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 Mokgweetsi Masisi since 2018.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi since 2018.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Botswana on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are currently no international travel restrictions to Botswana. However, travel restrictions related to new variants of the virus continue to evolve internationally. You should check the travel advice of any country you are planning to travel to, or transit, before starting your journey and confirm flight schedules with your airline.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Botswana.
Returning to the UK
Travelling from and returning to the UK
Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Botswana
Air Botswana has resumed domestic flights.
There is no COVID-19 nationwide curfew. The government may impose further localised lockdowns. You should monitor Government of Botswana’s Facebook page for updates on this.
If you have any questions, please contact the Government’s 24 hour COVID-19 helplines on 16649 / 0800 600 111.
Many hotels and other accommodation providers are open. FCDO advises that you contact your accommodation provider before booking to confirm what restrictions are in place.
Face coverings are compulsory in hotels and other accommodation.
Public spaces and services
The majority of shops, banks and restaurants continue to operate, with precautionary measures in place including the compulsory wearing of face coverings.
Healthcare in Botswana
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should call the Government of Botswana’s COVID-19 Call Centre on 16649.
See Health for further details on healthcare in Botswana.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Botswana
The Botswana national vaccination programme started in March 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Jansen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines. British nationals resident in Botswana are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. The Government of Botswana is delivering a categorised roll out of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Citizens and residents are advised to self-register using the Republic of Botswana’s COVID-19 vaccination Self-Registration website. For further information on the vaccines used in Botswana, and their regulatory status, you should keep in touch with your local medical provider and see the website of the Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in Botswana, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
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’re attacked, do not 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’re 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 license.
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’re driving after dark.
In major towns taxis are generally safe to take. You should agree a price before setting off.
If you have checked this Travel Advice and still need assistance from the British High Commission Gaborone, you can contact us via our Online Enquiry Form. If you need emergency assistance, you should call +267 395 2841.
Botswana authorities do not always inform the British High Commission when British nationals have been arrested. If you’re 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.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Botswana, attacks cannot 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.
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.
Although homosexuality is no longer prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. 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 be prosecuted and sentences if found guilty can be severe.
Botswana residence and work permits are only valid when held with a valid passport. Do not 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.
This page has information on travelling to Botswana. Check what you must do to return to the UK.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Botswana set and enforce entry rules.
All travellers should follow the entry rules set out for their COVID-19 status.
COVID-19 entry and exit requirements may be announced and altered at little notice. You should monitor the government of Botswana’s Facebook page for the latest developments or contact the government of Botswana’s 24 hour COVID-19 helpline on 16649 / 0800 600 111.
If you’re fully vaccinated
If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to take a coronavirus test to travel to Botswana. You will need to present your vaccination certification during travel and on arrival.
Proof of vaccination status
Botswana accepts both the UK’s proof of COVID-19 vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your final vaccine dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to travel. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status
If you’re not fully vaccinated
Unvaccinated people must present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel. You may also be asked to undertake an additional PCR test at the port of entry at your own cost. If the test is positive, you will be permitted to isolate within the district of the port of entry at your own cost.
People who refuse to be subject to the above provisions are liable to a fine, imprisonment or both.
Children and young people
Children aged 12 years and over should follow the requirements for vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers, depending on their vaccination status. Children under the age of 12 are exempt from these requirements.
If you’re transiting through Botswana
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.
The rules set out above also apply to travellers wishing to transit Botswana.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
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.
British nationals do not normally 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.
Travel to or from South Africa
If you’re 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.
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.
Returning to the UK
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Botswana on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Botswana.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or brought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, check this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
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.
A rabies outbreak was reported in Ngamiland, in the Delta area of north west Botswana on 8 November. Further information on rabies can be found on the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) website.
There are occasional outbreaks of anthrax amongst wild animals. Do not 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’re 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 cannot exchange Scottish or Northern Irish bank notes in Botswana.
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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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 FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot 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 FCDO 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 cannot 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 FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
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.