Bustling Botswana

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Known for peace and tranquillity, diamonds and beef, Botswana is a country that offers both business and leisure travellers many surprises. Visitors can explore the diverse cultures of its people and nature at its best. The landlocked country is dominated by the Kalahari Desert and is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe on the north-east, Namibia to the north and west and South Africa to the south and south-east. The Chobe River runs along part of its northern boundary, the Nossob River at its south-western boundary, the Molopo River at its southern boundary, and the Marico, Limpopo and Shashe Rivers at its eastern boundaries.

Getting there

The main international airport in Botswana is in the capital city, Gaborone, and there are direct flights there from South Africa with South African Airways and the national carrier, Air Botswana. The flight time is about an hour from Johannesburg. Flights from Cape Town are also available, though with the additional distance the flights are obviously longer and involve a stop in Johannesburg.  The other option is to fly to Maun about 1000km north of Gaborone. Maun is one of the major tourist spots in Botswana. From Cape Town you could have a one-stop flight via Johannesburg or Windhoek on Air Namibia. From Johannesburg you can choose the Air Namibia flight via Windhoek or a direct flight with Air Botswana.

Air Botswana, operates scheduled domestic flights from Gaborone to several destinations, including Francistown, Maun and Kasane. Private operators maintain links to a variety of tourist destinations. The air charter industry is well developed in Botswana, offering flights to the national airport network as well as private destinations. Maun Airport, which serves a huge tourist market, is one of the busiest in southern Africa.

Getting around

All Botswana’s population centres are connected by highways and very good tarmac roads. Other areas are being developed and road-tarring projects are moving ahead at a record pace. Off main routes, the roads range from good, high-speed gravel to deep, rutted sand. As in most other southern African countries, driving is on the left side of the road. The national speed limit on tarred roads is 120 km/h, while through towns and villages the speed limit is 60km/h, even in the absence of a sign. Seat belt use is compulsory, as is proof of no-fault insurance.

Train

Botswana Railways operates one of Africa’s few air-conditioned passenger rail services, with a variety of passenger accommodation from luxury private sleeper compartments on the overnight train to the modern well-serviced economy class on the day train. All coach classes are air-conditioned and served with dining facilities, running water and toilets. Season tickets are available for regular travellers. All services are operated on a reliable time schedule to ensure that travellers in all classes are on time.

*Daily services between Francistown – Gaborone and Gaborone – Lobatse.

*Gaborone – Francistown for P15.00 one-way.

*Night services between Lobatse and Francistown.

Taxis

All vehicles licensed to carry passengers can be easily identified by their number plates, which have blue backgrounds. Taxis carry up to five passengers at a time. If, however, you would prefer not to share a taxi with other passengers, this can be arranged with the taxi driver for an additional fee. Should you require a taxi to pick you up from a specific location, a number of privately owned taxi companies are available. Their contact telephone numbers can be found in the telephone directory.

Car hire

To hire a vehicle in Botswana, you must be in possession of a valid International Drivers licence, or a home drivers licence as long as the details are in English (one may use their home drivers licence for a period of six months). There are a few car rental companies in Botswana, including AVIS, Budget and Europcar.

Transport from the airports

The transport between Gaborone, Francistown and Selebi-Phikwe and their respective airports is serviced by mini-buses operated by AVIS or other car rental agencies, as well as mini-buses from big hotels for their guests. Taxi services are also available.

Where to stay

There are a number of suitable hotels located in Gaborone for business travellers. The accommodation available ranges from one to five-star. Some of the hotels include:

*Cresta President Hotel: Cresta President Hotel is a licensed three-star hotel located in the central business district of Gaborone. The government enclave, civic centre, National Museum and Art Gallery, banking halls, embassies and State House are all located within a three-kilometre radius. Its central location offers the ideal springboard for tourists and business travellers alike. The Cresta President Hotel offers comprehensive conference facilities, easily adaptable for social occasions including banquets, functions, cocktail parties and wedding receptions. All of the 80 air-conditioned bedrooms at the Cresta President offer the amenities one would expect from a luxury hotel, including room service. The Terrace Restaurant seats up to 140 guests and offers Continental and full English buffet breakfast, a full buffet for lunch and dinner, and an à la carte menu for light snacks and meals all day. Pula Le Thebe Bar is on the first floor and open until late. Other hotel facilities include a gift shop, Internet café and secretarial services. Airport transfers are available.

