Print
  • Hold down Ctrl key and select the sections you want to print. If using a Mac, hold down the Cmd key.
  • Use Ctrl + A or on Mac, Cmd + A to select all sections (if you are using the Chrome browser).
  • Click "Apply" and the site will customise your print guide in the preview below.
  • Click the "Print" button and a print pop up should appear to print to your printer of choice.

Moving to Botswana

With a population of just over 2 million people, Botswana it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Expats moving to Botswana will find a politically stable and peaceful country that has been largely spared the political turmoil and conflict that some of its African neighbours have experienced over the past few decades.

Botswana’s economy is stable and has seen steady growth in recent years. The country has a competitive banking system, and since independence from Britain, has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world, emerging as a middle-income country.

Botswana is rich in natural resources and its mining and construction industries have been popular attractions for foreigners seeking employment opportunities. The country also has a thriving tourism industry, which has attracted many foreigners from within the Southern African region and further afield. Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and oil present employment opportunities for skilled expats in these sectors.

Botswana’s official language is English, while Setswana is also widely spoken. Although expats will manage well without learning Setswana, it is recommended that they at least try to learn a few basic phrases of this language, especially if working in the mining and tourism industries in the more remote and rural parts of the country. 

The education system in Botswana has improved in recent years, and expats are able to enrol their children in local schools. However, many of these schools outside of the main cities still lack resources and most expats choose to send their children to an international school in Botswana, of which there are a few to choose from. Most of these are located in the capital, Gaborone.

Botswana has also seen improvements in its healthcare system in recent years and both public and private medical facilities are available in the main cities and towns. However, serious medical emergencies may require evacuation to South Africa, and expats should ensure that they have adequate medical insurance coverage for such a possibility.

The country’s natural beauty and abundant wildlife see expats enjoying weekend breaks for a safari in the Chobe or Okovango Delta regions. For the adventurous, there are hiking and off-road trails and overland trips to be enjoyed, and the attractions in neighbouring Namibia and South Africa are also just a short flight away.


Fast facts

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: Constitutional 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.

Internet domain: .bw

International dialing code: +267

Emergency contacts: 997 (police), 911 (ambulance)

Transport and driving: Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road. Public transport in Botswana is unreliable, and most expats choose to drive themselves or hire a local driver. 

Weather in Botswana

Botswana has a semi-arid climate with the country's weather being very hot and dry for most of the year. Rainfall in Botswana is scarce. Showers are unpredictable and localised, but most of the rain that does fall comes during the summer months between November and March.

The wettest part of the country is in the north, with the precipitation peaking in January and February. The amount of rainfall decreases the further south one travels.

Winter in Botswana, from May to August, is almost completely dry, with warm, sunny days and very cold nights, with temperatures dipping below freezing in some areas. Humidity levels are also very low in the winter months, adding to the pleasant conditions, resulting in crisp, clear weather.

The transitional seasons between summer and winter are pleasant and dry, without the extreme cold nights of winter.

Embassy contacts for Botswana


Botswanan embassies

  • Botswana Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 244 4990

  • Botswana Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 207 647 1000

  • Botswana Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 596 0166

  • Botswana Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6234 7500

  • Botswana Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 430 9640

  • Botswana Embassy, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 21 633 951


Foreign embassies in Botswana

  • American Embassy, Gaborone: +267 395 3982

  • British High Commission, Gaborone: +267 395 2841

  • Canadian Honorary Consulate, Gaborone: +267 3904 411

  • Australian Honorary Consulate,  Gaborone: +267 390 2996

  • South African High Commission, Gaborone: +267 3904 800

  • Honorary Irish Consulate, Gaborone: +267 3905 807 

Public Holidays in Botswana

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Ascension Day

21 May

13 May

Sir Seretse Khama Day

1 July

1 July

President's Day

20 July

19 July

Botswana Day

30 September

30 September

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

Pros and Cons of Moving to Botswana

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 falls low on Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, showing its affordability compared to over 200 other cities. Its favourable exchange rate also attracts those 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.

- 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 up front. 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 risks in Botswana. There are occasional outbreaks of rabies and anthrax, though these are normally isolated, and 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.


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 the 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

Not all of Africa is dirt 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 and 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 can use travellers’ cheques at some banks while 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, though cash is often preferred.

+ 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: Batswana 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 culture, for example, greeting, respecting the elderly and making eye contact (too little eye-contact is viewed with suspicion).

