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XYZ Consular Info: Lesotho
Lesotho Consular Information Sheet
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Washington, DC 20520
April 11, 2002
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Lesotho is an extremely mountainous developing country
completely surrounded by the country of South Africa. Facilities for
tourists are limited. The capital, Maseru, is at 5000 feet (1500M) above
sea level, and the mountains reach to 11,400 feet (3500M). A limited number
of restaurants are available in Maseru. Tap water is not reliably potable.
Visitors to the interior of Lesotho should bring clothing and equipment
suitable for cold weather. In the mountains, weather conditions can
deteriorate rapidly. In winter (June-October), snow often closes mountain
passes, and temperatures often drop below freezing during the night, even in
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required, but no visa is needed for
visits of 30 days or less. For more information concerning entry
requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho,
2511 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone
(202) 797-5533. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Embassy or
Consulate of Lesotho.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have
initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring
documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel
from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation
on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although the likelihood of renewed political violence
is low, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street
demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Considerable
progress has been made in resolving political differences since clashes and
riots several years ago, and new national elections are expected in the
first half of 2002.
CRIME INFORMATION: Lesotho's high unemployment, aggravated by the return of
large numbers of unemployed miners from South Africa, has contributed to an
increasing number of armed robberies, break-ins, and carjackings. This
occurs primarily in the capital city of Maseru, but it can occur elsewhere
as well. Victims have included foreign diplomats and members of foreign aid
missions. Although traveling alone or at night is particularly dangerous,
recent incidents have also occurred in the middle of the day.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately
to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens
may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets,
"A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa," for
ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. Both are available by mail
from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at
http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs
home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities are minimal. Many medicines are
unavailable, and travelers who take prescription medication should bring
their own medicine. There are no reliable ambulance services. Good medical
care is available in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 90 miles to the west of
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 if it will cover emergency
expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom
cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental
coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not
provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However,
many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will
cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services
such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider
that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to
providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may
cost well in excess of $50,000 (US). Uninsured travelers who require
medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with
your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be
made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later
for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage
for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of
Consular Affairs' brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling
Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or
autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health
precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention's international travelers hotline at
1-877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747), fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via
the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC Safety AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S.
citizens may encounter road conditions, which differ significantly from
those in the United States. The information below concerning Lesotho is
provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a
particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Very Poor
The authority for road safety issues rests with the Lesotho Mounted Police.
Never assume right-of-way because 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 is dangerous due to the
absence of street lighting, animals on the roads and the prevalence of
crime, including occasional car-jackings.
Travel is best accomplished 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
service exists in the capital, but roving mini-bus taxis should be avoided.
There is no train service in the kingdom.
Few of Lesotho's 5000 miles of road are paved. 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 interior makes driving on
secondary roads hazardous. Unpaved roads in the interior, although 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.
There are no auto club or reliable ambulance services. Drivers should
contact the police in emergencies.
For specific information concerning Lesotho driving permits, vehicle
inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please consult the Lesotho
government official web site via the Internet at
For additional general information about road safety, including links to
foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of
Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by
local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service
between the United States and Lesotho, the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lesotho's civil aviation authority for
compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of
Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the
FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. 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 the DOD
at tel. 618-229-4801.
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 law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Lesotho are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children
and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet
site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone
REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Lesotho
are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and
obtain updated information on travel and security within Lesotho. The U.S.
Embassy is located at 254 Kingsway, Maseru West; the mailing address is P.O.
Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho. The telephone number is 266-312-666.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated December 11, 2000, to
update sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Insurance, and
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.