Lesotho Defense Forces and created a climate of political uncertainty. In late August, the army clashed with police and the Prime Minister and other officials briefly fled the country. The political leadership has now returned and, with facilitation support from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) announced plans to hold early elections in February 2015. While this latest unrest has had a minimal impact on daily life in Lesotho, it demands that visitors pay close attention to new developments. Lesotho’s growing economy principally exports textiles, electricity, diamonds, and water. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Lesotho for additional information on U.S.-Lesotho relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
U.S. citizens entering Lesotho must present a valid passport. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens visiting for 180 days or fewer. Vaccination for yellow fever is a common requirement throughout the region, and travelers should carry their international vaccination cards with them. For more information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho, 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 797-5533.
Attention new South Africa Regulations: Travelers who intend to visit or transfer through South Africa should pay careful attention to new and additional travel requirements for at least two blank (unstamped) visa pages and carrying unabridged birth certificates for all children under 18. Please see Country Specific Information for South Africa for additional information.
While U.S. citizens normally do not need a visa for South Africa if they plan to stay less than 90 days, South African visa requirements are different for individuals who are residents of Lesotho. It is common for foreigners residing in Lesotho to receive seven-day visas when crossing into South Africa by road. Travelers who overstay in South Africa may be declared “undesirable” by the immigration authorities and barred from entering South Africa. Travelers planning to visit South Africa for a longer period should check with the High Commission of South Africa in Maseru on how to obtain a visa for a longer stay.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Lesotho.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations. Large gatherings can potentially become violent at any time.
To stay connected:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Lesotho by visiting the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Lesotho has a high crime rate, and foreigners must remain vigilant at all times. Foreigners are frequently targeted and robbed, and have occasionally been car-jacked and killed. A number of U.S. citizens have reported incidents – including sexual assault, armed and unarmed confrontation, and home invasion – occurring in broad daylight. There are no indications that U.S. citizens are targeted due to their nationality.
Crime can occur anywhere in Lesotho, but is most prevalent in urban areas. Incidents of crime have occurred in popular restaurants, poorly lit or unlit roads, and locations foreigners are known to frequent. Victims have included tourists, volunteer workers, and employees of non-governmental organizations.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid walking at night. Extra caution should be exercised while walking through downtown Maseru, even in daylight hours, as there have been numerous incidents in the middle of the day. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise caution, be particularly alert to their surroundings, and to avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering. Traveling alone or at night is particularly dangerous, due to limited street lighting and undeveloped road conditions. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is responsible for policing duties. Due to limited resources, LMPS and ambulance response times can vary widely. U.S. citizens should report crime to the police and to the consular section of the U.S. Embassy.
There is a serious problem with theft from baggage at O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), a required transit point for air travel to Lesotho. Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, use an airport plastic wrapping service, and avoid placing any items of value in checked luggage. Make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur. The claims processing procedure can be time-consuming.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them in Lesotho, you are also breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Lesotho does not have a local equivalent to 911. In the event of an emergency, you can call (266) 2231 2934 or (266) 2232 2099. These numbers should be answered by police 24/7, but have been known to be out of service. You can contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy Maseru using the information below:
Phone: (266) 2231-2666 Ext: 4124
Emergency After-Hours Duty Phone: (266) 5885-4035
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Lesotho, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from those in the United States. Persons violating Lesotho law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lesotho are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. In Lesotho, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain government buildings. In Lesotho, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. If you break local laws in Lesotho, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted in the United States for engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country regardless of the legality of these activities under that country’s laws. Counterfeit and pirated goods are illegal in the United States and if you purchase them in Lesotho, you are breaking local law as well.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in that country, others may not. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Visitors to the interior of Lesotho should bring clothing and equipment suitable for extreme cold weather during the winter months of June through August. Weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly in the mountains, and snow may close mountain passes. Temperatures can drop below freezing even in the lowlands.
Lesotho has one of the highest rates of lightning strikes per square mile in the world, and lightning-related deaths are not uncommon. If you find yourself in a storm, find shelter in a building or car.
We are not aware of any special currency or customs circumstances for Lesotho.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: Consensual same-sex sexual relations between men are criminalized in Lesotho, although the U.S. Embassy is not aware of any recent arrests or prosecutions. There is no explicit prohibition of consensual same-sex sexual relations between women. For more detailed information about LGBT rights in Lesotho you may review the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Lesotho, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different compared to the United States. The Buildings Control Act of 1995 requires that all buildings be made accessible, but enforcement thus far has been negligible. There are no mandatory standards of accessibility for sidewalks, road crossings, public transportation, and parking areas. There are no free or reduced fares for transport, and very few accessible places of lodging, medical facilities, restaurants, cafes, or bars.
Medical facilities in Lesotho are limited and there is no reliable ambulance service. Specialist care is available in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 90 miles west of Maseru. U.S. Embassy Maseru maintains a list of physicians and other health care professionals, but the embassy does not guarantee service or provide recommendations.
Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world with approximately one-quarter of the adult population of Lesotho infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Travelers are advised to exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if exposed to blood products through injuries or rendering assistance to accident victims.
Many medicines are unavailable at facilities in Lesotho; travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of necessary medicines and/or prescription drugs, along with copies of their prescriptions
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Lesotho. Several hundred cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) have been identified in Lesotho. Lesotho has ability to test for MDR-TB using modern diagnostics. Individuals who plan to reside in or visit Lesotho for extended periods are advised to obtain a tuberculosis skin test (PPD test) prior to arrival and again upon departure from Lesotho. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Lesotho, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic moves on the left, with right-hand drive vehicles. Never assume right-of-way, as aggressive and unpredictable local driving habits result in frequent collisions. Lesotho has a high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries. Driving after dark is dangerous due to the absence of street lighting, livestock on the roads, and the prevalence of crime—including incidents of carjacking.
Travel is best done by private car. Rental cars are available in Maseru, and cars rented in neighboring South Africa may be brought into Lesotho with the written permission of 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. Some private taxi services are available in the capital, but roving mini-bus taxis should be avoided. There is no passenger train service in Lesotho.
Although the number of paved roads is gradually increasing, the majority of Lesotho’s 5,000 miles of roads remain unpaved. A few main rural highways are comparable to U.S. two-lane rural roads, but lane markings, signs, shoulders and guardrails do not meet U.S. standards. Lesotho's mountainous terrain makes driving on secondary roads hazardous. Unpaved roads in the interior—often narrow, winding, 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. Four-wheel-drive is also a requirement for entering or departing Lesotho through the Sani Pass on the eastern border. The authority for road safety issues rests with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service; there are no auto clubs or reliable ambulance services. Drivers should contact the police in case of road emergencies.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lesotho, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Lesotho’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page