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Travel Security Advice for Lesotho

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lesotho_mapLesotho_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected lower house of parliament.  The upper house, the Senate, is comprised of appointed hereditary chiefs and politicians.  A Prime Minister is the head of the government.  Geographically, Lesotho is an extremely mountainous developing nation completely surrounded by the country of South Africa.  The capital, Maseru, is at 5,000 feet (1,500M) above sea level, and the mountains reach to 11,400 feet (3,500M).  Facilities for tourism are limited.  A limited number of restaurants are available in Maseru.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Lesotho for additional information.

REGISTRATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Lesotho are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page so that they may obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport is required, but no visa is needed for U.S. citizens visiting for 180 days or less.  Vaccination for yellow fever is a common requirement 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, telephone (202) 797-5533.  Visit the Embassy of Lesotho’s website for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Lesotho.  Lesotho border guards have the discretion to deny entry to visitors with HIV/AIDS.  Please verify this information with the Embassy of Lesotho before you travel.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and quickly escalate into violence.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs' website

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

U.S. citizens should remain vigilant about their surroundings at all times.  Lesotho has a high rate of crime.  Foreigners are frequently targeted, robbed, car-jacked and sometimes killed.  While American citizens are reporting an increased number of incidents, including both armed and unarmed confrontations, car-jackings, and home invasions, there are no indications that U.S. citizens are being targeted or that there has been an increase in the overall crime rate.  Police have reported the presence of a number of armed gangs and unauthorized police checkpoints.  Lesotho’s high unemployment rate, aggravated by the return of large numbers of unemployed miners from South Africa, as well as the ongoing effects of social upheaval due to high HIV/AIDS rates of infection, continue to contribute to an increasing number of reported crimes.  These types of crimes occur primarily in the capital city of Maseru, but can occur elsewhere in Lesotho.  Crime scenes have included popular restaurants, pedestrian overpasses, poorly lit or unlit roads, and other locations foreigners are known to frequent.  Victims have included foreign diplomats, volunteer workers, employees of non-governmental organizations, and nationals of Lesotho.

U.S. citizens are advised to avoid large groups and demonstrations, walking or driving during early morning hours and if possible at night, and casual walking in the capital city of Maseru even during daylight.  Personal crime is more likely to occur at night and during the earlier morning hours, but numerous incidents have recently occurred in the middle of the day.  Traveling alone or at night can be 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, the LMPS response time can vary widely.  U.S. citizens should report crime to the police and to the Embassy’s consular section.  

There is a serious baggage pilferage problem at Johannesburg International Airport, also known as Oliver Tambo International Airport, in South Africa.  Persons traveling by air to Lesotho must travel via Johannesburg.  The pilferage problem particularly affects travelers changing airlines and those flying on smaller airlines.  Passengers flying on major international carriers may not be affected to the same degree.  Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage, use an airport plastic-wrapping service, and avoid placing currency, electronics, jewelry, cameras or other valuables in checked luggage.  Make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur.  The claims process can be time-consuming. 

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

 If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Lesotho does not have a local equivalent to 911.  In the event of an emergency, call (266)5888-1010 to speak to the police at any time. 

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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 laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lesotho are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Tap water is not reliably potable.  Visitors to the interior of Lesotho should bring clothing and equipment suitable for cold weather during the winter months (June - October).  In the mountains, weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly.  In winter, snow often closes mountain passes and temperatures often drop below freezing during the night, even in the lowlands. 

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical facilities in Lesotho are limited.  Good medical service is available in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 90 miles west of Maseru.  There is no reliable ambulance service in Lesotho.  The Embassy maintains a list of physicians and other health care professionals who may see U.S. citizen patients.  The Embassy does not guarantee their services or provide recommendations.

Many medicines are unavailable at facilities in Lesotho; travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of needed medicines and/or prescription drugs, along with copies of prescriptions.  Lesotho has a very high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, currently estimated at over thirty percent of the adult population.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

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 Lesotho 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 undisciplined local driving habits result in frequent collisions.  Lesotho has a high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries given its small size.  The previous king died in a road accident in 1996.  Driving after dark can be dangerous due to the absence of street lighting, livestock on the roads, and the prevalence of crime, including carjacking incidents. 

It is best to travel 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.  Some private taxi services exist in the capital, but roving mini-bus taxis should be avoided.  There is no passenger train service in the country.

Although the number of paved roads is gradually increasing, the majority of Lesotho’s 5,000 miles of roads are unpaved.  A few main rural highways are comparable 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 terrain makes driving on secondary roads hazardous.  Unpaved roads in the interior, often narrow, twisty 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 required for entering 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 emergencies.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

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 Lesotho’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA safety assessment page.

The only scheduled air service is between Maseru and Johannesburg on a South African Airways subsidiary. There is no scheduled service among towns within Lesotho.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information, see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

EMBASSY LOCATION:

 Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

U.S. Embassy Maseru, Lesotho


254 Kingsway
Maseru West, Lesotho

Mailing address: PO Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
Telephone: 266-2231-2666.

Emergency after-hours telephone: (266) 5888-4035.


This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Lesotho dated December 29, 2008, to update sections on Registration, Safety and Security, and Crime. 


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has information regarding Lesotho HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).....

Regards

The SW Team......

 

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