All the facts you need to know about the country itself.
Full Country Name Republic of Botswana
Area 600,370 sq km
Population 2.28 million (UN 2015)
Capital and largest City Gabarone
Borders South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Religion Christian. Animist, Muslim
Time Zone Standard time is 3 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time
Languages Official language is English but the National language is Setswana
Country Dialling Code +267
Botswana is a vast land, highly prized for its safaris and game. Astonishingly, around 17% of the country is designated national park, and when Botswana’s huge private concessions are also totalled up, the figure swells to a proud 40%.
Botswana has ensured that its spectacular Okavango Delta, now declared as the 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been well protected from mass tourism. Impressive lagoons offer an abundance of spectacular birdlife, while elephant, giraffe, buffalo and other permanent and seasonal animals amble through its vast grass flats. This is one of the largest inland deltas in the world, which explains its wealth of wildlife. It is almost enough to make you forget that most of Botswana is given over to desert.
Botswana was also once an economic wasteland. The country gained independence in 1966, having been a British Protectorate, and at this time was amongst the poorest nations in the world. Nature was then kind to Botswana, when its natural assets became apparent, ready to be explored. Diamonds were discovered and Botswana has enjoyed a growth rate that still continues to soar, especially when put into a context with much of the rest of Africa.
Having a sundowner, unwinding in the glare of a sunset and hearing the sounds of singing birds and roaming game, Botswana is both a country to relax in and a country to have adventure in.
When to Travel
When to Travel
There is no right time to travel to Botswana, just the right time for you! Here we go through the benefits and downsides of each season.
Botswana’s climate is semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months between November and March. Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and highly regional. Often a heavy downpour may occur in one area while 10 or 15 kilometres away there is no rain at all. Showers are often followed by strong sunshine so that a good deal of the rainfall does not penetrate the ground but is lost to evaporation and transpiration.
Green Season: January, February, March and April
This is the time of the year when the majority of the rainfall occurs. This however does not mean that it is unpleasant. The rains usually only last a couple of hours so it doesn’t impact the whole day.
Benefits to visiting Botswana in the green season:
- This is a great time for photographers and birders to travel.
- The landscape is lush and the birdlife is fantastic at this time of year.
- If you love seeing baby warthogs, tiny zebra and infant impala, this is the perfect time of year to go!
- Safari camps offer discounts of up to 40% of what they would usually charge.
- You can expect more exclusive safaris as there are fewer visitors.
- In the green season the desert areas springs to life with a variety of flora and fauna; vast numbers of animals migrate through the desert areas of Nxai Pan, Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi.
Downsides of visiting Botswana in the green season:
- Wildlife is more spread out; as there are more sources of water meaning that game viewing is not as fruitful at this time of the year.
- During the rains there may be flooding so logistics tend to be a bit more flexible to accommodate this.
- Insects are more abundant in the green season, in Botswana.
Shoulder Season: May and June
This is a time when the weather is less predictable, transitioning from warm and wet to cool and dry. The animals begin their migration back to the Okavango Delta and Linyati, where there are permanent water sources.
Benefits to visiting Botswana in the shoulder season:
- If it has been a dry year then game viewing can be as fruitful as it is in the dry season but prices are lower than they would be in the dry season.
- There are still a lot of baby animals around at this time of year.
- To make the most of your safari we would recommend that you consider incorporating a desert area, such as the Kalahari (LINK), as well as a visit to one of the permanent water sources, such as the Okavango (LINK).
Downsides of visiting Botswana in the shoulder season:
- If it’s been a wet year then the animals may not have migrated back to the permanent water sources so wildlife viewings may be scarcer than in the dry season.
Dry Season: July, August and September
These winter months are the cool and dry months of the year. The Delta and Linyati begins to flood and game has migrated towards these areas, which makes for optimum game viewing here. This is often seen as the ideal time to visit Botswana!
Benefits to visiting Botswana in the dry season:
- This is the season where there is a wide range of safari activities available, as the waters are high enough to allow for water-based activities such as mokoro excursions.
- In the desert areas it is dry enough to allow for quad biking.
Downsides of visiting Botswana in the dry season:
- As it is peak season this is the most expensive time to visit Botswana.
- The migratory game in the desert areas of Nxai Pan, Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi have departed so the game viewing here is not as productive.
