Travel Advice and Tips for Eswatini

1. What is the best time of year to visit Eswatini?

The best time of year to visit Eswatini is during the dry season, which typically falls between the months of May and October. During this time, the weather is more mild and pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as safaris, hiking, and exploring the country’s national parks and reserves. Additionally, wildlife viewing is at its best during the dry season as animals gather around water sources, making it easier to spot them. It is important to note that the peak tourist season in Eswatini is during the months of July and August, so if you prefer fewer crowds, consider visiting in the shoulder months of May, June, September, or October.

1. During the dry season, temperatures are more comfortable, with clear skies and minimal rainfall, making it a great time to explore the diverse landscapes and attractions of Eswatini.
2. The dry season coincides with the winter months in the Southern Hemisphere, so be sure to pack layers for cooler mornings and evenings.

2. What are the must-visit attractions in Eswatini?

1. One of the must-visit attractions in Eswatini is the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, the country’s oldest protected area. Here, visitors can enjoy game drives, walking safaris, and birdwatching, all while surrounded by stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife.

2. Another highlight is the Mantenga Cultural Village, where visitors can immerse themselves in Swazi culture through traditional dance performances, guided tours of the village, and artisanal markets selling local crafts.

3. The Ezulwini Valley is also a popular destination, known for its beautiful scenery, luxury resorts, and cultural sites like the Swazi Cultural Village and the National Museum. Visitors can explore craft markets, participate in traditional ceremonies, and learn about the country’s history and traditions.

4. For nature lovers, the Malolotja Nature Reserve offers breathtaking scenery, including waterfalls, mountain ranges, and a variety of flora and fauna. Hiking trails, birdwatching opportunities, and camping sites make it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

5. Lastly, visitors should not miss the chance to visit the majestic Sibebe Rock, one of the largest exposed granite domes in the world. Hiking to the top offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and is a memorable experience for adventure seekers.

3. Are there any cultural customs or etiquette I should be aware of when visiting Eswatini?

When visiting Eswatini, there are some cultural customs and etiquette that visitors should be aware of to show respect for the local culture. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

1. Greetings: It is customary to greet people with a handshake and a smile, especially when meeting someone for the first time. In more formal settings, a slight bow or nod of the head may be appropriate.

2. Respecting elders: In Eswatini, respect for elders is highly valued. When interacting with older individuals, it is important to show deference and use polite language.

3. Dress code: It is advisable to dress modestly, especially when visiting rural areas or attending traditional ceremonies. Wearing revealing clothing may be seen as disrespectful.

4. Gift-giving: If invited to someone’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift, such as fruit or sweets, as a token of appreciation.

5. Eating customs: When sharing a meal, it is customary to wait for the host to begin eating before you start. It is also polite to finish everything on your plate as leaving food may be considered wasteful.

By being mindful of these cultural customs and etiquette, you can show respect for the traditions and values of the Swazi people during your visit to Eswatini.

4. What is the local currency in Eswatini and where is the best place to exchange money?

The local currency in Eswatini is the Swazi Lilangeni (SZL), which is divided into 100 cents. When visiting Eswatini, it is recommended to exchange money at official exchange bureaus, banks, or authorized currency exchange locations. Here are some of the best places to exchange money in Eswatini:

1. Banks: Most banks in Eswatini offer currency exchange services for tourists. Standard Bank, Nedbank, and SwaziBank are some of the major banks where you can exchange your currency for Swazi Lilangeni.

2. Currency Exchange Bureaus: There are also authorized currency exchange bureaus in popular tourist areas such as Mbabane and Manzini. These bureaus usually offer competitive exchange rates and are convenient for travelers.

3. Hotels and Resorts: Some larger hotels and resorts in Eswatini may also provide currency exchange services for their guests. However, be aware that the rates at these establishments may not be as favorable as at banks or dedicated exchange bureaus.

It is advisable to exchange a small amount of money initially to cover immediate expenses such as transportation or meals, and then exchange larger amounts as needed. Additionally, it’s recommended to check the current exchange rates and any fees or commissions charged by the exchange service provider before proceeding with the transaction.

5. Is it safe to travel to Eswatini as a solo female traveler?

Traveling to Eswatini as a solo female traveler is generally safe, but it is essential to take necessary precautions to ensure a smooth and worry-free trip. Here are some tips to enhance your safety and security while visiting Eswatini:

1. Research: Before your trip, familiarize yourself with the local customs, traditions, and laws of Eswatini to be respectful of the culture and avoid any misunderstandings.

2. Accommodation: Choose reputable accommodations in safe neighborhoods. Opt for guesthouses, lodges, or hotels with good reviews and security measures in place.

