Expats moving to Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, will experience some exceptionally beautiful scenery, from sweeping plains and gushing rivers to craggy mountain ridges and deep canyons. A little off the beaten track, this small Southern African country has much to offer new arrivals.
Living in Eswatini as an expat
Eswatini's free-trade policies and good road and rail links to major centres in South Africa, its main trading partner, make it a highly investment-friendly economy. The language of business in Eswatini is English, and, similarly to South Africa, cities retain a certain colonial character due to decades of British rule.
Eswatini is one of the world's last absolute monarchies, a political system that critics say has hampered its growth economically. Opposition parties are banned, and although the occasional riot protest does occur, life in Eswatini is, for the most part, a peaceful one for expats.
Crime is a concern for expats. They should avoid dense urban areas at night, as carjackings, muggings and robberies are not uncommon. Eswatini's roads, particularly outside the capital, are not always well maintained. There is effectively no public transport for expats, so an off-road vehicle would be a good investment.
The vast majority of locals rely on subsistence farming. Foreign investment in Eswatini is largely connected to high-value crops such as sugar, fruit and forestry. Most of the wealth in the country is in the hands of non-African expats involved in these industries. The textile industry is also rapidly growing.
The country has some severe socio-economic problems. In addition to being a malaria zone, the country has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Many live in dire poverty, and the healthcare system leaves much to be desired. Hospitals often face chronic shortages of basic medicines and supplies. There are a few good private clinics and hospitals in the capital, but most expats choose to go over the border to South Africa for complex procedures and emergencies. It is essential that expats have comprehensive private medical insurance.
Cost of living in Eswatini
The administrative capital, Mbabane, has a temperate climate and is a small city of just more than 76,000 people. It's also a fairly cheap city for expats to live in, although some costs – most notably petrol and telecommunications – are comparatively high. Rental prices are also increasing due to the expat demand for quality accommodation.
Expats will also need to budget for the cost of comprehensive healthcare, as the country's hospitals and clinics lack adequate supplies.
Expat families and children in Eswatini
The country has beautiful scenery and excellent wildlife reserves, thanks to its progressive environmental laws. As British and American expats won't need a South African visa for short visits, weekend trips to the vibrant, urban jungle of Johannesburg or the laid-back, balmy beaches of Durban are a five-hour drive or short flight away.
Public schools in Eswatini unfortunately lack the standard of education most expats and even locals are used to. Locals who can afford it opt to send their children to schools in neighbouring South Africa, while expats are better off sending their children to exorbitantly priced international schools.
Climate in Eswatini
Across the kingdom, the rainy season, from October to April, is hot and features afternoon showers and thunderstorms; the dry season, from April to October, is arid and sunny with cold nights.
Mbabane, the capital, is situated in the Highveld. The climate here is temperate and generally humid. Winter nights can drop below freezing.
The central area of the country, also known as the Middle Veld, is home to Manzini, the second-largest city in the country. Temperatures run higher here; winters are quite pleasant, though summers sometimes approach a scorching 100°F (40°C).
The eastern Lowveld is a savannah associated with an even warmer climate. Though winter nights can be cold, summers are uncomfortably hot and humid, though there is not a lot of rain in this region.
Expats moving to Eswatini will find a country brimming with unspoilt natural beauty and will never be more than a few hours away from the luxuries of modern life. However, the widespread poverty and the prevalence of crime in the country create unique challenges for foreigners, and should not be underestimated.
Population: 1.1 million
Capital city: Mbabane (administrative), Lobamba (legislative)
Neighbouring countries: Eswatini is bordered by South Africa to the north, west and south, and Mozambique to the east.
Geography: The landscape of this landlocked country is made up of mountains and hills interspersed with sloping plains.
Political system: Absolute monarchy
Major religions: Christianity
Main languages: Swazi, English
Currency: The official currency is the Swazi lilangeni (SZL), pegged to the value of the South African Rand (ZAR), which is also accepted.
Tipping: 10 to 15 percent in restaurants
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Plugs are Type M with three round pins.
Internet domain: .sz
International dialling code: +268
Emergency contacts: 999 (police), 977 (ambulance) and 933 (fire)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Public transport is limited, and most expats have their own vehicles.