This stunningly beautiful country in southern Africa is not only known for the Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland delta and a natural wonder of superb beauty, but also for the stunning landscapes in the popular national parks and protected areas, which are among the world's best regions for unique safari trips. Enjoy unforgettable memories on a mokoro tour in the winding canals of the delta, on a bush plane high above the savannah or by the river where the animals quench their thirst at sunset...Experience the beauty of the Okavango Delta, the world's largest elephant population in Chobe National Park, the unique savannah landscapes of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and home of the Kalahari lions or the impressive expanse of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
IMPORTANT - As some of our Botswana tours might also include other countries, please ensure you also check the requirements for each country, as they might differ to those for Botswana.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay. You will require 4 blank pages in your passport in order to enter Botswana. If you are entering via South Africa it is advised to ensure you have at least 6 blank pages in your passport! This is because South Africa requires 2 clean, consecutive pages for each transit – you will need two pages to transit South Africa in each direction, and two pages to enter Botswana. South African officials take this requirement very seriously and will not permit entry in the case of insufficient pages. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
US, Canadian, British citizens are granted a free visitor's permit upon entry into Botswana, for the duration of the planned trip, but with a maximum validity of up to 90 days.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to traveling the current requirements applicable to you.
Travelling with Children
If you are travelling with children through South African or Botswana borders, please be aware that you will be required to have certified copies of their unabridged birth certificates, and passports on hand. Please make sure you have the following documents prior to travel for children under 18 years of age:
- Travelling with both parents: Parents must produce a certified unabridged birth certificate and a valid passport.
- Travelling with one parent:Parents must produce a certified unabridged birth certificate, a valid passport and a court order/ death certificate/ affidavit confirming the absent parent has given permission for the child to travel. Certified copy of ID/ Passport of absent parent.
There are a number of major international embassies located in Gaborone, including those for the US and UK. However, embassies for other countries including Canada or Australia are located in other African cities. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
Health, insurance and special requirements
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking. The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Safari Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs.
The provision of health care in Botswana is unreliable and medical facilities are very limited, therefore there is always a risk involved. If clients require special medication, they must ensure that they have this with them and also keep a back-up supply if the medication is necessary for survival. Please be aware that it is a long way from the camps to any commercial medical facility and camps are not able to evacuate guests after dark by charter aircraft. Only in Northern Botswana evacuation during hours of darkness can be operated by helicopter through Okavango Air Rescue, but you must be a patron (small once off fee) and evacuation is dependent on the extent of the emergency and favourable weather conditions. In the event of a medical emergency, clients are flown to the nearest medical facility to be stabilised pending a transfer to South Africa for further medical treatment
Additionally, please make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour. We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints, but please note, whilst in the Reserves, doctors and medical supplies are few and far between.
Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour. If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. As above, medication if often in short supply in Botswana, so please ensure you take sufficient supplies with you. Important:
Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement. Due to the remote location of many camps and lodges, electricity is supplied by generators during daytime and shut off at night. Camps therefore usually do not provide 24 hours electricity. If you have a medical condition (i.e. sleep apnoea), which requires 24-hour electricity, please notify us well in advance so that necessary arrangements can be made and if necessary, your itinerary altered to suit.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.There are currently no specific certificate requirements under International Health Regulations however please take note of the malaria and yellow fever information below:
- Malaria: Botswana is located in a malaria risk area and therefore appropriate prophylactic precautions must be taken. It is essential that you consult a specialist as to which measures are suitable for you. The malaria risk depends on the region and the season, so that no universal recommendation can or may be given. Please inform yourself in detail and in advance. The old adage ‘prevention is the best cure’ also holds true. Use repellent and cover up at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are most active by wearing long trousers, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks, if possible. If you develop a bad headache, have aching joints, and recurring fevers and chills after your trip, advise your doctor that you have been in a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can sometimes be confused with flu symptoms. All accommodations, which are located in malaria risk areas, are equipped with mosquito nets.
- Yellow Fever Certificate: Depending on the area you are visiting, or areas you have previously travelled to, you may need a Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate to show you have received said vaccination prior to travel. Check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid and Yellow Fever, Hepatitis B; Meningococcal Meningitis; Rabies and Cholera may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately.
Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Safari Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
- Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Safari Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
What to Pack and Wear
The weather in Botswana will be variable. You will need clothes for hot weather as well as a warm, waterproof jacket and some layers, as it may be cooler in the evening. For the safaris it’s wise to pack khaki-coloured clothing as it blends better into the bush. Pack light and remember the basic essentials. We would also recommend a good pair of lightweight binoculars. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also essential items. Don't forget your camera, with charger/spare batteries and memory cards.
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Most tours in Botswana are organized as fly-in safaris, where movement between camps is organized by a charter flight in light aircraft due to remote areas visited and distances travelled. Light aircraft used for inter-camp transfers vary in size from 3,5,7 & 12 seater aircraft. For safety reasons light aircraft transfers have a restriction of 15kg luggage plus 5kg of hand luggage (20kgs total) per person, packed in SOFT bags. Please note that if your luggage is overweight or in the incorrect bag type – you will be asked to re-pack and/or you may have to book additional seats or a private charter at an extra cost to accommodate your luggage. The maximum size per bag is 25cm wide x 30cm high x 62cm long, this is the size of the pod of a Cessna 206, which is the most commonly used aircraft for inter camp transfers. Please do not bring hard suitcases or suitcases with wheels as they will not fit on a light aircraft.
Luggage handling is not included in our Botswana tours. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry service is available in some hotels in Botswana.
Botswana‘s official language is English and widely spoken with all guides and general staff in camps and lodges having a good command. In the broader population however, not everyone will speak English fluently as many have grown up speaking different tribal languages.
The time zone in Botswana is GMT+2, 2 hours ahead of London GMT. There is no daylight saving and no time-zone changes.
Botswana is in the southern hemisphere, so it is summer there when it’s winter in Europe and North America. Botswana offers exciting travel experience all year round. However, there are certain seasons when activities may be restricted or camps may close. Please note that places in and around water like the Okavango, Linyanti and Chobe tend to have less extreme, more moderate temperatures than the drier desert areas of the Kalahari, Makgadikgadi and Savuti.
- June – August is the most popular time to visit Southern Africa. Normally at this time of the year, vegetation has thinned out following the green season, making game more visible. These months bring the coldest temperatures of the year, however they are still comfortable for safari activities with day time temperatures sitting around 20 – 28 degrees Celsius. Nights and early mornings can drop as low as 0 – 8 degrees Celsius with a wind chill factor making it even colder on an open vehicle or boat activity.
- September – October is arguably the best time for big game safaris as the temperature rises, further drying out landscapes and surface water, resulting in game concentrating around permanent water sources. October can be extremely hot with maximum daytime temperatures between 35 – 40 degrees Celsius, so may not suit all travellers.
- November – March is when lots of animals give birth due to the summer rains bringing an abundance of vegetation and surface water. These months are also referred to as ‘green season.’ Temperatures are still warm during the day, up to 30 – 35 degrees Celsius, but may drop down to 15-18 degrees when it is raining. Rain tends to fall in short, often spectacular thundershowers, usually in the early afternoon, which may interrupt game viewing. Rainfall patterns vary annually, however and this is still a great time of year to visit with a lot of juvenile animals around, leading to increased predator/prey interaction. Game viewing can be more challenging however as grasses are longer, vegetation is thicker and game more spread out due to the availability of surface water away from permanent water sources. It is the ideal time to travel should you have an interest in birding as well as the Kalahari, Makgadikgadi or Savute regions due to animal migrations.
- April and May continue to be a good time to visit Botswana, and travel into the parks is easier as roads dry out, making game areas more accessible, however the landscape is still lush and green. These months are perfect for travelling with clear skies, warm days and cool nights as temperatures begin to drop.
In Botswana, the standard voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. Two types of plug are used - Type G (UK style three square pins) and Type D (three round pins, used in India and some African countries) and you will need a plug adaptor and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you. Many safari camps and lodges run on generators and few have 24 hour electricity. Some camps will not have plug points in the guest rooms but will generally have power points in the main camp area for charging batteries.
