· Botswana is in the Common Customs Area with South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho. Vehicles and personal effects such as jewellery, clothes, binoculars, cameras and camping equipment may be imported temporarily into countries within the Common Customs Area without formality.
· Botswana, unlike South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho, is however not part of the Common Monetary Area. Consequently proof of ownership of vehicles entering Botswana must be shown. Should the owner of the vehicle not be driving it, a letter of authority must be able to be produced as well as the registration papers for the vehicle.
· Although vehicles and personal goods may be transported in and out of countries within the Common Customs Area without formality, a declaration in respect of goods leaving the Common Monetary Area (form NEP), which must be properly certified by the bank, must be produced to South African immigration authorities at the point where the goods are exported from South Africa or re-imported into South Africa. The insurance value of items is used for this valuation and the NEP form must be completed by the bank so allow sufficient time before your departure to make the necessary arrangements with the bank. This requirement will however not apply to most tourists who intend to spend a short vacation in Botswana as it ordinarily applies only in those circumstances where the personal effects accompanying a person entering Botswana exceed R50 000-00. In addition, the NEP form is not required where vehicles are exported to Botswana temporarily (ie for purposes of travel or vacation). It is however suggested that the South African Customs and Immigration authorities be contacted prior to departure for more detailed information in this regard.
· Vehicles that are permanently imported into Botswana from other countries in the Common Customs Area are subject to import duty.
· Visitors to Botswana from other countries in the Common Customs Area may import the following into Botswana without paying additional import duty:
o 2 litres wine;
o 1 litre spirits;
o 6 cans beer;
o 400 cigarettes;
o 50 cigars;
o 250g pipe tobacco;
o 50 ml eau de toilette;
o New and used goods to the value of not more than R50 000-00 per person.
· Goods imported in excess of the above amounts are subject to import duty. Petrol and diesel transported in extra canisters (aside from that contained in the vehicles petrol tanks) is also subject to import duty. Currently this duty is 11 thebe per litre of petrol and 6 thebe per litre of diesel.
· Import duty must be paid in cash and cheques are not accepted.
· Additional information can be obtained from the Director of Customs and Excise, Department of Customs and Excise, Private Bag 0041, Gaborone. Tel: 32 2855 and Fax 32 2781.
There are various points of entry into Botswana from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Due to the heavy rains that the area has recently experienced, many of the smaller border posts may be closed, especially those along the Limpopo river. It is advisable to contact the border posts to check whether they are open before driving all the way there only to find that they are closed.
South African/Botswana border posts
o Pontdrif 08h00 – 16h30
o Platjan 08h00 – 16h00
o Zanzibar 08h00 - 16h00
o Groblersbrug 08h00 – 18h00
o Stockpoort 08h00 - 18h00
o Derdepoort 07h00 – 18h00
o Kopfontein 07h00 – 19h00
o Swartkopfontein 07h00 - 19h00
o Skilpadshek 07h00 - 19h00
o Ramatlabama 07h00 – 20h00
o Makgobistad 08h00 – 18h00
o Bray 07h30 – 16h00
o Mokopong 08h00 – 16h00
o McCarthy’s Rest 08h00 – 16h00
o Middelputs 08h00 – 16h00
Botswana / Zimbabwe border posts
o Kazangula 08h00 – 18h00
o Pandamatenga 08h00 - 16h00
o Ramokawebena Road (Plumtree) 06h00 – 20h00
Botswana / Namibia border posts
o Buitepos / Mamuno 07h00 – 19h00
o Mohembo 06h00 – 19h00
o Wenela 06h00 – 18h00
o Ngoma Bridge 07h00 – 18h00
We would advise getting to the border posts as early in the day as possible so that should you have a customs hitch there will be sufficient time to sort it out and to carry on and reach your destination.
No specific vaccinations are required before visiting Botswana. However there are various health issues to consider before travelling to Botswana – they include the following:
o Large portions of Botswana are considered to be malaria areas. The risk of contracting malaria is particularly great between October and May and particularly in the Chobe and Ngamiland districts. It is therefore recommended that you take some form of anti malarial drug prior to your departure, during your trip and for a period after your return. here are various options in this regard. It is advisable that you consult your pharmacist or doctor in relation to the prophylactic options available as well as the dosage and side effects of such options. We would recommend that you contact one of the South African or British Airways Travel Clinics as they often have the most up to date information. They can be found in most of the larger centres. Some of the prophylactic measures on the market include the following:
· Larium – a strong anti malarial drug that is estimated to be about 90% effective. Larium is taken once every 7 days and should be commenced well prior to entering a malaria area and for some time after returning from a malaria area. Larium is known to have some quite dire side effects including insomnia, paranoia, weird dreams etc and so is not for everyone! We would recommend that you do a trial run before purchasing the drug to see whether it produces any side effects. Larium is relatively inexpensive and is also known as Mefloquine.
