Before you go

Fast Facts before you go to Botswana


Best time to visit

For tourists, the best visiting months are from April through November - in terms of both weather and game viewing. It is during this period that the wildlife of the great spaces gathers around the natural waterholes and the borehole-fed dams.  Large numbers of animals migrate towards the waterways of the Okavango Delta.
November and December - the calving months - are an excellent time to witness nature's own timetable of regeneration. The rainy season, from January to March, sees the migration of large numbers of game into the summer grazing areas, while the delta comes alive with sounds of hundreds of bird species.
In March and April thousands of zebras and other animals migrate towards the Savute area of Chobe National Park.
Summers (particularly from December through to February) can become exceptionally hot, and rain may make some roads muddy and impassable.
During the rainy summer season, animals in many game areas disperse, while in the dry winter season they congregate around water sources, making for good game viewing. This does not mean, however, that game viewing is impossible during the summer season.  
  • Game viewing: Game viewing is best during the months of April through November
  • Birding: with about 577 bird species including over 500 regularly occurring species, Botswana offers some brilliant birding opportunities
  • Botany: the country has more than 2500 species of plants and 650 species of trees

Passports & Visas

A passport with at least six months of validity remaining is required. U.S. citizens are permitted stays up to 90 days total within a 12-month period without a visa. Travelers who attempt to enter Botswana with a temporary travel document (12-page emergency photo-digitized passport (EPDP) ) must have a visa to enter. US citizens traveling on a temporary passport cannot obtain a visa on arrival in Botswana and without a visa will face possible fines and long administrative delays. 
For additional information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana, 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202) 244-4990/1, fax (202) 244-4164 or the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Botswana to the United Nations, 103 E. 37th St., New York, NY, 10016, telephone (212) 889-2277, fax (212) 725-5061. There are also honorary consuls in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston. Visit the Embassy of Botswana’s web site for the most current visa information. 
Visitors to Botswana who also intend to visit South Africa should be advised that the passports of all travelers to South Africa must contain at least two blank (unstamped) visa pages each time entry to South Africa is sought; these pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport. Otherwise, the traveler, even when in possession of a valid South African visa, may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at the traveler’s expense.  
Travelers should make sure there are sufficient pages for immigration stamps to enter into Botswana and other countries to be visited en route to Botswana or elsewhere in the region. Nationals of other countries must check the list of visa exempt countries to see if they need to apply for visas.  
As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport.

Malaria Prophylaxis

Many local people and some travelers do not take ant-malaria prophylaxis, but it is strongly recommended that you obtain anti-malaria medication before entering Botswana. All guests must consult their own medical doctor or health authorities regarding the use of anti-malarial tablets prior to departure.
Whether you take oral prophylaxis or not, always use mosquito repellent, wear long pants, closed shoes, light long-sleeved shirts at night, and sleep under a mosquito net in endemic areas (the anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, operates almost exclusively after dark). Mosquito repellent containing “deet” is best.  It is advisable to avoid malarial areas if you are pregnant.

Medical Care

Adequate medical care is available in Botswana. A comprehensive medical Rescue Service is also available.
In the event of a medical emergency, contact your country’s embassy or consulate for extra assistance. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Serious medical problems will require air evacuation to a country with state-of-the-art medical facilities (generally South Africa). Visitors are advised to secure medical cover on their medical insurance before arriving in the country. Make sure your health insurance covers you for medical expenses abroad. If not, supplemental insurance for overseas coverage, including possible evacuation, should be seriously considered. Major hotels & Lodges may have contracts with physicians and dentists. Visitors are, however, advised to bring along sufficient supplies of specialized medication they may require.  
As always, don’t forget to use sun screen and drink plenty of water while out in the African sun.


Travel insurance is highly recommended and can be purchased through South African Airways Vacations or your travel agent. It  can be used to cover baggage & personal item loss as well as trip cancellations.  Tour operators will not be held responsible for any loss or damage to passenger’s belongings.  Travel Guard is the (travel) insurance carrier that is offered through South African Airways Vacations. For additional information, please inquire. 