- CON: Understanding and tolerance of LGBT is low

Although homosexuality is no longer considered illegal in Botswana, the LGBT 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. From the Okavango Delta with luxurious (and expensive) eco-lodges and self-camping (more affordable) to the Makgadikgadi Basic with its salt pan in the middle of Botswana’s northeastern savanna ecosystem, there is a wide range of flora and fauna and natural beauty to 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, often with a Christian culture, and some of which offer boarding facilities. Most, however, are concentrated in the capital city.

- CON: Public schools lack resources

Public schools that may be 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, leaving them to look at 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 have 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 a must-have. It can be difficult to sleep, although winter nights from May to August provide some reprieve from the heat.

Safety in Botswana

While civil and political unrest is rare, there are some other safety concerns for expats in Botswana.

Expats must take precautions against health issues like malaria and heat exhaustion, and remain aware that crime is an increasing concern, with vehicles and homes being popular targets for thieves.


Crime in Botswana

Crime is a growing concern in Botswana, and expats must be vigilant and take common-sense security precautions. Petty street crime and crimes of opportunity, primarily the theft of money and personal property, are common. Home invasions and muggings at knifepoint are also often reported to the police. 


Road safety in Botswana

Driving in Botswana can be challenging and sometimes dangerous. Some vehicles are not roadworthy and not all drivers follow the rules of the road. 

Expats are advised to drive defensively, stick to the speed limits and keep an eye out for drunk drivers as well as wildlife and livestock on roads, especially at night. 


Health safety in Botswana 

A number of infectious diseases are prevalent in Botswana, with malaria being of particular concern in some areas like Chobe and Ghanzi. To prevent malaria, expats living in Botswana should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. These include using insect repellent and mosquito nets.  

Expats in Botswana should also take care to avoid the intense heat and sun. Sunscreen, hats and appropriate clothing are recommended. Expats must also ensure they drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Various poisonous snakes and insects such as scorpions and spiders may be encountered throughout Botswana. Expats must be especially cautious in the rural areas or when on safari in the bush, and are advised to educate themselves and their families on how to identify and avoid these creatures.


HIV/Aids in Botswana

Botswana has one of the three highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Fortunately, this isn’t something that will affect most expats, although they are advised to take the normal precautions and educate their children on the subject.

Working in Botswana

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, Botswana’s economy has continued to grow rapidly and is now a middle-income country. Thanks to Botswana’s fast-growing service sector, world-renowned diamond industry, tourism, infrastructure and manufacturing, the country's economy is one of the most successful in Africa, with close links to that of South Africa. 

English is commonly used for business and everyday life, and locals in Botswana are educated and communicate well. That said, expats doing business in Botswana should still make an effort to use some basic phrases in the local language, Setswana.


Job market in Botswana

Botswana has also experienced rapid growth in its ICT sector, driven by public and private sector investment amounting to billions of Pula. This has led to an expansion in internet services, making it easier to do business in the country.

The country has a well-respected financial industry which attracts expats - the Botswana Stock Exchange is often hailed as one of Africa’s best-performing stock exchanges. Botswana also has a thriving tourism and mining sector, two markets that attract expats to the country. 


Finding a job in Botswana

For expats looking for a job in Botswana, searching the internet is a good start, while newspaper classifieds can also be useful. Alternatively, expats can go through a requirement agency in order to guarantee finding a job in Botswana. 

Doing business in Botswana

Business in Botswana has elements of a conservative society, mixed in with more liberal workplace practises. Expats will find that elders are treated with the most respect and the dress code is conservative. In contrast to this, things like absenteeism and deadlines are viewed more flexibly.

Depending on the business, decision-making can be top to bottom type management. However, generally, there is a degree of consultation between employees and employers. 

In The World Bank Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2019, Botswana was ranked 86th out of 190 countries. The country scored highest for dealing with construction permits (31st) and paying taxes (51st) but fell short in enforcing contracts (134th) and starting a business (157th). 


Fast facts

Business hours 

8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

Business language

English is the official language of business, while Setswana is also spoken. 

Dress

A conservative dress code is common for businesspeople in Botswana. 

Gifts

Gifts are acceptable. Monetary gifts should always be avoided. 

Gender equality

In the modern economy, there is no formal division of labour by gender roles. Women make up a significant part of the workplace, but they are still outnumbered by men, and rarer to find in high up positions. 


Business culture in Botswana

The business culture in Botswana is conservative and based firmly on mutual respect. Batswana can be reserved, therefore it is best to be patient with colleagues and co-workers until they feel comfortable. Locals are friendly to foreigners, so expats should have no problem settling in. 

Greetings

In Batswana culture, it is common to shake hands with men and women. A local greeting phrase is also an easy way to make a good impression. It is polite to address senior men as Rra and women as Mma.

