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Swaziland

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Swaziland

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[[File:noframe|250px|frameless|Swaziland]]
Location
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Flag
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Quick Facts
Capital Mbabane; note - Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital
Government Monarchy; independent member of Commonwealth
Currency Lilangeni (SZL), plural Emalangeni
Area total: 17,363 km2
water: 160 km2
land: 17,203 km2
Population 1,123,605
Language English (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)
Religion Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish and other 30%
Country code +268
Internet TLD .sz
Time Zone UTC +2

Swaziland is a country in Southern Africa, land locked by South Africa in its west and Mozambique in the east. Swaziland's monarchy is one of the oldest in Africa.

Regions

Swaziland is divided into four districts:

  • Hhohho (northwest)
  • Lubombo (east)
  • Manzini (central-west)
  • Shiselweni (south)

Cities

Other destinations

Understand

Swaziland is one of the the smallest countries in [[Africa] and has a reputation for friendliness in Southern Africa. It also contains several large game parks and reserves, which are sponsored by the government and are popular tourist destinations.

Compared to other countries in the region, Swaziland is known for its civility and peacefulness, despite similar problems with poverty and one of the world's worst AIDS crises.

Rumors abound that much of Swaziland's economy is based on the farming of marijuana, or dagga, as it is locally known.

Get in

The terminal of Matsapha Airport.

By plane

The only International airport of Swaziland is Matsapha Airport [1], 1km outside of Manzini. Only two airlines fly there. Airlink Swaziland provides flights from Johannesburg (South Africa), while Swazi Express Airways has scheduled flights to and from Durban (South Africa), Maputo and Vilanculos (both Mozambique). There is also a small car rental station at the airport and a snack shop. A hotspot has recently been installed, allowing users with WiFi and Wireless LAN equipped computers or PDA’s to access the internet from anywhere in the building free of any charge.

By bus

Most bus services arrive in Mbabane or Manzini. Larger buses generally provide service to Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town in South Africa as well as Maputo in Mozambique.

Smaller bus lines, or minibuses usually stop at border crossings, where passengers must connect with an onward journey.

The South African Baz Bus, an independent line somewhat popular among backpackers, also makes regular stops via South Africa to various hostels and hotels in Swaziland. When traveling into and out of South Africa to and from Swaziland, this is the safest option. All mini-buses into South Africa go directly to Johannesburg bus stations, which are dangerous.

Get Around

Map of Swaziland

Most travel in Swaziland is by either car or minibus.

Minibuses, called kombis, are prevalent, but can be confusing. Like similar modes of travel around the world such as the jitney, matatu or dolmus, these are small vans that accumulate as many travelers as possible while making their way along a general direction. In Swaziland, these vans are often driven by very young men, and most have assistants who estimate and collect fares, ask your destination, and make change.

As of Jan. 2008, fares typically range from 5R for trips around 5 min to 10R for around 30 min to 30R for longer trips. It is very very unlikely to be over-charged.

Be prepared for crowded seats, loud radios, and sometimes reckless driving. The larger Sprinter vans are a safer and faster choice if available.

Minibuses can usually be flagged down along main roads. Larger towns usually serve as minibus hubs or connections. Major hubs include Manzini, Mbabane, Pigg's Peak, Nhlangano, Siteki, and Big Bend. Finding the correct bus can be tricky, so discreetly ask if you can't figure it out. The kombis typically have destinations written on the front bumpers. At a bus station (or bus rank), young men will yell out the destinations and are helpful in guiding you to the correct kombi, however, always double check with the passengers. You will be advised to watch your belongings, as such places, like all bus terminals worldwide, have disproportionally higher crime rates. Stay away from these bus ranks at night.

Travel is very difficult after dark. The only option is by taxi. If staying around Mbabane or Manzini, keep a couple cab driver's phone numbers on hand. Taxi drivers may overcharge.

Talk

English is the official language of business, however the local language SiSwati (also known as Swazi) will be useful talking to some locals.

Buy

Money

The currency of Swaziland, the lilangeni (plural: "emalangeni"), is tied to the South African rand at 1:1. Shops in Swaziland often accept and make change for both currencies indiscriminately. This is not the case in South Africa, however, so if you are planning to visit South Africa also, you may prefer to request rand in exchange for emalangeni at banks in Mbabane or Manzini: proof of identity is required. It is impossible to exchange your emalangeni at Johannesburg Airport, as well as in the UK. All Swazi vendors will take Rand, but no South African vendors will take emalangeni.

Note that when traveling on the kombis in Swaziland, the operators will NOT take Rand coins.

Eat

Many foods are available in Swazi grocery stores, but traditional foods are still common, as are modern convenient food based on traditional ingredients.

