Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, completely surrounded by five countries: Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Botswana is a true gem among African nations, boasting a remarkable level of wealth and tranquility that few other countries on the continent can match. With its high standard of living and extremely low crime rates, Botswana has established itself as an oasis of stability amidst the many challenges faced by its neighbours. But Botswana is much more than just a peaceful haven. This captivating country is also home to a wealth of attractions that are sure to delight any traveller. From the stunning Tsodilo Hills and Chobe National Park to the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, there is no shortage of natural wonders to explore.
The sparsely populated Kalahari Desert and its fringe.
The northern part of the country with the Okavango Delta and good game reserves like Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve
Home to the capital, Gaborone, and most of the country's population. The starting point for travel in the country.
There are only two major cities in Botswana, being Francistown and Gaborone which is also the capital city.
- 1 Gaborone or Gabs – a neat and tidy little capital, but with rapidly growing shantytowns on its periphery
- 2 Francistown – second largest city in Botswana
- 3 Ghanzi – cattle ranching town in the Kalahari and refueling stop on the road to Maun and the Okavango Delta
- 4 Gweta – small village and gateway to the Makgadikgadi Pans
- 5 Kanye – town in southern Botswana with some natural sites
- 6 Kasane – small town on the Chobe River and a good base to explore Chobe National Park and the nearby Victoria Falls
- 7 Maun – the main tourist center of northern Botswana and launching point for trips to the Okavango Delta. It has good road, bus and air connections
- 8 Nata – small village at the meeting point of roads to Francistown, Kasane and Maun
- 9 Tsabong – village in the Kalahari Desert with a camel park
- 1 Okavango Delta – 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 Game Reserve.
- 2 Central Kalahari Game Reserve – the second-largest wildlife reserve in the world.
- 3 Chobe National Park – a great place to see wildlife with the greatest concentration of elephants in Africa, and a good point from which to move on to Victoria Falls.
- 4 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
- 5 Nxai Pan National Park
- 6 Northern Tuli Game Reserve – a unique corner of Africa where nature & culture combine in spectacular wildlife, stunning scenery and fascinating history.
- 7 Tsodilo – contains rock art that has been made for over 100,000 years, with around 4,500 rock paintings.
- See also: African national parks#Botswana
|Botswana pula (BWP)
|2.2 million (2017)
|230 volt / 50 hertz (AC power plugs and sockets: British and related types, BS 1363, BS 546)
|UTC+02:00, Central Africa Time, Africa/Gaborone
|911, 997 (emergency medical services), 998 (fire department), 999 (police)
|edit on Wikidata
Botswana was never really colonised by the Europeans: instead in 1885, John Mackenzie, who was a Scottish Christian missionary, argued for the land and human rights of the tribe of Bamangwato which he worked really close with. He believed the territory of the Ngwato was being threatened by the Boers to the south who were then capturing and settling in Areas owned by the African tribes. Because of this he and the three chiefs of the three major tribes travelled to Britain to negotiate for the establishment of what became the Bechuanaland Protectorate, to be ruled directly from Britain. As a protectorate rather than a British colony, the local Tswana rulers were left in power, and British administration was limited to the police force to protect Bechuanaland's borders against other European colonial ventures and the Boers. In June 1964, the British queen accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in the protectorate. In 1966 the protectorate came to be known as the Republic of Botswana as it had gained independence from the British. The country now celebrates Independence Day on the 30th of September annually.
Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world, Botswana is now an upper middle-income country, possessing a high standard of living and a high GDP per capita that very few African countries possess. Diamond mining is the backbone of the Botswanan economy, comprising roughly 50-60% of the country's annual revenues.
Botswana has been a stable representative democracy since independence and has been largely devoid of the racial and ethnic conflict some of its neighbours have suffered from — perhaps due in part to the relative dominance of its majority Tswana ethnic group.
The public holidays in Botswana are:
- New Year's Day
- Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Holy Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates)
- Workers Day (1 May)
- Sir Seretse Khama Day (1 July)
- President's Day (Mid July)
- Independence Day (30 September)
- Christmas Day (25 December)
- Boxing Day (26 December)
- The first Monday after Christmas is also a public holiday.
