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.
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 easily convertible currencies (and accepted by some estabishments - but, generally, then an inflated rate of exchange will be applied).
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.
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.
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.
One of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth, South Africa, fondly known by locals as the 'Rainbow Nation', boasts 11 official languages, and its inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of cultures. Discover the gourmet restaurants, impressive art scene, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches of Cape Town; enjoy a local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browse the bustling Indian markets in Durban, or sample some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotting the Cape Winelands. Some historical attractions to explore include the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, its untamed wilderness is astonishing: wildlife roams freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world-famous Kruger National Park.
Government regulations change without notice, it is important to check regulations with the relevant authority prior to travel. This is a guideline only.
- “All international travellers are required to travel with a valid passport and we suggest a minimum of three (3) full open "Visa" pages. The page must say Visa at the top of the page.
- There are blank pages at the back of an International passport without "Visa" printed on it; these pages are not acceptable for travel to South Africa”.
- Our recommendation is 3 pages (or even 4 if you are travelling through more than one country on your journey). If there is insufficient space in the passport then entry into a country could be denied.
- Passports should be valid for at least six months.
- Any applicable visas and/or relevant documentation are the responsibility of the traveller.
- Visitors must also be in possession of outward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
- Travellers from those countries that require a visa will in addition have to obtain a bio-metric visa in person.
Special Regulations concerning families
- from 01 June 2015 parents will have to provide a full Birth Certificate for all travelling children under 18.
- When children are travelling with guardians, including grandparents and other relatives, these adults are required to produce affidavits from parents proving permission for the children to travel.
- If the required information is not available at airport check in, then the airline may refuse boarding at the international departure point for South Africa.
- For more information please visit http://www.southafrica.info/travel/documents/visas.htm
Banking and Currency
- The unit of currency is the South African Rand. Visitors may import an unlimited amount of foreign exchange.
- We recommend you change money at official bureaux de change, although some lodges and hotels may offer facilities which would often offer a less attractive rate of exchange.
- Take cash, not Travellers Cheques! Change some money into South African Rand soon after your arrival, as you may need some for tips or taxis, for example.
- Credit Cards can usually be used in the international hotels and in many safari lodges and in restaurants and shops of the main towns and tourist related businesses.
- MasterCard and Visa are widely, whereas American Express and diners Club are accepted to a lesser extent.
- If you are hiring a car, it is worth noting that garages do not normally accept Credit Cards.
- However, it is always advisable to have some cash, because sometimes credit card machines do not work, or are down without connection.
- There are ATM cash machines in most towns and shopping centres, and at airports.
- If you are taking US$ please be aware that large notes (US$50-US$100) prior to 2000 are not normally accepted. Best make sure you have smaller denomination and notes which have been issued after 1999.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
- Compared with other Western Countries, the Public Transport facilities are mediocre.
- We recommend you pre book your journeys with dmAFRICA as much as possible.
- Taxis operate only from special ranks and/or through agencies, which are listed in the telephone directories.
- We suggest however that the concierge at the hotel arranges your transport requirements in cases where you have not pre booked with dmAFRICA.
- Getting around on safari has three options, all of which can be booked with dmAFRICA
- By organised safari vehicles.
- By light aircraft. There are charter and regular flights to all the main wildlife areas in Southern Africa.
- By private jet; most lodge/camp airstrips are not equipped to handle many of the more sophisticated private jets. It is normal to access South Africa through Johannesburg or one of the other international airports and travel onwards by light aircraft. Night flying in game parks is not normally permitted.
Health and Medical Information
- Malaria is endemic in some parts of South Africa and many of its neighbouring countries. You must consult your doctor before you travel to ensure that you are prescribed the correct type of tablet protection.
- Immunization against hepatitis, cholera and meningitis is recommended.
Please check the latest information with your medical practitioner
- South Africa does not have a national welfare scheme. Although public hospitals tend to be overcrowded and the medical staff usually overworked, the standard of patient care is very high. Private hospitals in general offer a lot more comfort and individual attention, although they are considerably more expensive. It is advisable to obtain medical insurance prior to travel.
- Pharmacies are open until at least 18.00 on weekdays and 13.00 on Saturdays. Emergency pharmacies remain open until 22.00. A few provide 24 hour service.
- A few wildlife lodges and camps have a private nurse on duty and almost all have camp staff trained in basic first aid.
- Unfortunately petty theft and more serious crime is a factor in South Africa. Take the same precautions as you would in any major city.
- Avoid walking alone in apparently deserted areas, especially in and around the cities.
- Avoid displaying expensive items, especially jewellery, in public areas.
- Use the safe boxes, and other security accessories, made available to you in hotels and lodges/camps.
- It is preferable and usually more enjoyable to walk with company or in groups.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
- In general, the food served in hotels and lodges is European food. A full breakfast and lunch will be buffet style and dinner is usually a set menu. A few top of the range lodges offer limited a la carte menus.
- In the resorts and cities it is possible to find international food to suit all tastes. In fact, the dining experience is a highlight of most people’s visit to South Africa.
- Agriculturally, South Africa is virtually self sufficient with staple crops, and fine quality beef and other livestock.
- Pineapple, mango, papaya, banana, avocado and coconut are all plentiful, and inexpensive when in season.
- Freshwater fish from the abundant rivers and lakes is plentiful.
- Of course, at the coast the seafood is included on all menus, with a variety and quality which is now legendary.
- South African wine is famous now the world over, and many people include a visit to the Winelands as an important part of their visit.
- Local beers are of the lager type, and are good.
- We recommend drinking only bottled water throughout your stay, although tap water is generally safe to drink in the cities.
- Most medical and religious dietary requirements can be met providing that sufficient notice is given
Climate and Weather
- The weather in South Africa is generally pleasant throughout the year – warm to hot days, and cool to warm nights.
