BotswanaBotswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Its economy, one of the most robust on the continent, is dominated by diamond mining and tourism.
Botswana is famous for its wildlife, and areas like Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve 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.
- or Gabs – a neat and tidy little capital, but with rapidly growing shantytowns on its periphery
- - A unique geological formation where a delta is formed by a river (the Okavango) flowing into the Kalahari desert instead of the ocean. Part of the Delta is designated as Moremi Game Reserve
- - a great place to see wildlife, and a good point from which to move on to Victoria Falls.
- - a unique corner of Africa where nature & culture combine in spectacular wildlife, stunning scenery and fascinating history
See also African National Parks
HistoryBotswana was never colonized by Europeans. Instead, the Three Chiefs went to the Queen of the United Kingdom to ask for protection from Boers to the south and Ndebele tribes from the north-east. The Boers were (to them) the white people that had invaded and were taking over South Africa. The Queen obliged. In 1964 the Three Chiefs went back to the UK and told the Queen that they did not need the protection any more. The Queen did away with the protection, and the Chiefs went back to Botswana. Botswana discovered diamonds in 1965. They produce 65% of the world's diamonds today. In 1969 DeBeers created a partnership with the Botswana government to create the company Debswana.
One of the poorest countries at independence, Botswana transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about USD14,000 per annum. In contrast to the sad situation of its eastern neighbour, Zimbabwe, kleptocracy has been absent and Botswana now also has the second highest Human Development Index of all continental Sub-Saharan African countries.
Public holidaysThe public holidays in Botswana are:
1 JanuaryNew Year's Day
Easter weekend("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
1 MayWorkers Day
1 JulySir Seretse Khama Day
Mid JulyPresident's Day
30 SeptemberBotswana Day
25 DecemberChristmas Day
26 DecemberDay of Goodwill
The first Monday after Christmas is also a Public Holiday.
PeopleThe Tswana, for whom Botswana is named, comprise 79% of the population.
Entry requirementsUnlike more stiff necked administrations such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria and China, the Botswana government has not erected high bureaucratic barriers to enrichment from tourism.
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.
By planeBotswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. International flights are to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Ethiopia. The airport in Maun can also be reached via Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Gaborone and, once a day (in summer 2009), from Windhoek, Namibia. The distance between Gaborone and Maun is more than 1,000 km. Maun is very much a tourist attraction spot.
Airlines that fly to Gaborone are.
- Air Botswana. Harare, Victoria Falls, Lusaka, Johannesburg, Cape Town.
- Airlink. Johannesburg.
- Ethiopian airlines. via Addis Ababa. to Europe, Asia, Africa.
- Kenya airways. Via Nairobi to Europe. Asia, Africa.
- TAAG Angola airlines. Luanda.
- South African express. Johannesburg.
By trainTrains to/from South Africa have been withdrawn since 1999. For domestic train service, see #Get around.
By carThere 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.
Possibly the busiest border crossing from South Africa is the Kopfontein/Tlokweng border crossing, as it is only a few minutes from the capital of Botswana. As a result, it is open for a long period of time, and has a large number of trucks travelling through.
Coming from Namibia, you can either go north to Maun, or south along the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Lobatse.
By international busThere is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes six hours.
Intercape Mainliner is one of the bus lines from Gaborone to Johannesburg.
there are also buses from Gaborone to Zimbabwe. and from Gaborone to Windhoek Namibia.
- Monnakgotla travel have buses two times a week from Gaborone to Windhoek Namibia.
- Metrolyn bus lines have buses from Gaborone to Harare Zimbabwe.
- T J Motlogelwa Expess have buses from Gaborone to Johannesburg two times per day.
By ferryFrom Kazungula in Zambia you can cross the Zambezi River with ferry to the eponymous town in Botswana.
Through a combination of coaches and combies (minivans), you can get anywhere in Botswana without any trouble, though public transport is spotty away from big cities and major routes 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 buses 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).
By carThe 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 easily 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.
By busThere are many bus companies in Botswana. One of the biggest is Seabelo. From Gaborone you can travel by bus to any bigger city in Botswana.
By trainBotswana Railways operates all trains in the country. The main line goes from Lobatse, near the South African border, via Gaborone to Francistown at the Zimbabwean border. After having been canceled in 2009, train service was reintroduced in 2016.
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 Tswana, 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.
Among southern Africa's most impressive—and popular—wildlife destinations is the Okavango Delta where the Okavango River widens into the world's largest inland delta. Lying in the middle of the arid Kalahari, the swamps & water channels attract animals from thousands of kilometres around and triples in size (to 100,000 km 2 !) during floods in July and August. Nearby Chobe National Park has a large population of elephants and it's also easy to spot many of Africa's well-known species, especially zebras and lions. The bleak salt pans of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park attract a large number and variety of birds year-round. Other great game parks include Nxai Pan National Park, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, & Gemsbok National Park.
Unfortunately, most of the native tribes in Botswana only dress in traditional outfits and perform rituals for tourists. Nevertheless, for the culture-vultures, the villages of D'Kar and Xai-Xai have many offerings, including arts, crafts, and the opportunity to participate in various rituals. Tsodilo Hills contain one of the largest collections of rock art on the continent.
Banknotes of P10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 denomination circulate and the pula is one of the strongest, most stable currencies in Africa.
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.
DrugsDrug trafficking is punished by a mandatory death sentence. This is important for you to know because if you need to take prescription drugs into Botswana, you will have to show a prescription for each medication. Failing to do so will result in the medication being classified as a drug and can result in inprisonment if undeclared.
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; vaccines such as typhoid and hepatitis A+B (if not already immune) are usually recommended. Oral vaccines are also suggested for prevention of diarrhea and cholera.
Water in urban and semi-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 and semi-urban areas, the water is contaminated, and should not be used for drinking, ice-cubes, teeth cleaning, or eating washed unpeeled fruits and vegetables.