3. Transportation: Use licensed transportation services and reliable providers when moving around the country. Avoid traveling alone at night and consider using reputable taxi services or hiring a driver for added safety.

4. Dress Code: Respect the local dress code, which tends to be conservative in Eswatini. Dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention and respect the cultural norms.

5. Communication: Stay in touch with friends or family members back home and share your itinerary with them. Keep important contact information, including local emergency numbers and embassy details, readily available.

By being vigilant, respectful of the local culture, and proactive in ensuring your safety, you can have a rewarding and enjoyable experience as a solo female traveler in Eswatini.

6. What are some traditional dishes or foods that I should try in Eswatini?

When visiting Eswatini, there are several traditional dishes and foods that you should definitely try to get a taste of the local cuisine:

1. Emasi: This is a traditional Swazi dish made from curdled soured milk. It has a tangy taste and is often eaten with maize porridge or mixed with vegetables.

2. Uphuthu: A type of maize meal that is similar to a stiff porridge or polenta. It is a staple food in Eswatini and is often served with stews or grilled meats.

3. Sishwala: Also known as ‘bogobe’ in other Southern African countries, sishwala is a thick porridge made from sorghum or millet. It is typically eaten with vegetables, meat, or gravy.

4. Braaivleis: Barbecued meat is a popular dish in Eswatini, often accompanied by pap (maize meal) and chakalaka (a spicy relish).

5. Tinkhobe: Pumpkin porridge is a sweet dish made from pumpkin, sugar, and milk. It is a traditional dessert in Eswatini and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

6. Beshu: This is a traditional beer made from fermented sorghum or maize. It is a popular drink at social gatherings and celebrations in Eswatini.

Trying these traditional dishes will not only give you a taste of authentic Swazi cuisine but also provide you with a cultural experience during your visit to Eswatini.

7. How should I dress appropriately when visiting Eswatini?

When visiting Eswatini, it is important to dress modestly and respectfully, taking into consideration the conservative cultural norms of the country. Here are some tips on dressing appropriately for your visit to Eswatini:

1. Conservative Clothing: Both men and women should opt for modest clothing that covers shoulders, cleavage, and knees. Avoid wearing revealing or tight-fitting clothing to show respect for the local customs.

2. Traditional Attire: Embracing and wearing traditional Swazi attire can be a great way to show appreciation for the local culture. You can purchase or rent traditional garments such as the Emahiya (women’s wrap) or the Sishweshwe fabric (men’s attire) to wear on special occasions or cultural events.

3. Comfortable Clothing: Eswatini has a moderate climate, so lightweight and breathable fabrics like cotton are ideal for staying comfortable during your visit. Be sure to pack layers as temperatures can vary throughout the day.

4. Footwear: Opt for comfortable and practical footwear, especially if you plan on exploring the country’s natural attractions or participating in outdoor activities. Closed-toe shoes are recommended for hiking or walking in rough terrain.

5. Formal Occasions: If attending ceremonies or formal events, it is advisable to dress smartly. Men can wear suits or collared shirts with trousers, while women can opt for elegant dresses or skirts.

6. Accessories: Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or accessories that may attract unwanted attention. Simple and understated accessories are best for blending in with the local culture.

7. Respect Local Customs: Lastly, always remember to respect the cultural norms and traditions of Eswatini when choosing your attire. By dressing modestly and appropriately, you show consideration for the local customs and values of this beautiful country.

8. Are there any health precautions or vaccinations recommended for travelers to Eswatini?

Yes, there are several health precautions and vaccinations recommended for travelers to Eswatini:

1. Routine vaccinations: Ensure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and influenza.

2. Hepatitis A and Typhoid: These diseases can be contracted through contaminated food and water, so it is recommended to get vaccinated before traveling to Eswatini.

3. Malaria: Malaria is prevalent in Eswatini, especially during the rainy season. It is advised to take anti-malarial medication and use insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

4. Yellow Fever: Yellow fever vaccination is required for travelers coming from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. Make sure to check the yellow fever vaccination requirements before entering Eswatini.

5. Rabies: Rabies can be found in some animals in Eswatini, so it is advisable to consider getting vaccinated if you plan to be in close contact with animals or in rural areas.

6. Traveler’s Diarrhea: To prevent traveler’s diarrhea, avoid consuming tap water, ice cubes, and uncooked foods. Stick to bottled or boiled water and eat food that has been cooked and served hot.

It is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider or travel medicine specialist at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to Eswatini to discuss any necessary vaccinations and health precautions based on your individual health status and travel itinerary.

