Travel Guide to Botswana

Botswana is situated between South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Kalahari Desert spans the country, making over 70% of it topographically flat. At first glance, it may seem desolate, but it is arguably one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, thanks largely to the Okavango Delta.

Being a relatively new democratic society after adopting its independence from the commonwealth in 1966, Botswana has come far in development, offering the world an authentic experience that is unique to the region.

Pack your bags, water your plants, and lock the house – you’re in for an amazing adventure in Botswana!

Here are a few must-know facts about Botswana:

  • Currency: Botswana Pula

  • Official Languages: English, Setswana

  • Capital: Gaborone

  • Population: 2.29 million

Beautiful view of Gaborone from a hillside, overlooking houses and city with pockets of green forestation.

Visiting the Capital City

With Botswana being one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, it's no surprise that over 10% of the population can be found in the capital city, Gaborone. The 220,000 plus population welcomes thousands of tourists each year, ensuring the city remains as friendly as it is intimate.

Botswana's current economic outlook is positive, which brings thousands of people flocking to the capital city looking for work. This means the city is vastly expanding and development is a way of life there.

The city also offers an adventure for tourists who wish to enjoy a rich cultural experience. Traditional restaurants, coffee shops, and art galleries are ever-present on the streets. The Gaborone Dam south-east of Botswana on the Notwane River is the perfect inner-city getaway for those looking to escape the concrete jungle for a moment. You might also be interested in attending My African Dream, a performing arts competition that features musicians and dancers from the region, hosted every year in Gaborone.

The capital city is also well-known as the setting for Alexander McCall Smith's beloved series of novels, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Why not take a couple of these books with you and enjoy the city through fiction and real life?

Tip: English and Setswana are the official languages, so if you're only visiting for a short while, you can get by with only English. However, it's wise to learn the basics of Setswana if you venture into more remote regions.

Botswana’s History

The history of Botswana can be traced back over 2 million years ago, where evidence of hominids was found after archaeological uncovering. The first known inhabitants were the Koi and San who roamed and occupied these vast lands.

Researchers agree that Bantu-speaking people arrived in the area around 600 CE and moved into the north-eastern areas of Botswana.

Signs of a modern Botswana emerged around 1824 when Bangwaketse became the region’s rulers. Trade with Cape Colony merchants in the 1850s, along with cooperation with Bakwena, Bangwato, and Batawana people ensured the control of much of the ivory trade.

Coveted by both Britain and Germany, the country eventually succumbed to British rule and only gained independence in 1964. In 1966, Botswana held their first democratic national elections and Seretse Khama was elected as their first president.

Red sunset with cloudy, blue skies, over mapungubwe hills and grass and trees.
Topical view of green Ntwetwe pan in Botswana covered in vegetation with pockets of water.

Landmarks in Botswana

Botswana is famous for the beautiful baobab trees on display, and none more so than Chapman’s Baobab. Until it’s unfortunate fall in 2016, Chapman’s Baobab boasted a circumference of 25 metres and its roots stretched out nearly 1 km. As many travellers throughout the years used the tree as a landmark, all the markings and inscriptions can be seen on the tree trunk to this day. This landmark is situated in the Ntwetwe Pan.


Botswana offers several stunning game reserves. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is one of Africa’s largest protected areas and is the perfect place to escape into nature. The vast region is home to a range of marvellous predators.

Tip: The Central Kalahari Game Reserve tours are extremely popular, so book in advance if you want to join one.

Another fantastic destination is the Moremi Game Reserve. Spanning one-third of the Okavango Delta, it is one of the most densely populated wildlife regions in the world. It features various camping sites and lodges, so staying over in the reserve is an option if you wish to take your time exploring the scenery.


A visit to the iconic Kuru Art Project is also a must, where local artists display and sell their artwork. Some of the displaying artists are world-renowned, with their work found in the Smithsonian Institute. You can locate the Kuru Art Project near the Ghanzi-Maun highway turn-off.

Getting to Botswana

Botswana is a popular destination for Africans. Nationals residing in other countries often travel back home, and the Kalahari Desert and Okavango Delta are popular with international travellers as well. Various tour operators help visitors enter the country and enjoy the best it has to offer through travel packages.

South African Passport holders do not require visas to travel to Botswana. If you’re looking to travel to Botswana using a specific medium of transport, please head to the Travelling section.

Hippopotamus rising out of the water with mouth wide open.
Baby elephants interrupting outdoor white table lunch

Accommodation in Botswana

Travelling through the country is an adventure, but finding accommodation outside main cities can be daunting. Most cities do offer lodges and hotels, as well as residents adopting Airbnb-style accommodation for tourists. However, venture off the beaten track and you will most likely have to camp.

Tip: Accommodation at game reserves is in high demand, especially during the peak travel season. Ensure your plans are sorted and book your accommodation as early as possible. Also, look up some reviews of your planned accommodation to see what facilities are available and pack accordingly.

