Facts and figures
Population –1 942 008 (July 2014 estimate, CIA
People – Basotho, singular Mosotho
Official Languages – English and Sesotho
Religion – Christian; other traditional beliefs
Land Area – 30 355 square kilometres
Highest point – Thabana Ntlenyana: 3 482 metres
Lowest point – Junction of the Senqu (Orange) and Makhaleng rivers: 1 388 metres
Time zone – GMT plus two hours
Weights & Measures – Metric system
Electricity Supply – 220V alternating current
Dialling Code – International code + 266
Summers (November to January) in Lesotho are hot, with temperatures reaching 27°C (90°F) during the day although the nights are much cooler. There is a likelihood of cloudy and rainy conditions and localised thunderstorms between October and March, which is the rainy season. Winter (May to August) brings snow to the Maloti Mountains and occasionally to the lowlands, with crisp, clear days. Temperatures often drop below freezing – as low as -16°C (3°F) on a winter’s night.
Annual rainfall ranges from 500mm per year in the Senqu Valley to about 1 000mm annually in the mountainous northern and eastern border regions. As the weather is unpredictable, and can change rapidly during the day at any time of year, it is advisable for travellers to take precautionary measures, especially when hiking.
Light clothing such as T-shirts and shorts are adequate during the summer, but raincoats are a necessity. Warmer clothing, such as long trousers and jacket/jerseys, is necessary in Spring and Autumn, particularly in the evenings. During winter – or at any time in the mountains – warm clothing, including an anorak, is essential.
Lesotho’s high altitude means that it is free from malaria. A valid certificate is needed for tourists coming from countries where yellow fever and cholera are endemic. While there are good facilities at Maseru’s Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital, serious medical conditions may require treatment at a hospital in neighbouring South Africa.
Lesotho is a safe destination, and the people are friendly and welcoming. While crime does exist in some of the larger towns, where the usual precautions should be taken, it is not a widespread problem.
Lesotho’s standard unit of currency is the loti (plural maloti, symbol M), which is equivalent to the South African rand (which is also legal tender in Lesotho) and is divided into 100 lisente (singular sente, symbol ‘s’). Notes comprise M200, M100, M50, M20 and M10; coins comprise M5, M2, 50s, 20s, 10s and 5s. Travellers’ cheques and most credit cards may be used in Lesotho. There are no restrictions on the amount of money tourists may bring into the country.
Lesotho’s three commercial banks comprise Standard Lesotho Bank, Nedbank and First National Bank, which all have ATMs and offer exchange services in their main Maseru branches. Standard and First National banks have branches and ATMs in all of Lesotho’s ten districts, with Nedbank ATMs represented in six districts.
Hours of business
Normal banking hours are Mondays to Fridays 08:30 - 15:30, Saturdays 08:30 - 12:00. Most shops are open Mondays to Fridays 08:00 - 18:00, Saturdays and Sundays 09:00 - 13:00. Government offices are open Mondays to Fridays 08:00 - 12:45 and 14:00 - 16:30.
Embassies & consulates
Embassies and consulates situated in Maseru include: Canada (tel 22 315 365); China (tel 22 316 521); Denmark (tel 22 316 937); France (tel 22 325 722); Germany (tel 22 325 722); Guinea (tel 22 312 821); Ireland (tel 22 314 068); Libya (tel 22 320 148); Netherlands (tel 22 312 114); Pakistan (tel 22 312 261); South Africa (tel 22 315 758); United Kingdom (tel 22 313 929); USA (tel 22 312 666).
Visitors must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. Visas are required, except for citizens of countries which have visa abolition agreements with Lesotho and citizens of some Commonwealth countries. Please confirm with Lesotho’s embassies abroad.
All goods brought into Lesotho are subject to customs control and baggage may be subject to examination. The following items, amounting to no more than M500.00 in total, are allowed duty free per person: two litres of wine, one litre of spirits or other alcohol, 200 cigarettes, 250g of pipe tobacco, 20 cigars, 50ml perfume. Items exceeding these quantities are subject to 20 percent import duty. Visitors from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland are not permitted to bring liquor into Lesotho. Domestic pets, livestock, seeds, bulbs, plants and trees may not be imported without payment of customs duty and are subject to quarantine restrictions. Permits may be obtained from: The Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, PO Box 24, Maseru 100.
Most people who visit Lesotho enter the country from South Africa via one of the 15 border checkpoints:
Ficksburg Bridge 24 hours
Makhaleng Bridge 08:00-16:00
Maseru Bridge 24 hours
Monantsa Pass 08:00-16:00
Peka Bridge 08:00-16:00
Qacha’s Nek 06:00-22:00
Sani Pass 08:00-16:00
Sepapus Gate 08:00-16:00
Tele Bridge 06:00-22:00
Van Rooyen’s Gate 06:00-22:00
Cars travel on the left hand side of the road and the use of seat belts is compulsory. The speed limit on national highways is 100 km/hour, secondary roads 80 km/hour and in urban or built up areas 65 km/hour. Drivers’ licences issued in most countries are valid in Lesotho for a period of up to six months, provided they are printed in English or are accompanied by a certified translation. International driving permits are also recognised. While much of the road network consists of good, tarred roads, four-wheel-drive vehicles are needed in mountainous areas such as Mokhotlong. Many South African car rental firms have branches in Maseru.
Tarred roads connect the capital Maseru to various main centres in the southern African region.
Maseru to Durban (South Africa) – 600 km
Maseru to East London (South Africa) – 583 km
Maseru to Port Elizabeth (South Africa) – 738 km
Maseru to Cape Town (South Africa) – 1 165 km
Maseru to Johannesburg (South Africa) – 455 km
Maseru to Bloemfontein (South Africa) – 155 km
Maseru to Gaborone (Botswana) – 630 km
Maseru to Mbabane (Swaziland) – 635 km
Public holidays 2015
New Year’s Day - 01 January
Moshoeshoe’s Day - 11 March
Good Friday - 03 April
Easter Monday - 06 April
Workers’ Day - 01 May
Ascension Day - 14 May
Africa/Heroes’ Day - 25 May
King Letsie III’s Birthday - 17 July
Independence Day - 04 October
Christmas Day - 25 December
Boxing Day - 26 December
Useful words & phrases in Sesotho
Hello (singular) – Khotso (literally ‘peace’) or lumela
Hello (plural) – Khotsong or lumelang
Welcome (singular) – Kena ka kgotso (singular)
Welcome (plural) – Kenang ka kgotso (plural)
How are you? – U phela joang?
Excuse me – Ntshwarele
Thank you – Ke a leboha
Goodbye – Tsamaea hantle
Help! – Thusa!
No – Tjhee
Yes – Ee
Please – a kopo / ako.../...hle
What is the time? – Ke nako mang?
What is your name? – Lebitso la hao ke mang?
My name is – Lebitso la ka ke
How much is this? – Ke bokae?
Why? – Hobaneng?