Summer season begins in November and ends in March. It usually brings very high temperatures. However, summer is also the rainy season, and cloud coverage and rain can cool things down considerably, although only usually for a short period of time.
The winter season begins in May and ends in August. This is also the dry season when virtually no rainfall occurs. Winter days are invariably sunny and cool to warm, however, evening and night temperatures can drop below freezing point in some areas, especially in the southwest.
The in-between periods – April/early May and September/October – still tend to be dry, but the days are cooler than in summer and the nights are warmer than in winter.
Summer days are hot, especially in the weeks that precede the coming of the cooling rains, and shade temperatures rise to the 38°C mark and higher, reaching a blistering 44°C on rare occasions. Winters are clear-skied and bone-dry, the air seductively warm during the daylight hours but, because there is no cloud cover, cold at night and in the early mornings. Sometimes bitterly so – frost is common and small quantities of water can freeze.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS
The unit of currency in Botswana is the Pula; which is divided into 100 Thebe. Bank notes currently available are in denominations of P100, P50, P20, P10 and P5. Coins in denominations of P2, P1, 50t, 25t, 10t, 5t, 1t are in circulation. Most hotels, shops, restaurants and other retail outlets accept valid international credit cards. MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club are widely accepted for payment. Amex and Diners Club are sometimes not accepted due to high charges for retailers.
The Botswana power grid uses 220/240 volts AC 50 Hertz. Wall sockets (round and square 3 pin) are rated to carry a maximum of 15 amps. It is important to carry a 3 pin round and square adapter which can be purchased in hardware shops and especially at photographic stores as most foreign electrical plugs do not fit the Botswana electrical socket. Most hotels have electric shaver plugs and/or adapters available.
VISAS & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Valid passports are required by all foreign nationals to enter Botswana. Citizens of the Commonwealth and the following countries do not require visas to enter Botswana: USA, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Greece, Liechtenstein, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, San Marino, Ireland, Uruguay and Japan. Visas are required by nationals of all other countries, which must be purchased before arrival in the country. All air arrivals must be in possession of a valid return ticket and must be able to prove that they have sufficient funds to cover their stay in the country.
IMPORTANT, PLEASE NOTE: Effective from the 1st October 2016 minors travelling through Botswana’s borders (any port of entry) will be required to produce certified copies (or the original) of unabridged birth certificates in addition to their valid passports. In the event that one parent is not travelling with the child, the other parent’s affidavit consenting to such travel should be available. However, an affidavit will not be required if the father’s name does not appear on the child’s birth certificate.
Important: If you are entering Botswana from a Yellow Fever Zone, you must have a Yellow Fever Certificate stating that you have been immunized at least 10 days prior to arrival or be in possession of an exemption certificate (if applicable). This includes (but is not limited to) travelling from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda or Kenya. We suggest you consult your GP or nearest travel clinic for the most up-to-the-minute advice.
Important: Botswana will deny entry to any travelers who have been in Ebola affected countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria) in the 30 days prior to arrival.
LUGGAGE and WEIGHT RESTRICTIONS
When taking light aircraft flights / transfers in Botswana please note that luggage is strictly restricted to 20kgs (44lbs) per person including ALL hand luggage. All luggage has to be packed in the belly pods of the aircraft. Suitcases and luggage with rigid wheel frames do not fit and as a result cause delays and inconvenience for other travelers. The bags which guests can bring have to be small, flexible and soft-sided. Unfortunately, large suitcases and rigid, inflexible luggage cannot be transported in the aircraft. Luggage with “pull along” handle frames and wheels are NOT flexible soft bags and do not fit into the aircraft. (These include bags which might have soft sides, however, have a solid or rigid “wheely” frame within the base of the bag). The dimensions of the bag must not exceed 25cm (10in) wide, 30cm (12in) high and 62cm (24in) long. In order to comply with Civil Aviation regulations African Safari Experts must also be advised if clients weigh between 110 – 120 kg. Passengers weighing over 120 kg may be asked to purchase an additional seat.
BANKS & FOREIGN EXCHANGE
Banking hours in most centers are 09h00 to 13h00 and 15h00 to 16h00 Mondays to Fridays and 09h00 to 13h00 on Saturdays. Foreign bank notes and travelers’ cheques may be converted into local currency at most banks. Changing currency at a hotel will usually involve the charging of a larger commission than at a bank. When converting foreign currency, you will be required to show your passport. There is no currency black market in Botswana.
