Botswana

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Botswana’s origins date back to the late 1800s, when the colonial power of Britain formed the protectorate of Bechuanaland to halt Boer encroachment from the neighbouring Transvaal or German expansion from South West Africa. In 1966, Bechuanaland became the independent country of Botswana.

FACT FILE
Population:
2,084,244
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: M-Plug, G-Plug, Europlug
Dialling code: +267
Currency: Pula – $1=9.2 BWP
Language: English, Setswana

BACKGROUND

Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable countries, is the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

It is also the world’s largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation. 2014 saw the diamond trade moved from London to the Botswana capital of Gaborone, which is also seeing the beneficiation of diamonds taking place, whilst there are also now companies polishing diamonds locally.

Botswana protects some of Africa’s largest areas of wilderness. Being a dry desert landscape, with nearly 85% of the land area dedicated to the semi-arid Kgalagadi terrain, the country is sparsely populated. The Kalahari Desert, home to a dwindling band of bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the territory, and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle, which is the country’s third largest industry.

Botswana is known for its beef, and at one point the cattle population is said to have been higher than that of the people. Beef is fresh, relatively cheap and available almost everywhere, including rural area butcheries. 

The country was a haven for refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the 1970s and 80s, but had to tread carefully because of its economic dependence on the white-ruled neighbour and South Africa’s military might.

More recently, the country has seen an influx of illegal immigrants seeking respite from the economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Botswana, which once had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection, now has one of Africa’s most-advanced treatment programmes. Anti-retroviral drugs are readily available.

Politically, the ruling party has won all 10 elections since independence in 1966, whilst controversy surrounds the forced relocation of Bushmen from their traditional hunting grounds.

Recent economic growth has been encouraging, and the government is prioritising the diversification of diamonds.

Botswana also plays an active role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) economic grouping, and has supplied troops for intervention in other parts of Africa.

From a climate point of view, temperatures in summer can reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country, and as low as -3 in winter in other parts.

BUSINESS TRAVEL NEWS

From 1 September 2014, Air Botswana began charging passengers a $35 airport ticketing service for tickets bought at South African airport ticketing offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The fee does not apply to purchases made through the reservations office – it only applies to the initial ticket issuance not apply to any revalidated, reissued, or exchanged tickets.

In October 2014, the City Lodge Hotel Group signed a partnership agreement with MTN Business, to be its connectivity and telecommunications support, with the view to improving its ICT services at the group’s 51 existing hotels in South Africa and one in Botswana – the Town Lodge Gaborone. Next generation fibre optics will be installed to upgrade service offerings to carrier-grade Wi-Fi internet and voice services for guests, enhance its internal network, and optimise systems stability. Benefits will include increased internet speeds, greater reliability and lower telephony costs. It is expected that the entire programme will be fully operational in early 2015.

City Lodge also signed an agreement with Sabre to allow Sabre-connected travel agents to book City Lodge hotels in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya. Three of the City Lodge Hotel Group brands are now available in the Sabre system – Courtyard Hotels, City Lodge Hotels and Town Lodge.

CITIES

From a business travel point of view, much of the focus is on the capital and largest city, Gaborone, in the south-east of the country. Modern day Gaborone boasts four, large American-style ‘malls’, replete with cinema complexes, a host of hotels, guest houses and restaurants, an international airport, a cultural centre,  nightclubs, a national museum and art gallery, as well as two golf courses and other sports facilities.

Gaborone’s unique selling point is the ability for visitors to enjoy familiar modern conveniences and gain entry into rural Africa, or wildlife areas, within minutes. There are two main game parks in and around Gaborone, one within the city and the other about seven kilometres outside, with various animals, including zebra, kudu, impala and cheetah, waiting to wow visitors.

Scheduled for a face-lift, Gaborone’s first mall – often referred to as the Main Mall – is a pedestrian-only business and commercial centre that boasts some of the town’s oldest shops and office buildings, as well as one of its first hotels, the President Hotel – now a Cresta Hotels property. At its top end, across the Nelson Mandela Road, sits the Government Enclave and the National Assembly; and at the opposite end are the Gaborone City Town Council offices. Shoppers will enjoy browsing the many outdoor stalls of African arts, crafts and curios that line the main walkway.

Situated 436 kilometres north of Gaborone, Francistown is the country’s second largest city, and an industrial and transport hub, with a railway line leading north to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The main road north-west of Francistown gives passage to Maun and the Okavango Delta, Kasane and Chobe National Park, Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Francistown is currently undergoing an economic boom, mostly due to the recent resuscitation of gold mining, which has given new life to the property and transport sectors, with the accompanying infrastructural additions and development.

Situated on the banks of the Chobe River, Kasane is both the administrative centre of Chobe District and gateway to Chobe National park. It also is an important point of debarkation for the nearby Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia, and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.

