Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable countries, is the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.
Sparsely populated, Botswana protects some of Africa’s largest areas of wilderness. Safari-based tourism – tightly-controlled and often upmarket – is an important source of income.
Botswana is the world’s largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.
The country has had its share of problems: It once had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection. The country has one of Africa’s most-advanced treatment programmes, however, and medicine for the virus is readily available.
- Capital: Gaborone
- Area: 581,730 sq km
- Population: 2.3 million
- Languages: English, Setswana
- Life expectancy: 66 years (men) 72 years (women)
Currency & banking
Current exchange rate: $1USD = 13.67 Pula
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 establishments – but, generally, then an inflated rate of exchange will be applied).
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 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.
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 in 4×4 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 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 & 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 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
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.
Internet & Wi-Fi
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.
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those travelling to Botswana
The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
Only eat food that is cooked and served hot. Eat fruits and vegetables that you have personally washed in clean water or peeled yourself. Never eat food sold by street vendors. Only drink boiled water that is sealed and has been filtered and disinfected. Prefer carbonated drinks, hot coffee or tea, and pasteurized milk.
The public sector dominates the healthcare system in Botswana – operating most of the care facilities. However, there is a considerable gap between public and private medical provisions, and you’re advised to purchase private health insurance for the trip to Botswana.
As in much of Africa, the public healthcare system mainly serves a lower-income bracket, while ex-pats and those who can afford it use the private healthcare system.
It’s always recommended that visitors use travel insurance and medical aid services supplied by their providers at home, which will ensure that they can benefit from treatment in the private healthcare facilities in Botswana. Citizens of Botswana pay a very small fee for healthcare in public hospitals and mobile clinics, as the healthcare they receive is mainly subsidized.
Private healthcare providers are geared towards catering to tourism and provide a good service. Medical Rescue International and Okavango Air Rescue are recommended medical services for tourists in Botswana.
As always when you travel you should take out the necessary travel insurance coverage. We always use World Nomads but there are plenty of other insurance companies that offer travel insurance
- Attacks on tourists are rare, but petty and violent crime is increasing particularly in the major towns of Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. House burglaries, often by armed gangs, are common. Hold-ups and robberies of restaurants during peak hours have also occurred in the past.
- Theft from parked cars does occur and thieves target cars waiting at traffic lights to smash and grab handbags, phones or laptops. Keep valuables out of sight and in a safe place. If you’re attacked, do not resist. Use a hotel safe, where practical. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place.
- There have been isolated room break-ins and robbery from lodges in the Chobe area, particularly river-fronting lodges. Lock your room when you can and secure valuables.
- There have been incidences of rape and other sexual offences. Seek immediate medical advice if you’re sexually assaulted or otherwise injured. Women, in particular, should not walk alone at night.
- Drug-taking and smuggling are serious offences. The punishments can be severe.
- Taking photographs or using video equipment near military and government installations is prohibited. Always ask permission before taking photographs of people in Botswana.
- Although homosexuality is no longer prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
- You should carry some form of identification with you at all times. A photocopy of your passport is sufficient.
- It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts. Those caught hunting, purchasing or trafficking such goods will be prosecuted and sentences if found guilty can be severe.
- Botswana residence and work permits are only valid when held with a valid passport. Do not allow your passport to expire whilst staying in Botswana. If you send your British passport for renewal, make sure you have a certified copy that you can present if needed.
Useful emergency numbers
- Ambulance 997 (Toll Free)
- Police 999 (Toll Free)
- Fire Brigade 998 (Toll Free)
- Medical Rescue 911 (Toll Free)
- Medical Air Rescue 390-1601
- Mascom 122
- Orange 112
- Be Mobile 1333
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.
Botswana – Month-by-Month
January is hot, with long sunny spells punctuated by short, tempestuous thunderstorms when it can be a good idea to settle back under canvas with a drink to watch the lightning illuminate the sky. This time of year sees migratory birds breeding and the young of the grazers growing quickly on the lush grass, giving predators the runaround.
