How safe is Botswana?
Botswana is considered a safe travel destination. It is both financially and politically stable. It has been spared much of the unrest and turmoil which plagues so many countries in Africa. As is the case elsewhere, the larger cities and population centres generally have the most crime, but once you are on safari, such problems are all but non-existent. It is, however, a good idea to leave your valuables (expensive watches, jewellery, etc.) at home, thus eliminating the temptation for possible theft. Luggage locks are always advisable when flying.
Time in Botswana
Botswana is always two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2); it doesn't operate daylight saving time, so there's no time difference between winter and summer months in Botswana.
Currency in Botswana
The pula (BWP) is Botswana's currency, and at the time of writing (Aug 2015) £1 = P15. Travellers' cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, although most camps here will take VISA and Mastercard credit cards, as well as US Dollars, Pounds, Euros and SA Rand. At most camps/lodges, there are no extras to pay.
Botswana's International Dialling Code
The International Dialing Code for Botswana is +267, followed by the city area code (e.g. (0)62 for Kasane, or (0)68 for Maun) and then the local number.
Calling from Botswana, you need to dial 00 and the relevant country code (e.g. +44 for the UK, or +1 for the USA).
Food in Botswana
In Botswana's villages and towns, meats, particularly beef and goat, are very popular; millet and sorghum porridge are staples. National specialties include Morama (an underground tuber), Morogo (wild spinach), Kalahari truffle, all sorts of beans, and Mopane worms – grubs, which are served boiled, deep-fried or cooked. Drinks include the cider-like bojalwa, or homemade ginger beer.
Driving in Botswana
For most visitors, necessary travel distances are often small, and Botswana's few tarred roads go from being poor to excellent. Away from these, many roads are merely unmarked tracks in the sand.
Health in Botswana
Botswana is generally a healthy country to visit. Several vaccines are sensible (typhoid, polio and tetanus), although none are required. Anti-malarial tablets are usually recommended. Always check the latest recommendations with your doctor or clinic before travelling.
In Botswana, HIV infection rates are high, and AIDS is prevalent. Generally, this isn't an issue for travellers, but you should be aware of the situation – take the same sensible precautions to avoid infection. which are wise in most countries. We understand that blood supplies used by the private hospitals in Botswana have been carefully screened for a long time.
Language in Botswana
English is the official language of Botswana and widely spoken, although Setswana (also called 'Tswana') is spoken by almost everybody. Mother tongues include Birwa, Herero and Kagalagadi (languages of the Bantu family), Nama, Ganadi and Shua (languages of the Khoisan family), as well as Afrikaans.
Weather and climate in Botswana
The winter months (May to September) are typically the ‘peak season’, with mid summer months (November to March) being ‘low season’. This 'off peak time' of the year, the summer, is quieter because of the rains. Average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s, some days will be sunny and go up to 40 degrees, some will have afternoon thunderstorms, and some will just be grey. April and May in Botswana are generally lovely, with the sky clear and the landscape green. From June to August the night-time temperatures in drier areas can be close to freezing, but it warms up rapidly during the day, when the sky is usually clear and blue. It's now 'peak season' for most safari areas: the land is dry in most areas so the animals congregate around the few available water sources. This continues into September and October, when temperatures climb again, drying the landscapes and concentrating the game even more. This is a great time for big game safaris – although October can feel very hot, with maximum temperatures sometimes approaching 40°C. November is difficult to predict, as it can sometimes be a continuation of October's heat, whilst sometimes it's cooled by the first rains; it's always an interesting month.
What to bring:
What type of clothing will I need on safari?
Depending upon the time of year you safari in Botswana, lightweight clothing of cotton and cotton/blends are most suitable. During the winter months it can be very cold and a warm jacket will be needed for early morning and evening game viewing activities. During the summer months bring a lightweight water/windproof jacket in case of rain, but otherwise temperatures are very warm. For evenings bring lightweight long sleeved clothing as protection from mosquitoes. Neutral colours such as khaki, beige/cream or olive green are appropriate, and are less conspicuous to the animals. Laundry is done regularly, so it is not necessary to over pack. Consult our packing list (sent to you upon booking confirmation) as a general guide before you travel.
What else is important to pack?
Mosquito repellent, a flash light with extra batteries, and any medication you may be taking, are all very important items not to forget. As cash machines are limited, it is also worth finding out how much cash is needed for your trips (which is usually not much) and making sure you have this with you.
It is a must to bring some sunscreen, even in the winter months as the days are still warm and clear. You spend a large part of the day outside on activities so there is always a risk of sunburn. As well as the clothes described above a hat and sunglasses will also set you up well for protecting yourself against the sun.
What should be kept in my hand luggage when travelling by plane?
