Travel Botswana

There is no real wrong time to travel Botswana. Except for December and January it is almost always shining and warm, and pleasant weather is plentiful. Because of the small variation of landscape of the Botswana countryside, the weather is very similar from one region to the next. However, before you pack your bags, you should make sure that you are well informed, prepared and have clothing options for all climates, as per our – Travel Information & Tips.

If you’re from the United States, UK, Asia or Europe you will find that the seasons to travel Botswana are the opposite of what you’re used to. While you are enjoying the summer heat, Botswana is in the middle of its winter, but although some frigid temperatures can occur in the evening, the days are usually warm. Most of southern Africa, including Botswana is a summer rainfall region with a winter rainy season in the South Western Cape of South Africa, so you’ll want to plan to travel Botswana accordingly to ensure that you get to participate in all of the activities that you have planned. One of the biggest mistake made by tourist that travel Botswana is they don’t take into account how cold it gets in winter when out on an open vehicle early morning or night safari in one of the wildlife reserves such as Chobe National Park, it can be freezing so make sure you bring a warm coat with gloves and a “beanie”.

To travel Botswana on a holiday / tour can be a great relief in September, October, November, February, March or April when you’re tired of snow, ice and gloomy days in the USA, UK and Europe or your could decide to travel Botswana in May, June, July & August to get away from that blistering heat in some places of the world such as the southern states in the USA. The winter months are also a good time to travel Botswana, as it is the ideal time of the year for game viewing on safari and to view the magnificent Victoria Falls. When you travel Botswana you will find a hot climate in the summer months and very little rain in the winter months.

Botswana is mainly about enjoying adventurous safaris through some of the protected wildlife reserves or national parks in the region. Here at Self Drive Southern Africa or Bushveld Safaris, Tours & Transfers, we’ll send you on a trip / tour / holiday of a lifetime, through some of the most fantastic sites of Botswana. Travel Botswana through its famous wildlife reserves, areas like the Chobe National Park, Moremi National Park in the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve which have a very high concentration of game. The bulk of the Kalahari desert falls within Botswana’s borders and this is home to most of the world’s San (bushman) population.

Regions of Botswana:

Kalahari
The sparsely populated Kalahari Desert and its fringe.

Okavango-Chobe
The northern part of the country with the Okavango Delta and good game reserves like Chloe National Park and Moremi National Park.

Southeast
Home to the capital, Gaborone, and most of the country’s population.

Cities:

  • Gaborone
  • Francistown
  • Ghanzi
  • Kasane
  • Maun
  • Nata
  • Gweta
  • Kanye

Other destinations:

  • Okavango Delta – Travel Botswana through a unique geological formation where a delta is formed by a river (the Okavango) flowing into the Kalahari desert instead of the ocean. Part of the Delta is designated as Moremi National Park.
  • Central Kalahari Game Reserve – unique and remote place to travel Botswana.
  • Chobe National Park – A great place to see wildlife when you travel Botswana, and a good point from which to move on to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Zambia.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is shared by South Africa and Botswana and one can therefore travel Botswana via South Africa or travel South Africa via Botswana.
  • Nxai Pan National Park – another one of those unique and remote places to travel Botswana.
  • Northern Tuli Game Reserve – a unique corner of Africa where three countries meet (South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe) and where nature & culture combine with spectacular wildlife, stunning scenery and fascinating history.

Entry requirements:

Citizens of 67 countries and territories, including Australia, Canada, Netherlands (as well as other EU countries), Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, UK and US, do not require a visa. For citizens of other nations, a visa must be obtained prior to arrival.

If you require a visa to enter / travel Botswana, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside, if there is no Botswana diplomatic post. For example, the British embassies / consulates in Rome or Zurich.

By plane:

To travel Botswana by air is usually very difficult, as there is very few international airports. Botswana’s main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Most flights arriving in Botswana are from Johannesburg in South Africa. There are no international flights besides South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya (Nairobi). The airport in Maun can also be reached via Johannesburg or Gaborone and only one flight a day from Namibia (Windhoek). Maun is very much a tourist attraction spot and the gateway to the Okavango Delta for those who want to travel Botswana, however the distance between Gaborone and Maun is more than 1000 km.

By train:

To travel Botswana by train is basically impossible as trains to / from South Africa have been withdrawn since 1999. A rail link from Francistown to Bulawayo – Zimbabwe was started in June 2006. But, take note that all domestic passenger services have been suspended indefinitely as of April 2009.

By car:

All road access is good and the primary roads within Botswana are paved and well maintained, so travel Botswana by car is not a problem, provided you avoid driving at night (very dangerous) and that one keeps a close eye out for the cows, donkeys and goats that spend much time in the middle of the road.

Take note that when you travel Botswana, there are several entry points by road to the country:

  • In the south near Gaborone there is a road providing access from Johannesburg.
  • In the west a road providing access from Namibia.
  • In the north a road providing access from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • In the east a road near Francistown providing access from Zimbabwe (Harare).

Coming from Namibia, you can either go north to Maun or south along the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Lobatse. The Trans-Kalahari Highway is an old cattle route, now newly paved and easily drivable. It runs from Lobatse to Ghanzi in Botswana, making the connection from Windhoek (Namibia) to Gaborone, Botswana. To travel Botswana on this route is a long and uneventful drive, but you get a good feel for the Kalahari Desert. Fuel is available in Kang at the Kang Ultra Shop, which also offers a respectable selection of food, overnight chalets and inexpensive camping.

