Botswana Travel Information
Passports & Visas – UK
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Botswana. You should have room for entry and exit stamps, preferably at least 2 blank pages. British nationals do not currently need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. This is also true of most European nationals. Passport and visa regulations can change at short notice, so you are advised to check current entry requirements with your embassy before you travel.
There are no compulsory vaccinations, except Yellow Fever if you are coming from or transiting through an infected area. Malaria prophylactics are recommended. Recommended vaccinations include Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Others to consider are Hepatitis B, Tetanus and Rabies. You should consult a medical practitioner or travel clinic for specialist, up-to-date advice in advance of travel. Another useful source of information is the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) www.nathnac.org
Health & Safety
You can find helpful, up-to-date advice on the FCO website: www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo You should be prepared to take responsibility for your own safety on holiday. You need to follow local advice, listen to the advice of your guide and not take risks. Some lodges and camps may require you to sign an indemnity form before you set out on a game drive. It is imperative that you have comprehensive medical insurance for your holiday. Please note that some camps offer quad biking in the salt pans yet do not offer helmets. Without a helmet your travel insurance will not cover you in case of an accident, so we strongly recommend that you do not engage in this activity. It is a potentially dangerous activity and without helmets as protection a small mistake could cause you major damage or even be fatal.
The current population is around 2.1 million. About 80% of the population is Tswana, with a large minority of San people, along with smaller groups of Bantu-speaking tribes and some people of European descent. The majority of the population lives in south east around the cities of Gaborone, Serowe and Kanya. The people are collectively known as Batswana and a single individual is a Motswana.
Capital and Government
The capital is Gaborone, which has a population of almost 250,000. Botswana is a parliamentary republic, officially called the Republic of Botswana. It has been independent of the UK since 1966.
Payment Methods & Costs
ATMs are available in major towns and larger villages but most accept only Visa cards. Maestro cards are not generally accepted. Major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club are accepted at many shops and restaurants in towns. Shops in remote areas and fuel service stations may only accept cash. Travellers cheques are accepted at some banks but often with a high surcharge. There are banks at main airports, border posts and major towns. US Dollars, British Sterling, Euros and the South African rand are the most easily exchanged currencies. Scottish and Northern Irish bank notes cannot be exchanged in Botswana. Banking hours are Mon-Fri 08:30-15:00 and Sat 08:30-10:45.
Language & Religion
English is the official language of Botswana. It’s taught in schools and spoken in urban areas. All guides and lodge / camp staff speak a good level of English. Setswana, a Bantu language, is widely spoken across the country. Botswana is predominantly a Christian country. Although Roman Catholicism is the main denomination there are also Methodist, Anglican and Lutheran churches. There are Hindu and Muslim minorities as well as indigenous beliefs.
Area and Geography
Botswana covers 581,730 sq km, is approximately twice the size of the UK plus Ireland. Botswana is a landlocked country which borders Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The prime wildlife areas include the Okavango Delta which includes Moremi Game Reserve in the northwest, Chobe National Park which includes Linyanti and Savuti to the north, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park in the far southwest.
Climate & Best Times to Go
Botswana has a temperate climate with relatively moderate seasonal variations. The rainy season is November to April, with most rainfall falling between January and March, usually in the afternoon. These are the summer months with average daytime temperatures of around 30 °c (but max temperatures can reach much higher). In the dry season (winter) May to September, the average temperature is about 25 degrees and it can be frosty overnight. The Okavango Delta waters are highest from May to October. Game viewing is still good in November and December. The Kalahari Desert is best visited outside of the extremely hot times (September/October particularly). Elephant numbers are at their peak in Chobe in September. Birdwatching is best from November to March, while botanists will love the green season from December to May. See our ‘When to go to Botswana’ page for a monthly calendar and other advice about best times to travel.
Most holidays involve internal flights. These have a luggage limit of 20kgs per person, but it is sometimes possible to buy an extra seat if you need a greater allowance. People over 100kgs may be required to buy an extra seat in light planes. Self-drive is possible in Botswana. You need to be in possession of a valid driving licence, though an International Driving Permit is not required. Traffic drives on the left and seat belts must be worn. Mobile phones must not be used while driving. Distances between towns can be long, so it is advisable to keep the fuel tank at least half full. Please note many service stations only accept cash. The speed limit is 60kph in towns and 120kph outside built-up areas. Speed limits are enforced with high fines. You need to be aware of wildlife on the roads.
The international telephone code is +267, so you dial 00 267 from the UK. To make an international call when in Botswana you dial 00 plus the country code. Roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies. Coverage is mainly limited to the main inhabited areas. Internet is available in large towns and tourist centres.
Food & Drink
Restaurants and bars can be found in most towns. Although Botswana is not really known for its cuisine, the standard of food in lodges and camps tends to be of a very high standard. Beef is the most popular meat, though lamb and chicken are also widely available. Locally grown vegetables include sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and spinach. Soft drinks are popular and found across the country. Ginger beer is a popular non-alcoholic drink. Locally brewed beers include Castle and Lion. Most camps and lodges stock a selection of wines to be enjoyed with meals.
All major towns have shopping centres and supermarkets stocking basic commodities. There are also 24-hour convenience shops at most fuel service stations. Favourite purchases include jewellery made from ostrich shell beads as worn by San people, Bushman art, hand woven bowls and baskets, textiles, wood carvings and paper made from elephant dung! Shopping hours are Mon-Fri 09:00-18:00, Sat 09:00-15:00 and Sun 09:00-13:00. On safari, many lodges have their own small shops which often bring funds directly to local craftmen.
Local time: GMT +2 hours
Public holidays in 2015
1st January – New Year’s Day
3rd April – Good Friday
6th April – Easter Monday
1st May – Labour Day
14th May – Ascension Day
1st July – Sir Seretse Khama Day
20th July – President’s Day
30th September – Botswana Day
25th December – Christmas Day
The Botswana Pula = BWP,
1 Pula = 100 Thebe.
Exchange rate as at Oct 2014:
£1 = 15 Pula.
Guide to costs
A plate of seswaa
(salted, slow cooked beef) £1.10,
Steak in a restaurant £3.80,
Half a litre of local beer 70p.
Did you know?
Pula translates as ‘rain’, indicative of the value placed on water in this largely arid country.
Thebe means ‘shield’.
220-240 volts AC, 50Hz. The South Africa 3 large round pin plugs and UK plugs are both used.