Although officially a town and not a city, Maun is often regarded as Botswana’s “tourism capital”, and is home to the numerous safari and air charter operations that run trips into the Okavango Delta.

AIRLINES & AIRPORTS

Air Botswana is the national airline, owned by government. Although well run, it is struggling to remain profitable. Domestically, Air Botswana operates from Gaborone to Francistown, Maun and Kasane. Internationally, it operates to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Harare, and Lusaka. Other routes include Maun to Johannesburg and Cape Town, Francistown to Johannesburg and Kasane to Johannesburg.

Other airlines that operate into Botswana are South African Express – between Gaborone and Johannesburg; Air Namibia with flights between Windhoek and Maun; Airlink, with flights from Johannesburg to Gaborone, Maun and Kasane; and Kenya Airways, which operates direct flights between Nairobi and Gaborone.

There are four international airports in Botswana – Francistown International Airport, which is about three kilometres from the city centre; Kasane Airport, four kilometres from town; Maun Airport; and Gaborone’s Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, 15 kilometres north of the city.

The airport is named after the first president of Botswana and opened in 1984. Airport facilities include luggage storage, luggage shrink wrap, banks, a bar, snack bar, restaurant, post office, duty-free shops and car hire.

Early 2013 saw Air Botswana unveil its new lounge, after years of operating without one. The Pula Lounge offers services such as free Wi-Fi, refreshments and television, and is situated just off the international departures hall. The lounge is open to Club Gold and Diamond card holders of Air Botswana’s Teemane Club loyalty programme.

Through Priority Pass, passengers have access to the Nthula Lounge. This lounge is airside of Sir Seretse Khama – after immigration turn right and the lounge is located straight ahead. Operating hours are from 06h00 to 20h00. Conditions include: international flights only; maximum three hour stay; children under two are admitted free; premium selection of alcoholic drinks are subject to payment; smart casual at all times; no smoking. The lounge offers air-conditioning; disabled access; alcohol; a flight info monitor; newspapers/magazines; refreshments, TV and Wi-Fi.

It is possible to rent a car at the airport, as big car rental brands Avis, Budget and Europcar have a presence there, although hotel and transfer shuttles can be arranged. There are also designated parking bays for the public, as well as pick-up and drop-off areas.

HOTELS

Botswana offers a variety of accommodation, from 5-star hotels to luxury lodges and safari camps, budget guesthouses and camping grounds. It just depends on where you are and what you are looking for.

Lonrho Hotels and City Lodge are the ‘newer’ players in the Gaborone market, with Lonrho’s 5-star 153-room Lansmore Masa Square opening in 2012, followed by City Lodge’s Town Lodge in 2013, which is within walking distance of retail outlets and equidistant from the CBD and international airport. The other major players are Peermont with its 5-star 187-room Walmont at The Grand Palm, 4-star Mondior with 67 self-catering studios and suites, and 3-star Metcourt Inn at The Grand Palm with 149 rooms furnished in Afro-chic style; Sun International with its Gaborone Sun, complete with conference facilities and on-site casino; and Cresta Hotels, which has 10 properties across the country, including two in Francistown and two in Gaborone – Cresta President with 93 rooms, Wi-Fi, conference facilities and 24-hour reception, and Cresta Lodge, a quick two kilometres from the city centre with Wi-Fi and room service. If you’re looking for representation across the country, Cresta has the biggest footprint, with its remaining properties in Jwaneng, Kasane, Mahalapye, Maun, Palapye, and Selebi-Phikwe.

Peermont also boasts the Gaborone International Convention Centre, which is also located at the Grand Palm and has become a popular destination for regional and international conventions.

Town Lodge is the City Lodge Group’s 2-star brand, whilst the ‘mid-market’ or three and 4-star properties are offered by Cresta and Peermont, which also has the 5-star Walmont at The Grand Palm, which goes up against Lonrho’s Lansmore Masa Square.

If you fancy your golf and have the time, give consideration to the 4-star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel Resort, which has 80 rooms and serviced apartments.

So, depending on your needs and budget, in terms of Gaborone accommodation, you’re pretty covered across the star range.

CARD ACCEPTANCE

Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Botswana, particularly in the cities and larger towns. There is less acceptance of American Express and Diners Club cards.

Should you find yourself in need of cash, you can draw pula from ATMs in those cities and larger towns.

The main commercial banks include Bank of Baroda, Barclays Bank of Botswana, First National Bank, Stanbic Bank Botswana and Standard Chartered Bank, with branches in major towns and villages.

VISAS

Citizens of most European and Commonwealth countries do not require a visa for entry into Botswana. Visitors should check with Botswana embassies or consulates, or their travel agents, before departure. For countries in which Botswana has no diplomatic representation, visa information and processing is available through British embassies and High Commissions.

It is vital for visitors to carry a valid passport and sufficient funds to facilitate their stay. Travellers from the following African countries require visas to visit Botswana: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Tunisia.

