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One of the lower profile safari destinations in the African south, this France-sized nation of two million is more with the times than many other countries in the region. It draws folks in mainly for the lush Okavango Delta, which is home to big game animals and incredible scenery. There are numerous reserves that can be explored by car in this region.
Roads here are relatively good, although about three-quarters of the 12,000 or so miles are unpaved. Having a four-wheel drive is a must for exploring the parks and Okavango Delta, while major highways may be tolled. Driving at night is not advised.
Driving licences: UK driving licences are good for 90 days, but having an International Driving Permit is recommended.
Which side does Botswana drive on: the left.
Motorways: 74mph (120kph)
Rural areas: 50mph (80kph) or 62mph (100kph)
Built-up areas: 37mph (60kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.08 per cent, the same as the UK. Police conduct random breathalyser tests.
Driving age: 18 years, with a car hire surcharge for drivers under the age of 22, plus drivers must have held their licence for a year.
Seatbelts: mandatory for all travellers, if fitted (some four-wheel drives may not have them in the rear).
Mobile phones and GPS: drivers can use their mobile with a hands-free kit only—iPhones or iPads must be in docking stations. Not all roads are marked, so having GPS is recommended.
Cost of fuel in Botswana: petrol and diesel are roughly half the cost of that at UK pumps.
Car hire and fuel payment: cash is king though major credit cards such as VISA are accepted at large, urban petrol stations and by international car hire suppliers.
Insurance: third-party insurance is compulsory and included in car hire but fully comprehensive insurance and excess, such as collision damage waiver, are recommended.
Traffic and parking: Gaborone is the busiest city, but countryside traffic is relatively light. When in the city, it is best to park at your hotel and use taxis.
A passenger service comes in from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to Francistown three days a week. However, the previous Gaborone-Francistown domestic rail service has been discontinued by Botswana Railways.
There are public and private taxis, and white ‘combi’ minivans. The public taxis and minivans are shared, run on set routes and are very cheap, while private taxis are more convenient and can be hailed. Fares by combi in Gaborone average at around £0.25 and are only marginally more expensive by public taxi, while private taxi fares are typically £2.40. It is best to hail, or call, a private taxi in Gaborone during rush hours.
International services arrive in Gaborone from Pretoria and Johannesburg (6 hours), South Africa, and in Chobe National Park from Windhoek, Namibia. The fare from Pretoria is around £20. The Intercape Mainliner serves Botswana from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. The main domestic provider is Seabelo, with regular services from Gaborone to all main cities and lesser centres with a connection. Main coaches are air-conditioned and equipped with toilets and TVs. Services to main towns often book out, so arrive at the bus station early. Trip time from Gaborone to Francistown is 6 hours (fare: around £4).
Botswana is landlocked. The Kazungula car ferry runs across the Zambezi River from Zambia, although is not part of a main route.
Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone is Botswana's main airport. It receives flights from Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as from Windhoek, Namibia, while domestic connections include flights from Francistown for access to the country’s north, Kasane for access to the ‘Four Corners’ and Maun, the tourism capital of the country.
People come for the safari, with cities used as launch points. The stunning Okavango Delta of the northwest is the country’s main asset, a vast inland delta that plays host to the Moremi Wildlife Reserve. It is home to the big three; lions, tigers and cheetahs, as well as elephants, buffalos and rhinos.
There are many other reserves and parks in this region, including the Chobe National Park, where a river tour reveals monster crocs and hippos. If you have time, head northwest to the Tsodilo Hills for the hiking and rock art.
Nxai Pan National Park is closer to Francistown, the main city in northern Botswana. Sights here include the Supa-Ngwao Museum and gold mines nearby.
Maun is another important stop-off for nature parks of the north, and is more of a village with vital supplies. Between the two towns is the vast Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, home to huge salt pans and flamingos.
The Kalahari Desert is in the southwest and is a stunning region of red, shifting dunes best seen by four-wheel drive. The capital, Gaborone, is not without sights, but is not worth much time. Kgale Hill and the Otse Village are both popular.
May to September (winter) is the best time to come for the animals and for driving. It is drier, cooler and has fewer insects, plus there’s less vegetation for animals to hide in. Average winter temperatures are 16°C, and they rise to 25°C during the hot summers. While it is a quieter period, it rains most in summer (November to February), when some roads are impassable.