Botswana Basics

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The Basics

Time: GMT +2

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are used.

Money: The unit of currency is the Botswana Pula (BWP), which is divided into 100 Thebe. Major credit cards are widely accepted, and foreign currency is accepted at most large hotels and lodges. There are banks and bureaux de change in all the main towns, as well as ATM machines.

Currency Exchange Rates

BWP1.00 = USD 0.09GBP 0.07CAD 0.12AUD 0.14ZAR 1.36EUR 0.08NZD 0.15
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: English is the official language but Setswana is the most widely spoken language.

Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealanders require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Passport/Visa Note: All visitors require return or onward tickets and sufficient funds to cover their stay in Botswana. Visas are generally not required for stays of under 90 days. It is highly recommended to have six months' validity remaining on your passport, as border agents occasionally apply different guidelines to those stated.

Travel Health: Malaria is a particular risk in Botswana between November and June in the northern parts of the country. Visitors who are camping or walking in the bush should be cautious of tick bites. There are no compulsory vaccinations, but a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over the age of one coming from infected countries. Botswana has a good public health system, but facilities are limited outside urban areas. Health insurance for visitors is vital. Tap water in towns is generally safe to drink, and all foodstuffs are safe to consume.

Tipping: Tipping is expected in tourist hotels and restaurants. Many automatically add a service charge, but where not, a 10 to 15 percent tip is appreciated. Taxi drivers, porters and golf caddies should also be tipped a relative amount. Tour guides, trackers and game rangers rely largely on tips for their income and should be paid accordingly.

Safety Information: The majority of visits to Botswana are trouble-free, but visitors should be aware of the increasing incidence of crime, particularly armed robbery and rape, in the main towns. Wildlife and livestock make driving hazardous, so driving at night should be avoided.

Local Customs: Homosexuality is illegal. Taking photos or videos near government or military buildings is prohibited, and permission should always be sought before taking photos of local people.

Business: Business is fairly relaxed in Botswana and dress is generally smart casual. Handshakes begin and end meetings, which are usually held in private. Women are often viewed with a certain amount of sexism, but will be politely treated. Office hours are usually 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, or 7.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday between October and April.

Communications: The international access code for Botswana is +267. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Gaborone's area code is 31, 35, 36 or 39; there is no NDD prefix for calling within Botswana. Mobile phones operate on a GSM 900 network and are limited to urban areas; most North American cell phones will not work. Wifi is available at large hotels and shopping malls, however the speeds are unlikely to match those that travellers from North America and Europe are accustomed to.

Duty Free: Travellers to Botswana over the age of 18 can enter the country with 400 cigarettes; 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2 litres of wine and 1 litre of alcoholic beverages; 50ml of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette without incurring customs duty. Gifts and personal goods to the value of P500 can also be imported without incurring customs duty.

History: A chronology of key events 1867 - European gold prospectors arrive, mining begins. 1885 - British proclaim a protectorate called Bechuanaland. 1890 - British protectorate is extended to Chobe river. 1950 - Chief of the Ngwato, Seretse Khama, is deposed and exiled by the British. 1952 - Rioters protest at Seretse Khama's exile. 1959 - Copper mines are established. 1960 - Bechuanaland People's Party (BPP) is established. 1960 December - Britain approves new constitution for Bechuanaland. Executive Council, Legislative Council and African Council are established. 1961 - Seretse Khama appointed to Executive Council. 1962 - Seretse Khama founds Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP), later to become Botswana Democratic Party. 1965 - Gaborone becomes administrative centre. 1965 - BDP wins legislative elections, first to be held under universal adult suffrage. Seretse Khama becomes prime minister. Independence 1966 September - Bechuanaland is granted independence and becomes Republic of Botswana with Seretse Khama as president. 1967 - Diamonds discovered at Orapa. 1969 August - BDP wins general election. Khama is re-elected for another term. 1977 January - UN Security Council resolution demands Rhodesian hostilities on Botswana border cease. 1977 March - Botswana Defence Force is established. 1979 October - General elections: BDP wins majority, Khama is re-elected as president. 1980 - Botswana is founder member of Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), grouping which aims to reduce region's economic reliance on South Africa. 1980 - President Seretse Khama dies. Quett Masire, former vice-president, is made president after National Assembly vote. 1984 September - General elections: BDP wins majority, Quett Masire is re-elected as president. 1985 June - Buildings in Gaborone are raided and 12 people are killed by South African forces seeking alleged ANC members. Action is condemned by UN Security Council. 1989 October - General elections; BDP wins majority. National Assembly re-elects Masire as president. 1991 - 12,000 public sector workers sacked after strike action calling for increased wages. 1994 October - Legislative elections: BDP secures 53% of vote. Masire re-elected by National Assembly. Kalahari relocations 1995 - Government begins relocating thousands of bushmen to settlements outside Central Kalahari Game Reserve. 1997 - Constitutional amendments approved. Presidency is limited to two five-year terms. Voting age lowered from 21 to 18. 1998 June - Botswana Congress Party established after split in BNF and is declared official opposition after most BNF deputies switch allegiance. 1999 September - Six-day state of emergency declared to resolve voter registration problem. 1999 October - General elections: BDP wins majority, Festus Mogae is confirmed as president. 1999 December - International Court of Justice grants control of Sedudu-Kasikili - a river island disputed by Botswana and Namibia - to Botswana. 2000 February/March - Devastating floods: More than 60,000 are made homeless. Battle against Aids 2000 August - President Mogae says Aids drugs will be made available free of charge from 2001. 2001 March - National diamond corporation, Debswana, says it will subsidise drugs for workers with Aids. 2002 March - Kalahari bushmen take the government to court to challenge a forced eviction from their land; the case is dismissed on a technicality. 2003 September - Botswana begins erecting a fence along its border with Zimbabwe to stem an influx of Zimbabwean illegal immigrants. 2004 March - HIV infection rate falls to 37.5%; Botswana no longer has the world's highest rate of infection. 2004 October - President Mogae secures a second term in a landslide election victory. 2006 December - A group of Bushmen wins a four-year legal battle to hold on to their ancestral lands. 2008 March - Botswana launches its own diamond trading company - the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB). 2008 April - Seretse Khama Ian Khama takes over as president. 2008 October - Botswana's former President Festus Mogae wins a $5m prize set up to encourage good governance in Africa. 2009 April - Botswana says it will halve diamond production because of falling demands for gems. 2009 October - Ruling BDP party wins elections, and another 5-year term for President Khama. 2009 November - Botswana stages a substantial economic recovery after stepping up diamond production again, a bank reports. 2011 January - An appeals court in Botswana overturns a July 2010 order depriving the indigenous Basarwa bushmen of the right to drill for water on their ancestral land. 2011 April - Civil servants begin what becomes a two-month strike over pay. 2012 January - Talks by three main opposition parties aimed at forming coalition fail, destroying hopes of challenge to ruling Botswana Democratic Party. 2012 November - Government says it will ban the commercial hunting of wildlife from 2014, citing a sharp decline in animal populations. 2013 November - Global diamond giant De Beers completes the move of its rough stone sales operation from London to Gaborone, in what is seen as a step towards turning Botswana into one of the world's top diamond hubs. 2014 July - Opposition leader Gomolemo Motswaledi dies in a car crash, just weeks before the general election. Police say it was an accident, his party suspects foul play. 2014 September - Editor of the Sunday Standard is arrested after the paper reported that the president was involved in a car accident. 2014 October - Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins the general elections with 33 of the 57 seats, giving Ian Khama a second term as president. 2014 November - Gay rights group wins legal recognition. Source: BBC News © 2017 BBC