Difference between revisions of "Botswana"
Revision as of 03:51, 11 July 2007
Botswana  is a land-locked country located in Southern Africa and bordering on Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. The economy, one of the most robust on the continent, is dominated by diamond mining and tourism. Botswana is famous for its wildlife, areas like the Chobe National Park, Moremi National Park in the Okavango Delta and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve have a very high concentration of game. The bulk of the Kalahari desert falls within Botswana's borders and Botswana is home to most of the world's San (bushman) population.
Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Most flights arriving in Botswana are from Johannesburg in South Africa. The airport in Maun can also be reached via Johannesburg or Gaborone.
There are several entry points by road to Botswana: In the south at Gaborone, providing access from Johannesburg; in the west providing access from Namibia;the north providing access from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and at Francistown in the east, providing access from Harare. All road access is good and the primary roads within Botswana are paved and well maintained.
Coming from Namibia, you can either go north to Maun, or south along the Trans-Kalahari Highway to Lobatse.
There is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes six hours. There is also service from Windhoek, Namibia via the Caprivi Strip which will drop you in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana. There is also bus service from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. See Intercape Mainliner for information on service from Namibia and Zimbabwe. Private shuttles ran until 2004 from Windhoek directly to Maun and in late 2005, such a service was starting up again.
Through a combination of coaches, combies and trains, you can get anywhere in Botswana without any trouble, though public transport is spotty away from big cities and major axes but hitchhiking is popular and very easy. However, hitchhiking should only be done in desperate circumstances, as Botswana driving is often very erratic and it can be a harrowing experience to have a stranger drive you somewhere. It is advisable to arrive at the bus station quite early, as the busses do fill up quickly, and it is not uncommon to spend several hours standing in the aisle waiting for a seat to free up (remember to bring water, as the busses are often not air conditioned). The roads are paved and well maintained, so travel by car is also not a problem, provided that one keeps a close eye out for the cows, donkeys and goats that spend much time in the middle of the road.
The language of business in Botswana is English and everyone speaks it. The primary indigenous tongue is Setswana, and is the mother tongue of the overwhelming majority of the population. It is not difficult to learn basic greetings and such, and using these in conversation will make people very happy.
Setswana- Hello – Dumela (dumela ra when addressing men, dumela ma when addressing women)
Botswana's currency is the Pula; 100 Thebe = 1 Pula. In Setswana, pula means "rain" and thebe means "shield." Rough conversions are 5:1 (USD) 6:1 (EUR), 10:1 (GBP) and 1:1.3 (South African Rand).
The University of Botswana is located in Gaborone.
People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. There isn't much to worry about on this front. Nevertheless, crime has been on the rise over the past several years, so always be aware of your surroundings. Basic common sense will keep you safe from the predatory wildlife in rural areas.
Botswana's HIV infection rate, estimated at 40%, is the highest reported in the world. Exercise regular universal precautions when dealing with any bodily fluid and remain aware of this high rate of infection. Assume everyone you meet, regardless of race or gender, is HIV positive, and take precautions accordingly. Wear rubber gloves when dressing someone else's cut, even if they are a child, and obviously never, ever have sex with any person other than your spouse. If you form a serious relationship, consider both getting an HIV test before taking things further.
The northern part of Botswana, including Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta is in a malaria zone, so it is advisable to take the relevant precautions. Seek medical advice before travelling to these areas.
The drinking water is safe, unless otherwise indicated.