Travel Guide Africa Botswana



Okavango Delta by marura

Okavango Delta by marura

© Jase007

In 1966, Botswana achieved full independence from Britain. The following year, the newborn nation discovered that it was home to three diamond mines. Botswana's fortunes rose as the British kicked their royal selves. Though a slump in the diamond industry in 1999 set Botswana back, the country can do little complaining about its first few decades as a nation. It is blessed with one of Africa's best economies.

An excellent economy has given Botswana the luxury to build its tourism industry in a way that is sustainable for the environment. For the budget traveller, this means you're going to have to look hard for places to stay, though it's not impossible. Botswana's done a good job of marketing its wildlife safaris - some of Africa's best - to rich folk. The untamed wildlife which roam Botswana's Kalahari desert, Okavango Delta and numerous national parks are a drawcard attraction all by themselves.



Brief History

In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between Tswana inhabitants of Botswana and Ndebele tribes who were making incursions into the territory from the northeast. Tensions also escalated with the Boer settlers from the Transvaal to the east. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, the British Government put "Bechuanaland" under its protection on 31 March 1885. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate and is modern-day Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the North West Province of South Africa. The majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.
When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 out of the main British colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland (the "High Commission Territories") were not included, but provision was made for their later incorporation. The election of the Nationalist government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of incorporation of the territories into South Africa.
In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikeng in South Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which sits near its border. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence on 30 September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first president, re-elected twice, and died in office.
The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Quett Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999 and re-elected in 2004. The presidency passed in 2008 to Ian Khama (son of the first president), who resigned his position as leader of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role. The sitting president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, took office in 2018. The Botswana Democratic Party has so far won every election since the first in 1965.




At 581,730 km2 Botswana is the world's 48th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Madagascar, and is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas or the Canadian province of Manitoba. It lies between latitudes 17° and 27°S, and longitudes 20° and 30°E. It borders South Africa to the south, Namibia to the west and north (Caprivi Strip) and Zimbabwe to the east. Although it is popular to say that Botswana shares a quadruple border with Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, this is not the case. The four countries don't convert into exactly one point. Instead, Zambia and Botswana do share a tiny border in the middle of the Zambezi River. The country is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of its land surface. The Okavango Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan, lies in the north. The Limpopo River Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, with the basins of its tributaries, the Notwane, Bonwapitse, Mahalapswe, Lotsane, Motloutse and the Shashe, located in the eastern part of the country. The Notwane provides water to the capital through the Gaborone Dam. The Chobe River lies to the north, providing a boundary between Botswana and Namibia, in the Caprivi Region. The Chobe River meets with the Zambezi River at a place called Kazungula (meaning a small sausage tree, a point where Sebitwane and his Makololo tribe crossed the Zambezi into Zambia).




Botswana is divided into nine districts:

  • Central
  • Ghanzi
  • Kgalagadi
  • Kgatleng
  • Kweneng
  • North-East
  • North-West
  • South-East
  • Southern

The nine districts are loosely based on the boundaries between the major Tswana tribes.

For traveller's purposes, the following 3 general regions can be more helpful though:

  • Kalahari - The sparsely populated Kalahari Desert and its fringe.
  • Okavango-Chobe - The northern part of the country with the Okavango Delta and good game reserves like Chobe National Park and Moremi National Park
  • Southeast - Home to the capital, Gaborone, and most of the country's population






Sights and Activities

Botswana is one of the best countries in the world to experience a classic safari. This doesn't come cheap however, as the government keeps prices relatively high and reaching some of the best safari spots requires renting a high clearance 4wd vehicle or in some cases even flying in. However, the country is also ideal for motor touring, with good roads and comfortable and affordable guesthouses and campsites readily available outside of the main tourist destinations.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, as the name suggests, is located right in the centre of both the Kalahari desert as well as Botswana and is much less visited compared to its northern neighbours. If you want to visit this parks, you need to be highly self sufficient with well equipped 4wd vehicles, including GPS. It is best to travel with at least 2 cars in case something happens. Adventurous travellers will be rewarded with vast empty desert and savannah landscapes and although the wildlife is more scattered out, the sights of a black maned huge male lion is something never to forget. The north of the park is best in general for game viewing.