Clothing & Necessities

Here is a guideline list of important items to bring:

  • Casual, comfortable wash and wear clothing is most useful.  
  • Shorts, capris & Cotton T-shirts
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Long pants & shirts with collars for evenings
  • Fleece jacket and a warm jacket for early morning and evening game drives
  • Swimwear
  • Rain ponchos
  • Casual light-weight cotton, khaki or neutral colored clothes for safari.
  • Bright & white colored clothing will attract unwanted insects.
  • Studies have proven that most African game animals are able to see bright blue over any other color.
  • Wide brimmed hat, personal toiletries, sun screen and lip balm.
  • Anti-malaria prophylactics, insect repellent and prescribed medication
  • Binoculars, camera, batteries and accessories
  • Sunglasses
Laundry service is available at most hotels, camps and game lodges. Luggage is restricted to 20kg/44lb in SOFT SIDED BAGS. Soft sided bags ONLY are to be carried on safari and internal flights. Large suitcases are impossible to store in vehicles and on small aircraft and should NOT be used. NOTE: THE 20kg/44lb is the TOTAL luggage allowance for both hand and ‘checked-in’ luggage. Meet and greet services in Johannesburg are able to provide storage for excess luggage while on safari.

Mobile phones, Land lines & Internet access

The mobile telephone services are usually available only in urban areas, although there are currently efforts to provide nationwide mobile phone coverage. Botswana’s mobile phone operators utilize the GSM system; if your phone is GSM compatible, set up international roaming with your service provider before you leave home. In Botswana mobile phones are used widely.
Fixed line telephones are generally reliable. Both local and long distance calls are metered on a time basis and every second counts in terms of cost.  Major hotels offer fax and internet service, but lodges that are located in remote areas do not necessarily offer these amenities.

Internet and wireless capability is available in the bigger centers like Gaborone.  However, the more remote the location the less accessible it becomes.  Most hotels and game lodges have some internet capability and computer access is usually in the main areas of the lodges. Internet usage is charged for and can be expensive.  


Credit Cards

Visa and Master Card are honored by most restaurants, stores, hotels, car rental firms, and other points of sale and service. American Express and Diners Club are not.  Proof of identity may be requested in some instances and it is therefore advisable to carry a passport or some form of photo identification at all times.  Credit cards are seldom accepted in the rural areas however, ATM’s are available in larger towns and the city centers (Visa being the preferred credit card for cash advances). It is prudent to only use credit cards at hotels, lodges, reputable shops and restaurants. Debit cards are not accepted.


Banks and Foreign Exchange Bureau are available at the airport and in all main towns. Banking hours are generally:
Mon – Fri 9:00am – 2:30pm (except Wed)
Sat                           9:00am – 11:30am
Major hotels have foreign exchange facilities and most city shops, lodges and travel agencies take traveler’s checks. Automated teller machines (ATM’s) are available in cities and towns.   


It is customary to tip guides, drivers, and support staff on your safari. That said, the decision to tip -- and how much to give -- is a personal matter and not an obligation. Most lodges and camps will indicate (usually with an in-room note) an amount that is considered appropriate. Unlike the U.S. and Canada, where gratuities are seen as wages and are almost mandatory in many places, in Botswana tips are gifts, and the people you meet will generally work incredibly hard for them. Typically, you will be asked to give any gratuities to your host (or the lodge manager) upon departure from each safari property, and these monies will then be distributed among all staff members. At some places, guides should be tipped separately, and you're often encouraged to hand over their tip personally. Guides can make or break a trip, so it's a good idea to bring extra money to reward an exceptional guiding experience. Allow $10 to $20 per day (for each person in your party) for a guide, plus an additional $5 to $10 per person for drivers and a similar amount for Camp/Lodge staff. In cities and on the coast, 10% of the bill is standard for restaurants, and you can hand over $1 for porters and similar services. Taking pens and sweets to give out freely to children in Botswana is not advised, as this encourages begging. If you want to contribute to any cause in Africa, it's always best to make a donation to a reputable charity. Your tour operator will be able to help you with this.


Bottled water is available and the only guaranteed safe drinking water. Make sure you buy your bottled water from reputable outlets as some of the bottled water is not up to standard. Avoid drinking water straight from the faucet, although, water in the major towns is purified and generally safe to drink.  Alternatively boil the water first and cool it for drinking.  Ensure that you take bottled water with you when traveling to remote rural areas and the bush. Most lodges and camps will have bottled water supplies available either for sale or on a complimentary basis.


Botswana is a multilingual country. English, (which was inherited from colonial rule) and Setswana are the official working languages used in Botswana.
Botswana’s urban population is variedly fluent in their mother tongue and English. Rural populations are less multilingual, with many in remote villages speaking only their native language.


There is a wide variety of wildlife that can be seen in Botswana.  
  • THE BIG FIVE - Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino.
  • THE BIG CATS – Lion, Leopard, Cheetah
  • A RICH DIVERSITY OF MAMMAL SPECIES – zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, wild dog, primates, etc. and various antelope species
Always remember that while some animals have become accustomed to the presence of people they are still wild animals. Keep your distance!