Communication

Colleagues and even supervisors are often addressed as Mr or Ms with the last name. Batswana can be reserved, therefore it is best to make small talk prior to discussing business. Communication is based on a reciprocal relationship so expats should ask questions whilst sharing information about themselves. 

Meetings

Expats should be aware that the time set for a meeting is often flexible. The same can be said for deadlines, though it is not uncommon to work overtime in order to meet a deadline. 

Attitude towards foreigners

In Botswana, foreigners are treated fairly. Batswana are impressed by education; however, a person’s ability to ‘go with the flow’ will be the most influential characteristic in the working world. Employees who feel comfortable and respect their boss are more likely to talk amongst themselves and maintain a relaxed attitude in the workplace.


Dos and don’ts of business in Botswana

  • Do be punctual but don't expect local colleagues to do the same

  • Don’t point with the index finger, as this is a sign of disrespect

  • Do make small talk and ask about a colleague's family

  • Don’t maintain constant eye contact

Visas for Botswana

Regardless of whether one is moving to Botswana to set up a business, take up an exciting job offer or simply visit stunning game reserves and see the famous Okavango Delta, foreigners must be in possession of the correct visa for Botswana.


Tourist visas for Botswana

The application process for a tourist visa for Botswana is not as straightforward as it is for other destinations. Travellers are therefore encouraged to investigate visa regulations ahead of time and apply prior to travelling if necessary.

Nationals of certain countries are exempt from obtaining a visa prior to travelling to Botswana. These countries include Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK, South Africa and the Schengen countries. Passport holders from these countries will usually receive a 90-day visa upon arrival.

Travellers need to note that the 90-day tourist visa for Botswana cannot be extended and travellers are not allowed to remain in Botswana for longer than 90 days within a one-year period.

Nationals of other countries must apply for a tourist visa for Botswana from the Botswanan embassy or consulate within their home country. In cases where Botswana has no representation in a country, travellers can visit the British representation which can deal with the visa application. While the process can take as little as a few days, foreigners should allow at least a month for a tourist visa to be processed.


Residency visas for Botswana

Expats looking to work and live in Botswana will need to apply for the relevant work permit and residency.

Securing residency within Botswana can be quite a daunting task and the process of application can be tedious and confusing. Many expats hire the services of an immigration consultant to assist them.


Work permits for Botswana

There are two types of work permits for Botswana. The work permit one applies for will depend on their circumstances.

Temporary work permits

Expats hired for a short-term project in Botswana or fixed-term contract lasting less than six months will need to be in possession of a temporary work permit before entering the country.

In most cases, the employer will carry the burden of applying for the work permit. Regardless, expats would be wise to familiarise themselves with the type of documentation needed to support their visa application.

Once the application is submitted to the immigration authorities it takes approximately one to two weeks for the permit to be processed. In some cases, it can take longer and expats need to be in possession of the temporary work permit before travelling to Botswana to begin a short-term project. Temporary work permits for Botswana are valid for 90 days and can be extended once, if necessary.

Employment permits for Botswana

Expats with a permanent job offer in Botswana need to apply for an employment permit. Employment permits are initially valid for a period of two years but can be extended.

Employment permits for Botswana should be applied for before arriving in the country. As with the temporary work permits, employers usually carry the financial and bureaucratic burden of applying for an employment permit for an expat. However, expats should be aware that the requirements will differ on a case-by-case basis, depending on each individual's field of work.


Accompanying dependents permits for Botswana

If an expat has been made a job offer in Botswana and chooses to bring their spouse or children with them, the accompanying dependents will also need to apply for residency and make their application with the Botswanan immigration authorities.

Expats moving to Botswana with children will need to ensure that their child is in possession of a student permit which will allow them to study in the country. If expats are planning to move to Botswana with children, they will need to start the process of securing a school place for their child as early as possible.

Cost of Living in Botswana

Depending on an expat's lifestyle, Botswana can be a very affordable place to live. In the capital, Gaborone, costs are generally more expensive, as this is where most of the good jobs and better housing options are found. Expats who choose to 'live like a local' will find that it is easy to live inexpensively in Botswana.

According to Mercer's 2018 Cost of Living report, Botswana was ranked 189th out of 209 countries. 


Cost of accommodation in Botswana

Accommodation in Botswana varies, especially if living in the capital. For expats who choose to settle in Gaborone, close proximity to local transport and schools pushes up the price of housing. Expats can expect monthly rental to be their biggest expense in Botswana.