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is located in the northeast of the country, between the Okavango Delta/Moremi Game Reserve and the main gateway to Chobe, Kasane. The park is well over 10,000 square kilometres big and is best known fur huge flocks of elephants which roam the area and come to drink water out of the Chobe river during the afternoon. There are also large herds of buffalos near the edge of the river, as well as hippos, lechwes, kudus, impalas and roan antelopes. Although from Kasane it is possible to reach the park and the first part of the park by normal vehicle, if you want to travel further and cross the Chobe National Park towards Maun, this will mean you have to travel by well equipped 4wd. As a consequence, many people visit the park from lodges in or near Kasane, and some parts get very crowded, mainly during the high season.

Gaborone Game Reserve

This is a small reserve right inside the Gaborone city limits. It was created primarily so that city residents and especially the school children would have somewhere to go to connect with local wildlife. The entry fee is very modest, and the internal roads are all quite suitable for small 2x4 cars. This is a good place to come for a weekday picnic if you are in Gaborone, but it tends to be a little crowded in weekends.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is actually made up of two national parks, one of which is located across the border in South Africa (former Kalahari Gemsbok NP), which is also the most easy part to visit, with good gravel roads and several rest camps. The Botswana part however is bigger (about three quarters), much more basic, and as a result less visitors go here. It was actually the first of a number of ‘peace parks’ planned to cross national boundaries and re-open ancient animal migration routes and others are planned at the border areas of South Africa with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Many antelope species like gemsbok and springbok occur here and as result many predators are to be found as well like cheetah and the famous black-maned Kalahari lion, brown hyenas and jackals. It can be reached by a paved road from Gaborone to Tsabong, after which a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary. You will need to self sufficient and take a tent and all supplies, including water and fuel.

Khama Rhino sanctuary

Rhino at Khama Sanctuary Botswana

Rhino at Khama Sanctuary Botswana

© jacquiedro

The Khama Rhino sanctuary is the best place in Botswana to sea the rare and endangered white rhinos and even a few black rhino are introduced here. It is a small park suitable for normal cars and located in between Gaborone and Francistown, not far from the main road. It doesn't give same feeling of other parks, because it is small and heavily fenced but if you want to see rhinos, this is the best place to go. The Khama Rhino Sanctuary is also home to most of the usual animals of the Kalahari Desert including brown hyaena, gemsbok, pangolin and wildebeest.

Khutse Game Reserve

The Khutse Game Reserve is a 2,500 square kilometre big game reserve located just south of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and consists of dry savannah land in the center of the Kalahari desert and has shallow pans, which, when filled with water, attract hundreds of bird species as well as an abundance of springbok, ostrich, giraffe, gemsbok (oryx), lion, leopard and the rare brown hyena, amongst others. Camping facilities are basic and you should bring your own supplies like spare fuel, food and water, as well as tents.

Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans

The Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans are a 2,500 square kilometre big park, located only 37 kilometres north of the main Francistown to Maun road and is vast area which used to be shallow salt lakes. Nowadays, only shallow islands of palm trees and baobabs every now and then break the flatness of the landscape. It is mainly grassland, teeming with wildlife like zebra and wildebeests.

Mokolodi Nature Reserve

Mokolodi Nature Reserve is located very close to the capital of Botswana, Gaborone, and although it is not as impressive or big like many other parks, offers a great experience if you don't have the time or money to go further into the country. Visitors can go on guided game walks and see elephants, cheetahs, leopards and various species of antelope and even some rare white rhinos roam the area.

Moremi Game Reserve

Adult Male Lion - Moremi

Adult Male Lion - Moremi

© Blakei

The Moremi Game Reserve is a beautiful park covering some 1,800 square kilometres in the northeast corner of the Okavango Delta, but is a reserve in itself. It consists of permanently swamped areas, seasonally swamped areas and dry land and does not only offers water activities such as boat trips but also top game-viewing and incredible scenery. Lion, hippos, buffalos and elephants are abundant and you will see many birds on top of that. A 4x4 is essential if you want to drive yourself around.

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is the world's biggest inland delta and is located in the northwest of the country. The Okavango river does not have an outlet into the sea and instead it ends in the middle of the Kalahari desert where it floods an area as big as 15,000 square kilometres. The flooding starts in the north at the end of the year (December) and hits the south about 5 or 6 months later in May. The area is best reached from the gateway of Maun and to reach the furthest parts you will have to fly in and spend some nights in a lodge, or in some cases camping is possible.