9. What are the best modes of transportation to get around Eswatini?

The best modes of transportation to get around Eswatini include:

1. Rental Car: Renting a car is one of the most convenient ways to explore Eswatini. It gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and visit off-the-beaten-path locations. The road network in Eswatini is generally in good condition, making it suitable for driving.

2. Public Transport: The most common form of public transportation in Eswatini is shared minivans known as “kombis. These are affordable and widely available, making them a good option for budget-conscious travelers. However, they can be crowded and not always the most comfortable option.

3. Taxis: Taxis are also available in major cities like Mbabane and Manzini. They are more expensive than kombis but offer a more comfortable and convenient travel experience. It is advisable to negotiate the fare before starting your journey.

4. Bicycle: For the more adventurous traveler, cycling can be a unique way to explore Eswatini. There are cycling tours available that allow you to see the country from a different perspective. Just be mindful of the hilly terrain in some areas.

Overall, the best mode of transportation in Eswatini ultimately depends on your preferences, budget, and itinerary. It is recommended to plan your transportation in advance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience in this beautiful African country.

10. Are there any specific souvenirs or handicrafts that are unique to Eswatini?

Yes, there are several unique souvenirs and handicrafts that are specific to Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland. Some popular items that visitors often purchase as souvenirs include:

1. Sisal Baskets: Eswatini is known for its beautifully woven sisal baskets that come in a variety of colors and patterns. These baskets are traditionally made by local artisans and are not only functional but also serve as colorful home decor pieces.

2. Wooden Carvings: Eswatini has a rich tradition of wood carving, with artisans creating intricate sculptures and figurines out of indigenous woods such as jacaranda and ebony. Visitors can find items like animal figurines, masks, and traditional stools that make for unique souvenirs.

3. Batik Cloth: Batik is a traditional art form in Eswatini where cloth is decorated using wax and dye techniques. Visitors can find beautiful batik cloths in vibrant colors and unique designs, which can be used as wall hangings or clothing.

4. Traditional Jewelry: Eswatini is known for its intricate beadwork and jewelry-making traditions. Visitors can purchase handmade beaded bracelets, necklaces, and earrings that showcase the craftsmanship and vibrant colors of the local culture.

5. Lidwala Fabric: Lidwala is a type of printed fabric that is specific to Eswatini. It features bright and bold patterns inspired by traditional Swazi designs and is often used to make clothing, accessories, and home decor items.

These souvenirs not only allow visitors to take a piece of Eswatini’s culture and heritage home with them but also support local artisans and craftsmen in the country.

11. What are some common phrases in siSwati that may be helpful to know while traveling in Eswatini?

When traveling in Eswatini, it can be helpful to know some common phrases in siSwati to enhance your experience and communication with locals. Here are some key phrases that may come in handy during your visit:

1. Sawubona” – This is a common greeting in siSwati, meaning “hello. It is a respectful way to acknowledge someone when you meet them.
2. Yebo” – “Yes” in siSwati. You can use this word to affirm or agree with something.
3. Ngiyabonga” – “Thank you. It is essential to express gratitude when receiving help or services.
4. Hamba kahle” – “Go well” or “Goodbye. This phrase is used when bidding farewell to someone.
5. Ngicela usizo” – “Please help me. Useful when seeking assistance or directions.
6. Unjani? – “How are you? This question shows interest in someone’s well-being.
7. Ngisalangha kutsi. – “I speak a little bit of. followed by the language you speak. Helpful when communicating your language skills.
8. Uvuga nnjani? – “What is your name? A polite way to inquire someone’s name.
9. Lahla emhlabeni” – “Stop. Useful in situations where you need to halt someone or something.
10. Ndicela i-menu” – “Can I have the menu? Useful when dining out and need to see the options available.

By familiarizing yourself with these basic siSwati phrases, you can show respect for the local culture and make your interactions more meaningful during your travels in Eswatini.

12. What are some outdoor activities or nature reserves that are popular in Eswatini?

1. Hiking: Eswatini offers a range of hiking trails for all levels of fitness and experience. One of the most popular hiking destinations is the Malolotja Nature Reserve, which boasts stunning scenery, diverse wildlife, and challenging hiking routes. The Mantenga Nature Reserve is another great option for hikers, with trails that lead to waterfalls and panoramic viewpoints.

2. Wildlife Safaris: Eswatini is home to several game reserves where visitors can experience the country’s rich biodiversity up close. Mkhaya Game Reserve is a top choice for wildlife enthusiasts, with its population of black and white rhinos, elephants, and various antelope species. Hlane Royal National Park is another renowned reserve where visitors can spot lions, elephants, and rhinos among other animals.

