How to do the Sani Pass easily
January 12, 2022
What is the Sani Pass?
The Sani Pass is a mountain pass that was built in 1913. It connects Lesotho and South Africa on the road between Mokhotlong (Lesotho) and Underberg (South Africa). Sani Pass is the highest pass in Africa and the third steepest pass in the world. It has the name as one of the “most dangerous roads in the world”. As the Sani Pass starts at 1544 metres and reaches its highest point at 2876 metres, there are fantastic views over the Drakensberg Mountains. The road between the border posts of Lesotho and South Africa is not asphalted and may only be driven with a 4×4 vehicle according to South African law.
What can I do on the Sani Pass?
The Sani Pass is one of the tourist highlights in Lesotho and Western South Africa. It allows one to enter Lesotho, one of the three kingdoms in Africa, or to return from Lesotho to South Africa. Theoretically, you can also hike the Sani Pass after crossing the border posts. However, the two border posts are about 9km apart and you have some steeper climbs ahead of you if you want to hike up to the Lesotho border from the South African border. Therefore, I would recommend travelling by car.
Do I have to do a PCR Covid test?
No, even though some websites say that entry is currently not allowed or only allowed with a PCR Covid test, it is still possible to cross both borders with an antigen test (as of Jan 2022).
Where can I take a Covid test?
At both the South African and the Lesotho border there is the possibility to take a Covid-19 rapid test for 250 ZAR. After about 10 minutes you will have the result and can cross both borders without any problems.
How do I do the Sani Pass by public transport from Lesotho?
In Mokhotlong at the Taxi Rank (which is the name where shared minibus taxis wait to get filled up in Lesotho and South Africa), you can make the journey in a minibus for 160 ZAR. However, you have to wait a little while. As soon as the minibus is full (usually around 15 people), the journey starts from the Taxi Rank in Mokhotlong. You stop at both borders and get the necessary stamps for entry/exit after presenting a negative Covid test. If you have booked accommodation at the Lesotho border or would like to treat yourself to a beer at the border in the “hightest pub of Africa”, you only pay 100R for the journey. The drive between Mokohotlong and Underberg takes about 2.5 hours.
How do I do the Sani Pass by public transport from South Africa?
In Underberg at the Taxi Rank, you can make the journey in a minibus for 160 ZAR. However, you should allow some waiting time. As soon as the minibus is full (usually around 15 people), the journey starts from Taxi Rank in Underberg. There are short stops at both borders, where you can easily get the necessary stamps for entry/exit after presenting a negative Covid test, which you do at the border. The journey between Underberg and Mokhotlong takes about 2.5 hours.
How do I do the Sani Pass with my own car?
Fortunately, doing the Sani Pass with your own car does not involve any waiting time and gives you the flexibility you need. However, you need a car with four-wheel drive and you should be a very good driver on the steep mountain pass. It is also important to pay attention to the weather conditions, as the Sani Pass can be closed in bad weather. It is therefore possible that at the border you will be refused to continue your journey today for security reasons.
How expensive is an organised tour on the Sani Pass?
Accommodation facilities along the Sani Pass offer organised tours for the Sani Pass. These usually cost from 1000 ZAR per person and only take place if there are at least 2 people. I personally recommend using public transport. Should you have accommodation at the southern Drakensberg on the way to the Sani Pass, you should definitely do one of the beautiful walks.
Is the Sani Pass safe?
The Sani Pass is one of the most dangerous roads in the world but I found the crossing safe. The drivers have a lot of experience as they usually drive the pass several times a day. Also, the taxi ranks are safe and under normal precautions you don’t have to worry about your own safety. Lesotho in particular is much safer than its neighbouring country and if you have the opportunity to spend a few days in Lesotho, you will get to know the people and culture better. I personally spent two weeks in Lesotho travelling by public transport and found the country to be safe and beautiful. It is the only country in the world that is completely above 1000 metres altitude.