For the Adventurous

Botswana is fanatical about sport, especially football (soccer). Their success in the Africa Cup of Nations is a major source of pride for the citizens. If you know your way around the football field, you’ll be glad to know that Botswana has several scattered across the region. And don’t be surprised if a quick football match breaks out at the local park.

They are also fond of other sports, including rugby, tennis, cricket, and track and field. So, if you wish to stay fit and work up a sweat while on vacation, Botswana is a good bet for you.

If you’d rather experience the country from the comfort of a seat, book a 4x4 adventure with an experienced tour guide and experience the off-road thrill.

Consider taking a splash in one of Botswana’s many rivers and go river rafting, but only follow routes set out by professional and qualified travel guides, as the high prevalence of wildlife can make some areas quite dangerous.

Sunset safari drive on a dirt path with solitary SUV vehicle.
Yellow looking mashed potato traditional Botswana sweswe food in clay ceramic dish, with a wooden spoon on side.

Food in Botswana

Botswana offers relatively familiar cuisine as many eateries cater for international travellers. McDonalds and KFC are found in the main centres, along with cafés and bars. If you're looking to indulge in the unique dishes of Botswana, try seswee, a heavily salted, mashed meat dish. Other foods include the traditional mielie pap (a porridge made from maize meal) and an array of meats such as boerewors, (a type of spiced sausage) and for the adventurous, mopani worms.

The nightlife in Gaborone is growing as the city attracts foreigners from all over the world, so you can also grab a late-night drink at a popular party spot.

Crime and Safety

Theft and traffic offences rate among the most common crimes in Botswana.

Other crimes occur most often in main cities, especially in tourist attractions. It is advisable not to go out alone at night as some parts of the cities aren't properly lit and can be dangerous. Play it safe and cover your possessions with travel insurance for a more worry-free vacation.

Long stretch of tar road with children walking in street carrying items.
A crane flying through blue skies.

Travelling to and in Botswana

Botswana is a popular destination for Africans. Nationals residing in other countries often travel back home, and the Kalahari Desert and Okavango Delta are popular with international travellers as well. Various tour operators help visitors enter the country and enjoy the best it has to offer through travel packages. South African Passport holders do not require visas to travel to Botswana.

Driving in Botswana

Botswana is one of the countries in Africa where people drive on the left-hand side of the road. Average-to-good road conditions can be expected, with newly surfaced roads often contrasting with dirt roads. Expect a few potholes, especially when venturing outside the main cities.

Tip: Parts of Botswana have wildlife roaming free – you may come across one or two while driving so be on the lookout for them.

Flights to Botswana

There are more than 20 airports scattered across Botswana with the main one, Sir Seretse Khama International Airport located in Gaborone. Most major airlines and car rental agencies operate there, so you shouldn't have trouble finding transport.

Weather in Botswana

Truly wonderful conditions await you when travelling through the country. Botswana's climate is mostly hot and dry during the day, with cooler temperatures at night. Expect this throughout the year until their rainy season begins, which typically occurs during the summer months between November and March. Days will be humid during summer, with hot and rainy conditions.

Tip: Desert climates can become extremely cold at night, especially during winter, so pack at least one warm outfit, even if you're travelling in the peak of summer.

Grey skies, with a hint of sunbeams shining on plain grass with patches of dry and green grass.
Map with a green drawing pin, pinned on Botswana.

Tips for Visiting Botswana

1. Passport and Visas

South Africans do not require a visa when travelling to Botswana, but you will still need your passport to enter and exit the country.

2. Expect Vehicle Checkpoints

Frequent travellers often state the high number of roadblocks and vehicle checkpoints during the day. Ensure you and your car are registered and certified before setting off and keep all relevant documents close at hand.

Also, expect to have your belongings searched. It is quite common to be asked to remove your shoes and inner soles in case of hidden illegal substances.

3. Fill Up When You Can

Filling stations can be a rare sight when venturing outside the cities. If you are travelling through the country by car, ensure you fill up each chance you get. It is also advisable to keep a jerry can filled with the right fuel just in case you run out.

To avoid getting stuck on the road and not having access to any assistance nearby, stay near main roads that are frequently used by residents and travellers.

4. Ask Before Taking Photos

Residents of Botswana are generally extremely friendly and welcoming. However, it is custom to ask for someone's permission before taking a photograph of them.

5. Respect Traditions

As with any country, it's important to respect local customs, traditions, and religions. Be aware that nearly 75% of Botswana's population is Christian, around 4% are of traditional African religions, and a small percentage are Muslim and Hindu, among others.

Before you venture into the region, research local customs and find out how to abide by them as closely as possible.

Prices quoted are correct at the time of publishing this article. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.


Sources: Wikipedia,, LonelyPlanet,, Botswana Tourism Organisation