Maize-based dishes are popular, and mealie or pap (similar to porridge) is a staple. Beans, nuts, and sour milk are also common ingredients. Dried and cooked local meats, such as antelope, are widely available at tourist restaurants.

"Chicken dust" is a cheap local bbq meal; basically chicken grilled in the open served with a salad and mealie. It is popular both with locals and absolutely delicious. Of course, take appropriate precautions as it is a street vendor food.

Sweet breads, vegetables and fruits are often available from roadside merchants.

Drink

Marula is locally brewed during the marula season. It may be difficult to find; ask locals as it is home-brewed.

Sleep

Swaziland is a small country and it is easy to go anywhere in the country during one day.

Ezulwini Valley is located between the two major cities, Mbabane and Manzini, and in Ezulwini you will find many places to stay as well as the Valley, reputed to have the best restaurants in the country. Ezulwini Valley is also the home of the most popular casino and disco in the country, close to the Gables shopping centre. You will also find The Great Thaipei, a Chinese restaurant, Kanimambo which serves Portuguese food and Quatermains pub and restaurant. Another pub in the same area is Lohheya.

A few miles from Ezulwini Valley you will find The House on Fire, a very different and popular venue for disco nights. All the major entertainers in the South African region are performing at House on Fire frequently. Freshly Ground, Ringo to mention some.

A wonderful place to stay one or more nights is Phophonyane Falls [2]. It is situated in the north-east, next to the Phophonyane waterfalls and offers great hiking trails. Best is to sleep in comfortable tents, next to the river.

In Mbabane, some good places to stay are Veki's Guesthouse and Grifter's Backpackers. It is about 120R per night for a bunk.

Learn

Work

Matjana preschool

Volunteer

Volunteer for a day at Matjana Preschool , a not for profit preprimary school in Kaphunga, Rural Swaziland. For more details and to contact us at Matjana [3]. Matjana Preschool was established by a group of volunteers without any organizational assistance and opened in 2007 and became the first preschool in the area. Since then with the support of International donors it has grown from strength to strength. In 2007 19 children attended Matjana Preschool and one local woman was employed as the preschool teacher (working with an Australian volunteer teacher). In 2008 newly purchased furniture has allowed us to increase the class size and we now have a class of 22 students and we had enough funds to pay a second local teacher. We hope to build a new classroom at some point in the future (first we need to raise money) so that we can accept up to thirty students per year and continue employing two local women.

Stay safe

Swaziland has a much lower crime rate than other countries in the region.

Hippopotami are found (rarely) in the country's rivers, and are one of the more dangerous animals you are likely to come across. They are actually quite fast animals, as well as being extremely strong and with large, powerful jaws. They often stay submerged in shallow water during the day, but come out at night to graze. They can be unpredictable, territorial and very protective of their young. Do not stand between a hippo and the water.

Crocodiles are a more common danger when swimming in rivers.

Swaziland also has one of the highest numbers of people struck by lightning per capita in the whole world and it is common to know (or know of) somebody who has been struck by lightning

Be careful when crossing any of Swaziland's nineteen border gates. It is forbidden to take meat into certain areas, and the soldiers have the right to search both you and your vehicle extensively. It is extremely inadvisable to stray into 'No-Man's Land', a 5km stretch of territory between Mozambique and Swaziland; several locals have been shot by soldiers guarding the edges of the respective territories.

Whilst physical violence is not prevalent (save on weekends when many may imbibe copious quantities of brandy or marula, a highly intoxicating alcoholic beverage), wandering around alone after dark is not advisable, particularly outside Mbabane and Manzini where there is little or no street lighting. Keep your money hidden and, if you are working or travelling in impoverished rural areas, do not eat expensive foods in front of the locals, particularly the children, who, especially if they are AIDS orphans and fed as part of the Sebenta school programme, do not get to experience luxury items.

While Swazi main roads are in good repair, a four wheel drive is essential to see much of the interior, unless you wish to be stranded miles from anywhere, with a patchy telephone signal as mobile telephone masts are few and far between. Other drivers, particularly HGVs, often overtake without warning and without checking for oncoming traffic. 'Kombis', local minibuses which function as taxis, drive at a neck-or-nothing rate with more than a full quota of passengers.

Stay healthy

Swaziland has THE HIGHEST HIV PREVALENCE RATE IN WORLD. 1 in 3 adults are infected. DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX. DO NOT USE INJECTING DRUGS.

There are risks for bilharzia if you frequent infected streams, as well as seasonal risks for malaria in the North-East parts of Swaziland near Mozambique.

Respect

Swazis are very loyal to the King and the Royalty; be smart about what is said openly.

Swaziland is also predominantly Christian, and modesty in dress is encouraged. Married women typically cover their hair.

Contact

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