Lesotho – or more properly the Kingdom of Lesotho as it is known – uses the loti as its official currency. This may not be one you’ve ever heard of before so you can find out more about it here.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
This is a decimal currency and its subunit is called the sente. The loti is known as maloti in the plural sense, while the sente is known as the lisente in plural terms. There is a wide range of coinage available in Lesotho, most of which is in lisente. These are the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 lisente coins. Aside from these you can also use the 1, 2 and 5 maloti coins.
There are five banknotes to watch out for as well. These are denominated as follows – the 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 maloti notes. They often appear with a capital M in front of them to denote the currency.
From past to present – the history of the Lesotho loti
Essentially the loti has two start dates when it comes to understanding when it came into force. It originated back in 1966 but it would not be until 1980 that coins and banknotes came into force for proper use as we would understand it. The reason for this was that the United Kingdom granted Lesotho independence in 1966 and it was decided by Lesotho that it should have its own currency to mark that independence. Thus it was really a virtual currency until the coins and banknotes were created almost 15 years later.
Interestingly enough the loti is not the only currency used in Lesotho. Before the loti came into being the country used the South African rand. This currency is still legal tender in the country so you can happily use either of them to make transactions.
How to get hold of the Lesotho loti
This is not the easiest thing to do since the loti is not well-known outside of Lesotho. Certainly you won’t be able to get hold of any prior to arriving in the country. Furthermore cash machines are not particularly widespread and the only banks available to change foreign currency are based in Maseru. This can make things rather difficult for tourists and visitors, which is why we should be thankfully the country’s people will happily accept the South African rand as well.
This is your best bet when it comes to taking foreign currency with you. You can use it in Lesotho as we have seen, and you can also pre-order the rand from a bureau de change prior to going on holiday in the first place. This is probably your best bet to be honest, so you can be sure of having some cash to use when you arrive there at the very least. It’s definitely not wise to rely on cash machines because you never know what to expect with them.
Credit cards can come in handy but you won’t be able to use them everywhere. Again, Maseru (the capital of Lesotho) is your best bet when using credit cards, but other cities, towns and regions won’t be as forthcoming with accepting them. It’s really best to rely on cash in most cases. The same applies with traveller’s cheques; you can take them with you but it will be a lot easier to exchange them for cash in the capital than it would be anywhere else.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Lesotho loti
The best thing to remember here is that the loti is at par with the value of the South African rand. Since the vast majority of good-quality currency converters list the rand as one of their more popular currencies, you should be able to find the exchange rate between this and your own currency quite easily. You then know the exchange rate between the loti and your currency will be the same, even if it isn’t listed on your favourite currency converter.
There is a High Commission for Lesotho in the United Kingdom, and as with many embassies and high commissions it is based in London. You can visit its website at http://www.lesotholondon.org.uk/. You’ll notice there is rather an interesting section on travel and tourism that provides a lot of information for you if you want to read up more about the country before you go.
Travelling safely with the Lesotho loti
Getting up-to-date travel information for every country you intend to visit is always a good idea. Even if things are great there at the moment you can never tell what might happen in the future. This doesn’t just apply to safety in terms of criminal activity – it could equally apply to the weather conditions.
For the most part Lesotho is a safe country to visit. At the time of writing there was some instability in the capital but the situation there could well have changed (for better or for worse) since writing this. Do check the latest information before travelling and while you are there.
As with all trips to foreign places you should be alert for criminal activity that may jeopardise your safety. It is a good idea to book into a hotel with a safe in your room, so you can use this as a place to keep your valuables. It can be a good idea to carry photocopies of your most important documents, most notably your passport. This can then stay locked in your safe until the day of your departure.
There have unfortunately been some cases of foreigners being targeted by criminals in the capital city Maseru. This mostly takes the form of muggings so do take all precautions you possibly can. Don’t stay out after dark and try not to travel alone. Furthermore keep your visible valuables to an absolute minimum and don’t flash large amounts of cash around. It’s all common sense but it is well worth following these rules when you are there.
Where to spend your maloti in Lesotho – and what to spend them on
As you might guess from its use of the South African rand, Lesotho is very close to South Africa itself. In fact it is inside the country – an unusual situation but if you look on a map you will see it is completely bordered by South Africa itself, towards the eastern side of the country.
As we already know, the capital is called Maseru. This is located on the far western side of the country close to that part of the border with South Africa. While the city itself is quite interesting to explore, it is perfectly positioned to give access to a variety of attractions nearby. One of these is the Sani Pass, which is a stunning area of the Drakensberg Mountains. However you should be alert if you want to explore it since the only route through must be navigated in a 4×4. Many people have actually died trying to go along the route – it really is that dangerous.
As for national parks, Lesotho has a rather large one called Ts’ehlanyane National Park. This is in the Maloti Mountains and provides opportunities to go walking and even pony rides to see the sights here. Make sure you take a camera when you do visit, since the park is quite stunning and there are many miles of routes you can follow to see the best of the national park itself.
Another stunning sight the country has to offer is the Maletsunyane Falls. These falls could not be more beautiful if someone had the power to design them for people to see. The water drops off the edge of a sheer cliff and into the river below, while green and rocky cliffs rise up on either side of the river.
Finally while this part of the world would probably be the last part you’d think of if you wanted to go on a skiing holiday, you can actually do it in Lesotho. There is just one resort here with the rather apt name of AfriSki. This too is located in the Maloti Mountains. The ski slope itself is rather impressive and provides ample opportunities for people to get to grips with the sport if they’re new, as well as enabling more experienced skiers to ski in an unlikely setting.
We’ve explored a mere few destinations in Lesotho but there are many others to be discovered there as well. Indeed this is a country that has many spectacular natural settings to share with its visitors. While you wouldn’t necessarily think of this country as one to visit, you can see it has some sensational sights to share.
If you do ever go there you’ll be well-versed on the currency situation before you even arrive. Now you know a little of what to expect in the country you can look forward to discovering more about it when you go in person. Lesotho will be waiting to host you.