Botswana travel's tips
In this post I want to give you some travel’s tips to visit Botswana.
It is possible to organize a travel in Botswana with a tour operator and it is very simple but also very expensive: for two weeks you will spend about 5.000 euros for person, you will sleep in luxury lodges, eat in beautiful restaurants, …. but it was too much expensive for us, so we organized a trip with a self-drive safari in this beautiful country in another way.
You can visit this country by yourself, in this way you will save money but above all you will be free to create a tailor-made itinerary and you will be free to do what you think is best. We spent, more or less, twenty days, starting from South Africa, where we rented the car, and arriving in Zambia where our trip ended up seeing the natural spectacle of the Victoria Waterfalls.
To enter in Botswana, you need a passport with a residual validity of 6 months and three or more unused pages; one blank page per entry. No touristic visa is required. Firstly, if you are italian, I suggest you to check all the updated information on the Farnesina‘s site. If you are travelling with children, I suggest you to bring a certified copy of the child’s unabridged birth certificate, sometimes they may ask for it. See the Embassy of Botswana’s webpage for complete details.
Non health prophylaxis is required because Malaria is present only in Okavango and Chobe areas, especially in the rain season. Therefore, ask to your doctor. We went in their winter season and we didn’t do the vaccination, we didn’t see mosquitos, in the “wet” areas we used insect repellents, we always use “Autan Tropical“, it is very good. If you entering from yellow fever endemic countries, a yellow fever vaccine is mandatory for all travelers. The Government of Botswana advises, but does not require, aun updated TPD (tetanus, polio, diphtheria) and a Hepatitis A vaccine.
The local currency is the PULA, 1 euro = 11.84 pulas more or less. In the big cities you will find banks and ATMs from which you can withdraw cash. Almost all lodges accept credit card payments. Curiosity: on the 20 pulle banknote there is a watermarked image of a zebra in honor to the president’s wife, the zebra is her favorite animal.
The seasons are reversed compared to Italy, there is a rainy season and a dry season.
The rainy season runs from December to March, many roads become impassable and only few tourists come in this period. The climate is torrid and many hiking trails are closed.
The high season runs from May / June to October, it is the dry season and winter, the temperatures are lower, with a strong difference in temperature range from day and night (it goes from zero degrees at night to 28 degrees in the day), the days are mild and clear. It is the ideal period for sighting the fauna, the animals are around the few pools of water and therefore the probability of sighting is greater.
The official language is English. You will have no problems, everyone knows English and will understand you.
Botswana is two houres ahead of the Greenwich time zone and one hour ahead of Italy, the same time when daylight saving time in in effect in Italy.
You need to have an adapter, the sockets used are of type G. In the campsites there is no electricity, so I always recommend bringing a torch with you.
You will spend several hours in the car, I suggest you bring a car charger, it will be useful to recharge the phone but also the camera, the go pro, ……
Local SIM cards are compatible with European and Australian mobile phones. The mobile network does not cover large areas of the country.
If you are planning to do a self-drive safari, know that the mobile will non work. Therefore I advise you to rent a satellite, it will be a bit expensive but in case of problems it will definitely be worth it.
We used the Lonely Planet guide.
For the maps we used the gps of the car and google maps on the mobile. We downloaded the maps before to start the trip, it is possible to use the maps offline, and we used also a paper map.
Bring comfortable and sporty clothes, evening clothes will not be useful. Durin the dry season I suggest you “onion” clothing: in the morning it is very cold, quilted jacket and gloves are indispensable, during the day you will undress and you will stay with shirt and shorts. I suggest you to avoide dark clothes because they attract mosquitos and dlies tzè-tzè, avoide the white color, it is too visible and scares the animals. As footwear I suggest boots. Sany will be your compaino so avoid “delicate” clothes and shoes.
As luggage, I suggest you to use a backpacker. Inside the backpacker use the “organizer cube”, they help you to keep everything in order and you will find everything immediately.
Sleeping in the lodges inside the parks is very very very expensive, for the cheaper ones you need about 400 euros for night. Usually these are wonderful lodges overlooking the river, with a jacuzzi,…. Outside the parks it is cheaper but still very expensive. To save money you can consider the camping.
Living the Botswana camping experience will give you emotions that you will not easily forget: the real darkness, the starry sky, the sound of animals in the night, the noises of the night, the evening around the fire, …..
Inside the parks the campsite are very basic, do not expect campsite like tourist village, generally they are very small, only a few pitches. The pitch is a part of the park where you can put the tent, usually it has a space to light the fire and a barbecue. The peculiarity of Botswana is that the campsites inside the park have no fences, animals can pass easily. It is important to light the fire as soon as it gets dark in order to keep them away. The toilets are usually clean with bathroom, shower and space for washing dishes, in some campsites you can not go to the bathroom to avoid “bad” encounter with wild animals. You will not find shops, therefore you will have to be completely autonomous, remember, in addition to food, to buy fire wood. You will find various kiosks on the street that sell it.
We made a self-drive with a 4×4 car with two roof tents, inside the park we meet a lot of car as our but never tents on the floor, I suggest you roof tents for both humidity and safety.
In Botswana the connecting roads between the cities are well maintened, wide and very little traffic, you will drive for kilometers without encountering other cars.
Warning: drive on the left, the car have the control reversed compared to Italy. Is is not advisable to drive at night as warthog, cattle, goats and elephant roam the road. The road are without light.
How to move? The best is a 4×4 car with roof tent, it offers freedom. For a more expensive travel, more comfortable and less exciting vacation is to move with a guide, sleep in lodges and take part to organized safari.
To drive in Botswana, you need an international driving licence.
If you will travel on the main roads and you do not plan to visit parks, you do not need a 4×4 car. If you will plan to visit parks you need a 4×4 car. It is not possible to enter in the parks without a 4×4, on site you will understand why.
Every time you find a petrol station, refuel. There are not petrol station, they are mostly close to cities.
In every town, you will find supermarkets very large, you will find “pasta” and some ready meals (chicken wings, potatoes, soups,….) very convenience!