Okovango from the air

Okovango from the air

© baluba

Either way, it requires a plane trip. You will be rewarded though as the area is teeming with wildlife and a trip in a dug out canoe, a mokoro, is one of the highlights to this magnificent area. Crocodiles and hippos roam the waters and elephants, zebras and giraffes are here in huge numbers. Like most other places in Botswana, it is best visited from April or May until October/November when it is usually dry and warm and navigating the waters is still possible because only towards the end things are starting to dry up a bit.



The Orapa Game Reserve

The Orapa Game Reserve is owned by the Debswana mining company. It is a 35,000 ha fenced reserve not far from Orapa village and the huge Orapa Diamond mine. All the usual animals of the Kalahari desert are here excepting elephants. The internal roads are quite suitable for a small 2x4 car for most of the year and you are invited to drive yourself around at your own pace. Guided tours are also offered from nearby lodges. There are lions here so you are allowed out of your car only at designated picnic sites. There are rustic camping sites inside the reserve but facilities are minimal and it would pay to bring your own drinking water since the water from the local bores is slightly saline.

The Tuli Block

The Tuli Block is an area of private game reserves covering about 120,000 hectares in the far southeastern corner of the country along the borders with South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is different to many other parts of the country, with rugged and beautiful countryside and known because of its birdwatching potential and its large herds of elephants. Also, some other activities are available in the main rest camps at the Mashatu and Tuli game reserves, like horse riding safaris and mountain bike tours. Tuli Game Reserve also has one of a few wild dog packs in Botswana, only introduced in 2007. The Tuli Block also holds some battlefields and forts dating from the 1899-1902 Boer War.


The Tsodilo Hills are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of rock art, rock shelters, depressions, and caves. It gained its WHS listing in 2001 because of its unique religious and spiritual significance to local peoples, as well as its unique record of human settlement over many millennia. UNESCO estimates that there are over 4,500 rock paintings at the site. The site consists of a few main hills known as the Child Hill, the Female Hill, and the Male Hill. These hills are of great cultural and spiritual significance to the San People of the Kalahari. There are four chief hills. The highest is 1,400 metres. This is one of the highest points in Botswana. The four hills are commonly described as the "Male", this is the highest, the "Female", "Child" and an unnamed knoll. The walking circuit around the base of the hills is about 16 km in length.


The Tswapong Hills have been proposed for UNESCO World Heritage listing. They are a 70km long ridge of 2 billion year old sandstone, clad in forest and dissected by deep gorges. There is a lot of wildlife in these hills but nothing dangerous, and they are a popular venue with the locals for overnight or multi-day hiking. Old walking trails crisscross the hills connecting the villages on either side; and there is a somewhat overgrown route that leads the whole 70 km along the crest of the ridge. Banded ironstone outcrops in places and was smelted in prehistoric times. Several ancient iron smelting sites in the Tswapong Hills have been preserved as national monuments. Mmakodu near the village of Majwaneng is the best known of these.

All of the villages around and in the Tswapong Hills are accessible in a small 2x4 car.

Several of the gorges in the Hills are home to vulture colonies, and a local village has developed the Moremi Gorge as a tourist destination so people can come to view them. The village owns and operates the Goo-Moremi Gorge Resort, and offers guided hikes up the gorge for vulture viewing. Self guiding hiking trails are a rarity in Botswana, but there is an 8 km one at the western end of the hills near Palapye. It is on tribal land so is free to walk. The stops on the trail are numbered so you need to obtain a guide booklet in Palapye or from Segaigai Farm at the foot of the hills before setting out.

Old Palapye is an historic ghost town in the hills near the modern village of Malaka. It was the capital of the powerful Bamangwato tribe until 1902. The National Museum has staff permanently stationed at Old Palapye to explain the history and show visitors around the extensive site.



Events and Festivals

New Year’s Day

As in the rest of the world, the arrival of each new year is celebrated all over Botswana with street parties, dances, traditional music, and inordinate amounts of food and drink. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are great times to celebrate another year of life.

World Wetlands Day

This February event is popular across the country for its focus on environmental, conservation and tree-planting, as well as a Wetlands March. There’s great concern in Botswana over the protection of its wildlife and unique environment.

