Botswana travel guide
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.
581,730 sq km (224,607 sq miles).
3.8 per sq km.
President Ian Khama since 2008.
President Ian Khama since 2008.
Last updated: 18 February 2018
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.
Around 42,000 British nationals visit Botswana every year. Most visits are trouble free.
Wildlife and livestock on roads are a hazard, particularly at night.
Carry some form of identification with you at all times. A photocopy of your passport is sufficient.
Attacks on tourists are rare, but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty and violent crime.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Botswana, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Take out travel and medical insurance before travelling.
Safety and security
Attacks on tourists are rare, but petty and violent crime is increasing particularly in the major towns of Gaborone, Francistown and Maun. House burglaries, often by armed gangs, are common. Hold-ups and robberies of restaurants during peak hours have also occurred in the past.
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.
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.
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. 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/drug 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.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Botswana, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Drug taking and smuggling is a serious offence. The punishments can be severe.
Taking photographs or using video equipment near military and government installations is prohibited. Always ask permission before taking photographs of people in Botswana.
Same-sex sexual acts are considered illegal in Botswana. However, being LGBT in itself is not a crime. Local attitudes and levels of tolerance may vary, so it is advisable to refrain from any overt displays of affection in public, particularly in more rural areas. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
You should carry some form of identification with you at all times. A photocopy of your passport is sufficient.
It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts. Those caught hunting, purchasing or trafficking such goods will face severe prosecution.
Botswana authorities often do not inform the British High Commission when British nationals have been arrested. If you are detained, you may insist on your right to contact a British consular officer and have access to lawyer. There is currently no comprehensive legal aid scheme and you would need to pay for any lawyer yourself.
Botswana residence and work permits are only valid when held with a valid passport. Don’t allow your passport to expire whilst staying in Botswana. If you send your British passport for renewal, make sure you have a certified copy that you can present if needed.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals do not need a visa to enter Botswana for stays of up to 90 days. Overstaying can cause delays on departure. If you wish to extend your stay, seek an extension from the Department of Immigration.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Botswana.
The Botswana government has stated that dual nationals using two different passports can only enter the country on the same passport they used to exit the previous country.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
The Botswana government continues to impose measures to screen travellers arriving from Ebola affected countries. Travellers arriving from Ebola affected countries may be denied entry to Botswana or put into quarantine on arrival. Further information is available from the Botswana Ministry of Health.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are valid for entry into Botswana. However, unlike with a full validity UK passport, ETD holders must apply for the appropriate Botswana visa or be in possession of a residence permit before travelling to Botswana.
Travel to or from South Africa
If you are planning to enter South Africa before or after you visit Botswana, you should refer to the travel advice for South Africa.
Travelling with children
The Botswana government has introduced new immigration rules from 1 October 2016. Children (under 18 years of age) who are travelling into or through Botswana must provide a certified copy of their full unabridged birth certificate as well as a valid passport (an abridged (short) birth certificate won’t be accepted).
If the child is travelling with one parent, with another adult or unaccompanied, the parent or parents who aren’t present will need to provide an affidavit giving their consent for the child to travel. For more information please contact the Botswana Embassy.
Travelling with children via South Africa
If you’re transiting through South Africa with children, see our South Africa travel advice page for information and advice about the documents you’ll need to carry.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Health care in Botswana is good in major towns, but medical facilities and communications are limited in rural areas. For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation to the UK or South Africa may be necessary. Private hospitals will not treat patients unless you can pay, and the cost of health care may be high. Outpatients must pay cash before receiving treatment. You will only be accepted as an emergency patient if you have full insurance cover. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
There are occasional outbreaks of anthrax amongst wild animals. Don’t touch dead animals or carcasses. If you suspect that you have come into contact with anthrax, seek urgent medical advice.
If you intend to camp or walk in the bush you should be aware of the risk of tick bites.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 997 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Travellers’ cheques are accepted at some banks. ATMs are available in the major towns and larger villages, but most only accept Visa. Maestro cards are not generally accepted. Major credit cards are accepted at many shops and restaurants in towns.
You can’t exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes in Botswana.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.