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Situated in the southern reaches of Africa, Botswana is renowned for its pristine wilderness areas characterised by deep lagoons, wetlands, rugged hills and desert plains. The country’s primary tourist draw card is undoubtedly the vast red expanse of the Kalahari Desert and its remarkably beautiful Okavango Delta. These natural wonders provide a tranquil haven for an abundance of wildlife to thrive. Other highlights include the impressive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, where visitors are privy to massive zebra migrations during the flood season; the Savuti plains, which host large prides of lions; and the Tsodilo Hills, where ancient rock paintings form a unique record of human settlement over many millennia.
Effective from 1 June 2017, all travellers to Botswana (with the exception of residents and citizens of the Southern African Development Community) will have to pay a tourism development levy. The objective of the levy is to raise funds for conservation and natural tourism development. The $30 levy will be payable at all ports of entry, including airports and border posts, through electronic payment machines, cash, and debit and credit cards. After the payment, a unique receipt corresponding to the passport will be automatically generated. The receipt is presented to immigration officials and the passport and the receipt will be stamped and handed back to the traveller. The receipt will be valid for a 30-day period and can be used for multiple entries.
Banking and Currency
Botswana's currency is Pula, which is divided into 100 thebe. Travellers' cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, bureaux de change and authorised hotels. The US Dollar, Euros, British Pound and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible currencies, and are accepted by some establishments.
Seven main commercial banks, as well as a number of foreign exchange bureaux, operate in Botswana. Operating hours are Monday to Friday from 08h30 to 15h30 and Saturday from 08h30 to 10h45.
Full banking services are available in major towns, although ATMs are widely found across the country. Most credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants. Cultural sites and community art-and-craft outlets usually only accept cash.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Public transport in Botswana is geared towards the needs of the local population and is confined to main roads between major towns and cities. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Botswana’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track.
Driving off the main roads in Botswana is only recommended to experts in well-equipped 4x4 vehicles. Most lodges offer transfers between airports, attractions and main centres.
There are major airports in Maun, Kasane and Gaborone. Smaller charter flights are used to get to the other top attractions and safari camps.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Tap water is considered safe to drink, but we would recommend drinking sterilised or bottled water outside all major cities and towns. Bottled water is widely available in such cases. Milk is pasteurised, and dairy products, local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally safe.
Safari lodges and camps serve international-style cuisine of an extremely high standard, along with local beer and imported wine and spirits. Good restaurants and bars can be found in main towns, often within hotels. Beef and goat are very popular meats. Elsewhere, food is more basic; millet and sorghum porridge are the local staples.
Climate and Weather
The rains in Botswana come mostly between December and March, when average minimum temperatures are in the low 20°s. Some days will be bright and sunny while some will have afternoon thunderstorms.
April and May in Botswana are generally very pleasant, with clear skies and green landscapes. Night temperatures start to drop, especially in the Kalahari. Places in and around the Okavango tend to have less extreme and more moderate temperatures than the drier areas of the Kalahari.
From June to August, the night-time temperatures can be close to freezing. It warms up rapidly during the day when the sky is usually clear and blue. This is 'peak season' for most safari areas: the land is dry 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 the best 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.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
In summer, lightweight cotton clothing is preferable. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. In winter, wear long trousers, long sleeved shirts and warm jerseys. Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Bring a lightweight jacket for unexpected temperature changes or rain. Closed, comfortable walking shoes are a must in all seasons. Special attention should be given to protection from the sun. Bring a sunhat, good quality sunscreen, and polarised sunglasses.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets in Botswana are the "Type M" South African SABS1661 sockets. This is actually an old British standard. Electricity is supplied at between 220-240 volts.