Botswana pre tour Information: What you need to Know
Botswana is a land-locked country situated in southern Africa. It borders South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Approximately two-thirds of the country lies within the Tropics. Botswana covers an area of 581 730 square kilometres – about the size of France or Kenya. Most of the country is flat, with some small hills in the eastern areas. Kalahari sands cover 84 percent of the surface area. With the exception of the northern areas, most of Botswana is without perennial surface water.
The capital is Gaborone, and other important urban areas include Francistown, Lobatse, and Selebi-Phikwe. Major tourism centres are Maun and Kasane.
The Botswana government is a multi-party democracy, and has a population of approximately 1.85 million. The national language is Setswana, whilst the official language is English.
The Botswana currency is the “Pula” and cents are “Thebe”. The country’s main exports are diamonds, copper nickel, beef, soda ash, and of course tourism.
Botswana is a year-round tourism destination; there simply isn’t one “best time” to visit. Peak game viewing in Northern Botswana is July-October, when animals congregate around available water sources and grasses are low. December to March is a superb time to visit for birders, photography buffs, viewing animals with their young anywhere, game viewing in central Botswana, and for people traveling on a budget.
In the winter/dry season (June-August), daytime temperatures are pleasantly mild, around 23°C/73°F; night-time lows are 5°C/41°F, sometimes lower. From June-October, rain is rare anywhere in the country. In the summer/green season (November-March), temperatures usually range 18-35°C/64-95°F. Expect hot, sunny days and frequent short, abrupt rainstorms which usually clear within hours.
Passports: A passport valid for six months beyond your intended stay and a minimum of two (preferably three) consecutive blank passport visa pages is required. Botswana maintains customs requirements similar to many international destinations.
Visa Regulations: Visas are not required for nationals of USA, Canada, Commonwealth and most European countries. However, for up to date information, please check: www.gov.bw or consult your local Botswana Consulate, Botswana Embassy, or your travel agent for up to date information.
What inoculations or prophylactics (pills) do I need before traveling to Botswana?
Most of Botswana is a malarial zone and you should seek medical advice on the appropriate prophylactics to take as a precaution. Visitors arriving from areas infected with Yellow Fever must have a valid Yellow Fever immunization certificate. Otherwise, no other immunizations are required at time of this printing. Check with your doctor or a health-care provider who specializes in Travel Medicine 4-6 weeks prior to your trip.
Flights: Air Botswana (airbotswana.co.bw), the national airline of Botswana, flies daily between Johannesburg and Maun or Gaborone; and offers frequent flights between Johannesburg and Kasane or between Cape Town and Maun.
Airlink (www.flyairlink.com) flies daily between Johannesburg and Maun, and between Johannesburg and Kasane.
Scheduled regional and domestic flights and light aircraft transfers have lower weight allowances than for international flights. General guidelines:
For scheduled domestic/regional flights: 20kg (44 lbs). For light aircraft, (including Okavango Delta charter flights): 12kgs (26 lbs) per person in soft, squashable bags PLUS 5kg of hand luggage.
Travelers using charter light aircraft for fly-in safaris are advised to use duffels and not to bring hard or wheeled suitcases as they will not fit on light aircraft.
What to bring: Binoculars, camera, small flashlight, insect repellent, lip salve, sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, medications, adapters for electronics, and preferred personal grooming items. Care needs to be taken to comply with international aviation security regulations for items in carry-on luggage and checked baggage restrictions; contact your travel advisor or airline for restrictions.
What should I wear on safari? Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. Bring a lightweight jacket and/or jersey for unexpected temperature changes or rain.
Trousers (long or convertible), long-sleeved shirts / blouses are good for all seasons. October through March – lightweight, light coloured cottons are preferable as it can get quite hot.
From May-August, night temperatures can be quite chilly, so warm jerseys (jumpers) and jackets are vital, especially on morning and evening game drives. Closed, comfortable walking shoes or gym shoes are a must in all seasons.
Special attention should be given to protection from the sun; wearing a brimmed sunhat is preferable to baseball caps.
Travel Insurance: It is essential for visitors to remote areas of Botswana (most safari tourism regions) to have a comprehensive medical insurance policy to provide coverage for local treatment of a serious illness or accident, or if required, medical evacuation.
Money: Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in urban and tourism areas throughout Botswana. It is advisable to notify your credit card issuer you will be using your card internationally prior to your departure to avoid potential card acceptance issues. Travelers should also carry cash in small denominations for incidentals and tipping. Widely accepted currencies are USD, GBP, Euro and Pula – change will be given in the local currency. ATM machines are available in most large towns and cities only. Foreign currency many be changed at banks, bureaux de change, and authorized hotels. Banks hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m, closed Sundays.
Mobile and Internet: Mobile telephone coverage and internet access in urban areas are reliable, but less so outside urban areas. In remote safari areas, cell phone reception and internet access is very sporadic.
Tipping: Tipping in Botswana is discretionary, but customary and appreciated if you are satisfied with the service.
Drinking water: Tap water throughout Botswana is safe to drink. At our camps, the water does have a high mineral content so it does not taste too good.
Bottled mineral water is readily available in most shops, supermarkets, and at camps and lodges. IMPORTANT: Tourists travelling by road are advised to carry sufficient water at all times. (Information from Botswana Tourism)