3. Birdwatching: Eswatini is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 500 bird species recorded in the country. The Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular spot for birdwatching, offering the chance to see species such as the Narina trogon, purple-crested turaco, and numerous raptors. The Mbuluzi Game Reserve is another excellent location for birdwatching, with its diverse habitats attracting a wide array of bird species.

4. Canopy Tours: For those seeking an adrenaline-pumping outdoor activity, canopy tours in Eswatini are a must-try. The Malolotja Canopy Tour allows visitors to zip line through the treetops of the stunning Malolotja Nature Reserve, offering breathtaking views and a thrilling experience.

5. Cultural Experiences: While not strictly outdoor activities, cultural experiences in Eswatini often involve interactions with nature and the environment. Visitors can explore traditional Swazi villages, learn about local customs and traditions, and participate in cultural activities such as traditional dancing and crafts.

Overall, Eswatini offers a diverse range of outdoor activities and nature reserves that cater to a variety of interests, making it a fantastic destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike.

13. Is it necessary to tip in Eswatini and if so, what is the appropriate amount?

Tipping in Eswatini is not mandatory but is greatly appreciated for good service. If you choose to tip, it is customary to leave about 10% of the bill at restaurants, especially in tourist areas. For taxi drivers, rounding up the fare is common practice. Additionally, if you stay at a hotel or lodge, it is polite to tip the staff who assist you with your luggage. Always remember that tipping should be based on the quality of service you have received. If you are pleased with the service and want to show appreciation, a tip would be appropriate.

14. How can I respect and support local communities and sustainable tourism initiatives in Eswatini?

Respecting and supporting local communities and sustainable tourism initiatives while visiting Eswatini is crucial to ensure the well-being of the destination and its people. Here are some ways you can do so:

1. Respect the local culture and customs: Take the time to learn about the traditions, beliefs, and practices of the communities you visit in Eswatini. Show respect by dressing modestly, greeting locals appropriately, and asking for permission before taking photos.

2. Support local businesses: Opt to stay in locally-owned accommodations, eat at locally-owned restaurants, and purchase souvenirs from local artisans and markets. This helps to support the local economy and directly benefits the community.

3. Choose sustainable tour operators: Look for tour operators in Eswatini that prioritize sustainability, eco-friendliness, and responsible tourism practices. This ensures that your visit has a positive impact on the environment and local communities.

4. Minimize your environmental impact: Practice responsible tourism behaviors such as minimizing waste, conserving water and energy, and respecting wildlife and natural habitats. Be mindful of your carbon footprint and take steps to reduce it while traveling in Eswatini.

5. Get involved in community projects: Consider volunteering or participating in community-based tourism initiatives that directly benefit local residents. This could involve teaching at local schools, helping with conservation efforts, or supporting community development projects.

By following these tips, you can show respect for local communities and support sustainable tourism initiatives in Eswatini, ultimately contributing to the long-term preservation and well-being of this beautiful destination.

15. What are some safety tips for travelers in Eswatini?

Travelers in Eswatini can follow these safety tips to ensure a smooth and secure experience:

1. Respect Local Customs: Familiarize yourself with the local customs and cultural norms to avoid unintentionally offending locals.

2. Stay Informed: Keep abreast of current events and developments in the country to make informed decisions during your visit.

3. Secure Your Belongings: Be vigilant with your belongings, especially in crowded areas and tourist sites, to prevent theft.

4. Avoid Public Demonstrations: Stay away from large public gatherings or demonstrations as they can escalate quickly.

5. Health Precautions: Ensure you have necessary vaccinations before traveling and take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

6. Stay Hydrated: Eswatini can get hot, especially during the summer months, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

7. Use Licensed Transportation: Only use licensed taxis or reputable transportation services to ensure your safety during travel.

8. Emergency Contacts: Save emergency contact numbers and know the location of the nearest embassy or consulate in case of emergencies.

9. Travel Insurance: Consider getting travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and theft.

10. Avoid Flashy Displays of Wealth: Keep a low profile and avoid displaying expensive jewelry or electronics to deter potential thieves.

Remember, these tips are general guidelines, and it’s always a good idea to research further and consult with local authorities for specific safety advice related to your travel dates and destinations within Eswatini.

16. Are there any specific cultural events or festivals that are worth experiencing in Eswatini?

Yes, there are several cultural events and festivals in Eswatini that are definitely worth experiencing:

1. Umhlanga Reed Dance: This annual traditional ceremony takes place in late August or early September where thousands of unmarried Swazi girls participate in a colorful and vibrant dance for the Queen Mother. The event showcases the country’s rich cultural heritage and is a spectacle not to be missed.