Maitisong Festival

Gaborone’s major festival takes place in March, and is a performing arts cornucopia of traditional music, dance and theater held all over the city and its suburbs. The event lasts for nine full days and sees the entire population take to the streets in carnival mode.

Maun Festival

Traditional poetry, music and dance are the hallmarks of the Maun Festival, held over a two-day period in April. The visual arts also have their place in this celebration, which is held for the benefit of local schools, as well as honoring northwestern Botswana’s rich tribal culture.

Tjilenje Cultural Festival

This festival takes place in May and is held in Botswana’s northeastern regional town of Nlapkhwane. Totally traditional, the event involves ancient games, dances and stalls crammed with local food and drink.

Toyota 1000 Desert Race

A must-see for fans of off-road motor sport races, this thrilling annual June event involves quads, bikes and cars, with 25 spectator areas set around the country.

President’s Day

Botswana’s President’s Day in July is a four-day national holiday across the country and sees inhabitants returning to their home villages for celebrations including speeches, traditional dance and singing.

Kuru Dance Festival

This unique event takes place every August on the only Bushman-owned game farm in Botswana. The Dqae Game Farm lies in the Kalahari Desert close to D’Kar and comes alive with traditional dance and music for three days.

Botswana Day

The Batswana are proud of the advances their country has made since independence, happily hitting the streets in celebration every year on September 30. Traditional events, street parties and parades are the order of this important day.

Festive Season

Most Batswana follow the Christian religion, and Christmas is a great time to visit as it’s a major holiday here. Seasonal events take place across the region and local choirs sing their hearts out in iconic African style at carol concerts. Western-style restaurants and pubs offer Christmas dinners and everyone gets together to celebrate.




Botswana has a semi arid climate with a warm and dry season from April/May to October/November. The rainy season lasts from December to March when high temperatures and humidity make travelling around a bit harder but not impossible. Some roads may be impassable after heavy downpours though and travelling by 4wd is necessary. Temperatures frequently hit 40º C during the day in October and November, when the first late afternoon thunderstorms occur. From May onwards temperatures are still nice and warm and usually it is dry. Frost at night is possible during the months of June to August, but is not common and mainly occurs in the central parts of Botswana, for example in the Kalahari desert.



Getting There

By Plane

Air Botswana is the national airline of Botswana and is based at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE), 15 km north of the capital city Gaborone. International destinations with Air Botswana include Cape Town, Harare, Johannesburg and Lusaka. Sout African Express flies to and from Cape Town and Johannesburg as well. Ethiopian Airlines fly several services to and from Addis Ababa each week.

By Train

Since 2006, there is a thrice a week train between Francistown in Botswana and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. The train leaves Francistown on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays around 9am and arrives approximately 6 hours later in Bulawayo. In the other direction, the train leaves Bulawayo at 9:30am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, taking 5 and a half hours.

By Car

Well maintained roads lead into Botswana from Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. From the latter there are several crossings possible, both near the capital Gaborone as a little further east at Martin's Drift where you can travel further north towards the main Gaborone to Francistown tarred road. From Zimbabwe the main crossings are at the Plumtree border between Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) and Francistown, and from Kasane in the north to Victoria Falls.

Crossings from Namibia are possible in the west (Buitenpos border) at the main tarred road between Windhoek and Ganzi. In the north there are crossings between the Caprivi strip, for example close to Kasane.

By Bus

Regular buses and minibuses connect Botswana with neighbouring countries along the roads mentioned above. There are daily connections between Gaborone and Johannesburg in South Africa, Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe and several weekly buses go all the way to Lusaka in Zambia as well.

Between Gaborone and Johannesburg minibuses leave when full and take around 6 hours. There are also daily minibuses between Palapye and Johannesburg via the Martin's Drift border crossing, taking about 8 hours. Between Lobatse, minibuses travel to and from Mafikeng in South Africa, taking about 1,5 hours.

Minibuses travel directly between Francistown and Bulawayo which takes about 3 hours including border formalities. Buses travel between Livingston in Zambia and Windhoek in Namibia, travelling through Botswana (Kasane) and also there are chartered minibuses from Maun to Windhoek once a week. Between Kasane and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, minibuses ply the route and most of these transfers can be arranged by both upmarket lodges as well as hostels.