Electricity in Botswana is 231 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts). If you travel to Botswana with a device that does not accept 231 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. With a few exceptions (in deep rural areas) electricity is available almost everywhere. Most Lodges and Camps will be run on Generator power. However, you will need to purchase or bring adapters/voltage convertors for the outlets. You can purchase the adapters in many US/Canadian stores, online, or from certain shops in the major tourist cities like Gaborone.  Adapters are usually available on loan at major hotels and Lodges in Botswana. The following table shows the proper adapters for South Africa, Botswana and neighboring countries, as well as the voltage and other necessary information.  This information was retrieved from Feel free to visit the website to get further information, or to see pictures of the listed items. 





Plug and Socket Type

Plug Adapters

Power Cord

South Africa

220/230 V

50 Hz

M,  D

WA-10L,  WA-10

WE-110L,  WE-110


220 V






220 V


C, F, M

WA-9, WA-10L, WA-9C

WE-109, WE-110L, WE-109C


231 V

50 HZ

M, D, G

WA-10L, WA-10, WA-7

WE-110L, WE-110, WE-107


230 V


C, G, D

WA-9C, WA-7, WA-10

WE-109C, WE-107, WE-110




G, D

WA-7, WA-10

WE-107, WE-110

Metric Conversion

To convert Celsius into Fahrenheit = double then add 32
.62 miles = 1 kilometer
3.3 feet = 1 meter
1 acre = .405 hectare
1.05 quarts = 1 liter
2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram


Self-drive safaris in Botswana should only be undertaken by those with significant experience of African driving conditions. Roads in Botswana generally leave a great deal to be desired and many areas are remote and without any significant form of backup in terms of breakdowns and safety. It is highly recommended that guests utilize the services of a reputable tour operator when visiting Botswana.
You'll find few public restrooms while on safari -- or anywhere in Botswana, for that matter. Generally speaking, you'll want to avoid any type of public restroom unless it is in a hotel, resort, or safari lodge or camp. Upmarket restaurant facilities in larger towns and cities are generally acceptable, but never assume that you're going to encounter a decently managed restroom. Tour leaders will ensure that when rest stops occur, that these stops will take place at approved and acceptable facilities.

Souvenirs & VAT

There are many outlets in Botswana where you can find a rich array of arts, crafts and books to remind you of your vacation. Gifts and souvenirs can be readily purchased at the various village curio stores and road side stops. These curios are largely handcrafted by local artisans and revenues derived are used to support the local communities. A certain amount of “haggling” or bartering is required and it is an accepted form of commerce to do so at these local curio outlets. City and town center shops do not generally follow the bartering practice.
All goods and services in Botswana are priced to include value added tax (VAT) of 12%. On departing from Botswana, non-residents may claim a VAT refund on goods exported as accompanied luggage. In order to claim, the original tax invoice, with passport details reflected thereon, must be presented to the designated Customs Officer together with the VAT 006.1 claim form and the BW500 Export declaration form.
The value of the goods must exceed BWP 5 000.00 (Pula), all in one invoice, per export and the goods must be available for inspection. Refunds are made by way of a transfer into your account. Customs also ask for bank account details, and payment may be deposited directly into the account from Botswana.
Travelers must have these details on hand, as refund documents have to be submitted on the same day that the items leave the country. Bank details cannot be sent at a later stage.

Travel Emergencies


If you have lost your passport or wallet, please contact the local police department and file a report.  Once you have done this, contact Botswana’s U.S. Embassy, located at Embassy Drive, Government Enclave, Gaborone. If you have purchased Travel Guard travel insurance, please contact the number on your policy cards. Travel Guard will help you replace any and all lost travel documents. If you have purchased travel insurance from a different provider, please contact that insurance provider. If you did not purchase travel insurance, or if you have other travel emergencies, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. All visitors seeking Consular services are requested to make contact with the Embassy before arrival as all routine U.S. citizens services are conducted by appointment only.




The American Citizen Services section provides emergency services to Americans in the event of an emergency such as a death, arrest, illness, injuries, missing persons, destitution and other circumstances.  However, the types of services provided are limited. For general information on the type of services that can be provided, please refer to the State Department’s website for travelers.


If you are an American citizen with an after-hours emergency, please call the hotline at: +267-395-7111 or the number below

If you are an American citizen with an emergency during business hours, please call +267-395-3982


For Non-Emergency Issues please use the following contact information:

Telephone               + 267-395-3982

Email Address 

Callers in the United States can also call the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services toll free at 1-888-407-4747

For more information on crises and emergency assistance overseas, please see the State Department website on Emergencies and Crises

Although every effort has been made to ensure the content accuracy, travelers are urged to check independently on matters of specific interest.  SAA Vacations, its associates and/or affiliates will not accept any responsibility or liability for any losses or damage resulting from the advice given.