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 scattered with scrubland.
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 large prides of lions; and the Tsodilo Hills, where 4500 rock paintings form a unique record of human settlement over many millennia. (ITT)
Citizens of most European and Commonwealth countries do not require a visa for entry into Botswana.
Visitors should check with Botswana embassies or consulates, or their travel agents, before departure.
It is vital for visitors to carry a valid passport and sufficient funds to facilitate their stay.
Note: For countries with whom Botswana has no diplomatic representation, visa information and processing is available through British Embassies and High Commissions. (ITT)
Banking and 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 commonly accepted currencies ( but foreign currency is often only accepted at an inflated rate of exchange).
Seven main commercial banks, as well as a number of foreign 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 appearing 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. (ITT)
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Public transport in Botswana is geared towards the needs of the local population 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.
Access to the safari lodges is by light aircraft transfer, these will be booked together with your lodge booking. Transport between Maun / Kasane and the safari lodges happen seamlessly and efficiently. There are major airports in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone with international flight connections.
Self-drive guests should keep to the main roads only. Driving off the main roads in Botswana is only recommended to expert drivers in 4x4 vehicles with the correct equipment. Even experienced drivers often get their cars stuck in the sand so you should never drive alone, you should always travel in a convoy with at least one other 4x4 vehicle who can pull you out should you get stuck. If you plan to 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! Do not drive in the dark!
Health and Medical Information
Botswana is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa which has some of the best primary health care facilities available throughout the region. However, the following health precautions are advised.
It is essential for visitors to remote areas of Botswana to have a comprehensive medical insurance policy, to provide coverage for the treatment of serious illnesses/accidents, and if required, medical evacuation. Personal effects insurance is also advisable.
Ensure that you are treated by licensed medical personnel to enable you to provide your insurance company with appropriate documentation and receipts.
Tap water throughout the country is safe to drink. Bottled mineral water is readily available in most shops and supermarkets, and at camps and lodges.
Tourists travelling by road are advised to carry sufficient water at all times.
Visitors are advised to take the necessary precautions against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Malaria, including cerebral malaria, is common in northern Botswana, in the Okavango and Chobe areas, particularly during and immediately after the rainy season, from November to April.
As the strains of malaria and the drugs used to combat them frequently change, and as certain strains can become drug resistant, it is best to seek medical advice before your departure and take any medication prescribed. Pregnant or very young children are not advised to travel to malarial areas.
Other precautions are to wear long sleeves, socks, closed shoes and generally keep the body covered in the evenings (which is when mosquitoes are most active) and to use mosquito repellent.
If travelling to Botswana from areas infected with Yellow Fever, guests must have a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
Sun and Heat-Related Problems
Always take preventive measures that include wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and sunglasses, liberally applying sunscreen every three or four hours, regularly taking re-hydration mixes, drinking plenty of water and fruit juices (at least three litres of liquid daily), avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, which causes dehydration. (ITT)
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
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 with 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 to consume.
Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine, generally of a 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.
It is usual to add a 10% tip when paying 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. (ITT)
Climate and Weather
Botswana's climatic pattern is typical of southern Africa, although its rainfall is less than countries further east. The rain in Botswana fall mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s (C). 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 and the sky is usually clear and blue. This is '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. December to end March is considered the "Green Season", this is when most of the annual rainfall comes and the land is lush and green. This is the perfect time for bird-watching. Many lodges offer low season rates during the Green Season.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
In summer, lightweight, light-coloured cottons are preferable. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. In winter, wear trousers, long-sleeved shirts / blouses and jerseys. From May – August, night temperatures can fall below zero degrees Celsius, so warm jerseys and jackets, scarves and gloves 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 shoes or 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. (ITT)
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 adaptor in order to plug in. Travel plug adaptors 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 adaptor is all you need.
But travel plug adaptors do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adaptor 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.
Plastic Bags – important notice!
As of 1 November 2018 the use of plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags will no longer be allowed in Botswana and it will be considered an offence if you are found with one. (ITT)