2. Incwala Ceremony: Also known as the Kingship Ceremony, this is Eswatini’s most sacred and traditional event held during the summer solstice. It involves rituals and ceremonies to renew the kingship and strengthen the unity of the Swazi people. Visitors can witness the royal processions and cultural performances during this important ceremony.

3. Marula Festival: This festival celebrates the harvest of the marula fruit, which is used to make traditional beer and other products. It features cultural performances, traditional music, dancing, and of course, plenty of marula-based treats. It is a great opportunity to engage with local traditions and taste some authentic Swazi cuisine.

Attending these cultural events and festivals in Eswatini provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s rich cultural heritage, interact with local communities, and witness traditional practices firsthand.

17. What are the visa requirements for visiting Eswatini?

1. Visa requirements for visiting Eswatini depend on the nationality of the traveler. Citizens of many countries are exempt from obtaining a visa for short stays, typically ranging from 14 to 90 days. It is important to check the specific visa requirements based on your nationality before traveling to Eswatini.

2. For those who do require a visa, it is typically necessary to apply for a tourist visa in advance at the nearest Eswatini embassy or consulate. The visa application process usually involves submitting a completed application form, a valid passport with at least six months validity, proof of accommodation, return flight tickets, and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay in the country.

3. Travelers are advised to check for any updates or changes to visa requirements before their trip, as visa regulations can vary and are subject to change. It is essential to ensure that all necessary documentation and requirements are in order to avoid any issues upon arrival in Eswatini.

18. How can I communicate in case of an emergency in Eswatini?

In case of an emergency in Eswatini, it is crucial to have a means of communication readily available to seek assistance promptly. Here are some ways you can communicate in case of an emergency in Eswatini:

1. Dial Emergency Services: The general emergency number in Eswatini is 999. This number can be dialed for police, fire, or medical emergencies.

2. Contact Your Embassy: If you are a foreign national and you find yourself in an emergency situation, contact your embassy or consulate. They can provide assistance, guidance, and help you communicate with local authorities if needed.

3. Local Police Stations: Be aware of the contact information for local police stations in the area you are visiting. They can provide immediate assistance in case of emergencies such as theft, accidents, or other criminal activities.

4. Medical Facilities: Keep a list of local hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities handy in case of a medical emergency. You can directly contact them or ask for assistance from locals in reaching the nearest medical facility.

5. Travel Insurance: Ensure that you have travel insurance that covers emergency situations in Eswatini. Keep a copy of your insurance policy and contact information with you at all times.

By being prepared and knowing how to communicate in case of an emergency in Eswatini, you can ensure a prompt response and assistance when needed.

19. What are some recommended accommodations options in Eswatini for different budgets?

1. Budget Accommodation:
For travelers on a tight budget, Eswatini offers a range of affordable accommodation options such as backpacker hostels, guesthouses, and budget-friendly lodges. Places like Mantenga Lodge, Hawane Resort, and Sondzela Backpackers provide comfortable stays at wallet-friendly prices without compromising on basic amenities.

2. Mid-Range Accommodation:
Travelers looking for more comfort and amenities without breaking the bank can opt for mid-range accommodation options in Eswatini. Lodges like Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Forester’s Arms Hotel, and Mountain Inn offer cozy rooms, excellent service, and facilities like swimming pools, restaurants, and guided tours at reasonable rates.

3. Luxury Accommodation:
For those seeking a luxurious and indulgent experience, Eswatini has upscale lodges, resorts, and boutique hotels that cater to discerning travelers. Places like Royal Villas, Simunye Country Club, and Hotel Lugogo Sun offer premium accommodation, world-class dining, spa facilities, and personalized services in breathtaking surroundings.

Regardless of your budget, Eswatini provides a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences and needs, ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay in this beautiful African country.

20. Are there any wildlife reserves or sanctuaries where I can see native animals in Eswatini?

Yes, Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is home to several wildlife reserves and sanctuaries where you can see a variety of native animals up close. Some of the popular ones include:

1. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary is located in the Ezulwini Valley and is Eswatini’s oldest protected area. It is home to a range of wildlife, including impalas, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, and various species of birds.

2. Hlane Royal National Park: This park is one of the largest protected areas in Eswatini and is known for its diverse wildlife population. Visitors can spot elephants, white rhinos, lions, giraffes, and numerous bird species while exploring the park.

3. Malolotja Nature Reserve: This reserve is situated in the northwestern part of Eswatini and is famous for its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity. Visitors can encounter rare species such as elands, sable antelopes, and blue swallows in their natural habitat.

These wildlife reserves and sanctuaries offer unique opportunities to observe and appreciate Eswatini’s wildlife in their natural surroundings, making them a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and animal lovers alike.