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When is the best time to come to Botswana?
The most popular time of the year to visit is June and July but the best time depends on what you want to see and the weather you are most comfortable with. (See separate weather category). The dry season from May-October is the easiest time of the year to travel with day after day of blue skies.
Choosing to visit during the rainy season will require more thought and contingency plans for disruptions
Birdwatching is best enjoyed in the summer and shoulder seasons as many birds are migratory and not present in the winter.
Wildlife can be seen at any time of the year but there is a greater abundance of wildlife May- August when the waterways that fill the Delta are full and gives access to boating in most parts of the Delta. In other parts wildlife is concentrated around the water holes. Visiting in the rainy season will see herbivores enjoying the luxurious vegetation.
In short there isn’t one ‘best time’ to visit and you may want to consider what is most important for you be it the heat or the ease of travel etc.
What is the weather like in Botswana?
May- October is predominantly dry with the cooler months of June and July experiencing lows of around zero or below in parts but highs of 26-28 most days. However the temperatures vary quite widely depending on where you are in Botswana. The Kalahari desert can be very cold at night in winter but very hot (40+ degrees) during the day in October/November in contrast to the less extreme weather in the Okavango Delta where large areas of water and green vegetation make for moderate temperatures. By September the days are considerably warmer in the low 30s and this heat carries through the start of the rainy season and increases to high 30s in December. November is a variable month everywhere with hot days and rising humidity. The rainy season is unpredictable in nature any time from October through to the end of March. It is not like Monsoon rains but is often accompanied by significant thunderstorms and very heavy short lived downpours that can disrupt power and road access.
What rental car companies operate in Botswana?
The following International rental car companies are available for pickup at the three international airports: Gaborone, Kasane and Maun:
Hertz, Avis and Europcar
We would recommend you research the best car for your travel. We will work with you on an itinerary that is suitable for a 2×4 car but you are welcome to rent a 4×4 if that is what you prefer.
Tips for Driving in Botswana
Tips for Driving in Botswana
- A driver’s license from your home country allows you to drive in Botswana. If it is not printed in English bring an International Drivers License with you as well.
- Botswana drives on the (L) side of the road. Road rules are more or less identical to those used in Britain and the Commonwealth.
- One exception is the multiway stop rule. There are many intersections at which every entry is controlled by a stop sign. The rules here are simple. Vehicles proceed in order of first come, first to go regardless of whether they are proceeding straight ahead, turning to the left or turning to the right. The same rule applies at traffic light intersections when the lights are not working. This seems to work remarkably well due to the very courteous drivers.
- Speed limits are generally 120 km/hr on the open highway, and 60 km/hr as you pass through towns and villages.
- There are dual carriageways on the approaches to Gaborone and Francistown but these are the exception rather than the rule and on most highways there are no dedicated passing lanes.
- Driving behavior is generally very good but out on the highways there are occasional impatient drivers who will attempt to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic, expecting that the oncoming drivers will simply make room by moving onto the shoulder to allow them through.
- Highways are graded A, B and C. A and B highways are tarred and are usually built to a high standard. Some of the roads are built across ancient lakebeds or through old dunefields, so it is a constant battle to keep them in good repair, and it is common for potholes to develop during the rainy season.
- Goats, donkeys and cattle are often found grazing on the roadside verges, both on the open road and inside villages. Drivers are expected to be respectful of the wandering stock by slowing down and alerting other motorists by switching on their hazard lights.
- The most important piece of advice is to avoid driving at night. Livestock and wildlife are often found wandering or sleeping on the roads, and at night they can’t be seen until it is too late. An encounter with a cow (or an elephant) on a dark road is best avoided.
- Passing motorists are likely to be very helpful if you have a puncture, and you will find someone who repairs tyres in most towns and villages. You should feel free to offer assistance to other distressed motorists except in areas adjacent to the South African border.
- In the unlikely event of an emergency the numbers you need are 999 (police) 997 (ambulance) and 998 (fire service).
Is tipping customary in Botswana?
Tipping is an expected practice in the hospitality sector in restaurants/cafes at 10% of the bill. Similarly you may pay an upfront charge for a guide to particular places of interest but a 10% tip is generally paid to the guide. There may also be places that you go where there is no charge for the guide who might be employed by the National Museum for example, but tipping would be expected here and can vary based on your experience
What is the usual currency in Botswana?
