IS IT SAFE TO VISIT BOTSWANA?
Botswana is one of the most stable countries in Africa and on the top 10 safest countries to visit in the world. Tourism is well developed in Botswana, as a contrast to its neighbouring countries, and is somewhat distanced from crime across Africa. Most tourists visiting the country tend to go to Botswana’s main national parks.
Disturbances are low as well, so traveling to Botswana is the best option for anyone wanting to visit Africa. The country is modern and developed, and the infrastructure works. You can even safely drink the tap water in the towns and cities, and you do not need protection against cholera or yellow fever.
HIV/AIDS is a serious issue, but unless you fail to take the necessary precautions, there should be no unnecessary risks. Yet, the greatest danger to the tourist is wildlife and the risks of driving in the bush.
Natural disasters are not a common occurrence in Botswana, and it seems to have few problems in this regard. Floods have occurred at Gaborone Dam, which represents the main water source for the city and comes with a risk of overflowing in the event of heavy rainfall upstream.
The country also experiences heatwaves which then correlates into droughts. Follow the news and current status in the country before planning your trip. If an incident does happen, seek shelter and immediately wait for rescuers to arrive.
HIGH RISK CRIME AREAS FOR BOTSWANA
Gaborone is the capital of Botswana and has the highest populated area in the country as well. Therefore, it will have the highest level of crime in the country. This should not discourage you but keep you vigilant for street crimes such as theft.
Maun is the tourist capital of the country. Most people visiting the country can be found visiting Maun. Criminals do take advantage of tourists as they are unfamiliar with the surroundings.
Francistown is the second largest city in Botswana. Like any city worldwide, the more people, the more crime can happen. Be vigilant with your valuables and avoid travelling at night on your own accord.
Also, take care of your luggage as there have been reports of baggage theft at the airports.
SAFETY TIPS TO REMEMBER IN BOTSWANA
When travelling at night, always use a taxi from your hotel to and from bars or restaurants in the cities. Keep all your valuables safe and be aware of your surroundings and be vigilant for anyone watching you, particularly in crowded areas.
Be careful when using your phone in public areas and avoid using it when in a crowded area. Do not let your credit card out of your sight and do not use ATMs at night or the ones situated in public streets.
When visiting a game park, do not go close to the wild animals and follow your wildlife guard’s instructions. Avoid swimming in rivers and lakes, due to the dangers from both wildlife and water-borne diseases.
SAFE TRANSPORT OPTIONS IN BOTSWANA
If you travel to remote areas, plan your trip ahead of time and make the travel and accommodation arrangements in advance. Take emergency supplies (including water and fuel) and be prepared for off-road driving conditions. In extremely remote areas, travel in a group or with a satellite phone in case of a breakdown.
There are limited options in Botswana when it comes to public transport. The main cities do have public transport which is mostly minivan taxis that seat about 16 passengers. These taxis travel along permanent routes and are easily hailed. Buses are the popular transport alternatives in Botswana when it comes to travelling between cities.
Most tourists to Botswana choose to rent a car and drive themselves around. Tourists may drive on an international driver’s permit and their valid home country licence for up to three months. Road conditions in Botswana are good and the roads are well maintained. The speed limit is 120 km/h (74mp/h) on highways, and 60 km/h (37mp/h) in built up areas and towns.
Some Botswana roads do still have problems. There are erratic drivers and bad signage. The biggest problem is domestic and wildlife animals on the roads. During the rainy season, dirt roads can be disastrous, and it is advised never to drive on these roads at night.
TIPS FOR DRIVING IN BOTSWANA
Follow the rules of the road and drive defensively. Do not assume that other drivers will do what they are supposed to do.
• Only overtake when it is safe. Never overtake on a blind rise or where there is a solid white line.
• Always check your blind spot before changing lanes, even when the road seems deserted.
• Stay alert and keep an eye on what’s happening around you.
• Always be prepared for emergencies. Carry an emergency kit with items that will come in handy if you’re stranded on the side of the road or involved in a vehicle accident.
• Watch out for potentially dangerous drivers and pedestrians walking along the road.
• Be on the lookout for obstructions like potholes or animals which may stray into the road especially at night. It is best to avoid driving at night.
TAKING PHOTOS IN BOTSWANA
Taking photographs or using video equipment near military and government installations is prohibited. Always ask permission before taking photographs of people in Botswana.
However, Botswana is the ultimate place to test your wildlife photography skills. Remember to take some insect repellent and extra batteries as you do not want to lose that priceless shot. Make sure you do not wander off too far from your tour group.
Also keep a garbage bag or anything else you can use to cover your equipment in the event of unexpected downpours.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
There can be police and veterinary roadblocks which consists of bureaucracy and bored stiff officials, but corruption is rare. At these incidents, you can land up unpacking your luggage for inspection at checkpoints.
