is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Lesotho.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Lesotho country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at
the date of this report’s publication assesses Lesotho at Level 1, indicating
travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Department of State has assessed Maseru as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. Endemic poverty and widespread unemployment
continue to contribute to an increase in criminal activity. Limited private-sector
work opportunities in Lesotho and South Africa contribute to high
rates of unemployment; the official published statistic is 27.5%, but the
actual rate is likely much higher, at around 40%. Steadily declining
remittances from Basotho workers performing seasonal or mining work in South
Africa continue to have a negative impact on this trend as well. The large
number of unemployed individuals loitering downtown, in residential areas, and
in other areas expatriates frequent allows criminals to blend into the
is no evidence that criminals are
targeting U.S. citizens for criminal activity; rather, they
target all foreigners because of perceived affluence. Most reported
incidents are crimes of opportunity for immediate gain (e.g. simple
assault, pickpocketing, petty theft). Victims of street crime are often
inattentive targets of opportunity. Theft of cell phones, computers,
money, jewelry, and other handheld electronic devices is common. Thieves
can and do snatch valuables through open vehicle windows. There has
been an increase in the number of criminal incidents involving expatriates
walking during dusk and overnight hours. The crime rates in
the Leribe and Mafeteng areas are higher than in other districts.
The crime rate in Maseru is approximately five times higher than
other districts. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.
Lesotho has very strict gun-control laws, criminal elements smuggle firearms in
from South Africa through the porous border. The use
of firearms in conducting criminal acts is on the
rise. Increases in the use of tactics more commonly seen in South Africa
are also on the rise in Lesotho. This includes the increased use of
car remote jammers/blockers to steal from vehicles parked at
large shopping areas with limited guard or camera visibility.
are generally armed and not averse to using violence to achieve their objective,
especially when they encounter resistance. Should an armed individual
confront you, comply immediately, avoid making sudden movements,
and do not offer any resistance. Criminals could perceive any hesitation
as a threat, turning to violence. Crimes committed at gunpoint
have increased, and are the most common type of force;
however, crimes committed at knifepoint
are also common.
limited amount of police data available indicates an increase in violent
crime (e.g. armed robbery, sexual assault, homicide, residential
break-in) in recent years. Increasingly, criminals are resorting to
violence to subdue their victims, obtain items of value, commit a sexual
offense, and/or elicit information regarding valuables in the
home. Current trends indicate an increase in motor vehicle
theft, armed home invasions, and increased cooperation with criminal
elements in South Africa.
security, especially in Maseru, should include mitigating
measures such as intrusion alarms, perimeter walls topped
with an anti-climb feature, sufficient perimeter
lighting, window/door grilles, automated vehicle gates, security guard
services, solid core doors, and deadbolt locks. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.
theft in Maseru is common. Park in well-illuminated areas with high
foot traffic and security guards. While carjacking is not as
prevalent as in South Africa, vehicle theft takes place at all
hours, in both downtown and residential neighborhoods.
crime is uncommon and generally involves participants from South Africa.
Organized criminal groups are involved in vehicle theft and human
trafficking. While the government is taking active steps to combat both,
well-established and often sophisticated organized crime networks use Lesotho
as a venue to register stolen cars. Human trafficking is on the rise
as promises of jobs continue to lure Basotho citizens into South
Africa; traffickers then force many to work in illegal mining or the
illegal sex trade. There have been incidents involving gang
violence in Lesotho by groups based in the Mafeteng district, south of Maseru.
These gangs, often affiliated with the local political parties,
occasionally clash in the capital and in outlying areas.