· Doxycycline – an anti malarial antibiotic which is estimated to be 90% effective. Doxycycline is taken every day and once again should be commenced well prior to entering a malaria area and should be continued after departure from a malaria area. Doxycycline does not have the same side effects as Larium but has been known to cause very sensitive skin. Also, as it is an antibiotic it counteracts the effect of oral contraceptives such as the Pill. Doxycycline is fairly expensive and comes in various forms. Should you wish to take Doxycycline we would recommend that you consult your doctor.
· Chloroquine and Proquanil – a combination of anti malarial drugs which is estimated to be about 60% effective. One of the pills is taken weekly and the other daily. Neither of us opted for this combination – Penny took Larium and Neville took Doxycycline – so we do not have much personal experience of these drugs and would recommend that you consult your doctor. This is however the prophylactic combination that is recommended by both the Namibian and Botswanan governments,
o Aside from anti malarial drugs you need to take plenty of tabard to try and avoid as many bites as possible. We used a couple of things that worked really well. They include the following:
· Tabard and Peaceful Sleep (only those lotions and insect repellents that contain Deet are recommended by the Travel Clinics);
· Citronella soap, candles and washing powder – available at Outdoor Warehouse and Cape Union Mart;
· Baygon coils burned in a Coleman coil holder which prevents fire in your tent;
· Periphel – available at Outdoor Warehouse or at Cape Union Mart – a treatment which is sprayed onto your tent to keep the mozzies away;
· Bug ban(s) – literally a type of flea collar for humans – you wear it around your ankle or wrist to keep away the blood suckers;
o It is also necessary to ensure that you wear long sleeves and long pants at dusk and dawn which are apparently the high-risk time for bites.
o I must say that despite all our attempts to avoid being bitten we still picked up quite a number of bites particularly during our stay in the Okovango Delta! We had contemplated not taking anti malarial drugs but were happy that we had decided to do so as there was no way to successfully prevent being bitten. We also took along malaria pre-testing kits so that we could test ourselves regularly to check that we did not have malaria. These kits are manufactured by Macromed and can be obtained from a pharmacy or doctor. This brand of test kits is useful, as they do not have to be refrigerated. We also took a supply of the first treatment for malaria, Fansidar, so that we could dose ourselves if we got malaria. Fansidar must be obtained on prescription from your doctor.
· Tsetse Flies and Sleeping Sickness
o Large portions of the Ngamiland area are infected by tsetse flies. Should you be bitten by a tsetse fly it is recommended that you see a doctor and have a blood test as soon as possible. The symptoms of sleeping sickness can be confused with flu symptoms.
o While we were in Botswana we did not see any tsetse flies and were told by the locals that although they can be found in the Delta area they are not common. Thus, although it is necessary to be aware of the risk of tsetse fly bites and sleeping sickness – the risk of being bitten would not appear to be substantial.
· Transportation of meat and animal products
o Only food for immediate personal use may be imported into Botswana. The importation of dairy products is limited to 3 dozen eggs and 2 liters of milk per person. Importation of raw meat is prohibited.
o When one enters and exits each district in Botswana one is required to pass through a veterinary control point. It is not permitted to transport meat or animal products across theses veterinary control points and from one district to another without a certificate from a local vet certifying that the products are free of diseases. This also applies to leather curios and drums. We were told that the purpose of the control points was to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease. Treatment at the various control points was also not consistent. At some our fridge was inspected, at others we were required to walk through disinfectant, at others our tyres were sprayed and at others we were merely waved through. Before stocking up with meat to transport with you be warned that you may be required to surrender it at a veterinary control point as transportation of it from district to district is not permitted. These regulations would however seem not to be consistently enforced.
o We filtered all water through our British Birkfield water filter. We also used water purification tablets on our Mokoro Safari into the Delta although we had been advised that the Delta water was completely pure and drinkable.
Drivers Licenses, Vehicle Registration Documents, Third Party Insurance and Road Levies
· South African drivers licenses are recognised in Botswana (also Namibian, Malawian, Zimbabwean, Zambian, Swaziland, Mozambique and Angolan licenses). There is no need therefore to get an international drivers license before travelling to Botswana.
· Vehicles travelling into Botswana from South Africa should bear a ZA sticker which designates that they are foreign vehicles from South Africa.
· South African vehicle registration and licensing documents are recognised by the Botswanan authorities and should be carried at all times.
· Botswana recognises third party insurance issued in South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho. Vehicles not covered by third party insurance from these countries – for instance those registered in Zambia - third party insurance must be obtained at point of entry into Botswana. No third party insurance is payable in respect of vehicles registered in Botswana as the third party insurance premium in Botswana is included in the price of petrol.
