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General Information A - Z
Six main commercial banks, as well as a number of foreign exchange bureaux, operate in Botswana. Banking hours: Monday to Friday 8:30-15:30 Saturday 8:30 to 10:45.
No boat, mokoro or aquatic apparatus may be imported into Botswana, unless the owner is in possession of an import permit issued by the Department of Water Affairs. All boats, mokoro's or aquatic apparatus cannot launched or put into the water unless sprayed by the Water Affairs Department.
Most of Botswana is networked by automatic telephone exchanges, operated by Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) with public telephones in even the most remote places. The International access code in Botswana is 00. When calling international to Botswana, dial + 267. Cellular phone coverage is provided by three mobile networks in Botswana: Mascom, Orange and be Mobile. Mobile Sim cards are available in most supermarkets and service stations. All major towns in Botswana are network covered, as well as portions of the national highway. Mobile networks in Botswana offer various services to their subscribers, including Internet access, fax, and International Roaming. It is always important to seek advice about network services so as to choose one that will work for you. Using a cellular phone whilst driving is against the law in Botswana, and liable to a P300 fine. Earphones or hands-free devices are recommended.
Major credit and debit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa, are accepted throughout the country, in most hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and safari companies. However, shops in remote areas and service stations may only accept cash. Crime Botswana remains a relatively safe place to visit or live. Take the normal precautions you would take anywhere else: ? Always lock car doors; ? Always lock hotel rooms; ? Don't leave valuables in cars or hotel rooms; ? Take care with your bags in shopping centres and other crowded places, and after coming out of banks or ATM kiosks; ? Avoid walking alone at night.
The Botswana currency is the Pula (meaning 'rain' in Setswana). It is divided into 100 thebe (meaning 'shield' in Setswana). Travellers' cheques and foreign currency may be changed at banks, bureaux de change, and authorised hotels. The US dollar, Euros, British Pound and the South African Rand are the most easily convertible currencies. Automatic teller machines accept foreign visa cards, but are mostly found in larger towns and cities. Cultural sites and community art and craft outlets usually only accept cash.
All goods acquired outside Botswana must be declared when you enter the country.
Duty Free Allowances
Customs duties are not charged on certain goods imported as accompanied or unaccompanied passengers' baggage; if in doubt please contact Departmentof Customs. Tel: +267 364 2100 / 392 2855
Visitors to Botswana have the opportunity to purchase diamond jewellery from authorised dealers. A strict certification system is in place to inform the buyer of the origin of the diamond, and the stated value and quality is verified.
Tap water throughout the country is generally safe to drink. Bottled mineral water is readily available in most shops and supermarkets, and at camps and lodges. Tourists travelling by road are advised to carry sufficient water at all times.
Drivers are required to carry their licenses at all times. Licenses from neighbouring countries are accepted in Botswana. If not written in English, a certified written translation is required. International drivers' licenses are accepted in Botswana.
Road conditions in Botswana Parks and reserves are constantly changing. To assist your planning we publish updates supplied through our network of safari operators and guides on the main tourist routes through national parks and reserves. We also provide information on road conditions on major national roads as well. In general the Botswana national road network is of a very high standard. All roads are tarred and regularly repaired. The most common problem is that of potholes and road degradation.
Although the implementation of the cattle chasing patrols has assisted in keeping livestock off the road, this is still a problem. Always be alert for livestock particularly when approaching settlements. Wild animals are also a danger in the more remote areas of the Trans Kalahari highway and around the northern parks and Okavango delta. For this reason we strongly recommend planning your driving to travel during the day. If you must travel at night reduce your speed and ensure that you are very alert. Vehicle / animal collisions are one of the most common and fatal accidents in the country. It is customary to put on your emergency indicators when coming across animals in the road to warn other road users.
The traffic police are courteous and polite but will fine you for not following the rules of the road. New fines structures are in force and can cost you severely if you are caught breaking the law. Pay particular attention to the following: Speeding. Traffic officials are equipped with the latest laser / radar speed trapping equipment. They regularly man speed checks, especially entering and exiting areas where the speed has been reduced i.e. on entering and just before exiting an 80kmph zone. Seatbelts. Officials often employ tactics of posting a plainclothes officer to monitor seatbelt usage, who then radios ahead to a hidden roadblock. As the offender comes around a corner for instance, they are confronted by a police officer and a large fine. Talking on a cell phone. Officials employ the same tactics as outlined above. Fines are heavy. Drink Driving. Drunk driving is an offence in Botswana that can result in a heavy fine and even jail time. Police are more and more regularly setting up alcohol check points and are equipped with breathalyser testing equipment. Also, note that it is an offence for anyone in a vehicle to be carrying an open container of alcohol and that the driver will be fined for this. Accidents. Whilst the law states that for minor accidents the positions of an accident must be clearly marked and the incident reported to the police, the reality is somewhat different. Even a minor bumper bashing in Botswana ? unless in the most remote areas ? results in both parties not moving their vehicles and waiting for the police. If you are involved in such an incident, rather wait at the scene and follow the local persons lead. Vehicles that are involved in an accident are normally impounded and taken to the local testing centre. If the accident occurs after 12pm the vehicles are usually held overnight at the police station. Consideration is given to tourists. Often, a pleasant demeanour and clear explanation of the facts will assist in speeding up of bureaucracy.
