Swaziland might be among the smallest countries on the continent and one of Africa's remaining monarchies, but there's more than novelty value on offer here. You can almost feel South Africa's undercurrents of tension fade away when you cross the border into friendly, easy-going little Swaziland, making it a relaxing stopover on the trip between Mozambique and South Africa. And it's surprising how much there is to do here - the royal ceremonies, excellent wildlife reserves and superb scenery should be more than enough reason to come.

Try Hlane Royal National Park for an eyeful of white rhinos, lions and antelopes - camping options are available for overnight stays. You may not want to stay overnight in the somewhat dull Mbanane, but you may well pass through on your way to the Ezulwini & Malkerns Valleys, the former renowned for its picturesque scenery and the latter for its handicrafts.

Languages

English and siSwati are both the official languages of Swaziland.

Climate

Swaziland has a subtropical climate with summer temperatures of 15 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius and 5 to 19 degrees Celsius in winter. The rainfall at higher altitudes varies from 1 000 to 1 600mm while in the lower areas it is between 500 and 600mm. The country's highest point is Emlembe at 1 862m and the lowest at the Usutu River at 21m. The country has a wide range of habitats and great variations in flora fauna.

Visas

Most people don’t need a visa to visit Swaziland. If you don’t need a visa to enter South Africa, you won’t need one for Swaziland. Anyone staying for more than 60 days must apply for a temporary residence permit from the Chief Immigration Officer (404 2941; PO Box 372, Mbabane) whose offices are in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Health

Malaria is a risk in the Lowveld areas. Avoid swimming in still or slow-moving dams and rivers as bilharzia is also a risk, as are crocodiles. Yellow fever and cholera certificates are only required if you have come from an area where those diseases are endemic, but yellow fever inoculation is advisable anyway.

Money

The unit of currency is the Lilangeni, plural Emalangeni, divided into 100 cents. (E1 = 100 cents). It is par with the South African Rand and Rands are freely accepted everywhere. It is however wise to change Swazi currency back into Rands before leaving.

Electricity

Swaziland uses 220V AC, 50Hz and three pin plugs are used with round terminals.