From Johannesburg to Martin’s Drift – Crossing the border from South Africa to Botswana

Starting from Johannesburg Airport

In the collective imagination, the border crossing in Africa worries, long queues, endless times, corruption, …… In reality not in all countries it is so problematic. We, by now, have crossed many borders and we are no longer afraid. In this post I explain how we reached Botswana starting from Johannesburg with rental car following crossing Martin’s Drift Border.

Landed in Johannesburg, after take our backpacks, we went to the reception desk to collect the rental car.

Change Money

If you want to change money into South African rand, there are some exchange desks right in front of the baggage claim or you can find others in the airport lobby where you will also find various ATMs for pick up.

Car Rental

A car hire clerk loaded us into his car and brought us to the office, here we took care of all the formalities, showed us a short movie in which they explained how to drive on the various type of roads, showed us how to assemble and disassemble the tents and we checked the equipment on the car.

Departing for Martin's Drift Border

From here we started, direction Martin’s Drift, about 340 chilometers. Martin’s Drift is the border from South Africa and Botswana in Botswana side, in South Africa side it is called Groblesbrug.

Starting from Johannesburg, take the N1 road, direction Pietersburg / Polokwane. It is an highway well-maintained and with low-traffic. Remember that the guide is on the left. Every now and then you will reach a tool booth whre you will have to pay the toll. It is possible to pay the toll both in cash and by credit card. At the fourth toll booth, about 180 km from Johannesburg, take the exit on the left for Potgietersres / Mokopane, you should see the sign at the toll booth. Pay attention, if you don’t take the exit here, you will extend your route by about 100 km, as we did!

You will reach the border at Martins Drift. Usually, cross the border in Africa take long time. Martins Drift is open every day from 6:00 AM to 22:00 PM, try to reach the border before the sunset, it is not advisable to travel in the dark, the roads are dark and wild animals can cut your way.

When you reach Martins Drift you have to go to the border office and show your passports. Here you will get the exit stamp from South Africa. 

Proceed with the car and you will reach a check point, you must drop off and walk with your shoes on a carpet soaked in disinfectant. Then you have to drive the car into a “puddle”, it is used to disinfect the wheels of your car. Take the car and drive a little further, you will reach the Botswana border office, here you have to show your documents and the booking for your last night in Botswana. 

You will get the entry stamp, in another counter you will have to pay the car tax (about 165 pule), the tax can be paid both in cash and in credit card. Drive until another check point where someone will inspect your car to find “forbidden” food, it is not allowed to bring meat, fresh fruit and dairy in Botswana.

We reached Martin’s Drift after the sunset, (we went in the wrong way) around 7:00 PM, and we did fast but in other hours there are many people and you could take a long time

Since we had expected to arrive late, we booked a bungalow at Kwa Nokeng Lodge, we were too tired to set up the tent. We booked in advance, but not all bungalow were full, probably the advance booking is not necessary. At the entrance of the lodge there is an uninviting sign “You are entry at your own risk. Pay attention to crocodiles and hippos around the lodge“, there are some bungalows very nices and cleans. The thing that we really appreciated was the air conditioner which, in addition to cooling, can also be used for heating and I assure you that in African night it will be very useful. There is also a bar, we didn’t try it. There is the wifi, a rarity on our trip.

For dinner we went to the nearby service station where there is  a restaurant that prepares hamburges with fries, all is very good. At the service station there is a small supermarket, buy only the essentials, it is expensive, along your way you will find cheaper and more stocked ones. There is also an exchange office where you can exchange your money.

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