Lesotho

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Introduction to Lesotho

Although shunted to and from British and Boer control for almost 200 years, Lesotho's path to self-rule was comparatively smooth. Landlocked by South Africa, but distanced from it by huge mountain ranges, Lesotho is an often-surprising combination of rapidly-developing modernity and ancient culture.

It has managed largely to avoid many of the recent wars, racist policies and political instability that has plagued most of the African continent. Most travellers come to Lesotho as a side-trip following time spent in South Africa, and find it a real relief to escape post-apartheid tensions.

Although, like most of Africa, Lesotho is a struggling Third World nation, it has built for itself a reputation for dependable tourism. Public transport and organised tours and treks are quite reliable, and the locals are always willing to help. Although there are still internal political manoeuvrings, the instability looks unlikely to have any adverse or violent effects in the future.

Full country name: Kingdom of Lesotho

Area: 30,355 sq km

Population: 2.1 million

Capital City: Maseru

People: Basotho (99.7%), European

Language: Sotho, Southern, English

Religion: Christian (80%), co-existing with traditional beliefs

Government: constitutional monarchy

GDP: US$3.7 billion

GDP per capita: US$2,240

Annual Growth: 10%

Inflation: 8%

Major Industries: Food, beverages, textiles, handicrafts, construction, tourism

Major Trading Partners: South Africa, North America, Asia

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Citizens of most Western countries, the USA and most Commonwealth countries are granted an entry permit (free) at the border. The standard stay permitted is two weeks, although if you ask for longer you might get it.

Health risks: HIV/AIDS (HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) develops into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is a fatal disease. Any exposure to blood, blood products or body fluids may put the individual at risk. The disease is often transmitted through sexual contact or dirty needles - body piercing, acupuncture, tattooing and vaccinations can be potentially as dangerous as intravenous drug use. HIV and AIDS can also be spread via infected blood transfusions, but blood supplies in most reputable hospitals are now screened, so the risk from transfusions is low. If you do need an injection, ask to see the syringe unwrapped in front of you, or take a needle and syringe pack with you. Fear of HIV infection should not preclude treatment for any serious medical conditions. Most countries have organizations and services for HIV-positive folks and people with AIDS. For a list of organizations divided by country, plus descriptions of their services, see www.aidsmap.com)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +2

Dialling Code: 266

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Being predominantly Christian, Lesotho's national celebrations and holidays occur during the two main feasts of Easter and Christmas, as well as on Ascension Day in May. There are also public holidays to celebrate the great leader Moshoeshoe (11 March), the King's Birthday (17 July) and, of course, National Independence Day (4 October).

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Best time to Visit

Weather is probably the main consideration for travellers deciding the best time to go, and if you don't mind getting a little wet, it doesn't much matter. Nearly all of Lesotho's rain falls in the summer, between October and April. It's beautiful and warm when the sun comes out, but mountain areas can be foggy and freezing.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Maloti

Meals

Budget: US$0.60-2

Mid-range: US$2-4

High: US$4-6

Deluxe: US$6+

Lodging

Budget: US$2.50-10

Mid-range: US$10-35

High: US$35-70

Deluxe: US$70+

Compared with South Africa, Lesotho is a fairly inexpensive place to travel. The cheapest rooms are nothing spectacular, but for a few dollars more, you can sleep in private-bathroomed, air-conditioned comfort. Meals also start off very very cheap and progress up to just plain cheap. If you're in the capital, Maseru, staying and eating at the low end of the market and walking everywhere, you could scrape by on about US$10 a day. The slow but far-reaching bus network will cost between US$0.50 and $4 per trip. Car hire (available in Maseru but cheaper in South Africa) is around US$40 a day for a small car. If you're travelling around in a hire-car, staying at up-market hotels and eating steak, you could go through US$140 a day at a stretch.

The currency, called the loti (plural: maloti), is at a fixed value against the South African rand, and rands are accepted everywhere. If you're coming from South Africa, there'll be no need to change your money. When cashing travellers cheques, you can request rand, which saves having to convert unused loti later. Credit cards are accepted in the capital, but travellers cheques and cash are required for many purchases.

Tipping is mandatory in South Africa, and the practice is fairly common in Lesotho as a result. About 10% is the norm. When added to the GST of 10%, your bill can end up a lot more than the quoted price.

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Attractions

Maseru

Lesotho's capital has been a quiet backwater for most of its history, expanding rapidly only since the 1970s to its current population of a little over 200,000 people. For a third-world city in the middle of a period of massive expansion, the city manages to maintain a laid-back feel.

Surrounding the capital are 'urban villages' where you can get a first-hand look at a more traditional lifestyle. In the town itself, there are several nightspots frequented by expats - mostly aid organisations workers - who might give you advice in return for a beer or three.

Teyateyaneng

Teyateyaneng, meaning 'Place of Quick Sands', has been developed by Lesotho authorities as a centre for traditional art and craft industries. Generally referred to locally as 'TY', it boasts some of the finest tapestries, tribal wool products and Letlotlo handcrafts gathered in one village.

Thaba-Bosiu

Thaba-Bosiu is the evocative mountain stronghold of Moshoeshoe the Great, who first occupied the place in 1824. Good views from here include those of the Qiloane pinnacle (inspiration for the Basotho hat), along with the remains of fortifications, Moshoeshoe's grave, and parts of the original settlement.

Thaba-Bosiu means Mountain at Night, perhaps a memory of when the sight was first occupied. Another legend suggests that Thaba-Bosiu is a hill in daylight, but transformed into a mountain after dark. There's an information centre at the base of Thaba-Bosiu; an official guide will take you to the summit.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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