Shoulder Season: October, November and December
This is a second shoulder season in Botswana, a time when conditions are less predictable, transitioning from cool and dry to warm and wet.
Benefits to visiting Botswana in the shoulder season:
- Game viewing in the Delta and Linyati is as fruitful as in the dryer months.
- The prices are lower than in the dry season.
Downsides of visiting Botswana in the shoulder season:
- October and November are very hot months.
- Many lodges are closed in December.
- The weather is changeable and unpredictable.
For the budget conscious May and June are good months to travel. There are no rains, the spray from Victoria Falls is spectacular and the temperature is pleasant. This offers mid-season prices so it is good value for money.
Here is the “need to know” information about visas for Botswana.
Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Botswana?
At this time, no visa for Botswana is required for travellers on Australian Passports.
Travelling to Botswana with Children
Effective from the 1st October 2016 minors travelling through the country’s borders will be required to produce the following:
- Valid passports
- Certified unabridged birth certificates for all minors below the age of 18
- A letter of consent from the other parent should the minor be travelling with one parent
Effective from 1st October 2016, new regulations were implemented for travellers arriving with children up to the age of 18 years. Parents are required to produce an unabridged birth certificate for each child travelling, or a certified copy, to be presented at immigration with the passports. If only one parent is travelling, they must also carry consent from the second parent registered on the birth certificate in the form of an affidavit, authorising the child to travel, or a court order granting full parental responsibilities. In the case of children travelling with other relatives or family friends and no parent, an affidavit must be carried to confirm permission from the parents.
Please note the majority of families travelling to Botswana are arriving through South Africa which currently have similar border requirements. Families should therefore have all the required documentation in place.
Botswana Tourism Development Levy
Botswana Tourism have advised that as of June 1st 2017 there will be a tourism levy for anyone entering Botswana.
The Levy Background
• The Ministry of Environment Natural Resources’ Conservation and Tourism through the Botswana Tourism Organisation wishes to announce the introduction of an obligatory Tourism Development Levy (TDL)
Purpose of the Levy
• The objective of the Levy is to raise funds for conservation and national tourism development in order to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base, resultantly improving the lives of the people of Botswana.
Who is eligible to pay?
• All visitors to Botswana in exception of residents and citizens of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states
Where is the levy collected?
• The Levy is payable at all ports of entry including airports and border posts, commencing on the 1st June 2017
How is the payment received?
• Payments are received at the ports of entry through cash (US Dollars). After the payment, a unique receipt corresponding to the passport will be generated. The receipt should then be presented to Immigration Officials. The passport and the receipt will be stamped and handed back to the traveller. The receipt will valid for a 30 day period and can be used for multiple entry.
How much is the levy?
• Travellers to Botswana will pay USD30.00.
• The Botswana Government remains committed to growing the contribution of tourism to the national economy as well as economic diversification and employment creation.
- You must hold return or onward flight tickets.
- Your passport must be valid at least six months beyond the intended stay.
- A minimum of two blank pages in your passport is required, over a double page. If there is insufficient space in your passport, entry could be denied.
- Visitors must also be in possession of onward travel documents and have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay.
Please double check this with Bench Africa or your travel agent as this may change at any time
The unit of currency in Botswana is the Pula (BWP), which is made up of 100 Thebes (cents).
YOU SHOULD KNOW...
- Full banking services are available in all the main towns although a commission is normally charged.
- US Dollars are the common currency used whilst on safari, but please ensure the notes do not pre-date 2007, as they will not be accepted.
- It is recommended to carry some cash in small denominations.
Is Botswana the right choice for you and your family? Here’s what you need to know about travelling with children.
Considerations when Travelling with Children
- We would not recommend travelling to Botswana with children under the age of 6 as it is not malaria-free.
- Travel distances in Botswana can be long which proves to be a challenge for families with small children.
- Families will often need to reserve a private vehicle and guide if they want to take their children on game drives, which increases costs considerably.
- Children will have to sit out a lot of the less child-friendly game viewing activities.
- Some lodges and camps will have child-friendly activities and clubs to entertain and educate the youngsters.
- Although there are many camps and lodges that are not set up for children, there are some that were designed with children in mind. If you speak to one of our consultants they can tailor-make an itinerary specifically for you and your family.
Getting into the Country with Children
Effective from 1st October 2016, new regulations were implemented for travellers arriving with children up to the age of 18 years. Please refer to the Visa section of the Botswana Trip Planner for more information.
