How to Get Around
The local means of transportation is by foot, often covering large distances, or taking a bus or Kombi (taxi), but for a short two week stay, often the best way to see Swaziland is by hiring a car. Swaziland is such a small country (equivalent in size the the UK's Wales) that attractions are in easy reach of one another. Hiring a car in Swaziland is certainly recommended in order to give you the freedom to explore, giving you access from any central location to the majority of sites and hotspots. Alternatively, a local tour/safari company will be able to put together a Swaziland itinerary for you and take all the hassle out of accommodation bookings as well as transport from place to place.
The best deals can usually be found by pre-booking online. Shop around and ensure that you get the best deal, but bear in mind that if you do intend to pick up and drop off in different locations you can expect to pay an extra charge.
Traffic in Swaziland drives on the left, as in the UK and the rest of southern Africa. Drivers will need a UK driving licence or an international licence in English. Around the main towns roads are generally good, with tarmacked surfaces and reasonable street lighting at night. Away from town and main routes you will most likely encounter gravel roads, dirt tracks and very uneven surfaces. In some of the more isolated and remote areas, a 4WD vehicle if not needed, is most certainly recommended. Roads like these are mostly marked on a road map, however if you see a road not listed on your map, you can be pretty sure that it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Traffic accidents in Swaziland are high, whether on tar or gravel, so always drive with care and vigilance, wear your seatbelt and avoid driving at night if at all possible. If your home country does drive on the left hand side off the road, don’t be lead into a false sense of security as driving styles, traffic laws, and general motoring etiquette is very different to that of what you may be familiar with.
Swaziland has filling stations at all main towns, most borders and some key road junctions. A pump attendant is often on hand to fill your vehicle, and may also check your oil and water and give your windscreen a clean; a modest tip is always welcome, though never demanded. Larger filling stations will have a shop with basic supplies, and a garage where they will repair a puncture and fix other minor mechanical problems.
Swaziland Local Tour & Safari Operators
There are a few companies in Swaziland which organise tours and/or safaris for travellers. They offer services from simple accommodation booking to full length, tailor-made guided tours. Their knowledge of Swaziland is excellent and they will be able to suggest itineraries to fit all wishes, requirements and budgets. They can be viewed here.
Travelling by Bus
Due to buses being overcrowded, unreliable, and potential dangers, advice from local authorities often suggests that tourist should avoid traveling by public buses. Despite this, this is how the Swazis travel, and offers a chance to experience a little more culture and get to know the real Swaziland a little better.
Swaziland has quite an extensive bus network, after all, for locals it is the main form of transport. The network connects every main town around the country through privately owned operators all competing for the main routes. Mbabane and Manzini both have large bus ranks and all other towns have smaller ones. Whilst timetables aren’t normally published, speaking to the locals will get you a more accurate idea off when buses arrive and depart.
Kombi taxi are what European tourists would recognise as mini buses. They often travel the same routes as the buses but at a higher speed and for a steeper fare. Some run non-stop between Mbabane and Manzini. Although another option, be aware that this is no a typical taxi service and that they do run set routes. You can ‘hop on’ and ‘hop off’ where necessary however they wouldn’t take you to your specific destination.
A series of Maps of Swaziland are available for free download as PDFs. Highlighting accommodation and places of interest, these include a country map, plus feature maps of Manzini, Mbabane and the Ezulwini Valley. Click here to access the folder of Maps.