Chobe National Park, Botswana
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Chobe National Park, Botswana

© www.123rf.com / Nico Smit

Botswana Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

581,730 sq km (224,607 sq miles).

Population

2.1 million (2013).

Population density

3.6 per sq km.

Capital

Gaborone.

Government

Parliamentary republic. Independent from the UK since 1966.

Head of state

President Seretse Khama Ian Khama since 2008.

Head of government

President Seretse Khama Ian Khama since 2008.

Electricity

220-240 volts AC, 50Hz. 15- and 13-amp plug sockets are in use. Plugs used are British-style with two flat blades and one flat grounding blade, or South African/Indian-style with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin.

Easily one of best safari destinations in Africa, Botswana is a wild and dramatic land characterised not only by its bountiful wildlife, but also by its extraordinary scenery: from shimmering salt pans and diamond-rich deserts to raging rivers and fertile flood plains, the landscapes here come in many guises.

Nearly half of the country is given over to national parks, reserves and private concessions, which makes for an excellent safari experience. Botswana’s policy of favouring low-impact luxury tourism ensures that even the most famous game-viewing areas rarely feel crowded, while its population of just two million adds to the sense of wilderness.

The north of Botswana in particular offers superb wildlife-watching opportunities. It is home to the wondrous Okavango Delta – the largest inland delta in the world – where shimmering lagoons and fertile waterways are crammed with more than 400 species of bird. Away from the water zebras and giraffes amble across grass flats and flood plains, keeping an eye out for the numerous big predators that also reside here.

Northeast of Okavango is another jewel in Botswana’s crown: Chobe National Park, which has one of the largest concentrations of game anywhere in Africa. The reserve is particularly well known for its vast elephant herds, some 400-strong, which share this wild land with the likes of lions, cheetahs, hippos and many more.

It’s not only in conservation that Botswana is an African success story. Since gaining independence in 1966, it has achieved steady economic growth through good use of its agricultural potential and enviable diamond reserves.

It has not entirely escaped controversy – the HIV/AIDS pandemic and alleged maltreatment of the Kalahari Bushmen have caused international concern – but it remains a peaceful and stable nation of remarkable natural beauty and its developed infrastructure makes it much more accessible than some of its neighbours.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 27 May 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Attacks on tourists are rare, but petty and violent crime is increasing particularly in the major towns of Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. Hold-ups and robberies of restaurants during peak hours and house burglaries, often by armed gangs, are becoming more frequent.

Theft from parked cars does occur and thieves target cars waiting at traffic lights to smash and grab handbags, phones or laptops. Keep valuables out of sight and in a safe place. If you are attacked, don’t resist. Use a hotel safe, where practical. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place.

There have been isolated room break-ins and robbery from lodges in the Chobe area, particularly river-fronting lodges. Lock your room when you can and secure valuables.

There have been incidences of rape and other sexual offences. Seek immediate medical advice if you are sexually assaulted or otherwise injured. Women, in particular, should not walk alone at night.

Local travel

You should avoid large demonstrations and gatherings. In 2011 police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protests.

Game reserves and other tourist areas are generally secure, but be alert to unpredictable behaviour by wild animals. Follow park regulations and wardens’ advice. Avoid bathing in rivers and lakes, because of the dangers from both wildlife and water-borne diseases.

If you travel to remote areas plan your trip carefully, make transport and accommodation arrangements in advance and seek local security advice. Take emergency supplies (including water and fuel) and be prepared for off-road driving conditions. In very remote areas travel in convoy or with a satellite phone in case of breakdown.

Road travel

You can drive using an International Driving Permit for up to 90 days. If you intend to stay longer you should apply for a Botswana driving licence.

Botswana has good tarmac roads covering most of the country but you should be careful when driving off-road. The standard of driving is lower than in the UK and many drivers ignore road safety rules. Dangerous driving, including speeding (the maximum speed limit is 120kmh) and drink driving, cause frequent serious and often fatal accidents.

Driving, particularly outside the major urban areas, can be dangerous due to stray wildlife and livestock. This is a particular risk at night, so take extra care if you are driving  after dark.

In major towns taxis are generally safe to take. You should agree a price before setting off. 

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