Electricity is supplied at 220/240v. Both square and round wall plugs are used.
Ambulance 997 (toll free) Police 999 (toll free) Fire Brigade 998 (toll free) Medical Rescue 911 (toll free) Medical Air Rescue 390-1601 Mascom 122 Orange 112 Be mobile 1333
Firearms and Ammunition
The issue of firearms licenses in Botswana is strictly controlled, and all firearms imported under the authority of an import permit must be licensed immediately upon arrival in Botswana. The importation of firearms that do not have the manufacturer's serial number or other number by which they can be identified, stamped or engraved on a metal part of the weapon is totally prohibited. It should also be noted that police permits for firearms are issued on a limited quota basis, and there can be a considerable delay in obtaining a permit, particularly on first importation. It is advisable for intending importers to make applications well in advance of dispatch, so that unnecessary inconvenience and expenses can be avoided. Police permits for firearms are issued by: Central Arms, The Registry Tel: + 267 391-4202, +267 391-4106
Firewood is defined as wood that is both dead and fallen and which can be removed without the use of tools. Self-drive campers should use firewood sparingly and only when necessary. The collection of firewood has now been banned in all National Parks.
In the Panhandle area of the Okavango, there are a number of camps and lodges that specialise in fishing excursions. Fishing can also be done on the Chobe River, outside the park. Fishing is only allowed in designated areas of the national parks, and only with an official permit.
There is also a closed fishing (no fishing) period from 31st December to 1st March.
For fishing permit enquiries, contact the Department of Wildlife & National Parks Gaborone: Tel: 267 397-1405, Fax: 267 391-2354 Maun Office: Tel: 267 686-0368, Fax: 267 686-0053 Kasane Office: Tel: 267 625-0486, Fax: 267 625-1623
Visitors are advised to take the necessary precautions against HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Citizens of most European and Commonwealth countries do not require a visa for entry into Botswana. Visitors should check with Botswana embassies or consulates, or their travel agents, before departure. Visitor visas are normally granted for 30 days, but can be extended for a total of three months. It is vital for visitors to carry a valid passport and sufficient funds to facilitate their stay. Note: For countries with which Botswana has no diplomatic representation, visa information and processing is available through British Embassies and High Commissions.
We recommend visitors adhere to the luggage restrictions for both scheduled international, domestic and charter flights: 20kgs (44lbs) on domestic flights, 12kgs (26lbs) on light aircraft (including Okavango Delta charter flights), and 20kgs (44lbs) on international flights. Also note that light air craft transfers require luggage to be packed in soft suitcases.
Malaria, including cerebral malaria, is common in northern Botswana, in the Okavango and Chobe areas, particularly during and immediately following the rainy season, from November to April. As the strains of malaria, and the drugs used to combat them, frequently change, and as certain strains can become drug resistant, it is best to seek medical advice before your departure and take any medication prescribed. Pregnant or very young children are not advised to travel to malarial areas. Other precautions are: to wear long sleeves, socks, closed shoes, and generally keep the body covered, to sleep with a mosquito net and to use mosquito coils and repellent.
Meat / Dairy Products
The regulations on importing meat products change frequently, because they are based on disease outbreaks in different countries. We try to keep visitors updated via our travel update section however always ask customs officials upon arrival what are the specific regulations. For more information contact: Ministry of Agriculture, Enquiries Tel: 267 395-0500
Office Hours (General)
Government Offices / Departments 7:30 - 12:45 and 13:45 - 16:30 Business 8:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 17:00 Shops 9:00 - 18:00 Monday to Friday, 9:00 - 15:00 Saturday 9:00 - 13:00 Sunday
The importation of animals is closely regulated for public health reasons and also for the well being of the animals. Domestic pets and livestock may be imported subject to animal health restrictions. A valid certificate of identity, rabies vaccination and movement permit issued in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia or Zimbabwe will be accepted at the time of importation into Botswana. Note that domestic pets are not allowed into National Parks and Reserves. For more information contact: Director of Animal Health & Production Tel: 267 395-0500
Plants may be imported subject to plant health restrictions, and South African transit permits may also be required in respect of plants shipped through South Africa.
