Moving to this warm African country will present expats with the opportunity to view some of the most extraordinary wildlife scenes and most picturesque landscapes on the continent, and to meet some of its friendliest people. Expats may face a few challenges and complications along the way, but once they've settled in it's sure to be smooth sailing.
Here are some pros and cons of moving to beautiful Botswana.
Cost of living in Botswana
+ PRO: Affordable cost of living
Botswana can be an incredibly affordable place to live, especially if expats manage their finances well. Gaborone ranks low on Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, and is more affordable than most of the 200 other listed cities. Its favourable exchange rate also attracts people from the US, the UK and Europe.
- CON: Healthcare can become expensive
Private healthcare is the main option for expats and insurance is a must-have. These costs quickly add up. In some cases, the healthcare system may not be able to handle specific illnesses and major surgeries, so patients must be sent to facilities abroad such as in South Africa. Insurance that covers repatriation is likely to be more expensive.
Visas for Botswana
+ PRO: Some countries don’t need travel visas
Botswana allows visa-free entry to citizens from many countries. Citizens from places including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and many SADC countries need not apply for visas in advance if their stay is short term. Normally, they receive a 90-day visa on arrival in Botswana. Nevertheless, prospective expats and tourists must check visa regulations with the respective embassy.
- CON: Confusing application processes
Various documents and details are required when applying for visas and residence and work permits. Applicants must also ensure their passports are valid. To avoid unnecessary stress and frustration, embassies and immigration consultants can help while sometimes employing companies to assist.
Healthcare in Botswana
+ PRO: Good quality healthcare in major towns
Major towns and cities such as Gaborone have good healthcare. Expats are likely to receive treatment from well-trained and qualified doctors, some of whom are expats themselves. As English is the official language, there will be no issues communicating in hospitals and clinics.
- CON: Insurance requirements
Having insurance is more of a necessity than a luxury. This is because emergency treatment is only given in the event of full insurance cover in private hospitals which otherwise often require cash upfront. Health insurance should also cover medical treatment abroad and repatriation, as some cases may require medical care in South Africa, for example.
- CON: Health risks
There are several health concerns in Botswana. There are occasional outbreaks of rabies and anthrax, though these are normally isolated. When going to national parks, tick, mosquito, scorpion, spider and snake bites are a risk. Research should be done to understand these risks, their causes and what to do in the event of certain diseases.
Accommodation in Botswana
+ PRO: Affordable accommodation
Given the decent cost of living in Botswana, it follows that accommodation can be found at good rates. Both rent and utilities are cheaper than what many expats may be used to, while the standard of housing is also high. Many expats stay in gated communities which are safe and secure with air-conditioning – a life-saver during the hottest months.
- CON: Pay attention to lease details
Landlords may mention a rent increase over time. So, expats should pay attention to what the standard of rental prices are in their area and negotiate a fee that suits both parties. Fortunately, all utilities are often included in the rent, including water and electricity. Do ask about this before signing any rental agreement.
Safety in Botswana
+ PRO: Low crime rate compared to nearby countries
There is no recent history of terrorism in Botswana and violent attacks on tourists are rare. It might be safer to walk around at night in Botswana than in South Africa, but expats still need to take necessary safety precautions and use common sense.
- CON: Inequality and increasing crime rate
Botswana is a developing country and many people live in poverty. With major inequality in the country, crime does exist. Expats should be aware of increasing petty and violent crime in towns such as Francistown, Maun and Gaborone. Robberies and theft occur, and valuables should not be left in plain sight in parked vehicles.
Getting around in Botswana
+ PRO: Good tarmac roads
Some well-maintained tarmac roads connect most of the country, especially in and around major cities. Of course, in certain areas, this is lacking. Four-wheel-drive vehicles may be needed, especially for those visiting the national parks.