The mercury can soar, with continued sunshine and dramatic storms that make for photogenic skies. The Central Kalahari starts to come to life, with the grasslands enticing plains game. Ripening fruit sees many different species congregate around the trees in search of a sweet meal.
The rains start to ease off, and very hot, drier days and nights are the rule in March.
While days continue to be hot and sunny, the nights start to get cooler in April, making sleeping more comfortable while still allowing plenty of scope for sitting outside in the evenings with a sundowner. Breeding season for antelope is underway, and the males are busy butting heads and strutting around as they strive to impress the females.
The end of the rains sees the mercury start to fall, and days are no longer quite as furnace-like. Evenings can be cool, so it’s a good idea to pack a jacket for night safaris.
Midwinter in Botswana is nothing like it might be in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, so you can expect beautifully warm days without being sweltering, and only the nights approach anything close to freezing. The shrinking waterholes are the focus for both prey and predators alike, making game easy to spot.
Warmer days abound, although early mornings and evenings are still chilly. Despite it now being the dry season, the floodwaters begin to rise as the water filters through from the central uplands of Angola. This is a rewarding time to get out on the water in a mokoro as the channels fill up and you can reach further day-by-day.
Botswana starts to heat up again and it is unusual to experience a night-time frost at this time of year, while days can be very hot.
You can expect sparkling blue skies, bright sunshine and hot temperatures during the day, with the evenings becoming balmy. The ground is dusty as the rains recede into distant memory, and the plains game face a constant battle for survival as they are harried by predators.
The heat increases in October, and activities are timed to avoid the middle part of the day when the thermometer can show above 40°C. The annual catfish run sees countless numbers of them migrating upstream to avoid falling water levels, devouring smaller fish as they go.
It is hot around the clock, and for the first part of the month the land is usually dry and dusty, until the rains come to soak up the dust and bring greenery back to the landscape. Plenty of young are born in this period, and are consequently picked off by the attendant predators.
Thunderstorms return to Botswana and bursts of rain nourish the grass, which in turn allow the newborns to gain weight quickly and stand a fighting chance against the predators.
Visa Application – Tourism Visa
This is issued to people who intend to visit Botswana for recreational purposes, or for other short-term non-work related purposes. This visa allows entry into Botswana for up to one (1) month and is extendable on justification. The applicant must not engage in any employment while on a tourism visa, or else the visa will be rendered invalid.
All foreigners who require visas to enter Botswana as tourists are eligible for this service.
- Any immigration office (contact information listed below), Botswana embassy or consulate to fill and submit Form 1 (Application for Visa in person.
- Submit the required documents (listed below) with the application form.
- Check the outcome of your application from the office where the application was submitted after seven (7) working days.
- An approval/rejection letter is sent to the office where the application was made.
- If the Visa application is approved, it will be printed at that office where the application was made or if not printed the applicant can travel with the approval letter as proof of a Visa to Botswana and the Visa will be printed at the Airport/Immigration Ports of Entry.
The following documents are required to be submitted with the application form:
- Certified copy of page 1 and 2 of passport showing validity period not less than six (6) months.
- Two recent coloured passport-size photos.
- Covering letter indicating reasons for visit.
- Flight itinerary and accommodation bookings or residential address in Botswana.
- A re-entry permit to the country where the applicant is ordinarily resident if such a permit is required by that country.
- Trip itinerary.
- Intent to depart Botswana after your trip.
The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Which power plugs and sockets are used in Botswana?
In Namibia, the power plug sockets are of type D and M.
- Type D: mainly used in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and some African countries. This socket only works with plug D.
- Type M: looks like plug D, but with larger pins. This socket only works with plug M.
- Type G: This socket has no alternative plugs
|Type G: This socket has no alternative plugs||Type M: This socket has no alternative plugs|
Type D: This socket has no alternative plugs