CONNECTIVITY

Most of Botswana is networked by automatic telephone exchanges, with public telephones in even the most remote places.

Cellular phone coverage is provided by Mascom, Orange and BEMobile. SIM cards are available in most supermarkets and service stations for around BWP10 (approximately $1). The mobile networks in Botswana offer various services to their subscribers, including internet access, fax, and international roaming. It is important to seek advice about network services, so as to choose one that will work for you. For further information on the network providers in Botswana, consult the following websites:

Mascom – www.mascom.bw

Orange – www.orange.co.bw

BTC – www.btc.bw

BEMobile – www.bemobile.co.bw

Internet cafes are situated in cities and towns and are affordable.

HEALTH

If you are travelling with medicine containing habit-forming drugs or narcotics – such as cough medicine, diuretics, heart drugs, tranquilisers, sleeping pills, depressants, or stimulants – you should have everything properly identified, and it is suggested that you travel with either a prescription or a written statement from your personal physician.

All major towns and cities have chemists, and pharmaceutical supplies are readily available. Travel insurance is essential.

Tap water is considered safe to drink, although outside the main cities and towns visitors are advised to drink bottled water, which is freely available.

No compulsory inoculations are required for Botswana. However, recommended inoculations are hepatitis A and tetanus, as well as precautions for malaria, if you intend visiting the swamps.

TRAVEL TIPS

When first introduced to someone, refer to them by their title until being invited to call them by their first or given name. Always greet someone with your right hand.

Airports, official residences and defence establishments should not be photographed, whilst permission should be obtained to photograph local people.

Do not smoke in the same area where food is being served. Punctuality is very important, whilst yawning in public is considered rude.

Botswana is two hours ahead of GMT (i.e. the same time as South Africa). English is the official language.

The voltage in Botswana is 220-240 volts AC. Plug types include the British-style plug with two flat blades and one flat grounding blade, and South African or Indian-style plugs which have two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin.

CONTACTS

www.botswanatourism.co.bw

This profile was supplied by Tourvest Travel Services
Contact: +27 11 603 9000
Email:
Web: www.tourvest.co.za

OPINION PIECE
Dominique Smith
African Partner Network – American Express Travel Services South Africa

I travelled to Botswana from Johannesburg in May 2014 on the direct services of Airlink from O.R. Tambo International Airport to Gaborone. Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone is clean, easy to navigate and well located. Immigration went smoothly and I was met by the hotel transfer company for my transfer to Cresta Lodge Gaborone. I found the infrastructure good, with all main roads tarred and road signs visible. Generally, Gaborone is easy to navigate, and I would not have had a problem hiring a car and driving myself. Cell phone coverage was good, whilst Wi-Fi was available at the hotel and I was able to connect via phone and laptop easily.

Once proudly referred to as “Africa’s fastest-growing city,” Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, has been – since its inception – continually expanding, to the point that now the sprawling urban centre of some 300,000 residents has become nearly unrecognisable. 

After two days in Gaborone I flew on Air Botswana from Gaborone to Kasane to visit the Chobe Game Lodge. Kasane has a very small airport with a no airport lounge – most passengers wait outside or in the small arrivals area, but there was some construction underway. There was also a small shop, bathroom facilities and Wi-Fi available. Kasane is the gateway airport to Chobe National Park, which covers approximately 11,700km2, encompassing floodplains, swamps and woodland.

All in all, I found Botswana a friendly, clean, and easy country to travel to and navigate. Travelling alone as a woman, I never felt unsafe or threatened – people were helpful and engaging. 

HOTELS
GABORONE
Cresta Lodge – www.crestahotels.com
Cresta President – www.crestahotels.com
Gaborone Sun – www.suninternational.com
Kalahari Sands Lodge – www.kalaharisandsguestlodge.co.bw
Lansmore Masa Square – www.lonrhohotels.com  
Peermont Metcourt Inn – www.peermont.com  
Peermont Mondior – www.mondior.com
Phakalane – www.phakalane.com  
The Gaborone – www.gaboronehotel.com
The Walmont Grand Palm – www.peermont.com
Tlotlo – www.tlotlohotel.co.bw
Town Lodge – www.citylodge.co.za
Travelodge – www.travelodge.co.bw

AIRLINES
Air Botswana – www.airbotswana.co.bw  
Air Namibia – www.airnamibia.com.na  
Airlink – www.flyairlink.com  
Kenya Airways – www.kenya-airways.com
South African Express – www.flyexpress.com   

CAR HIRE
Avis – www.avis.co.za
Budget – www.budget.com
Europcar – www.europcar.com

TMC
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
Harvey World Travel – www.harveyworld.co.za
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
SA Travel Centre – www.satravelcentre.com
Tourvest – www.tourvest.co.za
Travel with Flair (TWF) – www.travelwithflair.co.za
Uniglobe – www.uniglobe.com