Traveling to Botswana and in need of some Botswana travel tips? This southern African 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 on 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 traveling to Botswana.
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 world’s largest and richest diamond mine. 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 to 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 over 120,000 elephants are 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 tranquil 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 fictitious character, but the book entitled, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is an entertaining and trendy 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 many 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 in Botswana.
The People of Botswana
The people of Botswana are not known as “Botswanans,” but instead, they are Batswana or Motswana (singular). If you were wondering, the Batswana are friendly and accommodating people with great pride for their country.
The Salt Pans
Do you know that salt pan in Bolivia that everyone loves to take a fun and catchy photo of? Well, there is one in Botswana too! The Makgadikgadi Pan is situated in northeastern Botswana and is one of the largest salt flats in the world!
Is Botswana Safe to Travel?
Is Botswana safe to travel to? 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 always, when you travel, use your head and common sense. But overall, you should have a lovely time when you visit Botswana.
Book A Safari to Visit 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 botswana travel
Plan Your Trip to Africa
- Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
- Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
- Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-3 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
- Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
- Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
- Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
- Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
- Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
- Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes everyday, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
- Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.