The Tswana, for whom Botswana is named, comprise 79% of the population. The principal Tswana tribes are:
The tribes of Bakwena, Bangwato and Bangwaketse are all related, they were formed in the 17th century when three brothers, Kwena, Ngwaketse and Ngwato, broke away from their father, Chief Malope, to establish their own tribes, this due to a drought and search for new pastures and arable land.
Other than the Tswana tribes, there is also the Kalanga who reside in the northeast side of Botswana near Zimbabwe, the Ndebele, the Khoi and San who make about 13% of country's total population, the remaining 8% is made up of several groups which even include Boer descendants, Kgalagadi, whites etc.
- botswanatourism.co.bw (official tourism website)
- See also: Tswana phrasebook
The official languages of Botswana are English and Tswana.
Tswana is the country's national language and usually serves as people's first language.
You are not really pressured to learn Tswana as English is widely used in everyday business. Almost everyone you encounter will speak and understand English; it won't be that hard to converse with the locals, but it is also best to learn a bit of Tswana, just to be on the safe side.
A lot of older people in rural areas might understand a bit of English but won't speak it very well.
Unlike more stiff necked administrations such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria and China, the Botswana government has not erected high bureaucratic barriers to enrichment from tourism.
Citizens of Argentina, Angola, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Oman, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, South Sudan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zimbabwe do not require a visa to visit.
For citizens of other nations, a visa must be obtained prior to arrival and this usually takes about a week to process.
Visas can be applied for at a Botswana embassy in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe and at the United Nations in New York City, USA.
If you require a visa to enter 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. The UK Government website lists UK embassies around the world where Commonwealth visas can be issued. British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Botswana visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Botswana require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Botswana can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE IATA) which is located roughly 15 kilometres (9 mi) north of downtown Gaborone, which has international flights from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Ethiopia. The airport in Maun can also be reached via Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Gaborone and, once a day, from Windhoek, Namibia. The distance between Gaborone and Maun is more than 1,000 km. Maun is very much a tourist area.
Airlines that fly to Gaborone are:
- Air Botswana from Harare, Victoria Falls, Lusaka, Johannesburg, Cape Town.
- Airlink from Johannesburg.
- Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa from Europe, Asia, Africa.
- Kenya Airways via Nairobi from Europe, Asia, Africa.
- TAAG Angola Airlines from Luanda.
There are several entry points by road to Botswana: in the south at Gaborone, providing access from Johannesburg; in the west providing access from Namibia; the north providing access from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and at Francistown in the east, providing access from Harare. All road access is good and the primary roads within Botswana are paved and well maintained.
Possibly the busiest border crossing from South Africa is the Kopfontein/Tlokweng border crossing, as it is only a few minutes from the capital of Botswana. As a result, it is open for a long period of time, and has a large number of trucks travelling through.
All foreign registered vehicles entering Botswana are required to pay a National Road Safety Fund levy, and a Road Transport Permit levy. The amounts for a vehicle up to 3,500 kg and up to 15 seats are P50 for the safety fund and P52 for the transport permit. Be aware that from August 2019 onwards, foreign currencies are not accepted anymore because of the exchange costs associated with them. Credit cards are accepted. This information can be obtained from www.burs.org.bw, sections customs and excise, clearance of motor vehicles.
By international bus
- Monnakgotla travel have buses twice a week to Gaborone from Windhoek Namibia.
- Metrolyn bus lines have buses to Gaborone from Harare Zimbabwe.
- T J Motlogelwa Expess have buses to Gaborone from Johannesburg twice a day.
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 centralised mail collection points), so even when streets are well-marked, the names may be unfamiliar to residents.
Through a combination of coaches and combies (minivans) and taxies, you can get anywhere in Botswana without any trouble, though public transport is spotty away from big cities and major routes but hitchhiking is popular and very easy. However, 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. It is advisable to arrive at the bus station quite early, as the buses 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).Apart from Public transport you can opt to call a private cab which can take you anywhere you want in around and around the city, phone numbers for cabs can be found anywhere around the city in pamphlets pasted on bus stops or can be found in notice boards mainly located in shopping malls.
Taxis are the most common way to travel,the taxis can only travel on designated routes so its best to ask first where the taxi is heading and where it makes its stops, taxis can only travel in the city it is in,ie you cant catch a taxi in a specific city and intend to travel outside that specific city with that taxi.Taxis as of 2022 cost only P9.00 which roughly equals 0.80 US Dollars
The roads are paved and well maintained, so travel by car is also not a problem. Traffic is on the left in right-hand drive vehicles (as in South Africa or the United Kingdom). Much of the road network outside urban areas is unpaved and requires four-wheel drive vehicles. There are no signposts in rural areas, so independent travellers are advised to use a GPS device. In sparsely populated areas, at least two vehicles should be used. Car accidents are common.