· Owners / drivers of foreign registered vehicles are required to pay a levy on entry into Botswana. This levy is a once off payment and costs 5 pula. The levy must be purchased in pula so make sure that you have pula in small denominations to pay for the levy as change is not always available. We only had pula notes in 100 pula denominations and the customs officials were not able to give us change. The did allow us however to pay for the levy in rand (about R10-00).
Driving in Botswana
· Most of the major roads in Botswana are tarred and in relatively good condition. This includes the following routes :
o The route from Gaborone to Kasane, via Francistown and Nata;
o The route from Nata to Maun;
o The route from Francistown to Tsienyane;
o The route from Lobatse via Kang to the Namibian border at Mamuno (the Trans Kalahari Highway);
o The route from Mamuno to Gantsi is tarred. The Botswanan government is in the process of tarring the remainder of this route to Maun. When we travelled on this route only a small portion of it (between D”kar and Toteng) was still untarred.
· Many of the roads in the Chobe National Park had been badly damaged during recent rains. For instance, the roads between the Chobe gate and Savuti Camp as well as the road between Ihaha and Savuti were in terrible condition. There were various serious obstacles in the road including a lot of water, thick sand and corrugations. Shortly after we had visited Savuti we were advised that Savuti camp and the roads to and from it had been closed. The park officials were not very helpful in advising tourists about the state of the roads.
· Most of the main roads in Botswana can be travelled on in a 2x4 vehicle with relative ease. A 4x4 is definitely required for a trip to Chobe though.
· Much of Botswana is very scarcely populated – there is not much to be found between major cities aside from a few villages. It is therefore recommended that you fill up at every available stop as there may not be a petrol station for a few hundred kilometres.
· Petrol and Diesel was available at petrol stations in the major cities and towns.
· Try not to drive at night! It is quite likely to find cows, donkeys, goats, wild animals and owls on the road and driving which is hazardous during the day is a nightmare at night.
The Botswana tourist authority recommends that the best time to visit Botswana is between April and August each year. According to tourist brochures from October the temperatures soar and can be as high as 38 degrees centigrade. The rainy season runs between November and May each year.
Botswana experienced extensive rains during January and February this year and when we visited the country many of the national parks were closed or had been badly damaged. Moremi was closed as well as the access route between Moremi and Savuti. We were also told that the swamps were fuller than usual.
Currency and Money Matters
· The currency of Botswana is the Pula (notes) and Thebe (coins). 1 Pula is 100 thebe. Botswana is not part of the Common Monetary Area and consequently currency of South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland is not legal tender in Botswana.
· The pula is currently equivalent to about R1.33. This rate obviously fluctuates on a regular basis so check the rate before you depart on your trip. The pula is stronger than the rand and one of the more stable African currencies. It is also the only currency that is stocked by South African banks and bureaux de change. The customs and immigration authorities do however accept South African rand as tender for payment for the mandatory road levy payable at point of entry into Botswana.
· It is recommended that you obtain Pula in small denominations prior to entering Botswana (if possible) as there are no bureaux de change at land border posts. You will need pula for your immediate travel requirements after entry into Botswana.
· We found that our credit cards (Mastercard) were widely accepted in Botswana. We were not able to draw cash from ATM machines as all the ATM machines that we came across seemed to be linked to Visa and would not recognise our Mastercards. We were however able to draw cash from a teller inside the bank on our credit cards.
· We were able to change traveller’s cheques at all major centres. We did most of our currency exchanges at banks in the major towns but also changed some traveller’s cheques at informal bureaux de change that offer a slightly better rate (obviously with some risks!).
· Visitors to Botswana may import an unlimited amount of foreign currency into Botswana provided they declare it upon entry. Visitors departing from Botswana may only export 500 pula in bank notes and coins as well as any foreign currency declared on entry but unused during the duration of the visit to Botswana. We were advised to declare the money that we took into Botswana at our point of entry. When we tried to do this at the Mamuno border post we were waved through – the customs officials were not interested what currency we were bringing in to Botswana. We were also not asked to declare the foreign and Botswanan currency that we took with us when we departed from Botswana.
The Botswana Parks
All bookings for the Botswana Parks must be done through the central office in Maun. This includes bookings for Chobe, Moremi, Nxai Pan and the Makgadikgadi Pan. The address for the Parks office is as follows:
Parks and Reserves Reservations Office, Department of Wildlife and National Parks, P O Box 20364, Maun, Tel: 66 1265 and Fax: 66 1264.
Trying to reach the Botswana Parks reservations office telephonically is an exercise in frustration. We tried to telephone them repeatedly from South Africa and Namibia and each time the phone just rang or was engaged. Eventually we decided to drive to Maun to book our stay at Chobe. When we arrived we discovered why the phone is always engaged – the parks board officials would appear to spend hours lounging around the office on social calls and it would seem that not much work gets done! We would recommend faxing the office or visiting it at the start of your stay in Botswana.