Botswana is well known for having some of the best wilderness and wildlife areas on the African continent. With a full 38 percent of its total land area devoted to national parks, reserves and wildlife management areas – for the most part unfenced, allowing animals to roam wild and free – travel through many parts of the country has the feeling of moving through an immense Nature wonderland.
Botswana is a rarity in our overpopulated, over-developed world. Untamed and untameable, it is one of the last great refuges for Nature’s magnificent pageantry of life.
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 experts 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
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.
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.
A discretionary 10 to 12% 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 and we recommend:
Guides: US$25 -30 a day per person
Trackers: US$10 - 15 a day per person
Lodge staff: US$10- 20 a day per person
Private drivers US$10 - 15 per trip per person
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.
Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods. Spanning across 600 370km2(231,788 miles²) Botswana is one of Africa's most popular tourism destinations. Located in southern Africa, just north of South Africa, Botswana is bordered by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe and is home to over 1.5 million people. At 600 370km² (231,788 miles²) Botswana is a similar size to Madagascar and is just slightly smaller than Texas and only slightly larger than France.
Despite the stigma of being 'in third-world Africa', Botswana is a very well-off or rich country thanks to the wealth of diamonds found in there. A politically stable country and most of the population enjoys a high standard of living. Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest economic growth rates since 1966.
Most of the diamonds mined in the country are mined by a company called Debswana, a 50/50 joint venture between DeBeers and the Botswana government. The richest mine in the country, and in the entire world is located in the south and is known as Jwaneng Diamond Mine.
The currency in Botswana is known as the Pula. The Pula has been in circulation since 1976, prior to which the country used the South African Rand. The word Pula means 'rain' in Setswana and refers to the money being precious as Botswana does not get a lot of rain and therefore it is an important resource.
Prior to its independence in 1966 Botswana was known as the British protectorate of Bechuanaland. The official language of the country is English but national language and culture of most of Botswana's citizens in Setswana. The word for many citizens in Botswana is Batswana. One citizen is a Motswana. The current president is Mokgweetsie Masisi. After serving as vice-president and education minister for four years under the presidency of Ian Khama, Masisi become the 5th president of Botswana in April 2018.
Like all of his predecessors, he represents the Botswana Democratic Party, which has also won a majority in every parliamentary election since independence.
Mr Masisi had a background in education before entering politics, and faces the task of diversifying an economy heavily dependent on the diamond trade.