We advise that you travel with a fair amount of cash in small denomination bills – this would be for small purchases, the payment of a curio or souvenir to a street vendor or to tip your guide/driver. In all other circumstances you will be abler to use your credit card.
Most businesses and shops are open between 08h30 and 17h00 on weekdays and between 09h00 and 13h00 on Saturdays. Many shops close for lunch between 13h00 and 15h00.
DRINKING & DINING
The food of Botswana reflects the agricultural products of the country. Superb meat products including beef and venison feature prominently. Gaborone boasts a wide variety of restaurants featuring most of the prominent cuisine varieties of the world. Tap water in most urban areas is chemically treated and safe to drink. Bottled mineral water is widely available. Locally brewed beer is of good quality. South African wines of superb quality are available in most restaurants.
Visitors are responsible for their own medical needs and it is advisable to carry comprehensive medical insurance. There are Public Hospitals in most towns and cities with a reasonable quality of service. Private Hospitals and Clinics in large towns provide good quality medical services. Chemists/Pharmacies, private doctors and other medical practitioners are widely available in most large towns. Malaria is endemic to the Okavango and Chobe areas of northern Botswana and especially in proximity to water (rivers and swamps). Suitable precautions and the use of Prophylactics are recommended for visitors to these areas. There are a number of excellent mosquito repellents available which are applied directly to the skin or clothes in the evening. Many hotels and other accommodation establishments have mosquito nets over the beds in their rooms. HIV/Aids is widespread in Botswana and it is recommended that visitors do not engage in any high-risk sexual or drug-related activities which may cause exposure to the disease.
A modern and efficient telephone service is available in almost all parts of the country. Direct national and international dialing is possible in almost all areas. There are no area codes in Botswana. Pay phones operating with coins are widely available usually in the vicinity of Post Offices. Up-to-date telephone directories are available in all areas. A cellular telephone operation provides widespread coverage in main towns across the country. Facsimile services are available at most luxury hotels.
Tipping for service is standard practice in Botswana and usually ranges between 10% and 15% in restaurants and about $1 per item for hotel porters. Cleaners and maids in hotels and other accommodation establishments usually get between $1 and $2 per day. During your trip it is likely that you will come into contact with tour guides, game rangers and trackers who depend largely on their tips for their income. Tipping in this instance ranges between $10 and $15 per person per day. Tipping is only recommended if you are satisfied with the service you have received and is entirely at your own discretion. Tipping at lodges in the bush us usually a communal box which is divided amongst the “back of house” staff, ask the lodge manager where this is if you would like to leave a gratuity on departure.
ROAD TRAVEL & PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The road network is well developed and being improved on an on-going basis. Most major international and a number of local car hire companies are represented in Botswana. Easy access to car hire from major airports and in the main centers is possible and is the preferred mode of transport for international tourists. The developed national and tourist infrastructure within Botswana makes it an easy self-drive destination for the international tourist. It is however preferable to fly into the tourist areas in the north of the country as the distances from Gaborone and South Africa are very long despite the good condition of the arterial road network. Public transport is largely non-existent in Botswana. Taxi services are available in Gaborone. Mini-bus taxis provide long distance and in-town services in Botswana but are poorly maintained and generally un-roadworthy. Trains and luxury inter-city coaches run between Gaborone and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe and Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa.
Botswana is a relatively crime free country with very low levels of violent crime. Petty crime can impact on the enjoyment of your holiday in the country and in order to avoid this inconvenience visitors should be aware of the following.
- Avoid lonely and deserted areas especially after dark.
- Passports and money should be safely locked away in your hotel.
- Carry your wallet and other documents you may require in a body belt preferably under loose clothing.
- Be aware of what others around you are doing both when walking and driving.
- If you are unsure about anything ask your tour guide, hotel staff or a local person with whom you are acquainted.
- Do not leave valuables in your motor vehicle which are visible from the outside.
- Avoid picking up hitchhikers and ensure your car doors are locked especially at traffic lights.
- Do not hand your car keys over to anyone other than the car rental staff.
- The Botswana Police are available at any time to assist in the event of any difficulties.
Please Note: Whilst we have made every effort to ensure the information provided in this document is accurate, African Safari Experts is in no way responsible for the information provided. We will endeavor to communicate any amendments to the information in a timely manner.