The Botswana Salt Pans - 4 Days - Budget

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Botswana

Situated in the southern reaches of Africa, Botswana is renowned for its pristine wilderness areas characterised by deep lagoons, wetlands, lush palms, rugged hills and desert plains. The country’s primary tourist drawcard is undoubtedly the vast red expanse of the Kalahari Desert and its remarkably beautiful Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world. These natural wonders provide a tranquil haven for an abundance of African wildlife to thrive. Other highlights include the impressive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, where visitors are privy to massive zebra migrations during the flood season; the Savuti plains, which host a significant pride of lions; and the Tsodilo Hills, where 4500 rock paintings form a unique record of human settlement over many millennia.


Entry Requirements

VISAS – to be arrange by you if required on advisement from your local embassy

First, check the current validity of your passport. All travelers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times. Second, make sure your passport has blank pages. Most destinations, require that you have adequate un-used pages in your passport, allowing for any necessary stamps upon arrival and departure.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Botswana's currency is Pula (which means 'rain' in Setswana). It is divided into 100 thebe (which means 'shield' in Setswana). Travellers' cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, bureaux de change and authorised hotels. 

The US dollar, Euros, British Pound and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible currencies (and accepted by some estabishments - but, generally, then an inflated rate of exchange will be applied). 

Banking

Seven main commercial banks, as well as a number of foregin exchange bureaux, operate in Botswana. Operating hours are Monday to Friday 08h30 to 15h30 and Saturday 08h30 to 10h45.

Full banking services are available in major towns, although ATMs are sprouting up all over the country. Most credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants. Cultural sites and community art and craft outlets usually only accept cash.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Public transport in Botswana is geared towards the needs of the local populace and is confined to main roads between major population centres. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Botswana’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track.

Driving off the main roads in Botswana is only recommended to expects in 4x4 vehicles, that are equipped correctly. Most lodges offer transfers or they can be arranged. If, however, you will be driving in Botswana: your home driving licence will be accepted (with an official English translation if necessary; driving is on the left side of the road; and the national speed limit is on tarred roads is 120km/h and 60km/h in towns and villages. 

Be sure to watch out for wild animals on the roads!

There are major airports in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone, while smaller charter flights are used to get to the other top attractions and camps.


Health and Medical Information

Don't overreact to the health warnings put out by many first world government web sites. Many of these web sites publish lists of very exotic-sounding threats for people travelling to third-world countries. Speak to your doctor about inoculations. He will probably recommend those for yellow fever, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, cholera and rabies. For Botswana and South Africa a tetanus and typhoid booster would more than suffice but are not legal requirements.

Health insurance is strongly recommended and must include emergency medical evacuation cover for your safari. If you are taking any prescribed medications, ensure that you have enough for the full safari. Carry a copy of your prescription in case of emergency. A full emergency first aid kit is generally carried by the guide or operator, but it is recommended you carry your own small travellers’ medical kit containing whatever you might need, such as Lomotil, Imodium, antihistamine, plasters, headache tablets, Rehydrate, etc.

It is recommended that you obtain a yellow fever vaccination for most African countries and to carry your International Certificate of Vaccination – you may not be allowed back into South Africa or your country of origin without it. These vaccinations are usually valid for 10 years. It depends on what other African countries you visit prior to RSA or Botswana.

Bugs

You may be bitten by bugs which could result in itchy swellings (tsetse flies in certain areas are the worst culprits). A good antihistamine cream usually reduces swelling and itchiness. Check your body for ticks after bush walks. If these bites cause discomfort or concern, approach your lodge manager for advice.

Malaria

Please consult your local doctor or tropical diseases clinic regarding the appropriate anti-malarial drugs to ensure that they are correct for you (and to check for any pre-existing conditions that could make these drugs hazardous for you) as well as their appropriateness for the region that you are visiting. Please remember that the best insurance is the preventative kind: avoid being bitten by using mosquito repellents liberally; wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers or slacks in the evenings; if staying in a bungalow or tent, spray with an insecticide to kill any mosquitoes that may have flown into your room – mosquito coils are effective. In Botswana, this will be a real risk.

* If you become ill on your return home, please advise your doctor that you have recently been in a malaria area.

Water

It is very important that you drink plenty of water to limit the effects of dehydration, especially during the warmer months. Note that tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages act as diuretics and can actually contribute to dehydration. Bottled water is provided wherever possible and necessary and we advise you drink this rather than the tap water.

Personal Medical Kit:

We bring a first aid kit for emergencies, but you must bring your own personal first aid supplies. The following items should be in your personal medical kit:

1. Malaria prophylaxis tablets

2. Traveller’s diarrhoea medication

3. Band Aids/Moleskin for blisters

4. Simple painkiller (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen)

5. Sunscreen: SPF 30 or above

6. Insect repellent

7. Lip Balm (Chapstick®)

8. Travel Sickness Pills

* Contact Lenses:

If you wear contact lenses, plan to bring along a pair of glasses to use in case of eye irritation.


Safety Notices

Africa is no different to the rest of the world. If you plan to spend time in a city, take precautions as you would in your home country. Petty theft is common in cities, but physical attacks on tourists are very rare.

Safety tips for cities:

* Don't wander around the streets after dark.

* Ask your hotel about unsafe areas if any and avoid them.

* Leave very expensive jewellery at home and wear a cheap plastic watch.

* Don't carry cameras and video cameras when unnecessary

* Keep your money and passport in a money belt and out of sight or in a safe at your hotel.

* Dress like a local or at least dress casually.