- CON: Driving hazards
Drivers do face risks and new arrivals may be frustrated by others not following the rules of the road, ignoring speed limits and drink driving. Outside of urban areas, lighting is poor so expats should drive slowly and be vigilant of livestock, wildlife and potholes. When travelling to remote areas, expats should take emergency supplies, including food, water and a satellite phone.
Working in Botswana
+ PRO: Money matters can be dealt with fairly easily
Tourists in Botswana or those staying short term may be able to use travellers’ cheques at some banks. US dollars and euros can be used in several main hotels. Visa and major credit cards are accepted in shops and restaurants, and ATMs are accessible in major towns.
+ PRO: Growing economy and job opportunities
Botswana's economy is growing reasonably well, largely owing to its wealth of diamonds. The job market is vibrant and presents plenty of work opportunities, so expats shouldn't struggle to find work. Expats are often also transferred to branches in Botswana through their own companies.
- CON: Time-consuming and often unnecessary paperwork
Slow, inefficient bureaucratic processes are issues in many countries all over the world, and Botswana is one of them. Red tape is hard to avoid when applying for visas and when doing business, but expats who keep their documents in order and show a little patience generally have a smooth experience.
Culture in Botswana
+ PRO: Locals are friendly
People from Botswana, known as Batswana, are friendly and helpful. They are proud of their country and culture. Some seemingly small parts of communication are important to the culture, for example, greeting, respecting the elderly and making eye contact (too little eye-contact is viewed with suspicion).
- CON: Understanding and tolerance of LGBTQ+ is low
Although homosexuality is no longer considered illegal in Botswana, the LGBTQ+ community continues to face discrimination, harassment and negative attention as public customs are not tolerant of it. This element of culture shock may be difficult to deal with, although things are slowly changing.
- CON: Tolerance of immigrants varies
Although Batswana are generally friendly and welcoming, foreigners have mixed experiences. Those from the US and the UK may have more positive experiences than expats from other African nations who have reported feeling like, and being seen as, outsiders.
Lifestyle and things to do in Botswana
+ PRO: Nature is abundant
Those with a thirst for adventure and a love of nature will not be short of things to see and do in Botswana. This ranges from the Okavango Delta with luxurious (and expensive) eco-lodges and self-camping (more affordable) experiences to the Makgadikgadi Basin with its salt pan in the heart of Botswana’s northeastern savannah ecosystem. The diverse flora and fauna and natural beauty will capture anyone’s attention.
+ PRO: Gaborone is well developed
Most expats are likely to move to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, which is also the largest city. It is quite well developed with shopping malls, entertainment opportunities, banks and safe taxis.
- CON: Expat bubble can isolate new arrivals
Moving to Botswana with a good salary and employment package can secure good quality accommodation and possibly international school fees for those with children. These expats can also afford luxurious safari adventures and a comfortable life which may isolate them from the reality of the country. Botswana experiences inequality, but is also incredibly rich in traditional culture. Expats are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones, learn some of the local language, Setswana, and immerse themselves in the culture.
Schools in Botswana
+ PRO: Good standard of international schools in Botswana
Expats with children can choose from a selection of international schools that mainly offer American or British-based curricula. Some schools have Christian values. Several schools also offer boarding facilities. Most, however, are concentrated in the capital city.
- CON: Public schools lack resources
Public schools, although much more affordable, are not really an option for many expats. This is because the quality of resources and teaching is not as good as in private, international schools. This leaves limited options for parents, limiting them to more expensive schools. Fortunately, international schools in Botswana have much better rates and tuition fees than those in European countries.
Weather in Botswana
+ PRO: Year-round summer
Botswana has a warm climate with most of the year being hot and dry. Those who love the heat and hate the cold will settle in well. Be sure to carry water, sun-screen and hats when walking around, not only when sunbathing.
- CON: Too hot and humid to bear
For many, adjusting to the hot climate can be unbearable. Air conditioning is essential. It can be difficult to sleep, although winter nights from May to August provide some relief from the heat.