The Botswana Defence Force take their duties seriously and it is better to abide. Avoid the State House, the official presidential residence in Gaborone, especially at night.
Don’t allow your passport to expire whilst staying in Botswana.
It is illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts. Those caught hunting, purchasing or trafficking such goods will be prosecuted and sentences if found guilty can be extremely severe.
Christianity is the main belief system in Botswana, with well over 60 percent of the population. It was brought over by David Livingstone in the middle 19th century who converted Chief of Bakwena to Christianity. The foremost denominations are - Roman Catholic, Anglican, Zion, Lutheran and Methodist Christian Church.
LGBT RIGHTS IN BOTSWANA
Homosexuality is no longer prohibited by law, but public outlooks are less accepting than in other Western countries and public displays of affection could attract negative attention.
Drug taking and smuggling is a serious offence. The punishments can be severe with long prison term sentences. Do not offer to carry a package from an unknown of suspicious source in your luggage as you risk being used as a drug mule.
The importation of, among other things, the following goods into Botswana is completely prohibited. It is illegal to be found in possession of prohibited goods and may result in seizure and prosecution. These include:
• Narcotic, habit-forming drugs and related substances in any form.
• Military firearms, ammunition and explosives
• Indecent and obscene material such as pornographic books, magazines, films, videos, DVDs and software
The following articles and consumables which are duty free are:
Wines - 2 litres
Spirits and other alcoholic beverages - 1 litre
Cigarettes - 200
Cigars - 20
Cigarette or pipe tobacco - 250 grams
Perfume - 50 ml
Toilet water - 250 ml
• If you are unsure of the goods and values, which you should declare, ask for assistance from the customs officer.
If your passport is lost, file a police report or notification of lost property at the local police station immediately.
Request your own copy of the report or investigation document. You will need it later when you apply for a new passport or file an insurance claim, or if your passport ends up in the wrong hands.
MEDICAL FACILITIES IN BOTSWANA
The government healthcare system in Botswana is predominant throughout the country. Private healthcare facilities are far better equipped with medical equipment, so it is advised to have medical insurance for your trip.
It is always recommended that you make use of travel insurance and medical aid services supplied by your provider at home, which will ensure that you can benefit from treatment in the private medical facilities in Botswana. Private healthcare providers are geared towards catering for tourism and provide a good service.
The CDC and World Health Organization recommend the following vaccinations for Botswana: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza.
Measles is in many countries and outbreaks of the disease are occurring around the world. Before you travel, regardless of where you are going, make sure you are protected fully against measles.
There is also a high risk for Malaria is in central and northern Botswana and there is a lower risk in the rest of the country. The highest risk of transition is in the rainy season, from November to June. If travelling to these areas, it is best to get anti-malaria medication for your trip. Insect repellent is also highly advised.
Malaria, caused by the Plasmodium parasite, is spread by the female Anopheles mosquito. This mosquito does not hum and does not create a welt at the site of the bite, so a person does not know if they have been bitten. This preventable disease affects approximately 216 million people worldwide and kills 445,000 people, mostly children.
FOOD AND WATER IN BOTSWANA
The tap water is relatively safe in the main cities of the country. You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Botswana. The CDC recommends a vaccine for most travellers, especially if you are visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.
Thoroughly cooked hot foods can be eaten as it will mean most infections can be avoided. Raw fruits can be eaten only if they have an unbroken skin and are peeled. Raw vegetables and salads should be avoided due to contamination.
If food has been left out of a refrigerator for longer than an hour especially eggs, chicken and dairy do not consume them.
AVOID STRAY DOGS AND CATS
Do not touch stray, domestic and wild animals in Botswana. Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in Botswana, so the CDC recommends a Rabies vaccine. Tourists involved in outdoor and other activities (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) that put them at risk for animal bites.
IS BOTSWANA SAFE FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN?
Foreign women have not been targeted in the country. So, is Botswana safe for solo women travellers? It appears to be so. The threat for women is the same in western countries.
It is advised to never go unaccompanied after dark. Single women in nightclubs or bars should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and what you are consuming. Women should be careful not stay out too late at night.
Botswana is one of the few African countries that it is safe for children to visit. Travelling with your child in Botswana should not have many problems. Children should remain within your sight at all times, especially when you are travelling.
ENJOY A SAFE HOLIDAY IN BOTSWANA WITH A REPUTABLE TOUR OPERATOR
MoAfrika Tours is a leading tour operator in South Africa that offers an outstanding selection of tours to Botswana. We have a close association with the most reputable tour operators in Botswana who make safety a priority.