Transportation - Get In
Moshoeshoe Airport is located 18km from Maseru. South African Airways [www] and Airlink [www] operate daily flights between Maseru and Johannesburg, typically costing around ZAR1,400. Luggage is lost very regularly and there is no lost luggage reporting system. You should arrange taxi pick-up in advance as often there are no taxis at the airport. Taxis charge around ZAR50-80.
There is no train line within Lesotho, but the South African railway line Bloemfontein Bohlokong (freight only) runs along the northwestern Lesotho border, with a stop in Meqheleng.
You will be coming from South Africa when entering by car. The major border posts are Caledonspoort, Ficksburg Bridge, Makhaleng Bridge, Maseru Bridge, Ngoangoma Gate, Peka Bridge, Qacha's Nek, Ramatseliso's Gate, Sani Pass, Sephaphos Gate, Tele Bridge and Van Rooyen's Gate. Please note that some of the border posts can only be accessed by four-wheel driven cars, and only Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg Bridge are open 24 hours; other borders can close as early as 4PM.
The Sani Pass Road (P318) from north of Himesville to the South African Border control point 7 km from the actual border is fine for normal cars. From there, it's officially 4WD, high clearance vehicles only until the Sani Top Botswana border police post. The South Africans may not bother to tell you that after you leave their control point this "road" then becomes a narrow, winding and incredibly steep, rocky track that feels like you are climbing into a mist shrouded, lost world if they feel like a laugh. Once you have started the final climb you are committed, since there is no room to turn around if you find the challenge too great for you or your vehicle.
The main roads in Lesotho are similar to minor roads in Europe — they are sealed, and surprisingly free of potholes. The A1 road (aka 'Main North') is tarred from Maseru to Mokhotlong, and the A2 (aka 'Main South') is tarred from Maseru to Qacha's Nek. The roads to Roma, Mohale Dam, Semonkong and Katse Dam are also tarred. For the visitor, the only unsealed road you are likely to use is the last 20km to Malealea, which is easy in a saloon. Note that the road running east-west to Thaba Tseka is now sealed and in good condition.
If setting off in to the mountains, check your car over before the trip (top up the oil, pump the spare tyre etc.). There are some steep climbs which require 2nd or even 1st gear to get up — so don't attempt to drive to Qacha's Nek with 5 people squeezed into a hired 1.3 litre CitiGolf!
If in doubt, please ask locals if the road you are going to take is okay, especially during wintertime. The truth is that if you keep to the main roads you are likely to drive on a road smoother than Eastern Free State (RSA) roads. However the stretch from Oxbow to Mokhotlong is not tarred (regardless of some maps that claim it is) and very potholed.
When taking a rented car, be sure to get permission from the rental company to take the car into Lesotho. You will need to show written permission from the rental company at border control. Be clear with your rental agency about what's covered and what's not in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Full coverage doesn't necessarily mean full coverage.
Finally, petrol can be a problem if you wish to go to the mountains, it is best to fill up in Butha-Buthe if you wish to go to Mokhotlong as there are no fillings stations all the way to the district's camptown which goes by the same name, If you wish to go to Thaba-Tseka you can fill up at Maseru or Hlotse, or any of the towns you will come across such as Lejone, Seshote and 'Mamohau depending on which route you took. You will find both leaded and unleaded petrol (gasoline) including diesel in most filling stations, there are multiple filling stations in most towns. Diesel fuel dispensers are usually remote normally behind the filling stations.
Vaal-Maseru [www] runs a coach service between Johannesburg and Maseru.
Minibuses run pretty much anywhere from the Maseru Bridge border, but you must get there early in the morning (07:00) as there may be only 1 bus a day.
If travelling in from Bloemfontein you could hitch-hike easily enough (look out for Lesotho number plates). If going from Maseru to Bloemfontein, hanging around the border (especially on a Saturday morning) should get you a lift (offer some money).
Transportation - Get Around
By regular taxi
Regular taxis (you phone, they pick you up) and 4+1s — have a yellow stripe down the side and squeeze in 4 passengers. Always check the cost of a taxi before you get in.
Phone +266 627 45199 for Khosana at Comfort Taxis Phone +266 631 66000 for Perfect taxis - well run and partly owned by an English Ex-pat Phone +266 584 01360 for a local guy who has a good car and is extremely reliable. Call him Tom Taxi and he will know that you are legitimate and that you know the right fares.
By minibus taxi
As with most of Africa the minibus 'taxi' (aka combi / Toyota Hiace) is the transport of the people.
Be sure you are clear on where the minibus is going (there should be a sign in the front windscreen), you'll be asked for money after a minute or two, with money being passed down the minibus. Try to get the front seat by the driver for more leg room. Prices are fixed by the government. There is a risk of overcharging foreigners — ask the other passengers if you are not sure of the price. Be warned, the reason the Minibus taxis are so cheap is because of the way they fit so many people in! Don't be surprised to see kids sitting on laps four or five high, or to be told to have large amounts of luggage on your lap or wedged in around you. The Minibus taxis tend to be poorly maintained and are not insured. However, very few accidents involving taxis occur.
Intercity travel by taxi will cost no more than LSL50 for a single way ticket, and inner city minibus taxi rides will cost you around LSL2.50 (4+1s will cost you LSL20 for the whole car, no matter how many are with you, provided its within a city.)
Always check the cost of a taxi before you get in.
Finding a taxi
Upon arrival in one of the main towns, you will notice that all the minibuses are hooting their horns, which is to signal that they have space for more passengers. To flag one down, just wave to a taxi as it approaches, the conductor (who will be leaning out of the window on the kerbside of the van) will usually be shouting the destination of the taxi. If you are not sure it will be going where you want to go, ask before you get on!
In Maseru, there is a place called Setopong on Moeshoeshoe Road, near to the Shoprite by The Circle / Cathedral. This is where all the minibus taxis leave from, and if you want a taxi out of town, you should head here. However, it is a very busy and bustling place, heaving with people. It is easiest to take a 4+1 taxi toward Setopong and ask the driver to drop you off near the taxis that travel to the part of the country you are headed.
It is also possible to hire a car and travel around. The Sun hotels in Maseru both have hire car places, as does the airport. If you hire your car in South Africa (probably cheaper than hiring in Lesotho) be sure to get permission to take the car across into Lesotho (the hire car insurance may not cover Lesotho).
But it's nowhere near as fun as getting up close to the locals and chatting with them!
You don't need a 4x4 to see the main sights in Lesotho — for the average visitor only the road to Semonkong will need a 4x4. The road is tarred to Mokhotlong (via Leribe) and is now tarred all the way to Qacha's Nek going south from Maseru. In the towns some side roads are unsealed but you can bump along in a saloon easily enough — If heading off in to the mountains on unsealed roads (e.g. to the Kao diamond mine) then a 4x4 is a must. The same goes for Thaba Tseka and going up or down the Sani pass.
When driving it's not advisable to stop at junctions or traffic lights at night — there is a very small chance of something nasty happening.
- Mission Aviation Fellowship, 2232 5699. Offers flights to NGOs operating in Lesotho and also offers charter flights from Moeshoeshoe I airport in Maseru if you want to reach an inaccessible part of the country