Botswana General Information
The majority of the people are nominal Christians, with a large admixture of African traditional beliefs. About 40% are practicing Christians. The majority of these are Anglicans, Congregationalists, and Methodists. There are other, smaller Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in the country.
The official language is English, but the national language is Setswana (also called Tswana), which is understood by over 90% of the population.
Area (sq. km):
600,370 square meters
When To Travel
Botswana generally has a semiarid subtropical climate. Rainfall is greatest in the north, where it averages about 640 mm (about 25 in) annually. In the Kalahari rainfall averages less than 230 mm (less than 9 in). The normal rainy season in Botswana is in the summer months and so hot and humid conditions are associated with the rain. Rain usually falls from December to March, although it can extend on either side of these months. We recommend a rain jacket should you be travelling at this time of year. In winter (May- September) temperatures during the day are often in the mid-20s; at night, however, it is possible for them to drop to 0ºc and you will need to bring adequate warm clothing, particularly for early morning walks or game drives. By late September, daytime temperatures will be back into the low to mid-30s with milder, warmer nights. In general, October is the hottest month, and July is the coldest.
Winter (April through to August) is a good time to visit Botswana, as the days are generally pleasant and the wildlife never wanders far from water sources. In general, June, early July and mid to late September are the least crowded times to visit. Summer isn't always the best time to travel to Botswana as temperatures can soar up to 45 degrees celcius in the middle of the day in the months from October through to January.
Useful Travel Facts
The international dialling code for Botswana is +267. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Africa. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.
The electricity supply in Africa is rated at 220 volts/50 cycles, and appliances requiring 240 volts will work normally. If you bring electrical appliances you should also bring an international adaptor. Round three pin plugs are the most common types in southern Africa.
The markets of Botswana are filled with a large variety of foods. While some are grown locally many are imported from neighboring countries. A large number of high quality beef is raised in Botswana. Lamb, mutton and chicken as well as other meats are also plentiful. Beef being the most popular meat eaten. Sorghum and maize are the main crops grown in Botswana. Wheat, rice and other cereals not grown locally are also imported. Many different types of beans are grown locally, including cowpeas, ditloo, letlhodi as well as peanuts. Vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and lettuce are grown. Vegetables that grow in the wild that are available seasonally. Dried bean leaves are a popular Setswana food. Many fruits are available ion Botswana. These include exotic fruits like the marula fruit and more common ones such as watermelon. Another kind of melon called lerotse or lekatane is locally grown. There are some kinds of wild melon found in sandy desert areas, which are an important food and water source for the local people.
The road network in Botswana is well developed and constantly being improved. Public transport is largely non-existent in Botswana. Taxi services are available in the major cities. Mini bus taxis provide long distance and in-town services within Botswana, but are poorly maintained and vehicles are generally un-roadworthy. Trains and luxury inter-city coaches run between Gaborone and Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) and Johanneburg and Cape Town (South Africa).
Botswana is reputed to have some of the best art and crafts in Southern Africa. To name a few: Woven baskets - Beautiful designs hand crafted by the Yei and Mbukushu women who live in the Ngamiland district of north-western Botswana. The baskets are made of fibrous shoots from the heart of the mokolane palm, which is boiled in dyes that are of earthy tones. Dye colours are taken from motsentsila roots, tree bark, fungus that grows in sorghum husks, blood, ochre, clay and cow dune. As a guide a basket of medium size takes around two to three weeks to complete. Weavings - Rugs, bed covers, tablecloths, contemporary weavings and scarves are all made from karakul wool. Weavings are made mostly by women who use wooden looms.
Visa: Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Botswana. For other nationalities that do require a visa to enter into Botswana, this is no longer able to be purchased upon arrival. Visa will need to be pre-arranged - please contact your travel agent for assistance.
Useful Words & Phrases
Setswana (Tswana)1: Bongwe
9: Boroba bongwe
Boiled water: Metsi a a bedileng
Do you speak English?: A o bua Sekgoa?
English: Setswana (Tswana)
Excuse me/sorry: Intshwarele
Goodbye (person leaving): Sala sentle
Hello (to a group): Dumelang
Hello (to a man or woman): Dumela mma/rra
How much is it?: Ke bokae?
How’s it going?: O kae??
Thank you: Kea leboga
Where is the_____?: E ko Kae_____?
Botswana-Lonely Planet The Guide to Botswana-Alec Campbell Birds of Southern Africa-Newman The Chobe-Bruce Aitken The Lost World of the Kalahari-Laurence Van der Post Okavango-Sea of Land, Land of Water-Bannister & Johnston