It is advisable to ensure in advance that you have fuel and water for your next destination, as well as a spare tyre. When travelling at night, watch out for sleeping donkeys, cows and other animals on the roads.
The Trans-Kalahari Highway is an old cattle route, now newly paved and easily drivable with a 2-wheel drive. It runs from Lobatse to Ghanzi in Botswana, making the connection from Windhoek, Namibia to Gaborone, Botswana. It 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.
Every city in Botswana has its own bus station and set of bus stops where you can catch a bus to any part of the country surrounding the city where you initially boarded the bus. From Gaborone you can travel by bus to practically any major city around the country. If you intend to board a bus in a city except Gaborone, it is best to first ask a local where you can catch the bus as most cities bus stations and bus stops aren't easy to find using only a GPS or a map.It is also best to inquire first about the bus fare of the bus you intend to board as buses have different fares depending on where you board the bus and where you intend to get off.
The buses on major routes are pretty nice compared to many other African countries, but still not exactly luxurious: 5 sometimes 4, non-reclining seats in a row, little leg-room and no bathrooms (however, they generally make frequent stops that are long enough to use a bathroom and buy some food). Smaller buses are even less comfortable and more likely to fill up completely. If travelling during the winter (Jun, Jul, and Aug) make sure to dress in layers, since it is freezing cold in the morning and toasty hot in the afternoon.
Most smaller buses do not have any air-conditioning, and sometimes you might need to carry some of your luggage with you as smaller buses have limited space for putting your luggage,this might make your journey a little uncomfortable,so think ahead...be early to secure spots for your luggage.
Botswana Railways[dead link] operates all trains in the country. The main line goes from Lobatse, near the South African border, via Gaborone to Francistown at the Zimbabwean border. Passenger trains stopped operating during Covid and have not been reintroduced yet.
Wildlife is Botswana's main draw. Wildlife parks compose nearly one-fifth of the country. In these parks you will find lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, antelopes, wild dogs, and hundreds of species of birds. Visitors can take safaris and stay in lodges running the gamut from inexpensive dorms for backpackers with tour buses to $1,000+/night private lodges with your own maid & driver.
Among 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 kilometres around and triples in size (to 100,000 km2!) during 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.
Most of the native tribes in Botswana only dress in traditional outfits and perform for tourists. The villages of D'Kar and Xai-Xai have many offerings, including arts, crafts, and the opportunity to participate in various performances. Tsodilo Hills contain one of the largest collections of rock art on the continent.The perfect time to witness all the tribes in one place performing would be in mid July during the national arts festival but also if you want to see a more specific tribe it would be best to attend their own unique festival most notably the Dithubaruba Cultural Festival held annually for 2 days by the Kwena tribe in Kweneng region in September. The Bakgatla tribe also have their own unique culture festival which is usually held after a successful farming season.
Exchange rates for Botswana pula
As of January 2024:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Botswana's currency is the pula, denoted by the symbol "P" (ISO 4217 code: BWP). It is subdivided into 100 thebe. Pula means "rain" in Setswana (rain is very scarce in Botswana - home to much of the Kalahari Desert - and therefore valuable and a "blessing"). Thebe means "shield".
Banknotes of Botswana are issued in denominations of P10, 20, 50, 100 and 200, and coins of Botswana are issued in denominations of 5t, 10t, 25t, 50t, P1, P2 and P5. The pula is one of the strongest and most stable currencies in Africa.
click here to see how you can identify the Banknotes and coins.
The cuisine of Botswana is unique but also shares some characteristics with other cuisine of Southern Africa. Examples of Botswana food include Pap, Samp, Vetkoek and Mopane worms.
A food unique to Botswana includes Seswaa, a meat dish made of beef, goat or lamb meat. The fatty meat is generally boiled until tender in any pot, with "just enough salt", and shredded or pounded. It is often served with pap (maize meal) or sorghum meal porridge.
