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Botswana Travel Advice

Southern Sky Adventures: Botswana Travel Advice

Visas for Botswana

US citizens do not need a visa to visit Botswana, only a valid US passport.


Health in Botswana

Health care in Botswana is good in the major towns, and despite medical facilities being more limited in rural areas, all game reserves have well trained doctors on call that can be flown in.  For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation to the US or South Africa may be necessary. Game reserves have pilots available to fly any serious need patient out quickly. Local private hospitals are available and will treat patients if payment is made.

Malaria is common in the northern parts of Botswana, particularly during the rainy season (October-April).  Malaria medications are recommended for travel into Botswana. Please consult with your local travel doctor and/or the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) to determine what inoculations are needed before travel to Botswana commences.

Check yourself daily for ticks when spending time in the bush of Botswana.


Travel Insurance to Botswana

As with travel anywhere in the world it is essential that you should have travel and health insurance. Southern Sky Adventures advises you purchase both and would recommend that you contact Pari Morse at info@1earthtravelprotection.com with 1 Earth Travel Protection if you do not already have a supplier of these services. The travel insurance will protect you financially against any unplanned emergences that might change your plans prior to or during your Botswana travels.

Health insurance will ensure you get the best medical care possible while in Botswana, regardless of cost. Call your current health care provider and ask them what is covered during your trip abroad. If you purchase supplemental insurance make sure you ask for a policy that will cover transportation back to your home. We will discuss these points in detail prior to booking your trip to Botswana.


Safety in Botswana

Botswana is one of the safest countries in all of Africa. The democratically elected government is stable and has been since its independence. The population is small for such a large country and even the larger cities of Gaborone and Francistown feel uncluttered and open. The economy is robust resting on the growth of tourism as well as Botswana being one of the world’s largest diamond producers.

This being said, petty crime does exist in the larger cities so general precautions should be taken to protect valuables. Avoid bringing high end jewelry. Once in the hands of your driver, pilot or camp manager you can be assured that all these people and the camp staff can be trusted. As a precaution, use the in room safes to store valuables, cash and your passport. Always carry copies of your passport and driver’s license. In the event these items are lost, it will be much easier to replace them back at the consulate in Gaborone.

Travelers arriving in Botswana via South Africa should be aware that there is a baggage pilferage problem at Johannesburg and Cape Town International Airports. The issue has improved as of late but travelers are encouraged to use an airport plastic wrapping service and to avoid placing electronics, jewelry, cameras, designer athletic gear, or other valuables in checked luggage. Also, make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur.


Animals in Botswana

The Big 5 are found in most all the game reserves in Botswana. Most all travelers from the US will be viewing these animals with a trained ranger as an escort. Strict adherence to their rules is required and special attention must be paid when traveling with children. In addition to game viewing via vehicle, most all trips into the Okavango Delta will include a mokoro (canoe) option though the reeds and flooded plains. This unique perspective is not to be missed and travelers must also realize that both crocodile and hippopotamus are in the same waters. Each trip in a mokoro will be lead by a professional ranger. In some cases, walking safaris are also offered. The type treks are common and can be enjoyed with no greater sense of risk if the regulations are adhered to.


Weather in Botswana

Although it straddles the Tropic of Capricorn, Botswana experiences extremes in both temperature and weather. In the winter (late May through August), days are normally clear, warm and sunny, and nights are cool to cold. Wildlife never wanders far from water sources, so sightings are more predictable than in the wetter summer season. In summer (October to April), wildlife is harder to spot and rains can render sandy roads impassable. This is also the time of the highest humidity and the most stifling heat; daytime temperatures of over 95°F are common.


Food and Water in Botswana

Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine, generally of an extremely high standard, along with local beer and imported wine and spirits. When coming to Botswana on safari your biggest problem with food is likely to be the very real danger of putting on weight. Good restaurants and bars can be found in main towns and often within hotels.

Water in camp is drinkable, but most camps/lodges do supply plenty of bottled mineral water. There is some disagreement about the safety of water in the smaller towns, so to be on the safe side, drink bottled water.


Internet and Phones in Botswana

Like most African countries, mobile phone access is widespread. Botswana is a rural and large country and the local population relies upon an expansive cell tower network. If you are bringing your own mobile phone, ask your service provider to ensure your phone is open to allow international roaming. It is not a guarantee that your cell phone will work in some of the more remote safari lodges but all lodges will have phone access in the event of an emergency.

Internet facilities are readily available. Most city hotels with either have an internet connection in the bedroom or a business center. Some safari lodges and camps in Botswana all offer this facility but in remote areas, there is limited or no internet connection. There is very little broadband internet available except in the larger hotels in the major cities.


Money in Botswana

Botswana’s unit of currency is the Pula (P), which is divided into 100 Thebe (t). The word ‘Pula‘ means rain and ‘Thebe‘ means shield. The shield appears on the national coat of arms. Bank notes come in denominations of P10, 20, 50 and 100, and coins in denominations of 5t, 10t, 25t, 50t, P1, P2 and P5.

Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club, are accepted widely. Most hotels and lodges accept foreign currency or travelers’ checks. When traveling to private game reserves it is helpful to provide tips in cash in Pula. Travelers can change money at any of the Botswana airports. Should you not have any Pula when at the game reserve, you can also tip in $US.

There are also Exchange bureaus at major border posts. Credit card cash advances are available in major cities through Barclays Bank or Standard Chartered Bank.


Photographic Facilities in Botswana

There are no photographic facilities available while in the bush. Cameras, lenses, camcorders and film can be bought in Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. Most all the top names are represented, however most equipment is more expensive than the USA. Equipment can also be repaired.

Binoculars are recommended especially while on safari in Botswana and a camera with a powerful zoom or telephoto lens will reward you with superb shots on safari. If you have considered buying a higher power telephoto lens, now is the time to buy it.


What clothing should you bring to Botswana

Travel light! Laundry services will be available at all private game reserves. The basics include a light rain resistant jacket; durable washable khakis, shorts; 2-3 short sleeve shirts and one pullover in summer. Hiking shoes and open shoes are useful. A hat is essential. Consider bringing a cloth wide brimmed hat that can be rolled up in your bag. Don’t forget swimwear in the summer.

If traveling in winter you can expect temperatures in the low 50’s at dawn, particularly on a morning game drive or mokoro trip. If you feel the cold, polypropylene long underwear could be useful, although you will shed the layers as the sun comes up. Perhaps add a cardigan for winter travel and a pair of lightweight gloves to be on the safe side.

Few restaurants in Botswana will warrant dressing up as you might in the United States for an evening on the town. Khakis will be fine if dining in town. Access to laundry facilities is readily available in the major cities.


Geography and Topography of Botswana

Botswana is basically a flat and a rolling plateau region. The lowest part of Botswana is found at the juncture of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers at a height of 1,683 feet above sea level, and at the same time the highest point is at Tsodilo Hills at a height of 4,885 feet. The primary draws of Botswana is the game in the national parks, most notably the world renowned Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park and the Kalahari Desert.

The major population centers are the capitol, Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. After these three cities, there are very few concentrations of people.


Some Interesting Facts about Botswana

Botswana is slightly smaller than Texas with only a population of about 1.5 million people.

The Okavango Delta is home to the world’s only regular swimming lions.

The country is named after its largest ethnic group, the Tswana.

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