* Use your cell phone discreetly

Our final comment regarding crime and safety: you will spend most of your African holiday in a relatively remote and wild area where crime of any sort is extremely rare, if not non-existent.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine, generally of an extremely high standard, along with local beer and imported wine and spirits. Good restaurants and bars can be found in main towns, often within hotels. Beef and goat are very popular meats. Elsewhere, food is more basic: millet and sorghum porridge are the local staples.

Tap water is considered safe to drink, although outside main cities and towns, visitors are advised to check first and sterilise water if in any doubt. Bottled water is available in most tourist centres. Filtered water is available at most camps and shops offer bottled water - it is advised to be well stocked of bottled water if you are travelling off the beaten track. Milk is pasteurised, and dairy products, local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally safe.

A discretionary five-to-ten-percent tip is typical for restaurant bills. In many places, a service charge is automatically added. It is customary to tip the game guide and lodge staff while on safari.


Climate and Weather

Botswana's climatic pattern is typical of southern Africa, although its rainfall is less than countries further east. The rains in Botswana come mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s. Some days will be bright and sunny, some will have afternoon thunderstorms, and some will just be grey.

As with Namibia, April and May in Botswana are generally lovely, with the sky clear and the landscape green. Night temperatures start to drop during these months, especially in the Kalahari. Note that places in and around the Okavango tend to have less extreme, more moderate temperatures than the drier areas of the Kalahari.

From June to August the night-time temperatures in drier areas can be close to freezing, but it warms up rapidly during the day, when the sky is usually clear and blue. It's now very much 'peak season' for most safari areas: the land is dry in most areas so the animals congregate around the few available water sources.

This continues into September and October, when temperatures climb again, drying the landscapes and concentrating the game even more. This is the best time for big game safaris – although October can feel very hot, with maximum temperatures sometimes approaching 40°C.

November is difficult to predict, as it can sometimes be a continuation of October's heat, whilst sometimes it's cooled by the first rains; it's always an interesting month.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

In summer, lightweight, lightcoloured cottons are preferable. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. In winter, wear trousers, longsleeved shirts / blouses and jerseys. From May – August, night temperatures can fall below zero degrees celsius, so warm jerseys and jackets are vital, especially on morning and evening game drives. Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Bring a lightweight jacket and/or jersey for unexpected temperature changes or rain. Closed, comfortable walking shoesor gym shoes are a must in all seasons. Special attention should be given to protection from the sun. Bring a sunhat, good quality sunscreen, sun lotion and polarised sunglasses. Wide brimmed sun hats are essential.


Internet Availability

Some hotels, lodges and guest houses offer internet access or WiFi (free or paid), and there are internet cafe's in Gaborone and Maun. Internet access in more remote rural areas is often hard to come by.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Botswana are the 'Type M' South African SABS1661 ('Large' 15 amp BS-546) sockets. This is actually an old British standard. The 'Type M' South African plug and socket is not to be confused with the 'Type D' Indian plug and socket. In pictures, they look very similar, but the South African type is much larger than the Indian type, and they are physically incompatible. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Botswana usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. 

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If you need to use appliances that are not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical input, you will need a voltage converter.




General Guidance

Travel Insurance: It is vital that you acquire adequate travel insurance. We strongly suggest you purchase one whenever traveling anywhere in East Africa, as medical services are basic even in the capitals and one should think about returning home if serious medical assistance is required. Should you be uninsured at present, please make sure that you have proper cover before you travel. This can be arranged easily through your travel agent, your insurance broker or your bank. The policy should have provision for emergency repatriation to your country of residence (by air ambulance if necessary), and a 24-hour emergency telephone number should be provided; make sure your guide has such numbers too.

Should you want to make a claim on your insurance, you will need documentation with which to substantiate it. Generally, the more documentation you have, the faster your claim will be processed. All claims should be notified to the insurance company as soon as possible after your return.

Travel insurance can be very handy to avert a number of potentially threatening scenarios to the smooth and enjoyable course of your trip. As the ditty goes...nothing beats expecting the unexpected.

Make sure you read and understand your insurance policy carefully to determine the exact extent of cover provided. In the event of a claim being filed make sure you retain all original and relevant documents and send copies of statements, affidavits, etc. with the completed claims form.

Keep photocopies of all your important documents and pack them in different places; preferably carry a set of these on you at all times.

In case of any of the following events happening, you will need to notify your travel insurer as follows:

For lost, damaged or delayed baggage: a copy of your notification in writing to the carrier concerned (the form should be completed by you before leaving the airport) together with a copy of their written report. Additionally, the loss or damage should be notified (again in writing) to the airline’s main office.

For loss of money, travellers’ cheques and items of value: You should report all missing items to the police within 24 hours of discovery of loss, and obtain a written police report. Keep all evidence of money changed either in Europe or in Tanzania and a separate note of any travellers’ cheques numbers (travellers’ cheques are usually refundable by the company which issued them). Please note that even the best travel insurance policies will cover a cash loss of only $1000 or less. Items of particular value, such as jewellery, more expensive cameras, video equipment etc. should be separately insured before you go. Your household contents insurance can often be extended to cover these items.

For medical expenses: Any doctor’s, dentist’s or hospital prescriptions, bills, receipts or receipted accounts, and a certificate showing the nature of the illness or sickness. If possible, a written report from the doctor, dentist or hospital involved.

For travel delay: A written report from the airline stating length of delay and its cause. For interruption of travel services: A written report from the carrier concerned.

Credit Card Insurance: Some credit card companies give you automatic travel accident insurance free of charge if you have used their card to pay for part or all of your holiday cost.

In many cases the cover provided is not as comprehensive in terms of medical expenses, loss of baggage, money, or cancellation charges etc., as policies that you can buy separately. Should you have no travel insurance, we strongly advise you to check with your credit card company as to the exact extent of the cover that they provide.


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