By Boat

The Kazungula Ferry over the Zambezi River to Zambia is no longer operating. It has been superseded by the Kazungula Bridge, which allows you to drive or take a bus between Botswana and Zambia. This bridge is not far from Kasane and onward travel towards Livingstone (for the Victoria Falls) is possible.



Getting Around

By Plane

Air Botswana has domestic flights between Gaborone, Kasane, Maun and Francistown. Fares are expensive. Mack Air offers scheduled services between Kasane and Victoria Falls.

There are a number of charter airlines that offer return trips by plane when visiting lodges, especially in the Okavango Delta. These include Delta Air, Moremi Air Services, Sefofane and Kalahari Air Services.

By Train

There is only one line, operated by Botswana Railway, which runs daily between Francistown, Gaborone and Lobatse. From the middle of December to the middle of January this service usually runs twice daily to cater to demand from local holiday makers. The timetable can be found here

By Car

Botswana is a popular country to get around by car and many people rent vehicles in Botswana or in neighbouring countries. Daily rates are significantly lower in South Africa and you can drive your car into most neighbouring countries, including Botswana. It usually just means paying a small fee. Driving in Botswana is on the left and the main roads from Gaborone north to Kasane and across the Kalahari to Namibia are tarred. In fact all the main roads are numbered (e.g. the A14 from Palapye to Orapa; and the B300 from Orapa to Makalamabedi). Any road in the A or B series on your map should be a good quality tarred road suitable for a small car. Many other roads are gravel roads or even just sand tracks, and these can become impassable after heavy rains, even with a 4wd.

If you want to explore the central Kalahari, the southwestern corner of Botswana and drive yourself through major parks like Chobe and Moremi, you really need a 4wd vehicle and on some routes you need to be self sufficient as well, so bring camping gear, enough fuel and drinking water and food. Also watch out on the road as both stock and wildlife can cross and accidents are not unheard of, especially with inexperienced foreign drivers.

Gaborone, Francistown, Kasane and Maun all have car rental agencies and your national driver's licence is enough, although an international driving permit is recommended as well.

By Bus

You can get to most villages in the country by bus. The local people are inveterate travelers within their own country. For many this is their main mode of transport. The problem for a visitor is knowing which bus to catch and when it might run. There are scheduled services on the main routes (e.g. Gaborone to Maun, Francistown, Kasane, Lobatse and Ghanzi), but the companies that operate them seldom post their schedule on their website or even on a board at the bus rank. On a popular route like Gaborone to Francistown this is not a problem: you just go to the appropriate platform and board the next bus that comes along. There won't be long to wait. On less popular routes (e.g. Serowe to Dimajwe) there might be only one bus each way each day so you could be in for a very long wait. Of course the local people will have the schedules of the routes they use in their heads, and if you ask around at the bus rank someone will always help.

There are also minibuses that travel the popular routes and they leave when full.

One bus operator that does cover the main routes in the country and does post a timetable on their website is Seabelo Express

If you have a lot of time on your hands getting about by bus is certainly feasible and quite cheap. But getting around by car is a much better option and allows you to stop when and where you want to at places of interest..

By Boat

You are most likely to be on some kind of boat in the Okavango Delta and on the Zambezi River, but usually as part of a tour or other kind of package trip. There are no useful public passenger ferries, excepting the Mohembo ferry which takes you across the Okavango River north of Shakawe, and the tiny ferry at Khumaga which provides access to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park on the far side of the Boteti River. Some guide books refer to a passenger service from Sepupa to Seronga in the Okavango Panhandle but unfortunately the operator has died and this service has ceased.



Red Tape

Citizens of Commonwealth countries do not need a visa to visit except those from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Citizens of European Union countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland do not require a visa to visit.

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, 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.




See also Money Matters

Pula (BWP; symbol P) = 100 thebe.
Notes in denominations of P200, 100, 50, 20 and 10.
Coins in denominations of P5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10 and 5 thebe.




There are three government universities in the country along with a number of private tertiary institutions. Of the government universities the University of Botswana is the oldest and the largest. It is based in Gaborone. The Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) is based on a rural site just to the north of Gaborone, and the Botswana International University of Science & Technology (BIUST) is located in Palapye.
All three institutions will enrol foreign students and operate exchange programmes. But be warned: the Botswana Government insists that both students and academics obtain permits to conduct many types of research, and the approvals process is painfully slow.