ATM scams (such as skimming) are not common, they are prevalent throughout
South Africa. Police indicate an increase in attempts to use cloned debit
cards at ATMs in Lesotho. Exercise caution when using any ATM, and only
use ATMs inside shopping malls, hotels, and banks; these are normally
high-traffic areas monitored by security guards/cameras. Before
approaching the ATM, scan the area for any suspicious persons or
activity. Should anyone approach you while you are withdrawing money,
immediately cancel the transaction and leave the area. Never accept
assistance from a “Good Samaritan” while using an ATM; this
could be a distraction technique. Avoid the vicinity of an ATM when it is undergoing maintenance; such
servicing typically includes the transfer of large sums
of cash, and could be the target of criminals. Scan the ATM
for any odd or out of place device (especially around the area of the card
reader), an altered keypad, hidden camera facing the
keypad, etc. Check your credit card and other bank statements on a
regular basis. If you note discrepancies, inform your banking institution
immediately. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers &
Fraud and Taking Credit.
crimes remain low, but cybercrimes are increasing
regionally. Cybersecurity should remain a priority for
any organization operating in Lesotho, and security managers cannot
overstress the importance of using and updating legitimate software. Review
OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public
Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best
Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
is one of the biggest risks to personal safety and security. Traffic
circulates on the left side of the road. Travel is easiest by private
car. Rental cars are available in Maseru. Drivers may bring cars rented in
South Africa into Lesotho with the written permission of the rental company. Many
vehicles in Lesotho are not roadworthy, and not all
drivers have proper training. The average speed limit in cities
is 50 km/hour and outside cities/towns is 80km/hour, but not all vehicles drive
at this speed. It is common to come up behind a vehicle moving at little more
than a crawl or to encounter vehicles that pull out onto the roadway
without their drivers looking first or
leaving proper distance for acceleration.
of Lesotho’s 5,000 miles of roads remain unpaved. Most secondary roads are
either gravel or hard-packed earth. A few main rural highways are comparable to
U.S. two-lane rural roads, but lane markings, signs, shoulders and guardrails would
not meet U.S. standards. Some residential roads in Maseru and roads leading to
rural districts are in poor condition, with potholes, ruts, and collapsing
shoulders. Vegetation can grow over the edge of the road, particularly during
the rainy season, causing a lack of visibility on bends and concealing
hazards at the side of the road.
mountainous terrain makes driving on secondary roads hazardous. Unpaved
roads in the interior—often narrow, winding, and steep—lack proper maintenance. Rubble
from rockslides often partially obstructs mountain roads, and there is
no proper signage noting the hazards. For travel in the interior,
especially in wet or snowy weather, use vehicles with high ground clearance and/or
four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is also a requirement for entering or
departing Lesotho through the Sani Pass on the eastern border. The
authority for road safety issues rests with the Lesotho Mounted
Police Service (LMPS); there are no auto clubs or reliable ambulance
services. Drivers should contact the police in case of road emergencies.
accidents are a major safety concern. A lethal combination of factors makes
driving a challenge: poorly illuminated roadways, roads in a state of
disrepair, inexperienced/irresponsible drivers, pedestrian traffic,
wandering livestock, and intense rain are all contributors. Drivers
frequently change lanes into oncoming traffic without looking and expect others
to take evasive maneuvers to compensate. Street lighting is poor and
frequently non-existent. Pedestrians do not look when crossing the
road, and frequently walk out into traffic. Livestock often appear on
roadways without warning, as there is an overall lack of fencing—especially in
rural areas. Even if the road appears fenced, people leave gates open
so livestock can feed along the sides of the road. Many people operate
vehicles while under the influence of alcohol/drugs, leading to
erratic, unpredictable, and unsafe driving conditions. Insobriety is a significant
contributing factor to many accidents, particularly in the evening,
on weekends, holidays, and month’s end (payday).
a GPS navigation tool with appropriately updated software;
note police stations, hospitals, shops, and fuel stations along your
route. Carry a cell phone with you and preprogram emergency numbers. It
is illegal to use a cell phone while driving; many drivers do so to the
detriment of their attention and driving ability. Local
cellular network coverage is generally good on the major routes and in
most major towns.
passengers should wear their seatbelts in motor vehicles. Keep
windows up and doors locked. Leaving vehicles unlocked, even for
a brief period, can result in thieves taking items from the
car. Do not leave any valuables visible in the passenger compartment of
your car. Be especially vigilant at intersections; leave distance to maneuver
any time you must be in a static position. Be aware of your
surroundings when leaving or entering your residence, and at traffic
lights and stop signs. Obey traffic laws and drive defensively, especially
at night. Always try to park in illuminated and secure parking areas. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries
to get your attention while you are in/near your car. Although a
common practice in Lesotho, do not pick up hitchhikers. Do not drive after dark outside of Maseru.
