Lesotho Travel Information

Photo Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after 23 years of military rule. Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho's only important natural resource is water. Its economy is based on subsistence agriculture, livestock, and remittances from miners employed in South Africa. The number of such mine workers has declined steadily over the past several years. In 1996 their remittances added about 33% to GDP compared with the addition of roughly 67% in 1990. A small manufacturing base depends largely on farm products which support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. Agricultural products are exported primarily to South Africa. Proceeds from membership in a common customs union with South Africa form the majority of government revenue. Although drought has decreased agricultural activity over the past few years, completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 now permits the sale of water to South Africa, generating royalties that will be an important source of income for Lesotho. The pace of parastatal privatization has increased in recent years. Civil disorder in September 1998 destroyed 80% of the commercial infrastructure in Maseru and two other major towns. Most firms were not covered by insurance, and the rebuilding of small and medium business has been a significant challenge in terms of both economic growth and employment levels. Output dropped 10% in 1998 and recovered slowly in 1999.
Lesotho's economy is based on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, and the earnings of laborers employed in South Africa. Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The majority of households subsist on farming or migrant labor, primarily miners in South Africa for 3 to 9 months. The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earn some income through crop cultivation or animal husbandry with nearly two-thirds of the country's income coming from the agricultural sector.
Lesotho has received economic aid from a variety of sources, including the United States, the World Bank, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Germany.
Approximately 25 of Lesotho's 5000 miles of roads are paved in some fashion. Lane markings, signs, shoulders, and guardrails are not uniform, and unfenced livestock pose a particular danger. Lesotho's mountainous interior makes driving on secondary roads hazardous. Unpaved roads in the interior, although often narrow, twisting 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. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required for entering Lesotho through the Sani Pass on the eastern border.
There are no auto club or reliable ambulance services. Drivers should contact the police in emergencies.
Travelers should not stop by the side of the road, even at scenic overlooks, especially on the northern access road to Katse Dam and in the Highlands.

Important: Travel to Lesotho may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Lesotho visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Kingdom of Lesotho
Capital city: Maseru
Area: 30,355 sq km
Population: 1,930,493
Ethnic groups: Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,
Languages: Sesotho
Religions: Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Government: parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Chief of State: King LETSIE III
Head of Government: Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae THABANE
GDP: 3.723 billion
GDP per captia: 1,900
Annual growth rate: 4.9%
Inflation: 5%
Agriculture: corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley
Major industries: food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts, construction, tourism
Natural resources: water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone
Location: Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa
Trade Partners - exports: US 58.4%, Belgium 34%, Canada 3.7%
Trade Partners - imports: South Korea 26.9%, China 23.1%, Taiwan 22.1%, Hong Kong 6.6%, US 4.4%