Swaziland is divided into four districts:
Swaziland, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, is one of the the smallest countries in Africa and has a well-earned 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. As of November 2008 the total reported percentage of those with HIV was listed as 30%; this, of course, does not include those who have not yet been tested. The AIDS epidemic has split up the family unit, leaving many young children orphaned and fighting for survival.
Rumors abound that much of Swaziland's economy is based on the farming of marijuana, or dagga, as it is locally known.
The only International airport of Swaziland is Matsapha Airport , 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.
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.
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.
English is the official language of business, however the local language SiSwati (also known as Swazi) will be useful talking to some locals.
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.
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 (often called 'wild meat' by locals), 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.
Marula is locally brewed during the marula season. It may be difficult to find; ask locals as it is home-brewed.
Swaziland is a small country and it is easy to go anywhere in the country during one day. If you're watching the pennies, head to Veki's Guesthouse or Grifter's Backpackers in Mbabane, which costs around 120R per night for a bunk. If you want to push the boat out, book a room at the Mountain Inn which has outstanding accommodation, facilities and leisure opportunities.
The most sought-after hotels in Swaziland tend to be located in Ezulwini Valley between the two major cities, Mbabane and Manzini. (Don't forget to pick up beautiful local crafts from the roadside stalls on the way.) With four bars, a restaurant, a casino, golf, swimming, tennis and 411 rooms and suites, the Royal Sun Swazi epitomises luxury. The Royal Villas, also found in Ezulwini, spread 56 rooms across 14 villas and are extremely luxurious, offering excellent food, atmosphere and leisure facilities. The Ezulwini sun offers excellent facilities, also, at mid-range prices.
And, if you're heading down towards the Mozambique border, you'll find comfortable, well-appointed country clubs at Manananga, Mhlume and Simunye.
Again, out in the country, aa wonderful place to stay one or more nights is Phophonyane Falls . 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.
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 . 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.
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.
Swaziland has THE HIGHEST HIV PREVALENCE RATE IN WORLD. 1 in 3 adults is infected. DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX. DO NOT USE INJECTING DRUGS.
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.
Swazis adhere strongly to their historical traditions, which are widely practiced today. Many who are suffering from an illness will consult a sangoma to determine its cause and an inyanga to prescribe a treatment. It is the height of disrespect to be disparaging towards these individuals or to refer to them as witch doctors.