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Imagine a country where the average duration of tourist stays is 1.3 days, possibly because many people only use it as a passage between two other countries. However, there are ample things to do in Swaziland (Eswatini). This travel guide is the ultimate resource for learning about Mbabane, Swaziland.
Eswatini is a place not many people have heard of; it only rings a bell when you find out that it was formally named Swaziland.
One of the smallest countries in Southern Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini was always overshadowed by its neighbors like South Africa and Mozambique. If only you knew what a unique blend of culture and wildlife it holds.
Location: Mbabane, Swaziland (Swaziland)
Official languages: English, Swati (Swazi language), South African English
King: Mswati III
Currencies: Swazi lilangeni, denoted as E.
Plan a Trip to Mbabane Swaziland
Points of Interest: Hlane Royal National Park, Mkhaya Game Reserve, and more…
Average Flight Time: 26 h 25 min flight
Fun Fact: The late kings Sobhuza II ruled Swaziland for approximately 83 years; one of the longest absolute monarchies in the world’s history
Why Visit Mbabane
One of the three remaining kingdoms in Africa, Eswatini has jaw-droppingly unique traditions that will leave you questioning everything you knew.
Buckle up for a fast but extensive entry into this Southern African gem.
Best of Mbabane Swaziland
Best Places to Stay in Eswatini
#1 Hilton Garden Inn Mbabane
A top hotel pick in Mbabanem Hilton Garen Inn offers family rooms with room service, outdoor pool, a fitness center, luggage storage room, and bar for hotel guests.
#2 Mogi Boutique Hotel
Be surrounded by nature at Mogi Boutique Hotel located in Ezulwini. Take in the views or retreat to your cozy room for a bath or shower. Wake up to included breakfast or whip up your meal in your kitchenette. Free private parking is available on site.
#3 Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Lodging at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary offers unique rooms in dome-shaped traditional huts, bungalow, and chalet with the Hippo Haunt Restaurant overlooking a hippo pool.
Best Things to Do in Eswatini
Although the capital city of Mbabane (also the largest city) does not offer many touristic attractions itself, the majority of attractions are very close.
#1 Visit one of the Nature Reserves
Eswatini might be a tiny country, but it is nothing short of nature reserves and wildlife. You will be surprised by how well the wild animals are protected.
The rich fauna includes the Big Five, cheetah, antelope, zebra, giraffes, crocodiles, and many others. You can spot them either on your own or by joining guided tours at the nature reserves such as Hlane Royal National Park, Mkhaya Nature Reserve, and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
#2 Attend the Festivals
Imagine a festival where the king chooses his wives during a ceremony where thousands of young women dance naked.
The people of Eswatini are attached to their traditions and take pride in introducing them to foreigners. So, you must attend as many of them as possible; otherwise, you can’t claim that you experienced Eswatini for what it truly offers.
Umhlanga – the wife selection ceremony we just talked about – is the most famous (and controversial) of the festivals, but it’s not the only one.
Incwala Festival takes place in December to celebrate the king and the upcoming summer. There are numerous other rituals and traditional dances that you will witness if you step into the local scene.
#3 Explore Outdoor Sports
With vast nature reserves and only a few urban areas besides the capital Mbabane, Eswatini is like a heaven for outdoor lovers. Hiking, rafting, caving, horse riding, mountain biking, you name it!
All you have to do is visit one of the many nature reserves like Hawane, Hlane, Malototja, Mbuluzi, and Shewula. Besides, the Great Usutu River is renowned as a suitable location for Grade III rafting.
With so many adventures to participate, you will hardly find time to rest!
Best Things to See in Mbabane
#1 Sheba’s Breasts Mountain
Don’t get too excited, we are not talking about actual breasts. Sheba’s Breasts are two adjacent peaks located near Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
This is probably the most famous hike in the country, partly due to the book King Solomon’s Hikes written by J Rider Haggard, who traveled through Swaziland in the 19th century. The 3-hours-long hike offers spectacular views of Mlilwane.
#2 Sibebe Rock
Speaking of interesting rock formations, did you know that the second-largest monolith (a single piece of rock remaining intact) in the world is found in Eswatini?
This silver dome-shaped rock was formed through volcanic activities from billions of years ago. You can either appreciate it from afar or hike to its summit for gorgeous views as well as caves and rockpools.
#3 Ngwenya Mine
Another significant landmark is the Ngwenya Mine in the Malolotja Nature Reserve. Due to the ancient iron ore deposits from around 40,000 years ago, the place is known as the oldest mine in the world. You can explore the area with guided tours.
