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.
11 Botswana Travel Tips to Know!
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 movie theatre 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 Wildlife is Amazing
All this talk about the Okavango Delta and I haven’t even mentioned a few of my other favorite parks in Africa. Let’s start with the Chobe, Chobe National Park has some of the best game viewing 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!
Also a short plane ride away is the Khwai Game Reserve and Linyanti Concession. Khwai literally borders the Okavango Delta and is a wildlife haven. You can expect to see just about everything here and take a mokoro ride next to a drinking elephant.
Linyanti is a very quiet and relatively unheard of region in Botswana with only a few lodges. Its exclusivity means you’ll likely never run into another game viewer and you’ll be spotting things like wild dogs and leopards without any other vehicles around.
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 Has a Small Population
Before your Botswana vacation it may be helpful to note that you may not see a plethora of people while traveling Botswana. 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
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!
Is Botswana Safe to Travel?
Is Botswana safe to travel? We get this question a lot when talking about African countries. Botswana is one of the safest countries to visit in Africa. They have a stable economy and one of the fastest-growing on the continent. Botswana is ranked higher (much higher) in terms of peace on the Global Peace Index as well.
As always when you travel use your head and common sense. But overall, you should have a lovely time in Botswana.
Book A Safari to Travel Botswana
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
What to Pack for an African Safari
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 of buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania 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 our 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.
A good hat is both stylish and functional. In peak dry season there is little to provide shade, UV rays are intense and can easily burn the unsuspecting traveler. Check out our full break down of the best safari hats here!
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.
You’ll want a safari shirt while on safari. They are lightweight and keep the bugs away. Plus they look ideal in photos and blend into the environment around you!
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights. Are you going on safari? We always carry our Robert’s Southern Africa Bird Book and a good mammal guide.