It is recommended that on your international flight to Botswana you carry a change of clothing (e.g. t-shirt and underwear), any prescription medicines and your valuables (documents, camera, wallet) in your hand luggage. This is in case of lost luggage or luggage delays from connecting international flights. In the case of lost luggage, Okavango Explorers will assist where possible in calling the airlines to monitor progress in your luggage claim which. In most cases, it arrives the following day, however please note that it is often beyond our control and your best precaution is that essential items are packed in your hand luggage.
How much luggage can I bring on safari?
Since most safari travel is done in small aircraft, each passenger is limited to one soft-sided bag, weighing no more than 20 kg including hand luggage, plus a typical sized camera bag. Bear in mind the door to the luggage pod is only 70 x 25 cm. Soft type duffel bags are essential and hard cases will not be accepted. Excess baggage be may subject to additional baggage/charter charges.
How much money will I need?
Most major currencies are accepted throughout Botswana. You will not need large sums of cash while on safari, as our rates are all inclusive unless stated otherwise. However, some guests enjoy shopping in Maun.
Selected camps have a small gift shop stocked with various curios, safari items and films. Credit cards can be used (Master or Visa cards, no American Express). Otherwise, you may need money for any accommodations, meals and shopping before or after your scheduled safari as well as for visas (Zimbabwe/Zambia) and taxes. The amount needed, of course, is your personal decision but a recommended amount will be written in your individual trip itinerary.
Details for Travelling:
What Health and Travel Insurance do I need?
For everybody’s peace of mind, you will need to provide proof of health and travel insurance prior to participating on any of our safaris. Okavango Air Rescue service will also be arranged by us for every guest, so that in an unlikely event of an emergency, guests could be airlifted to Maun hospital.
What vaccinations do I need for entry into Botswana?
No vaccines are required for entry into Botswana. However to gain entrance into the country, you can not have been to an Ebola affected area within 6 months. Anti-malarial tablets are usually recommended and several vaccines are sensible (typhoid, polio and tetanus), but not required. Always check the latest recommendations with your doctor or clinic before travelling.
What type of travel documents do I need?
A valid passport is a requirement for any international travel and when travelling into Southern Africa your passport needs to be valid for a minimum requirement of 6 months after your entrance date, as well as having 2 blank pages. Citizens of certain countries are required to obtain visas for entry into Botswana. As this list of countries changes from time to time, it is important to check current visa requirements well in advance of your departure. Please note that it is your own responsibility to ensure all necessary visas are obtained prior to entry (unless available on entry, such as Zimbabwe at current time.)
Who will meet me on arrival and where?
You will be met at the airport in Maun once in Botswana. After passing through customs, you should look for a uniformed representative with a sign showing your name. The representative will then transfer you to domestic departures and your awaiting bush flight to your camp.
Visas for Botswana
Travellers with British passports, as well as US citizens, do not need a visa when travelling to Botswana. For more visa information for other countries, see the Botswana Tourism Board site.
Is the water safe to drink?
Yes. Water supplies in camp are filtered to city standards. Water jugs in each tent are replenished on a daily basis. And filtered/ bottled water is readily available at each camp. Water bottles are provided which can be replenished from the main area in camp – this is to reduce plastic waste and is part of Botswana’s green initiative.
What type of safari vehicles will I be game viewing in?
Safari companies use Toyota Landcruisers, Land Rover Defenders and a few other makes of 4x4, which have been specially built for game viewing and photography. All have completely open seating areas and cabs for unhindered photography. Each has ample seating, with seat pockets, reference books, snacks, bottled water, toilet paper, insect spray and a cool box for refreshments.
Is electricity available in the safari camps?
As our camps are situated in remote areas they need to generate electricity, part by solar power and part by generators. Batteries provide 220V power in each room at all the camps so that lighting is provided and camera batteries can be charged.
What about tipping?
Tipping is not obligatory, it is purely discretionary. It is appropriate if you feel that the measure of service you received warrants a show of your personal appreciation. The average tip amounts are approximately $10 per guest, per day. Customarily, $5-10 per day will go to your driver/guide directly and $5 per day can be placed in the Tip Box provided in the camps. The staff will then distribute the latter among the employees. It is a fair distribution system ensuring that the ‘behind the scenes’ staff are also rewarded.
Is a safari strenuous?
A safari is a journey and can be conducted in many different ways. Some safaris are very active, some are very gentle with nothing more than game drives. It is entirely up to you what you would like to do on your safari and how active you would like to be. We encourage guests to try a little bit of everything so you get an all round experience.
Days start early before sunrise, but there are always long breaks in the middle of the day in which to siesta. Nights too are early, but it's up to you how long you wish to remain by the camp fire gazing into the hypnotic coals or at the star-filled sky.
What about insects or snakes?
Surprisingly, there are very few snake problems in Botswana. Normal common sense minimises contact with snakes (i.e. don’t go crawling through dense bushes!). Insect repellent is provided in all tents and safari vehicles. However, for your personal comfort, we recommend you bring some insect repellent of your own and take malarial prophylaxis (please consult your local travel medical specialist for the medication best suited to you).