- The months May to September are considered winter, and it can get very cold at night and in the early morning, particularly when on safari. You should pack accordingly.
- The months of January to March are considered summer, and also the rainy season in much of the country. Days are normally warm with afternoon cloud build up, and possible showers, although these are usually short-lived. Wildlife can migrate during this time in search of new grazing.
- The early part of June is very cold in the mornings and evenings, occasionally even dropping below zero, and winter lasts until August. Days are normally sunny and pleasant with occasional cold snaps, and windy spells towards the end of this period. Game viewing can be excellent in the dry winter months in some areas.
- Spring starts in September with all the vegetation coming into leaf, and days are much warmer with the occasional cool evening and morning.
- From October there are very warm sunny days with warm evenings. Some rains are experienced sporadically, though larger showers can be expected usually only around December. Wildlife sightings can vary depending how early the rains have started.
- The Cape Town area has its rainfall in the months May to September so it can be wet and windy at this time.
- Despite regional differences, South Africa’s climate is generally mild throughout the year. Snowfall is rare, and limited to the highest mountain peaks.
- South Africa is a relatively dry country with a mean annual rainfall of 502 millimetres.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
- What you eventually pack is a very personal choice; the suggestions below may help
- Informality is the keynote, although more formal attire is expected for your stay in prestigious city hotels or on the luxury trains.
- Be prepared for cool evenings at higher altitudes, and everywhere between May and September, where early morning and late afternoon game drives can become quite chilly.
- On safari try to wear neutral colours as much as possible; green, beige and khaki are best not to startle the game.
- A hat and a pair of sunglasses are advisable for protection against the sun.
- Laundry services are available at most safari lodges and camps.
- Light comfortable shoes are important.
- A flashlight is also very useful, even though many lodges now provide them
- Remember also you need three prong adapter plugs, and do not forget all your back up Ipad, mobile phone and other electrical charges etc.
- When meeting and parting, hands are always shaken; this applies throughout the country in both rural and urban areas. It is the convention to use the right hand, not the left, to shake hands or pass or receive anything.
- The dress code is casual, although most international hotels and restaurants prefer gentlemen to wear long trousers for dinner.
- Bright, light colours and white clothing is not advisable for safaris particularly for walking safaris as animals see mostly in black and white. Safari clothing should be in neutral or bush colours (please note that army camouflage or military uniform is not permitted in almost all African countries)
- Good manners and respect come naturally to South Africans, charming national traits which they look upon visitors to reciprocate.
- Topless bathing is not allowed.
Most accommodation offer Wifi (free or paid) in their business centres, rooms or restaurants. Internet cafes are found in most business areas and shopping malls. In addition, some South African restaurants offer WiFi access (free or paid).
There are also outlets such as PostNet that offer internet, fax and postage facilities.
Electricity and Plug Standards
- All electrical appliances run on 220V. Outlets are round 3 pin, 15 amp plugs. Special adaptors for video cameras, chargers and hairdryers are needed and can sometimes be supplied by some hotel receptions. We recommend that you carry your own adaptors.
- Various safari camps and lodges may not have 220V and may operate on solar powered 12V electricity. Remember to bring spare batteries that can be charged at thec amp/lodge while out onsafari activities.
- Power cuts can be common in the rainy season, though most hotels and businesses have back-up generators.
- In some safari lodges electricity is not available during the night.
- Light aircraft travel has a strict luggage restriction of 20 kg per person including hand luggage, depending on your destination.
- It is sometimes possible to increase this amount when travelling by private charter flights, depending on the number of persons travelling, and aviation technical matters, such as the altitude and length of runway. Such increases are subject to advance approval and the captain’s decision on the day.
- It is strongly recommended that you use a soft-sided carry bag style or duffel bag plus a small piece of hand luggage such as a handbag or small rucksack (which is also convenient for use on game drives to contain your camera gear, binoculars, sunscreen and hat particularly if on an all day game drive). The weight allowance is a requirement of all light air travel for space and safety reasons.
As of 2 February 2015, South African Airways implemented new hand luggage restrictions which will impact all airlines and travellers.
The new baggage laws will allow for:
- One bag plus one slim line laptop bag per economy class passenger
- Two bags plus slim line laptop bag per business/first class passenger
- No bag should exceed these dimensions: 56cm + 36cm + 23cm (total dimensions of 115cm)
Weight limit per bag: 7kg
Although other airline customers may take only 7kg on board as hand luggage, SAA has an exemption from SACAA and SAA customers may take cabin baggage weighing up to 8kg.
According to SAA, no bag should exceed 56cm x 36cm x 23cm (total dimensions of 115cm) or weigh more than R8 kg per bag.
Economy class customers are allowed one bag plus one slim-line laptop bag, while in business class, customers are allowed two bags plus one slim-line laptop bag.
Handbags are considered part of a customer's wardrobe and not as hand baggage.
Baggage capable of carrying other items such as documents and clothes are considered as cabin baggage and would therefore not be allowed if the customer is exceeding the allowance.
If hand luggage does not comply, the client will be referred back to the check-in counters to check in the baggage as hold baggage. Extra fees may apply, as per SAA guidelines.
Clients are also advised that the enforcement of these regulations may result in some delays at security check points. SAA urges all customers to check in well in advance and to stick to the cabin baggage regulations
- Generally speaking, communications in South Africa are good.
- Mobile phones can be costly and may have intermittent reception when on safari.
- The internet and wifi is also erratic, but is normally available in international hotels in the main towns and in many wildlife lodges.
- In case of emergency our offices can always pass a message to the vehicle by HF radio.
There is a worldwide embargo on items made from ivory, and you should refuse any offer made to assist you in such purchases.