*Gaborone Sun: Sun International’s luxury Hotel, Casino and Conference Centre, The Gaborone Sun, is in Gaborone. It offers world travellers and business people a sophisticated conference centre and meeting place with the added advantage of a premium casino. The Gaborone Sun’s hotel rooms provide a home-from-home feel where you can relax or catch up quietly on some after-hours work. The beautiful rooms with their soft, African-hued furnishings offer a serene escape from the bustle of the boardroom or the excitement of the casino. The hotel dates back to the seventies and has been extensively refurbished and refined. Accommodation includes a total of 196 rooms including one Standard paraplegic room, one Luxury paraplegic room, a palatial Presidential Suite, three suites, 38 luxury rooms and 152 Executive Rooms. Other facilities include a business centre, guest relations, Heart of Africa gift shop, mini gym, squash court, floodlit tennis courts, golf course and pro shop, and a swimming pool.

*The Grand Palm: Just a few minutes from the city centre of Gaborone and 12 kilometres from the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport lies The Grand Palm Hotel Casino Convention Resort which offers luxurious and affordable accommodation in two hotels – the five-star Peermont Walmont (the first five-star hotel in Botswana) and the three-star Peermont Metcourt Inn. Gourmet dining, dazzling entertainment, a thrilling casino and a world-class Convention Centre are all underpinned by Botswana hospitality. The Peermont Walmont at The Grand Palm is a contemporary, de luxe 188-key business hotel offering a full range of services for executive business travellers, premium leisure travellers, conference and tour groups. The Peermont Metcourt Inn at The Grand Palm is a popular, modern, contemporary design, a comfortable, select services hotel that offers 149 rooms and refreshing value for money.

Visas

Foreigners from Commonwealth countries are not required to obtain visas for entering Botswana, except in cases where the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs has directed otherwise. Botswana has also signed visa abolition agreements with a number of countries, and their nationals are not required to obtain entry visa. South African passport holders are not required to obtain a visa when visiting Botswana.

Money

The unit of currency in Botwana is the Pula (P). It is divided into 100 Thebe (t). Bank notes come in denominations of P10, P20, P50 and P100, while coins come in denominations of 5t, 10t, 25t, 50t, P1, P2 and P5. Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club, are accepted widely. Most hotels and lodges accept foreign currency or traveller’s cheques. There are also Exchange bureaux at major . Credit card cash advances are available in major cities through Barclays Bank, First National Bank or Standard Chartered Bank. Cash transfers are easiest through Western Union money transfer.

Botswana abolished exchange controls in February 1999. Foreign exchange transactions forms must be completed, as the Bank of Botswana requires a record of the amount of currency in circulation. While cash of any amount is no longer restricted, any person entering or leaving Botswana is required to declare Pula and/or foreign currency bank notes in their possession if the amount is equal to or exceeds an equivalent of P10,000. Traveller’s cheques and any other monetary instruments need not to be declared.

There are five commercial banks in the country, with branches in major towns and many main villages: Barclays Bank of Botswana, Standard Chartered Bank, First National Bank, Stanbic Bank Botswana and Bank of Baroda. Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) are located throughout the country at most shopping malls and major hotels.

Health

Compared with the rest of Africa, Botswana is not a risky place to visit from a health perspective. In spite of this, there are certain precautions visitors should take even though there are no legal requirements for taking them. Botswana requires no inoculations except for visitors from yellow fever zones.

Malaria

Botswana has endemic malarial areas particularly in northern Botswana during the warmer months from November to June. It’s a good idea to consult a doctor at least two weeks prior to entering Botswana and to take every precaution advised. The most important thing to do is to take anti-malaria medication prior to the visit.

Tick bite fever

Ticks can be found in the bush all over Botswana. The best precautionary measures are to keep your body well covered when walking in the bush and to use an insect repellent. Nevertheless, there is the risk of being bitten, so check your body carefully afterwards. If a tick has burrowed into the skin, it will appear as a small black dot (a common area is around the ankles and lower legs) and may go septic.

Common symptoms of tick-bite fever are headache, fever, tenderness in the glands, general body ache and neck stiffness. If you seek medical help early enough, tetracycline treatment can modify the course of the illness. Tap water is safe to drink in Botswana’s urban areas.

 

Safety

Botswana is a relatively safe place to visit; however, there are a few incidents of crime. It is advisable to take basic precautions: always lock car doors, always lock your hotel room or house, do not leave valuables in your hotel room or car, and take care with your bags in crowded places, particularly the malls and nightclubs.

 

Language

Setswana is the national language with minor differences in dialects. However, English is the official business language and it is widely spoken in urban areas with most written communication being in English. However, knowing and using a bit of Setswana always helps and Batswana will be pleased that you have made the effort.

Common phrases

English

Setswana

Hello

Dumela

Goodbye

Go siame

Thank you

Ke itumetse

I don’t speak Setswana

Ga ke bue Setswana

How much is this?

Ke bo kae?

 

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