Mobiles & Internet Communication
Botswana has a number of cellphone/mobile phone providers with national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Please note: Large parts of the country are not covered by the mobile network, in towns and villages you can expect a certain coverage. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as you head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are accessible in most urban areas and most hotels. Pay-as-you-go airtime is recommended for tourists and sim cards can be purchased in shops, supermarkets and some hotels. The main operators are Mascom, Orange and BTC mobile. Please also check data roaming charges for Botswana with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The official currency of Botswana is Botswana Pula (BWP) divided into 100 thebe. However, US-dollar is the most popular currency, especially in the tourism sector it is often only possible to pay in USD. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. Due to transmission errors, credit card payments often fail because of the technology or lack of reception in remote areas. Most towns in Botswana have ATMs where you can draw cash using your Visa or MasterCard with a 4 digit PIN however they are not always reliable so a backup of hard currency is recommended. Please note that not all airports have ATM machines – including Maun and Kasane Airports in Botswana, though Maun has a bureau de change, so plan in advance.
If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip. Many businesses, including some medical providers, may not accept payment by credit or debit card. Please check on the up to date financial situation closer to travel.
The price level for overnight stays, car rentals and activities in Botswana is more expensive than in other countries in Southern Africa. The country wants to deliberately avoid mass tourism and has therefore chosen the strategy of attracting fewer tourists who are willing to pay for an unforgettable experience and thus support a more sustainable tourism. As each traveller’s spending habits are different, you should bring an amount with which you are comfortable.
Banks in Botswana are usually open 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday. On Saturday banks are open from 8:30am to 11:00am.
Tipping is not compulsory, but it is highly recommended if you have been satisfied with the service. Normally you can give the tip directly to the host or the lodge manager, who will then distribute it to the staff. Many lodges also have a tip box that is shared among all employees. Guides and trackers should receive their tips separately, you can tip them personally. Tips in USD or Euro are generally accepted in Botswana.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Guides: US$10.00 per guest/day
- Mokoro polers: US$5.00 – US$10.00 per poler/guest
- Tracker: US$ 5.00 per guest/day
- Other lodge staff: US$ 5.00 per guest/day for all staff
- Transfer trips: US$ 3.00 per guest
The national dish of Botswana is called Seswaa and consists of a meat stew, which is prepared by boiling meat with onion and pepper. The stew will be served with thick polenta or pap. Particular attention is placed on the use of local and seasonal ingredients and the way they are prepared in order to preserve the natural flavour. Typical regional and seasonal products, like morogo, an African leafy vegetable, which is visually similar to leaf spinach, can be found in many local dishes and variations. Like in South Africa, barbeques are also popular and grilled meat is often served with rice or potatoes.
You will find more international cuisines served in the big cities, alongside local dishes and some game meats too! Some meals are usually included in your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
In general, the tap water in Botswana is not safe to drink. Do not drink from streams, rivers and lakes and it is best to avoid drinking from pumps and wells – as animal presence can still contaminate supplies. Bottled water can be bought at hotels, supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Botswana offers lots for visitors to buy. You’ll find many an option for quality, well priced sculpture and handmade crafts from local artisans. Pick up original art pieces, handicrafts, souvenirs and jewellery.
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 8am – noon, then from 2pm-5pm Monday–Friday. Some shops open Saturday mornings and most shops are closed on Sundays, with the exception of certain grocery shops and souvenir shops.
Safety & Security
Botswana is considered a safe destination as it is economically and politically stable. However, it is wise to take certain standard security precautions as you would for travel to any destination, particularly when in towns or cities in Southern Africa as a whole: Do not leave your luggage unattended at airports and at borders, do not have your valuables on display when visiting the falls and markets, or any other public areas, make use of room safes to lock up personal valuables or discuss with management should one not be provided. Ensure you carry identification, so that you can produce it if required to do so by the security force. Most visits to game reserves are trouble-free. However, as you can imagine, with wildlife, there is always an inherent risk associated. Always follow park regulations and wardens’ advice. All guests are required to sign indemnities at the various camps and lodges and you are also required to abide by the operator’s code of conduct in order to ensure safety.
Smoking is banned in most indoor public places, but there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke.
About half of Botswana's population is Christian, mostly independent Christians, with a number of Protestants. About one third hold on to traditional beliefs as their primary religious orientation.
Botswana offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Many lodges also offer specific photographic activities and photographic hides. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card! Please note, taking photographs of members of police and armed forces personnel and of demonstrations and protests is not permitted.
Arrival in Botswana
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
Other countries on tour itinerary
If you are visiting additional countries, please also check the notes for the other destinations. Different entry requirements apply, and you may need a visa! For other countries, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries.
Flying & Travel Hints
- Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
- Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
- Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
- Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Safari Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Safari Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated August 2020