Many soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are produced in factories in Botswana, including Fanta and Coca-Cola. Local brands are Castle and Lion beers. Milk is fermented to make madila (sour milk) which is eaten on its own or added to porridge. A favourite non alcoholic home made drink is ginger beer. A local company Native Foods also produces a variety of refreshments including Mosukujane Iced Tea.
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. A few places have backpackers hotels and there is many campsites.
The University of Botswana is in Gaborone and Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is in Palapye . A number of private tertiary instituations such as Limkokwing University, Botho University, Boitekanelo College, Ba-Isago University also offers a variety programs for study.
Botswana has an extremely high unemployment rate (25.4% as of February 2023); therefore, it can be difficult to secure employment in the country.
Due to Botswana's heavy reliance on the mining industry, you might be able to find a job in that sector.
People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. Nevertheless, crime has been on the rise over the past several years, so always be aware of your surroundings. Basic common sense will keep you safe from the predatory wildlife in rural areas. Botswana is one of the safest countries in Africa, no civil war, less corruption, more human rights, no natural disasters e.g. earthquakes or tsunamis.
Drug trafficking is punished by a mandatory prison sentence. This is important for you to know because if you need to take prescription drugs into Botswana, you will have to show a prescription for each medication and if undeclared, you may be subject to a fine or even worse, a prison sentence, since any type of drug smuggling is entirely frowned upon.
Generally speaking, medical care in Botswana is quite good compared to other African countries. Botswana has a universal healthcare system and the vast majority of people live within five kilometers of a healthcare facility. Cities like Gaborone have wonderful hospitals, but quality healthcare is non-existent in rural areas.
In case of an emergency and you want to be assisted quickly, it is best to find a private hospital rather than a government hospital, though this might cost you. If it's a small emergency that doesn't need medical attention quickly, it is best to go to a government owned hospital/clinic.
If you run out of your prescription pills/medicines and you have a form of proof that you need them, be it a letter from your doctor or your prescription bill, you can go to the nearest pharmacy (dubbed chemist by locals) and present your proof to the Pharmacist so they can assist. The fee depends on the pills/medicine you need.
Perhaps the biggest health danger is HIV/AIDS. Botswana has been experiencing one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. As of 2022, the country's HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among adults is at 22.2%, which is the third highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world. Take the necessary precautions, including not sharing needles and never having unprotected sex. If you form a serious relationship with a local, you both should consider 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; vaccines such as typhoid and hepatitis A+B (if not already immune) are usually recommended. Oral vaccines are also suggested for prevention of diarrhea and cholera.
Water in urban and semi-urban areas is chlorinated, and is drunk from the tap by the local population. Still, short term visitors should drink bottled water to avoid traveller's diarrhoea. Outside of urban and semi-urban areas, the water is contaminated, and should not be used for drinking, ice-cubes, teeth cleaning, or eating washed unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
Botswana's country code is +267 which was allocated to the country by the International Telecommunications Union in the late 1960s, Fixed line numbers in Botswana are seven digits long in a closed telephone numbering plan, with the geographical area being indicated by the first two or three digits, meaning that there are no area codes.
xx xxxxx or xxx xxxxx – calling within Botswana
+267 xx xxxxx or +267 xxx xxxxx - calling from outside Botswana
[countrycode] Areacode][Phonenumber] - if calling an international number from within Botswana.
click here for an extended page on Botswana phone numbers and how to call to and from Botswana.
As of 2022 the government is working on installing free public WiFi in shopping malls and several government owned facilities, so you there's high chance of you stumbling upon free WiFi while shopping for stuff. Apart from free public WiFi, several shopping malls and shops have their own free WiFi dubbed WiFi Hot-spots for their customers, even though this kind of WiFi is free. You can only use it for about 15minutes ie per phone, if that time expires you might need to buy a token if you still want to connect.
Libraries also have free WiFi, each library has a set of desktop computers available for anyone who wants to use them. There are also plenty of internet cafes with desktop computers available if you don't feel like going to a library or if you can't find one.
Depending on the internet provider, the speed of the WiFi you've connected to can be fast or slow. If you're using public free WiFi there's a high chance that you're not the only one on that WiFi, so it will definitely be slow.
You can also buy personal internet data bundles using your phone, depending on what mobile telecommunications company you bought your sim-card from internet speed can be fast or slow also depending on where you are in the country (4G speed in and around the big cities and 3G and even 2G speed in very rural areas).