Drivers involved in traffic accidents should attempt to exchange
insurance information with the other party and summon
a traffic police officer if possible. Do not make
restitution at the scene, especially if livestock/pedestrians are involved.
While local law requires that operators involved in a road traffic accident
remain at the scene until police arrive to make a report. Be wary of
crowds gathering at the scene of an accident. Depart the
area immediately if you perceive a threat
to your safety.
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the
State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety
Public Transportation Conditions
The most common forms of mass
transportation are minibuses and four-plus-one taxis; however, they
are not safe means of transport. Every year, there are serious, fatal
accidents involving minibus taxis. Many lack proper safety
equipment and do not adhere to vehicle safety standards. It is common
for criminals to pose as four-plus-one taxi drivers to lure unsuspecting
victims into their vehicle. The drivers are often reckless, making
frequent, unauthorized stops to pick up passengers and speeding from one
stop to the next.
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Moshoeshoe I International Airport (MSU) has direct flights to Johannesburg. As
there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers
registered in Lesotho, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not
assessed the government of Lesotho’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance
with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety
U.S. Department of State has assessed Maseru as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. However, Lesotho’s
border with South Africa is porous; individuals or groups connected to
terrorism could move easily back and forth between the two countries.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Maseru
as being a MEDIUM-threat location
for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. The political environment is highly contested
within and among Lesotho’s numerous (30 plus) political
parties. The most recent free and fair elections (in 2017) occurred
without incident and were transparent. A peaceful transition to
a new administration, composed of a four-party coalition government,
capped an electoral period free of political violence. Many of the
administration’s actions are consistent with a government prioritizing rule of
Lesotho has a history of politically related civil
unrest, exemplified by Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) attacks on Lesotho
Mounted Police Service (LMPS) personnel in 2014. Following the
clashes, Maseru was without a law enforcement presence for almost four days.
However, during this period, there were no episodes of civil disruption or
unrest. While improved since then, differences between the
police and army remain.
In 2015, the army arrested more than 50 soldiers on charges of
mutiny or failure to suppress mutiny. The former LDF
Commander died in what the then-LDF leadership called a
botched arrest, but the victim’s family called an assassination. In
response to the incident, a Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Commission of Inquiry recommended the dismissal of the LDF commander, the
release of a group of soldiers accused of mutiny, accountability for
those accused of torture, murder, and other crimes, and wide ranging reforms. Police
have since arrested the LDF Commander, who is awaiting
In 2017, two
top ranking LDF officers assassinated another LDF commander after
having forced their way into his office. The current
LDF commander has made security sector reform a hallmark of his leadership,
and has expressed his commitment to maintaining a professional army
subservient to civilian rule.
were numerous demonstrations in 2019. Demonstrations are primarily small,
non-violent, and politically- or economically-motivated. Demonstrations
are a tactic throughout the country of opposition political parties and
groups. Several marches and protests in 2019, while not violent, caused
disruption to the flow of pedestrian
and vehicular traffic. Towards the end of 2018,
one particular multi-day, multi-area factory worker strike was violent and
involved rock throwing at surrounding pedestrians, vehicles, and buildings;
burning of tires; and closing of main roads with rocks and debris. Avoid
demonstrations or large gatherings of people, as even
non-violent gatherings can quickly turn violent. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
The most common environmental hazard is heavy rain accompanied by
lightning. Lesotho has one of the highest rates of
lightning strikes per square mile in the world, and lightning-related deaths
are not uncommon. The high frequency
of lightning strikes during a storm presents a very real hazard.
If you find yourself in a storm, find shelter in a building or car.
While urban areas and roads
are fairly well drained, torrential downpours in short periods
occasionally result in standing water, soil, and other debris washed
onto roadways. Rural and mountain roads are neither well illuminated nor well
drained; avoid travel on these roadways during heavy rainfall.
to the interior of Lesotho should bring clothing and equipment suitable for
extreme cold weather during the winter months of June through August.
Weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly in the mountains, and snow may close
mountain passes. Temperatures can drop below freezing even in the
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Lesotho has become less reliant on South Africa for electrical
power as of late, but concerns exist regarding how the extended
Eskom crisis will affect the country.
Lesotho has two major dams that supply water
to South Africa. Lesotho has one major dam providing water to Maseru,
and smaller dams providing water to other parts of the country. Poor
infrastructure and distribution issues plague the country’s water supply and
have put high demands on this resource. The water supply in Maseru has
been largely uninterrupted, but the water system has been less reliable outside
of the capital, leaving even medical facilities without water and in drought-like
Personal Identity Concerns
is relatively tolerant of sexual minorities. Openly LGBTI+ individuals are
not prominent in the country, and Basotho issues relating to LGBTI+ rights
are poorly understood. Consensual same-sex sexual relations are legal in
Lesotho, but there are no laws protecting the LGBTI+
community from discrimination. Review the State Department’s webpage
on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
People of East Asian descent may be at higher risk of
becoming robbery victims due to the perception that many
are wealthy business owners.
the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.
OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State
Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.
Buildings Control Act of 1995 requires that all buildings be accessible, but
enforcement thus far has been negligible. There are no mandatory
standards of accessibility for sidewalks, road crossings, public
transportation, and parking areas. There are no free or reduced fares for
transport, and very few accessible medical facilities, restaurants, cafes, or
bars. Accommodations for persons with disabilities are
limited. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
A variety of drugs,
especially marijuana, is present. Occasionally, authorities
arrest passengers attempting to smuggle drugs through the airport or
across the border with South Africa. Avoid being involved in any form of
narcotics activity, as penalties are stiff and taken seriously.
are uncommon; most are more accurately categorized as
false imprisonment, and are usually the result of a domestic
dispute or an express kidnapping wherein the criminals drive
the victim to an ATM to retrieve
money before subsequent release. Most victims are members of the
local population. There were no reported instances
of expatriates kidnapped in 2019. Review OSAC’s
report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
the State Department’s webpage on customs and import
restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of
emergency line in Lesotho is 112. There are limited police vehicle
and foot patrols in residential or commercial areas. The LMPS
does not have an adequate response capability, and commonly
lacks transport to respond to an incident. Visitors
requiring police assistance should appear in person at the police
station in their area or at Police Headquarters in Maseru. The LMPS telephone
number is +266-22-317-263 or +266-5-888-1010 from any phone.
The LMPS, the national police service, is a
centralized, national organization that falls under the Ministry of
Police and Public Safety. Its headquarters are in Maseru, with offices in
all districts and border post locations with South Africa, as well as an office
at the airport. Most areas of policing and law enforcement fall under
the LMPS (e.g. airport security, emergency response, criminal
investigations, and drug enforcement), except for immigration
matters, handled by the Lesotho Immigration Department.
Foreigners must present documentation to law enforcement
personnel if they request it. All foreign visitors should always carry
identification (e.g. passport, residence permit, or
While incidents of police detention, corruption, bribery, or
harassment occur, they are not common in the
expatriate community. Should an encounter with police occur, acting with respect
and cooperation is the best way to avoid potential problems. Do
not do anything that could put your personal safety at risk. Never bribe
a police officer; this is likely to increase the
incidence of expatriate vehicle stops.
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
Medical facilities are inadequate by Western standards. Local
medical facilities do not generally offer the standard of care available in
more developed countries. Specialist care is available in Bloemfontein, South
Africa, 90 miles away. There are medical clinic facilities in Lesotho that
provide limited, basic medical treatment. Find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S. Embassy website.
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s
webpage on insurance overseas.
has one of the highest HIV rates in the world. Approximately one-quarter
of the adult population of Lesotho infected with HIV. Practice safe sex
if engaging in sexual activity, and use caution if exposed to blood products
through injuries or rendering assistance to accident victims.
is present. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health
guidance for Lesotho.
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health
101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council Information
does not have an active Country Council. Contact OSAC’s Africa team for more information.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
Kingsway Road, Maseru 100
of Operation: Monday-Thursday 0730-1700, Friday 0730-1330
you travel, consider the following resources:
OSAC Risk Matrix
Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)