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Botswana General Information


INTRODUCTION
Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. It has land borders with Zimbabwe in the northeast, South Africa in the south and southeast and with Namibia to the west.

The country is a broad tableland with a mean altitude of 3,300 ft. A vast plateau of about 4,000 ft in height, extending from near Kanye north to the Zimbabwean border, divides the country into two distinct topographical regions.

The eastern region is hilly bush country and grassland (veld). To the west lie the Okavango Swamps and the Kalahari Desert. The only sources of permanent surface water are the Chobe River in the north, the Limpopo in the east, and the Okavango in the northwest. In seasons of heavy rainfall, floodwaters flow into the Makarikari Salt Pans and Lake Ngami.

 

AT A GLANCE  

Full name

Republic of Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland)

Capital

Gaborone

Independence

30 September 1966

Time

GMT +2 hours

Population

1,640,115 (estimated July 2005)

Area

600,370 km2 (585,370 km2 land; 15,000 km2 water)

Currency

Pula (P)

President

President Seretse Khama Ian Khama (since 1 April 2008)


PEOPLE
Like many African countries, Botswana includes people of many different cultures speaking a variety of different languages. About 26 different languages have been identified in Botswana.

The main ethnic groups are the Batswana (descendants of Iron Age immigrants from Central West Africa), the Basarwa (San, indigenous hunter gatherers, pre iron age), and the Herero (pastoralists). Eighty percent of the population of Botswana lives in rural areas.

 

CLIMATE
Botswana is situated in the tropics, far from the sea. It receives a great deal of sunshine and very little rainfall. Most of the country is semi-arid or arid (an area is classed as arid when there is more evaporation than rainfall). So precious is rain in Botswana that the word for rain - pula - is the name of Botswana's currency. Most of Botswana has a desert climate, with large temperature fluctuations between day and night, and between summer and winter. Like most of southern Africa, Botswana has summer rainfall.

Summer:
Between November and April days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with possible afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures can rise to 38¼C and night temperatures drop to around 20¼C - 25¼C. The afternoons can be very humid. The rainy season begins late in October/November and ends in March. The northern areas receive up to 700mm while the Kalahari Desert area averages as low as 225mm.

Winter:
From May to October days are dry, sunny and cool to warm while evening temperatures drop sharply. Daytime temperatures generally reach 20¼C and can drop as low as 5¼C at night. Please note that exceptionally cold spells can occur (although this is the exception rather than the rule) so it is recommended to bring appropriate clothing, just in case!

 

BEST TIME TO GO
Botswana is an all-year-round wildlife destination. However, there are certain seasonal concerns of which groups with special interests should take note:

The best birding months are November - March, when the delta is brimming with migratory birds

Botswana’s popularity as a destination is such that seasonal differences are not as marked as in other African destinations. Traditionally, however, peak season is from July to October and middle season is from May to June. Note that availability is at a premium during these seasons so you will need to book well in advance.

November to April is a less popular time for travel to Botswana. This is the wet season, and due to the abundance of water it is less certain that one will see wildlife at perennial water holes. Also, the heavy rains can make dirt roads impassable.

 

TRANSPORT
Rail and Bus
A single railway line runs from Ramatlabama on the South African border to Ramokgwebana on the Zimbabwean border. The main stops on this route are Lobatse, Gaborone, Mahalapye, Palapye, Serule and Francistown. Public transport is very limited. Bus and minibus services operate in the more populated areas, but service is generally unscheduled and runs according to demand. As rail service is scheduled, it is a more reliable form of public transport.

Airports
Domestic air services operate between the major airports, Gaborone Airport (GBE), Francistown Airport (FRW), Maun Airport (MUB), Kasane (BBK).
Charter services can be arranged to reach remote areas. These tend to be expensive, but are cheaper when booked through a tour operator.

Roads
There are 18,482 km of highways in Botswana, of which 4,343 km are paved. Road conditions in the reserves of Botswana are extremely rough and dusty, and the roads can be badly signposted. Four-wheel drive vehicles are essential, as are good driving skills to negotiate these roads in the wild. Botswana is not recommended as a self-drive destination, except as a 4x4 adventure.

If you will be driving in Botswana, your normal driving license is accepted, with an English translation, if necessary. Driving is on the left side of the road.

 

ACCOMMODATION

 

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival.

Nationals of the following countries do not require visas for a stay of less than 90 days: All Commonwealth countries (except nationals of Ghana, India, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who do require a visa), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, German Federal Republic, Greece, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Western Samoa, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, USA and Yugoslavia.

Photocopy of passport, original application form and two passport photos. All visitors may be requested to show proof of sufficient funds and onward travel/ return ticket. A letter of support from your host or host company or your confirmed hotel bookings/tour itinerary may also be necessary.

 

MONEY MATTERS
The unit of currency is the Pula (P), which is divided into 100 thebe. Notes are in P5, P10, P20, P50 and P100. Coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 (thebe) and P1 & P2. Pula means 'rain' or 'greeting' in Tswana.

Most visitors will find the exchange rate is in their favour. Generally, you will find that fine cuisine, wine, and entertainment cost less than in equivalent establishments elsewhere in the world.

Banks
Banks in Maun & Kasane:
Mon - Fri 08h30 - 14h30
Sat 08h15 - 10h45

First National Bank, Maun:
Mon - Fri 09h00 - 12h45; 14h15 - 15h30
Sat 08h30 - 11h00

Standard Chartered Bank, Maun:
Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri 08h15 - 14h00
Wed 08h15 - 13h00
Sat 08h15 - 10h45

Major hotels have foreign exchange facilities and most shops, lodges and travel agencies will accept traveller’s cheques.

Credit Cards
All major credit cards are accepted at hotels, shops and restaurants. However, certain lodges and restaurants do not accept payment by Diners or American Express. Credit cards are not accepted at petrol filling stations.

 

MEDICAL SERVICES
It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Botswana. When purchasing these, please tell your doctor or pharmacist that you intend visiting Botswana. Start your course at least 24 hours before entering Botswana and continue taking the pills for 6 weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner as this usually minimises the effect of the symptoms.

Take precautionary measures to prevent contact with mosquitoes, like: sleeping under a bed-net or in a room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times); spraying your accommodation with insecticide; making use of a mosquito-repelling lotion or stick; and wearing long-sleeve clothing, long trousers and socks when outside at night.

Any person entering Botswana from or via a yellow fever infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever.

Tetanus immunisation is recommended. Travellers should be aware that there is a presence of bilharzia and sleeping sickness.

Botswana does not have a national health welfare scheme. It is therefore advisable to obtain medical insurance prior to arrival. Health care standards in Botswana are high, with excellent hospitals in Gaborone and Francistown. All main towns have well stocked pharmacies, but as most tourist areas are in remote areas, it is recommended that you bring any medicines you may require with you.

 



"A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in."
~ Robert Orben ~