Traveling to Botswana? Lucky you! This southern Africa nation left us enchanted with its vast landscapes, varied wildlife, and hospitable people. After a month in Namibia, we arrived in Botswana with little expectations.
Of course, we have seen Planet Earth and watched the wildlife from television so we had some idea. However to witness the spectacle that is Botswana in person is entirely different. From Botswana’s first national park (Chobe National Park) to the Makgadikgadi Pan here are ten things to know before you travel to Botswana.
Things to Know Before You Travel to Botswana
Pula is the national currency in Botswana. However, the word “Pula” literally means “rain” in Setswana. Botswana receives very little rainfall so the word pula is actually a phrase of delight. If you hear people screaming or chanting pula it means something great has happened! It also brings new meaning to the phrase “making it rain.”
The nation of Botswana is one of the more well off countries in Africa. Actually, Botswana has previously had one of the highest average economic growth rates in the world. Since independence, the economy has flourished due to diamond mining.
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
Yes, diamonds. The main export here is diamonds. The town of Jwaneng and the Jwaneng Diamond Mine employs many local people and is the largest and richest diamond mine in the world. Don’t tell your mom you’re traveling to Botswana, she may want you to bring home diamonds like mine. (Hi mom)!
Botswana Has a Troubled Past
I only recently found out about Botswana’s past after a trip to the movies in Lusaka. I just had to see The United Kingdom, and it was because of this that I learned of Seretse Khama and Bechuanaland. Khama was the first president of Botswana and is pretty much the George Washington of the country.
His marriage to his controversial white bride played a role in Botswana becoming independent from Britain in 1966. Without given too many spoilers away, it’s safe to say that Botswana had a little trouble breaking away from Britain. But what country didn’t?
Stash Some Cash for Traveling Botswana
Traveling Africa is not a cheap endeavor, but this rings especially true for Botswana travel. Botswana operates on a high-cost low impact model meaning they keep prices high for tourism so that they can preserve the beauty of their country.
One of the most expensive and sought after things to do in the country is to see the Okavango Delta. Whilst the delta is incredible, it may put a dent in your wallet. We found fuel, camping, and groceries to be extremely affordable and it is even possible to see the Delta on a budget, but come knowing that to experience Botswana to the fullest you may have to make it Pula.
The Chobe is Amazing
All this talk about the Okavango Delta and I haven’t even mentioned one of my favorite parks in Africa – the Chobe! The Chobe National Park has some of the best game in Africa and it was here that we got to see elephants bathing, newborn impala, dozens of fish eagles, and even four lion cubs eating a warthog.
The Chobe is an absolutely wonderful park and it is even estimated that there are over 120,000 elephants roaming around. Put on your safari hat and head for the Chobe!
Read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Before You Go
There is an all lady detective agency in Gaborone run by the infamous Precious Ramotswe! Okay, Precious may be a bit of a fictitious character, but the book entitled, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is an entertaining and very popular read. Alexander McCall Smith and this series of books put Botswana travel on the map for international readers.
Botswana is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. With a population of just over 2 million and over 40% of land dedicated to parks and wildlife, you should have no problem finding some peace and quiet in Botswana.
The people of Botswana are not known as “Botswanans,” but instead they are Batswana or Motswana (singular). In case you were wondering the Batswana are friendly and accommodating people with a great pride for their country.
The Salt Pans
You know that salt pan in Bolivia that everyone loves to take a fun and catchy photo at? Well, there is one in Botswana too! The Makgadikgadi Pan is situated in north-eastern Botswana and is one of the largest salt flats in the world!
Plan and Pack for Botswana
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Botswana is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
Are you ready to put Botswana on your travel radar?
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