Travel guide to Botswana

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Botswana is a peaceful country in high contrast with the many turbulent African countries south of the Sahara. Being one of the richest of African nations, Botswana has been able to preserve many of its natural resources by insisting on sustainable tourism. In other words - an exclusive tourism - which respects the varied and untouched landscapes as well as the amazing wildlife. Botswana is not a cheap destination, but the country offers some of the most unique opportunities for African wildlife safaris in national parks - blessed with relatively few tourists.

Facts

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Local name
Botswana
Capital
Gaborone (150.000)
Size
600.370 square km
Principal Languages
English is the official language, but Setswana is also spoken by 90% of the population.
Principal Religion
Botswanan's worship their ancestors. But christian missionaries have had a powerful impact upon the country - so today some 30% of the population is christian.
Inhabitants
1.464.167 (1999)
Government
Constitutional democracy
Geography
Botswana lies in the heart of a wild and unspoilt Africa. It is a rich and varied region, squeezed between South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Namibia. It offers the visitor deserts, savannahs and wetlands. It is the ideal place for a safari as 17% of the country consists of huge national parks. The country is thus blessed with a rich wildlife, and you can see all kinds of animals - from giraffes and elephants to zebras, lions, and 70 different varieties of snake.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The best time to go to Botswana is during the winter (from May to August), when the weather is relatively mild with an average temperature of 25 degrees celsius. At this time of the year it should be possible to watch the wild animals at their water holes. The summer months (November to March) are not ideal for tourists because the humidity is very high, the average temperature is around 40 degrees celsius, and large quantities of rainfall flood many of the roads.

Literature

Lonely Planet Zimbabwe, Botswana & Namibia

Local conditions

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Currency

Pula (P). 1 pula = 100 thebe

Net cafes

Botswana has a fine connection to the Internet in all of the major cities. In Gaborone, it is possible to get on the internet at the library of the university.

In case of emergency

Police (999) Ambulance (977) Fire (998)

Tipping

The service is usually included in the price, but it is still customary to tip around 10% of the price if the service is very good.

Timezone

When it is 12:00 in England, it is14:00 in Botswana.

Weight and Measures

Unit for length: metre Unit for temperature: degrees celsius Unit for weight: grammes Unit for volume: litre

Photography

It is unwise to take pictures in airports, military installations and public offices. Before you take a picture of local people, they should be asked for permission, and they should be tipped afterwards.

Drinking water

Water from the tap should be safe enough to drink, although it is advised to sterilize or boil the water if you are outside a big city.

Electricity

220V/50Hz.

Behaviour

Elders are treated with great respect in Botswana. It is always best to let the elder speak first.

Business Hours

Shops and stores are open from 8:30 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 17:00 (Monday to Friday). On Saturdays, they are open from 8:30 to 13:00. Office hours are from 7:30 to 16:30 (Monday to Friday)

Food and drink

A special delicacy in Botswana is the mopane caterpillar. It can be prepared in numerous ways; either in warm ashes, boiled, dried or fried. If this does not awaken your appetite then there are numerous fast-food restaurants in all of the major cities.

Disabled travellers

Nothing is yet being done to specifically accommodate the needs of disabled people in Botswana.

Holidays

New Years day, January 1st The President's day, July 1st Sir Seretse Khama day, July 15th-16th Independence day, September 30th Christmas, December 25th-26th Long Friday, Easter Day and 1st Easter day, normally in March or April. Ascension Day.

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

It is not allowed to camp outside camping grounds. It might also prove dangerous, as there are wild animals in the areas. There are camping grounds in all national parks, but you should call prior to your arrival, as the space on the grounds is limited.

Hotels

Hotels in Botswana are generally of a good standard, although they are expensive as well.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

There are a few B&B's in Botswana. Most of them are in the big national parks near Gaborone.

Hostels

There are hostel-like facilities in many of the national parks.

Local transport

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Planes

It is rather expensive to fly domestic routes, although there are connections between all major cities. There are airports in Kasana, Maun, Francistown, Selebi-Phikwe, Ghanzi, Point Drift and Jwaneng. There are 92 landing fields in the country, and although 80 of them have no asphalt, it is the easiest way of getting to the national parks. The national airline is called Air Botswana, and flies on African routes.

Bus

There are major bus routes between Francistown, Nata, Maun and Gaborone. There are also a few routes driving to the neighbouring countries.

Trains

The most important railway connection is between Ramatlhabama and Francistown. Children under 7 years of age can travel for free, and children under 11 years travel at half price. There is a regular route to the neighbouring countries.

Taxi

There are taxi companies in all the major cities.

Car rental

It is possible to rent cars of all sizes, including mini-vans and cars with four-wheel-drive. A rented car can either be delivered at the international airport in Gaborone, or picked up in any of the big cities. It is also possible to hire a driver if that should be necessary.

Other Transport

It is much easier to hitch-hike than to use public transport (which is quite unreliable). There is a state fee on hitch-hiking of about 0.05 US Dollars for every 10 kilometers - introduced because hitch-hiking is so common. If you go far out into the countryside you should take food and water as many parts of Botswana are scarcely populated.

Special conditions

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Although it might be tempting to use camouflage clothing when going out into the wilderness, you must stay in your normal clothes - camouflage clothing is illegal in Botswana.

Find your travel arrangement to Botswana here

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