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.

Kalanga and Sekgalagadi and various San 'click' languages are locally spoken.




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.

However, in common with many other African countries there really is no 'national' cuisine and the different tribes have their own very different culinary styles. So if you come across a sign advertising 'traditional food' it pays to ask which tradition the food is from. As a gross simplification the BaSubiya and BaYei specialise in fish dishes; the Kalanga eat a very wide range of vegetables, and the Tswana tribes tend to specialise in red meat accompanied by sorghum porridge.

Vegetarians please note: everyone in Botswana knows how to cook some very tasty vegetarian dishes - e.g. dikgobe (a bean and vegetable stew), and bogobe jwa lerotse (sorghum cooked with lerotse melon). However, as a sign of respect guests will always be offered meat if at all possible and in rural areas an animal may be slaughtered especially to make you 'feel at home'. If you don't eat meat make sure that you signal this well in advance.




Most of the hotels and large motels in Botswana are located near the larger towns and cities. There are also many secluded game lodges tucked away in the wilderness areas.

When local people travel in Botswana the usual choice of accommodation is a 'guesthouse'. These will typically have five or fewer rooms, and provide WiFi, a television, a small fridge, tea and coffee making equipment and an ensuite bathroom. You might expect to pay BWP500 to BWP 800 per room per night plus the standard BWP10- per person government training levy. The levy is sometimes included and sometimes excluded from the quoted price: there is no consistency in how this is handled. Guesthouses are clean, comfortable and found in all the larger villages. Unfortunately many have no internet presence and no on-line booking system which makes planning trips from afar a little difficult.

Self-catering accommodation does exist but is uncommon outside the main tourist and mining towns.

There are many campsites, some of which offer fixed tents with bedding in addition to 'bring your own tent' camping spots. Most campsites will offer at least some powered sites where you have your own 230V electrical outlet, and some have a private ablution block for each stand. Some campsites have an internet presence and some don't. Typical rates for 'bring your own tent' camping are between BWP100 and BWP200 per person per night.

Backpackers accommodation is rather limited compared to neighbouring South Africa, but you can usually find some in the major cities and popular tourist places like Kasane or Maun.




Many soft drinks and alcohol 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.

Traditional local alcoholic drinks to try are bojalwa jwa setswana (sorghum beer, also sold commercially as 'Chibuku'); khadi (made from the fruits of the Grewia bush); morula beer; setopoti (watermelon beer). Most of these are produced only seasonally and you need to seek local advice on where to find them.

There are craft beer producers in both Maun and Gaborone, and a craft gin distillery in Maun, and a single vineyard just south of Gaborone.




See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Botswana. There is one exception though: you need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Botswana) where that disease is widely prevalent.

Still, it's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Botswana. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent in the country, but mainly during the warm and wet season and particularly in the northern half of the country. The south is generally considered malaria free. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS. Also note that Southern Africa and thus Botswana as well has a high percentage of people with AIDS.




See also Travel Safety

Botswana is one of the safest countries in Africa and one of the wealthiest and most stable as well. Even in downtown Gaborone you will hardly have any problems, but to be sure take a taxi at night. Your biggest concern will probably things like the extreme heat in some months in the desert, possible malaria in the north during the rainy season and animals itself. But basically that's about it!



Keep Connected


See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Botswana is 267. To make an international call from Botswana, the code is 00.


BotswanaPost is the national postal service of Botswana. It is operating more than 100 post offices and 70 agencies throughout the country and is fairly reliable, albeit not overly fast. All post has to go overland through Gaborone first and international mail by plane might go via Johannesburg, so count on several weeks for your postcard or letter to be delivered to places in Europe or North America. You can use them for parcels as well, though faster and more expensive services are available by companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.


Quick Facts

Botswana flag

Map of Botswana


Parliamentary Republic
Motswana (singular), Batswana (plural)
English, Tswana
Christianity, Badimo
Botswana Pula (BWP)
Calling Code
Time Zone


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This is version 70. Last edited at 10:13 on Jan 5, 23 by GraemeBots. 53 articles link to this page.

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