Botswana is a land-locked country located in Southern Africa and bordering on Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. The economy, one of the most robust on the continent, is dominated by diamond mining and tourism. Botswana is famous for its wildlife, areas like the Chobe National Park, Moremi National Park in the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have a very high concentration of game. The bulk of the Kalahari desert falls within Botswana's borders and Botswana is home to most of the world's San (bushman) population.
The public holidays in Botswana are:
See also African National Parks
Citizens of 67 countries, including Australia, Canada, Netherlands (as well as other EU countries), Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, UK and US, do NOT require a visa. For citizens of other nations, a visa must be obtained prior to arrival. As of February 2009, a visa from the Botswana embassy in Washington costs US$107; for more information and a complete list of countries which do/don't require visas, see: .
Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Most flights arriving in Botswana are from Johannesburg in South Africa. (There are no international flights besides South Africa and Zimbabwe.) The airport in Maun can also be reached via Johannesburg or Gaborone and, once a day (in summer 2009), from Windhoek, Namibia. The distance between Gaborone and Maun is more than 1,000km. Maun is very much a tourist attraction spot.
Trains to/from South Africa have been withdrawn since 1999. A rail link from from Francistown Bulawayo, Zimbabwe was started in June 2006 . Note that all domestic passenger services have been suspended indefinitely as of April 2009.
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.
Coming from Namibia, you can either go north to Maun, or south along the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Lobatse.
There is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes six hours. There is also service from Windhoek, Namibia via the Caprivi Strip which will drop you in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana. There is also bus service from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. See Intercape Mainliner for information on service from Namibia and Zimbabwe. Private shuttles ran until 2004 from Windhoek directly to Maun and in late 2005, such a service was starting up again.
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, you can get anywhere in Botswana without any trouble, though public transport is spotty away from big cities and major axes 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 busses 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).
The roads are paved and well maintained, so travel by car is also not a problem, provided that one keeps a close eye out for the cows, donkeys and goats that spend much time in the middle of the road.
The Trans-Kalahari Highway is an old cattle route, now newly paved and easiy 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.
There are many bus companies in Botswana. One of the biggest is Seabalo. From Gaborone you can travel by bus to any bigger city in Botswana.
Botswana Railways operates Botwana's railways. The main line goes from Lobatse, near the South African border, via Gaborone to Francistown at the Zimbabwean border. However, effective April 1, 2009, all passenger services have been withdrawn.
The official languages of Botswana are English and Setswana.
The language of business in Botswana is English and most people in urban areas speak it, although in the more rural areas many people do not speak English, particularly the older generations. The primary indigenous tongue is Setswana, and is the first language of the overwhelming majority of the population. It is not difficult to learn basic greetings and such, and using these in conversation will make people very happy.
Setswana- Hello – Dumela (Dumela Rra- pronounced borra- when addressing men, Dumela Mma- pronounced bomma- when addressing women)
Botswana's currency is the Pula; 100 Thebe = 1 Pula. In Setswana, pula means "rain" and thebe means "shield." Rough conversions are 7:1 (USD) 9.5:1 (EUR), 11:1 (GBP) and 1:1 (South African Rand) [April 2010].
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.
The University of Botswana is in Gaborone.
People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. There isn't much to worry about on this front. 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's HIV infection rate, estimated at 24.1% , is the 2nd highest reported in the world. Exercise regular universal precautions when dealing with any bodily fluid and remain aware of this high rate of infection. Take precautions accordingly. Wear rubber gloves when dressing someone else's cut, even if they are a child, and obviously NEVER, EVER HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX. If you form a serious relationship, consider both 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.
Water in 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 areas, the water is contaminated, and should not be used for drinking, ice-cubes, teeth cleaning, or eating washed unpeeled fruits and vegetables.