Although electricity in Africa is a lot more reliable than it used to be, here’s what you need to be aware of.
VOLTAGE & FREQUENCY
In Botswana the general voltage is 220-240 and the frequency is 50 Hz.
- Electricity is provided by generators, in most camps.
- Batteries may be recharged in the camp during the day but it is wise to double check with the camp manager.
- As the sockets can vary a ‘Travellers Adaptor Set’ is recommended.
- Voltage sometimes fluctuates and whilst power cuts are rare, they are not unknown so it is useful to carry a torch.
Travelling by road in Africa may seem daunting to some so we have put together some information so that you know what you can expect.
- Please note that road surfaces vary from tarmac, gravel, sand and occasionally vehicles may travel “off road”.
- Additionally, if visiting remote areas or National Parks and Reserves, the roads may well be rough, bumpy and in a poor condition and may be affected by adverse weather conditions.
Road travel in Africa can be a risky business. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you travel with a reputable ground operator, who has strictly enforced guidelines regarding speed and road safety. We have spent the best part of 50 years assessing the ground operators in each country that we sell. In booking through Bench you know that you will be the safest that you can be!
Here are our recommendations to thumb through either before you leave for your trip to Botswana, or whilst on safari.
- City of the Kalahari: Mark and Delia Owens
- The Lost World of the Kalahari: Laurens Van Der Post
- Lonely Planet Botswana and Namibia: Lonely Planet
- 101 Things to Know When You Go on Safari in Africa: Patrick Brakspear
- The Bushmen – A Changing Way of Life: Anthony Bannister and Peter Johnson
- Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: Peter Allison
Tipping is a delicate and sensitive issue and many people ask us for tipping guidelines, here is all the information you should require.
Tipping is usually considered customary in Africa although not as widespread as the United States or Europe. It is always at your discretion. If you feel that someone has gone the extra mile to make your stay more enjoyable, a tip would be considered a nice way of saying thank you.
To help you budget for your trip, the following is given as a guideline only (shown in US Dollars):
Driver (per person per full day): $5.00
Guide (per person per full day): $10.00
Camp Staff (per person per full day): $5.00
Hotel Porter (per bag): $1.00
Here are some numbers you might need.
High Commission of the Republic of Botswana
130 Denison Street, Deakin ACT 2600, Australia
Tel: +61 2 6234 7500
Australian Embassy (South Africa)
292 Orient Street, Arcadia Pretoria, South Africa
Tel: +27 12 423 6000
Australian Consulate in Gaborone, Botswana
An Honorary Consul Australian Consulate heads the post.
Plot 20681, Unit 1A, Block 3, (opposite Oriental Plaza) Ramakukane Way, Broadhurts Industrial, Gaborone, Botswana
At Bench Africa we carefully select the properties that we use, and one size certainly does not fit all. Here is a list of all the different types of accommodation awaiting you in Africa.
We recommend this for the more intrepid travellers who want to get their hands dirty! Guests will put up their own tents and may be required to help around the campsite. The basics are catered for, as well as two-man tents and sleeping mats and campsites preselected to stay at along the journey. The amenities at these campsites can vary quite drastically depending where you are in Africa and what you pay. For example in the Serengeti there is no running water at the campsites, however in other parts of Africa the campsite may have a swimming pool.
Fully Serviced Camping
For those that want to experience a traditional safari, under canvas but would still like the chance to relax and take time to enjoy their environment we would recommend fully serviced camping. On arrival the mobile camp is set up and ready to go. The tents are spacious and can be really quite luxurious, often with camp beds and en-suite bathrooms, as well as a full staff of chefs, waiters and other helping hands. Here you will have lighting, hot water and cold drinks but you still have that amazing feeling of being at one with nature!
Luxury Tented Camping
Luxury tented camps are a very popular choice on safari because these camps are very intimate, usually with no more than 20 tents on site. These luxury tents offer spacious rooms with electricity, proper beds, as well as en-suite bathrooms with running hot and cold water. The cuisine and service is of a very high standard and you will eat like a king, with 3 decadent meals a day, as well as snacks. All luxury tented camps offer an all-inclusive package to incorporate meals, local drinks and game viewing activities. At night you can still go to sleep, under canvas with the sounds of the African wilderness around you. This is how you do safari in style!
