Botswana Travel Advice
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Go2Africa’s essential Botswana travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
The national currency of Botswana is the Pula – a regionally strong currency – but the US dollar is widely accepted at lodges and hotels throughout the country. Major hotels have foreign exchange desks and most shops, lodges and travel agencies will accept traveller’s cheques. All major credit cards are accepted at hotels, lodges, shops and restaurants. However, some establishments do not accept payment by Diners or American Express.
Full banking services are only available in Botswana’s major towns, but ATMs are becoming increasingly more common.
Banking hours: 8:30am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday and 8:30am to 11am on Saturday.
Provided the service is good, it is customary to tip lodge staff and guides in either Pula or any hard currency on your Botswana safari. The amount that you tip varies depending on the staff member’s role and the size of your group.
In city restaurants and bars, a 10% tip is customary when the service charge is not included.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average summer temperatures: 18°C to 38°C
Average winter temperatures: 6°C to 27°C
Rainy season: October/November to March/April
Refer to “best time to visit Botswana” for climate charts and details on the best wildlife-viewing times.
What to Pack
When packing for a Botswana safari, practicality is key. In the summer months, daytime temperatures can exceed 40°C, so shorts and t-shirts are best, with a longer shirt for protection against the sun if you burn easily. Choose clothing in neutral colours (try to avoid white) and wear lightweight long-sleeved clothing at night and in the early mornings to protect against mosquitoes.
During the cooler months it is best to layer up as the days are still warm and sunny but the night time temperatures can drop close to freezing point. Be sure to pack a thick fleece or jacket for early morning and evening game drives, which can be very cold.
Flights & Getting Around
Did you know you can book your flights through Go2Africa? For more information and frequently asked questions, please see our Flights section.
Gaborone: you can fly to Sir Seretse Khama – Botswana’s main international airport – from Johannesburg but most safari-bound travellers skip it and fly directly to one of the two airports below.
Maun: daily flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town mean easy access to the Okavango Delta‘s gateway airport. You’ll transfer to light charter aircraft for your flight into the Delta.
Kasane: fly to Chobe‘s gateway from Johannesburg, Gaborone or Maun. You’ll transfer by road to lodges in the Chobe River area or smaller aircraft for safaris in Savute or Linyanti. Victoria Falls is less than 100km away by road.
Charter flights on small aircraft are the norm for getting from place to place in Botswana with transfers and game drives conducted in open-sided 4X4 vehicles. Transfers and game viewing by motor boat and mokoro (dug-out canoe) are common in the Okavango Delta.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Every visitor to Botswana must be in possession of a passport that is valid until six months after the initial date of travel; however, no visas are required by citizens of EU countries, most Commonwealth countries, the USA, South Africa, Switzerland, Israel and Norway.
Upon arrival you will receive a 30-day entrance stamp and, for those who plan on travelling onwards to Botswana’s neighbouring countries, visas for Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe can be obtained in Gaborone.
History & Economy
A model working democracy since its independence in 1966, Botswana is one of Africa’s true success stories. Long associated with the San Bushmen, this France-sized country was settled by Iron Age African farmers – the predecessors of today’s Tswana – but was subsequently colonised by the British. Once something of a colonial backwater, Botswana’s peaceful transition to freedom was led by Sir Seretse Khama – a highly revered figure in the country – and the discovery of enormous diamond fields quickly transformed the country.
Lying landlocked at the dry heart of the Southern African subcontinent, Botswana has used its limited resources wisely, and for thirty years it enjoyed the highest average economic growth rate in the world. The wealth derived from Botswana’s three major industries of cattle, diamonds and tourism has resulted in country-wide infrastructure and – by continental standards – a high standard of living.
People & Culture
With a population of barely over two million, Botswana has a mostly homogenous culture with strong religious beliefs. Most people are Christian and Tswana-speaking (English is widely spoken), though many San Bushmen still follow their traditional way of life in the Kalahari. Most of the population however lives in the more urbanised south-east, especially in the ever-expanding capital city of Gaborone, leaving much of the country completely wild and uninhabited.
Landscape & Wildlife
Virtually synonymous with the Kalahari Desert, much of Botswana is flat and dry, covered in thorny acacia trees and home to enormous salt pans and rolling grasslands. Rainfall is highest in northern Botswana where vast open woodlands dominate the environment and several globally important wetland habitats – the Okavango Delta, the Linyanti Swamps and the Chobe River – support huge numbers of animals.
With over 17% of its land surface turned over to conservation and a ban on virtually all hunting effective from 2013, Botswana is a haven for wildlife and several of its protected areas – the Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta and the Moremi Game Reserve in particular – rank among Africa’s best game viewing destinations. Botswana’s Kalahari parks are some of the wildest and least developed in the region but offer excellent opportunities for game viewing, especially in early summer when several local zebra migrations occur.
Botswana’s wildlife highlights include Africa’s greatest concentrations of elephant, fantastic bird watching, abundant predators and the continent’s largest population of African wild dog. Botswana’s lions are particularly notorious for their size and their ability to prey on large animals such as hippo, buffalo and even young elephants.