Images of the vast Kalahari Desert and the Big Five may come to mind when thinking of Botswana. While this semi-arid sandy savannah spans around 70 percent of the country, Botswana is far from entirely dry and dusty. The landlocked country in Southern Africa boasts myriad remarkable landscapes, great biodiversity, and plenty of natural wealth and resources.
Living in Botswana as an expat
From the Okavango Delta, which is home to lions, hippos, elephants and much more, to the massive salt flats of the Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana promises a variety of unique and beautiful experiences.
Tourism, especially eco-tourism, is a major contributor to the country’s economy. Botswana has emerged as an upper-middle-income country and it boasts political stability and a competitive banking system. Alongside its thriving tourism industry, the country is rich in natural resources – diamonds, in particular.
Indeed, diamonds have attracted foreigners from within the Southern African region and further afield. Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, prospecting for diamonds, gold, uranium and copper. The economy has also diversified considerably, with a growing job market and employment opportunities ranging from ICT to finances.
Expats have plenty of options when it comes to accommodation in Botswana. With houses, townhouses, and apartments in bigger cities, expats can easily find a home that suits them. Areas that are more popular and closer to city centres tend to be more expensive and the quality of housing also influences prices. Overall, housing is still reasonably affordable, especially for those from the UK, US and Europe.
Transport options in the country are limited, and this is an additional cost to consider. Taxis and minibuses can be found in the city, but rail transport networks are not extensive and the BR Express is the only sizeable passenger train. To access remote areas or even get around in larger towns or cities, most expats prefer having a private car and hiring a driver. Driving in Botswana can be tricky, with potholes common outside cities, limited signage in places and animals on the roads in rural areas.
Additionally, expats are encouraged to explore the healthcare options available in the country before moving. Despite improvements in and an expansion of medical facilities, public healthcare remains under-resourced. Both public and private hospitals and clinics are available in the main cities and towns, but serious medical emergencies may require evacuation to South Africa. We recommend expats have adequate medical insurance to cover healthcare costs.
Cost of living in Botswana
Most expats in Botswana earn decent salaries with good employment packages, and can therefore live relatively luxuriously. Botswana consistently ranks as having a low cost of living, but expats are advised to factor in potential healthcare costs and, for families with children, school fees. Local produce is easily affordable, though imported items can be expensive. Accommodation, especially close to popular areas, will most likely be one of the biggest expenses for expats.
Expat families and children
The education system in Botswana has improved in recent years. Expats can enrol their children in local schools, though the standards of these are low outside of the main cities. Most expats choose to send their children to a private or international school where tuition and fees are high, but still much cheaper than their European counterparts.
The country’s abundant wildlife sees expats enjoying weekend breaks on safari, such as in Chobe National Park. Adventurous tourists, expats and locals alike can enjoy hiking and off-road trails and overland trips. The attractions in neighbouring Namibia and South Africa are also just a short flight away.
Climate in Botswana
Expats in Botswana will find the climate as warm as the people. With a semi-arid climate, the country is hot and dry almost year-round. Occasional showers do happen, falling mainly during the summer months. Winters are dry and warm with cold nights.
Whatever the reason for relocating, expats will face both pros and cons in Botswana. What cannot be denied is that moving to Botswana presents a new adventure filled with exciting new experiences and interesting people. Many expats fall in love with the country and decide to settle down permanently.
Population: About 2.3 million
Capital city: Gaborone
Neighbouring countries: South Africa to the south, Namibia to the west, Zambia to the north and Zimbabwe to the east.
Geography: Botswana, which is the world's 48th largest country, is predominantly flat and dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers about 70 percent of its land surface. The Okavango Delta in the northwest of the country is one of the world's largest inland deltas. The salt pans of Makgadikgadi also lie in the north.
Political system: Parliamentary republic
Major religion: Christianity
Main languages: English and Setswana
Money: The Pula (BWP) is divided into 100 thebe. ATMs and card facilities are widely available in all major urban centres.
Tipping: Tipping is not compulsory, but is appreciated.
Time: GMT +2
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Plugs with three round pins are used (type D) as well as three rectangular pins (type G)
Internet domain: .bw
International dialing code: +267
Emergency contacts: 997 (ambulance) and 999 (police)
Transport and driving: Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road.