Safari Lodges vary considerably in size and architectural design but essentially these are much more permanent structures, often with many more rooms than luxury tented camps. They will often have a swimming pool and conferencing facilities. A lodge will celebrate the nature surrounding it and will usually blend in with its surrounds and built making natural, locally sourced materials.
This would commonly be the largest of all the accommodation types but again can vary quite dramatically in style, size and the amenities that it offers. There is typically a reception area, with rooms opening directly onto a hallway. They would be less exclusive that the aforementioned accommodation types, with restaurants and other facilities open to the public.
A boutique hotel is a 5-star establishment providing all the features and facilities of a standard hotel but is always unique and very stylish. These properties are usually smaller and more intimate than a hotel and offer a very high-end service.
Hotels, lodges and tented camps in Africa range from good tourist standard to award- winning deluxe properties. On occasions it may be necessary to change a hotel, lodge or camp due to various reasons, which would be out of the control of Bench Africa. In this situation we will make every effort to give you as much advance warning as possible. In the event of this happening we may not be able to send out up-to-date information on this substitute property.
For more information on the individual hotels, lodges or tented camps where you will be staying please refer to your itinerary or speak to one of our Africa experts.
Here are some guidelines for travelling by light aircraft in Botswana.
- Please ask the local operator at your hotel/lodge to reconfirm all onward flights prior to departure to ensure the flight timings are still correct.
- Most departure taxes (domestic and international) are included on tickets, however some regional and private airports have taxes to be paid for locally.
General Luggage & Weight Restrictions on Light Aircraft
- The maximum baggage allowance on the light aircraft utilized for transfers between game lodges is 20 kg per person in a soft bag. This includes photographic equipment and hand luggage.
- Only soft bags will be accepted – no wheels, frames or rigid structures can be transported, as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft.
- The maximum dimensions of the soft bags, that can be accommodated, are as follows: 25 cm wide x 30 cm high and 62 cm long. Please note that the baggage compartments on light aircraft are only 25 cm high, so pilots must be able to manipulate the bag into the compartment.
- A collapsible-wheeled luggage frame/trolley (separate to the bag) is allowed, as long as basic dimensions are similar to that of the bag.
- If you need to bring additional luggage (not included in the weight restriction), an extra seat can be purchased. Excess luggage needs to be in soft bags as per the above dimensions.
- Please inform us in advance if your personal body weight exceeds 100 kg, as an extra seat must be purchased for safety and comfort.
What to Pack
What to Pack
Here we have listed our recommendations of what you should pack for your Africa travels.
- Formal clothing is generally not needed throughout most of Africa. We recommend that you limit your luggage to the basics. More formal attire is usually only required when staying in the more prestigious city hotel establishments and on luxury rail journeys such as Rovos Rail or the Blue Train, in South Africa.
- On a wildlife safari, casual cotton clothing is the most practical. Calm neutral colours such as tan or khaki are a good idea although a bush outfit is not essential. Some form of headgear is recommended, and sunglasses are essential. A warm fleece or jacket is advisable for colder evenings and early mornings. A lightweight raincoat may be useful as some seasonal rains can occur.
- Heavy footwear is not required, but sturdy, comfortable walking shoes or boots are recommended for nature walks, with a change of shoes (such as trainers) for the camp.
- The dress code is informal at all of the camps and it is advisable to bring long sleeved shirts and trousers for the evenings to minimise insect bites.
- Good laundry facilities are readily available at many hotels, game lodges and camps, and often on a complimentary service where the amount of luggage is restricted. However, on a busy itinerary it is advisable to check that your clothes will be ready before your departure. If your trip contains any light aircraft flights, then you may be subject to some very strict baggage restrictions. You will be limited to a certain weight, often between 15–20 KG. Bags also have to be soft-sided cases so that they can fit in the hold. These restrictions cannot be avoided, as there simply is not the capacity on these small planes so bear this in mind when you are packing for your Africa trip.
- It is always a good idea to dress in layers on activities to accommodate the early morning and late afternoon change of temperature. Winter months will definitely require a warm jacket and perhaps a beanie, gloves and a scarf.
- Hat for protection from the sun
- Good quality sunglasses preferably polarized
- Camera, charger and adaptor
- If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case of dust irritation.