By bus:

Although there is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes about six hours, another service from Namibia (Windhoek) which runs via the Caprivi Strip that will drop you in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana and also a bus service from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, it is not a recommended method (public transport) to travel Botswana for international visitors. If you are persistent to travel Botswana by bus, then with the combination of coaches and combie’s you can get anywhere in Botswana without much trouble, though public transport is spotty away from big cities and major axes. It is advisable to arrive at the bus station quite early, as the busses do fill up quickly, and it is not uncommon to spend several hours standing in the aisle waiting for a seat to free up (remember to bring water, as the buses are often not air conditioned).

Get around:

If on a self-drive tour, take note when you travel Botswana – very few locals know street names and addresses, and you are likely to have to get directions in terms of landmarks. Botswana doesn’t have a postal delivery system to addresses (just to centralized mail collection points), so even when streets are well-marked, the names may be unfamiliar to residents.

Hitchhiking is a popular and very easy way to travel Botswana. However, we recommend that hitchhiking should only be done in desperate circumstances, as Botswana driving is often very erratic and it can be a harrowing experience to have a stranger drive you somewhere.

Talk:

The official languages of Botswana are English and Tswana.

The language of business in Botswana is English and most people in urban areas speak it, although when you travel Botswana through the more rural areas many people do not speak English, particularly the older generations. The primary indigenous tongue is Tswana, and is the first language of the overwhelming majority of the population. It is not difficult to learn basic greetings and such, and using these in conversation will make people very happy.

See:

Wildlife is the main draw when you travel Botswana. Wildlife parks compose nearly one-third of the country. In these parks you will find lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, antelope, wild dogs, rhino, leopard, zebra, giraffe, sable, Cape buffalo and hundreds of species of birds which is a major attraction for bird lovers that travel Botswana. Visitors can take safaris and stay in lodges running the gamut from inexpensive dorms for backpackers to $1000.00+ per person / night in private safari lodges.

Amongst southern Africa’s most impressive and popular wildlife destinations is the Okavango Delta where the Okavango River widens into the world’s largest inland delta. Lying in the middle of the arid Kalahari, the swamps & water channels attract animals from thousands of kilometers around and triples in size (to 100 000 sq. km.!) during the floods in July and August. Nearby Chobe National Park has a large population of elephants and it’s also easy to spot many of Africa’s well-known species, especially zebras and lions. The bleak salt pans of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park attract a large number and variety of birds year-round. Other great game parks include Nxai Pan National Park, Mokolodi Nature Reserve & Gemsbok National Park.

Unfortunately, most of the native tribes in Botswana only dress in traditional outfits and perform rituals for tourists that travel Botswana. Nevertheless, for the culture-cravers that travel Botswana, the villages of D’Kar and Xai-Xai have many offerings, including arts, crafts, and the opportunity to participate in various rituals. Tsodilo Hills contain one of the largest collections of rock art on the continent.

Buy:

It is best, easier and cheaper for those who travel Botswana to get the local currency on arrival. Botswana’s currency is the Pula, 100 Thebe = 1 Pula. In Setswana, pula means “rain” and thebe means “shield.”

Sleep:

Most of the accommodation establishments in Botswana are located near the larger towns and cities, but there are also many secluded game lodges tucked away in the wilderness areas. Those who travel Botswana should book their accommodation well in advance before traveling to Botswana. This can be done direct via local tour operators or travel agents that are connected with local tour operators that have the knowledge of this country. Be careful what you see on various accommodation establishment websites, as it is not always what you find on arrival !!!!

Learn:

The University of Botswana is in Gaborone.

Stay safe:

People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. There isn’t much to worry about on this front. Nevertheless, crime has been on the rise over the past several years, so always be aware of your surroundings when you travel Botswana. Basic common sense will keep you safe from the predatory wildlife in rural areas. Botswana happens to be one of the safest countries in Africa, no civil war, less corruption, human rights, no natural disasters e.g earthquakes or tsunamis.

You also need to take note that there are VERY SEVERE punishments for people that commit very severe crimes such as murder, rape and drug trafficking. Committing severe crimes such as the ones mentioned results in a mandatory death sentence.

When taking medicine into Botswana, you need to show all prescriptions for the medicine. Failing to do so will result in the medication being classified as a drug and can result in capital punishment.

Stay healthy:

Botswana’s HIV infection rate, estimated at 24.1%, is the second highest reported in the world. Exercise regular universal precautions when dealing with any bodily fluid and remain aware of this high rate of infection. Take precautions accordingly. Wear rubber gloves when dressing someone else’s cut, even if it is a child, and obviously NEVER, EVER HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.

The northern part of Botswana, including Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta is in a malaria zone, so it is advisable to take the relevant precautions. Seek medical advice before travelling to these areas.

Water in urban areas is chlorinated, and is drunk from the tap by the local population. Still, short term visitors or those who travel Botswana should drink bottled water to avoid traveller’s diarrhea. Outside of urban areas, the water is contaminated, and should not be used for drinking, ice-cubes and teeth cleaning. Also avoid eating washed unpeeled fruits and vegetables.

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