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.

Outstandingly dramatic, Botswana encompasses striking salt pans, diamond-rich deserts and fertile flood plains which teem with game. The north, in particular, offers superb wildlife-watching opportunities, making this one of southern Africa's top safari destinations.

A sizable proportion of the country - over 40% - is given over to national parks, reserves and private concessions, where tourists crane their necks out of jeeps to check out the roving animals. But Botswana's policy of favouring low-impact luxury tourism ensures that even the most famous game-viewing areas rarely feel crowded.

The jewel in Botswana's crown is, without a doubt, the Okavango Delta - the largest inland delta in the world. Its seasonal lagoons and waterways are crammed with hovering birds, while zebras and giraffes amble across vast grass flats. Northeast of here is Chobe National Park, home to gigantic elephant herds, some of them 400-strong.

Botswana is one of Africa's success stories. Since gaining independence in 1966, it has achieved steady economic growth through successful exploitation of its agricultural potential and its enviable diamond reserves. It has not 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.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 28 February 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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