- Good walking shoes, trainers as well as sandals
- Socks (long socks, if you are doing a gorilla trek)
- Long trousers/slacks
- T-shirts/long-sleeved cotton shirt for cooler evenings
- Sweater/fleece/raincoat. These may be required for early morning and late afternoon game activities throughout the year.
- Lip balm
- Sports bra – ladies, you may need this for bumpy game drive
- Swimming costume
- Basic medical kit (aspirins, elastoplasts, Imodium, antiseptic cream etc
- Malaria tablets AND anti-histamine cream
- Insect repellent (many lodges do supply sprays)
- Protective suntan lotion particularly for pale and sensitive skins
- Tissues or ‘wet wipes’
Food & Drink
Food & Drink
What you can expect from food and drink in Botswana.
- Most lodges and safari camps have restaurants and licensed bars, and the food offered ranges from good basic meals to gourmet style. The standard of food in lodges and camps is generally very good.
- Bottled water is available in all tourist centres. It is advisable to drink at least 2-3 litres of water per day whilst on safari as dehydration can occur quickly, especially in the summer months.
- It is best to assume that water is NOT safe to drink unless it has been boiled. It is always wise to double check locally if in any doubt.
Wine tends to be imported and may be expensive; however, local beer and local spirits are reasonably priced and easily available as are soft drinks (Pepsi, Coca Cola etc) and bottled water.
It is vital that you visit your doctor at least 6 weeks prior to travel.
- We are not health professionals and as such we recommend you speak to your GP or local Travel Doctor for up-to-date information and advice.
- Malaria: It is recommended that precautions against malaria be taken for travel to most regions in Botswana. We suggest you contact your doctor for advice on which prophylactic is recommended.
Make sure that you are covered from the moment you place your booking with us!
Our Tips for Choosing Insurance
- We strongly recommend you take out Comprehensive Travel Insurance at the time of booking your trip.
- Note, it is essential that you are fully aware of the Terms and Conditions of your travel insurance policy therefore we recommend that you read your policy wording carefully and contact your insurer should you have any questions.
Here is some “need-to-know” information about taking photos in Botswana.
- Photographing of airports, Government buildings, etc is prohibited.
- Some local people strongly object to photographs being taken without permission, but will sometimes agree upon payment of a small tip. Please check with your guide.
- Film and memory cards are generally available, but stocks can be limited and could be expensive, so we suggest you carry with you adequate7 Easy-to-Follow-Tips to take Mesmerising Wildlife Photossupplies.
- Telephoto lenses for game viewing, lens hood and ultra violet filters will be useful – bring your dust cover.
- Batteries can be recharged at most lodges and hotels, but it is advisable to bring spares.
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Although Africa is now safer to travel than it ever has been it is important to take note of the following information.
- Doors should be locked when driving after dark.
- Don’t walk alone at night in city streets, isolated beaches or remote areas.
- Travellers should not display unnecessary signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money, and expensive jewellery) on the streets.
- Leave all your valuables including passports locked in the room safe where available.
Safety on Safari
- The wild animals are not like those found in theme parks – they aren’t tame.
- Most of the safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps. Many of the animals and reptiles you will see are potentially dangerous. Attacks by wild animals are rare, however, there are no guarantees that such incidents will not occur. Bench Africa, our staff members, associates, agents, or their suppliers cannot be held liable for any injuries caused during an incident involving the behavior of wild animals.
- Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.
- Do not go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms. After retiring to your rooms at night, do not leave them.
- Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.
- Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Do not imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.
- Please respect your driver/guide’s judgment about proximity to lions, cheetahs and leopards. Don’t insist that he/she takes the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.
- Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly.
- Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.
- Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals.
A little handy advice to get the best out of your shopping in Botswana.
- There is an abundance of wonderful souvenirs and crafts to buy. Look for colourful materials, sisal bags, wood or stone carvings, unusual artwork, handcrafted jewellery, woven goods and attractive basketry are recommended.
- Bargaining is expected at markets and roadside stalls, but not in shops. The locals may start off with highly inflated “tourist prices” and you will need to bargain until you feel you are paying what the product is worth.
- Cash in local currency is accepted, as well as US Dollars, while credit cards may only be accepted in larger shops.
- Do not purchase ivory, rhino horn, animal furs/hides, tortoise shell, coral, game skin, trophies or elephant hair bracelets. These items are prohibited as hunting was banned in 1976.