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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Swaziland

Swaziland: Kingdom of Swaziland
Capital: Mbabane; note - Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital
Population: 1,123,605
Currency: lilangeni (SZL)
Languages: English (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)
Religions: Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish and other 30%
Borders: Mozambique 105 km, South Africa 430 km

Swaziland is a small developing nation in southern Africa. Several well-developed facilities for tourism are available. The capital is Mbabane.

Civil unrest and disorder are rare. However, in recent years, differences between the government and various civic groups, including labor unions, have led to mass labor strikes which can disrupt services for days at a time. The most recent strike took place in March 2003 and lasted two days. U.S. citizens should maintain a low profile, avoid political rallies and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.

Petty street crime, primarily theft of money and personal property, occurs with some frequency. Travelers should be aware of their surroundings. In a typical mugging, a group of young males will surround and rob a victim. Purse-snatchers will often work in teams of two with one person acting as a diversion.

Do not display or carry unnecessary valuables in public. Cell phones are a target for thieves and should be kept in a purse or backpack. Money should only be converted at authorized currency exchanges and never with street vendors.

Armed carjackings have occasionally occurred in Manzini, but less frequently in Mbabane and the outlying areas of the country. Travelers should not try to fight off robbers. Car doors should remain locked at all times, and valuables should be placed in the trunk or under seats and out of view. When stopped at a stop sign, drivers should leave adequate maneuver room between their vehicle and the one in front.

Crime victims should immediately report the incident to the nearest police station. If there is an emergency, the police can be contacted by dialing �999'.

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 Swazi law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Swaziland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Medical facilities are limited throughout Swaziland. Although the Mbabane Clinic in the capital is small, it is well equipped and well staffed for minor procedures. For advanced care, Americans often choose to go to South Africa where better facilities and specialists exist. Most prescription drugs are available locally or can be imported from South Africa, but travelers are advised to bring sufficient quantities of their own required medication. While not necessary, a doctor's note describing the medication may be helpful if questioned by authorities.

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 Swaziland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Swaziland has a basic network of paved, two-lane routes, including a new divided super-highway between the two largest cities, Mbabane and Manzini, and a new highway connecting Mbabane with the closest border post with South Africa. However, the majority of the remaining roads are dirt, even in urban areas. Several other factors make driving in Swaziland hazardous. Cars travel on the left side of the road. Many drivers travel at high rates of speed, well above the generally posted limit of 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. Except on stretches of highway, lighting is poor. Poor visibility is exacerbated by frequent fog and severe storms, especially in the Highveld where Mbabane is located. Free-range cattle and people attempting to hitch rides along the roadways pose further hazards, especially at night.

Take extra care while driving at night, as rural and suburban areas are poorly lit and pose additional safety hazards as pedestrians and animals cross the road. Many vehicles are poorly maintained and lack headlights.

For additional information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at For specific information concerning Swazi driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Swaziland.

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Swaziland, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Swaziland 's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

February 12, 2004

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