These are goods that can only be imported with a license or permit. Narcotic, habit forming drugs and related substances in any form; Firearms, ammunition and explosives; Indecent and obscene material such as pornographic books, magazines, films, videos, DVDs and software.
Self Drive Safaris
Embarking on a camping trip in Botswana requires a good deal of planning and preparation. You will be going to remote areas, accessible only by four-wheel drive, where water, petrol or food may not be available. You may often be driving on rough terrain, and through heavy sand, in conditions very different from those you are used to. As a general rule, take all food requirements to last your stay. Take at least 10 litres of water per person per day, preferably more; for desert destinations, carry between 50 and 100 litres. Carry at least 100 litres of petrol in long-range tanks or in metal jerry tins. Take spare vehicle parts for breakdowns. As campsites within game reserves and national parks are usually not fenced, it is important for campers to take necessary precautionary measures to ensure their safety, and to abide by the information provided by wildlife officers. The following basic camping rules should be strictly heeded: Only camp in designated campsites. Always sleep in your tent, roof tent or vehicle. Make sure your tent zips up well. Don't sleep with legs or arms protruding from the tent. Use rubbish receptacles at the campsites; if there are none, carry away all rubbish until you get to the next town. Cigarette butts should be well extinguished and placed in a rubbish bag, not thrown on the ground. Make sure the campfire is well extinguished at the end of the evening, or after use, and cover it with sand. Don't sleep on bridges or animal paths, particularly those of elephants and hippos. Bury all faecal matter and burn all toilet paper. Don't bathe or drink from still bodies of water; there is the danger of bilharzia. In the Okavango, don't swim in lagoons or streams; there is the danger of crocodiles and/or hippos. Children must be constantly supervised. Never leave them alone in the campsite. Never allow children to nap on the ground or in the open. Don't stray far from the campsite, or walk in the bush, unless with a qualified guide.
All major towns in Botswana, including Maun and Kasane, have shopping centres and supermarkets, and all basic commodities can easily be purchased. Many regional chain stores operate in Botswana. In addition, there are 24-hour convenience shops at most fuel service stations. There is an increasing range of local arts and crafts on sale in Gaborone, Maun and Kasane and other tourist areas; they include Botswana's renowned world class baskets, woodcarvings, jewellery, pottery, tapestries, fabrics and clothing, glassware, and San crafts Sun and heat-related problems Always take preventive measures that include wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and sunglasses, liberally applying sunscreen every three or four hours, regularly taking rehydration mixes, drinking plenty of water and fruit juices (at least three litres of liquid daily), avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, which causes dehydration.
GMT plus 2 hours
It is essential for visitors to remote areas of Botswana to have a comprehensive medical insurance policy, to provide coverage for the treatment of serious illnesses/accidents, and if required, medical evacuation. Personal effects insurance is also advisable. Check that your insurance policy will be accepted by service providers in Botswana. Ensure that you are treated by licensed medical personnel to enable you to provide your insurance company with appropriate documentation and receipts. Reasonably priced medical services are available at government clinics and hospitals throughout the country. Private medical practitioners are available in the cities and major towns, such as Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. Gaborone Private Hospital is the largest private hospital in Botswana. The hospital requires medical coverage or cash payment in advance where medical coverage is not available.
If you are travelling to Botswana from areas infected with Yellow Fever, you must have a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Otherwise, no other immunisations are required. However we recommend you have an updated TPD (tetanus, polio, diphtheria) vaccine, and a Hepatitis A vaccine. Value Added Tax To claim 10% VAT refund for total value of goods purchased, the amount spent should be more than P5 000. In such cases, the following is required: a tax invoice stating VAT paid, your passport number and your bank account details. It is always advisable to keep a copy of the VAT form as a record for any follow up on the transaction. VAT claims usually can be made at all major border posts and airports.
What to Bring
Sun Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, Binoculars, cameras, torch, insect repellent, lip salve, guidebooks All commonly used commodities are available in the major towns, but if specific brand names are needed, it is best to bring enough to last your stay. However, care needs to be taken to comply with international aviation security regulations for items in carryon luggage. Contact your airline for details.
What to Wear
In summer, lightweight, light-coloured cottons are preferable. Garments of neutral colours that blend with the bush and forest are advisable for safaris and game viewing. Avoid synthetic materials and black clothing, as they increase perspiration and discomfort. Bring a lightweight jacket and/or jersey for unexpected temperature changes or rain. In winter, wear trousers, long-sleeved shirts and blouses and jerseys. From May ? August, night temperatures can fall below zero degrees Celsius, so warm jerseys and jackets are vital, especially on early morning and evening game drives. Closed, comfortable walking shoes or gym shoes are a must in all seasons. Special attention should be given to protection from the sun. Bring a sunhat, good quality sunscreen, sun lotion and polarised sunglasses. Wide brimmed hats are preferable to baseball caps.