The currency is Pula (this same word is used for rain indicating the value of precipitation in Botswana). It comes in multiple notes of 200,100,50,20,10 and coinage of 5, 2 and 1 Pula and thebe at 50-5 thebe.
The pula (BWP) is largely stable and the exchange rate with US$ is 1 USD = 11.6917 BWP(as of December 2nd 2021)
Can I use a credit card in Botswana?
Credit cards are in common use in most shopping malls/petrol stations. However the availability of ATMs and use of credit cards in rural areas is limited. Roadside vendors will require cash in Pula. Unreliable electrical/network connection on occasions, particularly during the rainy season, means having cash as an alternative form of payment is advisable.
What do I need to pack to wear?
Lightweight cotton casual clothing is useful all year round with long sleeves and trousers advisable in the rainy season when mosquitoes abound. This is particularly important in the northern areas where mosquito-borne malaria may be present. A warm jacket etc is needed in the months of June – August for early morning and evenings. As wildlife safaris are best at these times of the day you may add warm trousers and hat, scarf, gloves to be comfortable on a game drive. (most operators provide rugs). Comfortable shoes/sandals suitable for rocky or sandy surfaces will serve you well.
There will be laundry facilities at some accommodations and most places will be able to direct you to local laundry services. The climate makes quick drying of clothes possible.
What health and emergency services are available if I get sick?
There are primary care facilities throughout Botswana with GPs, ambulance, pharmacies, laboratory, xray and physio services available in most towns. Health clinics operate in most villages. There are inpatient facilities in the bigger centers and limited tertiary care in the capital Gaborone. The key number to call in the event of an emergency is 997.
What is the main language spoken in Botswana?
There are two official languages in Botswana: English and Setswana. English is quite widely spoken and understood in large parts of Botswana but the main language used is Setswana. Locals will be delighted if you try conversing in their language. Dumela is the usual greeting and we will give you some simple language tips on your arrival.
What food can I expect to find in Botswana?
The staple foods in Botswana are starch in the form of sorghum, maize meal or pap, beef, goat and chicken and spinach in particular, and as you drive around you will see street vendors cooking over a fire of some sort making a variety of these foods. Restaurants and takeaway cafes will also sell these staples in a variety of ways. Some of the best food at a very reasonable price is in the small village of Rakops so don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track. There are the familiar chains of KFC and Nandos throughout the country. Most supermarkets sell hot food with long lines of locals at lunchtime.
Fine dining offerings are more limited to the hotels and tourist areas. We will endeavour to give you a few tips in your itinerary.
There is a noticeable absence of cafes selling a good cappuccino or americano so if this is something you crave let us know and we will endeavor to direct you to the ones we know. You may be able to buy sandwiches from the supermarket so you may want to buy in advance of your journey. Villages have little roadside tuck shops that sell a range of non-perishable food, cold drinks and fresh bread. They also often sell fat cakes for 1 pula ea. The best of these are delicious with a crisp outside and dough in the middle.
What will I be able to buy in Botswana?
The main cities with malls have a wide range of products for sale. There are very few book shops so if you are keen to see what local books are available head to the bookshop in the Airport Junction mall on arrival. There is a range of items sold on the roadside from ‘labelled’ shoes and clothing to souvenir goods, fruit and vegetables. There is greater variety of souvenirs in the tourist towns.
Is Botswana a safe country?
Bookmundi ranks the countries of the world on traveler safety each year. In the 2021 rankings Botswana came in at number 11, just ahead of Spain, and ahead of Canada, Germany, France, USA, China, Italy, New Zealand and the UK.
Here is what Bookmundi have to say:
Choosing a destination for an African safari holiday can be a challenge. Classic options like South Africa or Kenya may offer the best chance to see the continent’s iconic species in the wild, but due to levels of crime or political volatility, these countries are not always entirely safe. If you want to see Africa’s majestic wildlife with a minimum of risk Botswana is the ideal alternative. This is perhaps the safest destination in the region.
We agree with Bookmundi. Botswana is a very safe place to travel. It has a stable government and the people are courteous, peaceful and friendly. Crime against tourists is almost unknown, excepting for opportunistic theft of unattended possessions in the larger centres.
The biggest threat to your safety here is driving at night and colliding with animals on the road. Don’t drive at night unless you can’t avoid it.