Looking for more things to do in Eswatini? Check out Hlane Royal National Park!
Best Places to Eat in Mbabane
Mbabane is full of restaurants that provide both traditional and western cuisine.
#2 Mvubu Bar & Restaurant
#3 Lismore Restaurant
Average Flight Cost: $1,933 – $2,559
Set low fare price alert for Eswatini!
Campsite: $9 per person per night
Bunk bed at a hostel: $11 per night
Double room in a hotel: $48 – $95 per room
En-suite room: $100 – $135 per room
Meal at a fast-food restaurant: $3.30 – $5
Meal at a regular restaurant: $6.80
Meal at a fancy restaurant: $10 – $14
Guided Safari Tours: ~$20.50 – $27
Car Rental: ~$20.50 per day
Taxi from Mbabane to Ezulwini: ~$10 – $12
Hlane Royal National Park Entrance Fee: ~ $3
Tours & Activities: $35+
Total Travel Cost
Expect to spend between on average between $1,900 to $2,500 depending on the number of days you plan on visiting Swaziland. Set a price drop alert here.
Eswatini Travel Tips
Weather in Mbabane, Swaziland
The temperatures are different in the high and low regions. It ranges between 5-21 C in winter and 13-25 C in the highlands. The gap becomes wider in the dry lowlands with 8-27 C in winter and 20-32 C in summer.
The heavy rains usually occur in summer between October and March, while the winter between June and August is considered as the dry season.
Best Months to Visit (When to Visit)
Summer can be overwhelmingly hot and humid, so it wouldn’t be suitable for hiking and other outdoor sports, especially if there is heavy rain. Between June and September is the best time to visit the lowlands; however, the temperature drops very low in the highlands.
You should also think about the festival dates. Usually, the beginning of summer between October-December is the festive season.
How to Save Money in Mbabane Swaziland
- Many traditional Swazi houses – called beehives – offer affordable accommodation.
- Bargaining is possible at street markets.
- You can buy a local SIM card for affordable prices at the airports, making it easy for you to make local and international calls.
What You Need to Know (or Safety Tips/Stay Healthy)
- Compared to South Africa and Mozambique, Eswatini is considered to be a safer country. Nevertheless, you must be careful against pickpocketing and scams. Try to book places where you can keep your belongings in a safe.
- You are not allowed to take pictures of the women during the Umhlanga Festival except for days 6 and 7.
- Tap water is NOT drinkable.
- Make sure your vaccines are complete. Also, you might need to take medicine for Malaria beforehand, depending on the season in which you are visiting. For the latest information about the vaccination needed for Eswatini, visit the cdc.gov.
- Because Eswatini has the highest HIV rate between the ages of 15-50, you must always use protection!
Culture & Customs
The official languages are English and Swati; however, Zulu, Sotho, Tsonga, and Afrikaans are also spoken among minorities.
The currency is Swazi lilangeni, denoted as E. (pegged to the South African rand).
You are usually expected to tip the waiters with at least 10% of the bill.
There are overall 17 protected areas where you can observe the wildlife. This includes spotting Big 5, particularly black and white rhinos, as well as hippo, giraffe, and zebra. There are also over 500 bird species and 3000 indigenous plant species.
Getting Around Mbabane Swaziland
Self-driving is a more flexible and independent way of traveling. You have two options; you can either rent a car in Mbabane and King Mswati III Airport or rent a car in South Africa and drive through Eswatini (you will need a letter from the rental company to present at the border during the entry and exit).
While the major routes (such as MR3) are tarred and in good condition; however, the roads can get quite dangerous during heavy rain.
Note 1: Driving is on the left side of the road.
Note 2: Speed limits are usually 60 km/h in the city and it can go up to 120 km/h on highways.
The best option for public transport is the minibus share taxi. The bus network is quite inclusive, reaching almost anywhere. The drawback is the long duration of the trips and the crowd inside the vehicles, as the drivers only leave once the seats are all taken.
You can also arrange private taxis at the airports or through your accommodation. Although it is more expensive than the local taxi, you can try to negotiate with the driver.
No human-carrying trains are running in Eswatini.
Entry & Exit Requirements
The Kingdom of Eswatini does not require a visa from any English-speaking country, EU countries and many others. You will, however, need passport valid for at least three months after your trip, as well as copies of your reservations and return tickets.
Visit World Travel for the list of countries that are required to obtain a visa for entry.
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