Cost of education in Botswana

Expats who intend to send their children to an international school in Botswana will pay more than they would to use the public schooling system. However, the cost of international schools in the country is likely to be significantly lower than that of similar schools in other expat destinations. 


Cost of living in Botswana chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Gaborone in May 2019.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

Furnished two-bedroom apartment 

BWP 12,500

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment 

BWP 10,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

BWP 24

Milk (1 litre)

BWP 10

Rice (1kg)

BWP 20

Loaf of white bread

BWP 6

Chicken breasts (1kg)

BWP 49

Pack of cigarettes 

BWP 20

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

BWP 50

Coca-Cola (330ml)

BWP 9

Cappuccino

BWP 10

Bottle of local beer

BWP 11

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

BWP 150

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

BWP 1

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

BWP 250

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

BWP 350

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

BWP 20

Bus/train fare in the city centre

BWP 4

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

BWP 9

Culture Shock in Botswana

Expats moving to Botswana won’t have to overcome too many obstacles while settling in, but as with any new country, there may be some initial culture shock in Botswana.

Botswana has five values that define its national character: democracy, development, self-reliance, unity, and botho. In Setswana, botho refers to the qualities of courtesy, self-discipline and respect for others. Expats who respect these principles will adjust quickly to their new lives in Botswana. 


Language barrier in Botswana

Botswana’s official languages are English and Setswana. Expats will get by easily without learning Setswana, but life will be much easier if they learn a few basic phrases in the local language. Expats may also find that English is less widely spoken in the more rural areas of the country.


Food in Botswana

The cuisine of Botswana shares some characteristics with the cuisines of other Southern African countries, but there are certain dishes that are uniquely local. These include mopane worms, commonly served dried and salted as a snack, and seswaa, a dish of heavily salted mashed-up beef, goat, chicken or lamb meat.

Expats shouldn’t worry, though, as there are plenty of Western-style grocery stores and restaurants and they won’t have to change their eating habits too drastically. Because Botswana is a landlocked country, fresh seafood may not be readily available.


Traditional values and family in Botswana

The Batswana people pride themselves on hospitality and friendliness. Respect for elders and tribal tradition is equally important, but the latter is slowly changing as younger generations aspire to more Western lifestyles. 


Time in Botswana

As with elsewhere on the continent, the concept of African time can be an adjustment for expats settling into their new life. There is often no rush to get things done in Botswana, especially in its rural areas, so expats will need to learn to be patient.

Accommodation in Botswana

Expats moving to Botswana should consider renting accommodation close to their workplace and their children’s school. Most expats live in the capital city, Gaborone, in order to be close to all amenities and to avoid long journeys on local buses.

Limited availability of accommodation suitable for expats in Africa has led to increased living costs in some key cities, although Botswana is relatively unaffected. In fact, Gaborone has been ranked among the cheapest of Africa's cities for expats.


Types of accommodation in Botswana

Depending on the length of time an expat will be staying in Botswana, they may want to rent accommodation. Choices include corporate apartments and fully furnished homes. These are a good option for expats who are on a year-long contract in the country.

Expats who decide to rent an unfurnished apartment can also rent furniture by the month.

Utilities including water, electricity, gas (if in an area where piped gas is used) and refuse removal must all be paid for by the expat tenant. Costs are calculated according to the size of property and level of usage.

Typically, a deposit of one month’s rent is required to lease accommodation in Botswana.


Finding accommodation in Botswana

Expats may want to live in a suburb with other foreigners, and it’s wise to choose housing away from busy areas with lots of pedestrians and heavy traffic. Gated communities with intercoms and fencing around properties are the norm for expat homes. This offers protection from crime and wildlife, which roams freely.

The suburbs of Gaborone include Broadhurst in the northeast, Naledi and Phakalane. Phakalane is built around a golf estate and is the preferred residential area for expats, although some people prefer to live closer to town, nearer to schools and workplace.

Other popular areas of Gaborone include The Extensions, which lie to the east of the railway line and radiate out from the Government Enclave. Extension 15 is near Riverwalk Mall (known as ‘The Village’), while Extensions 9 and 11 are probably the most expensive parts of Gaborone.

Gaborone West consists of the inner blocks to the west of the railway line, inside the Western Bypass. This area is sub-divided into Phases 1, 2, 4 and industrial.

Healthcare in Botswana

The public sector dominates the health system in Botswana, operating up to 98 percent of the health facilities. However, there is a huge gap in quality between public and private medical provisions, and expats are recommended to purchase private health cover for Botswana.

As in much of the rest of Africa, the public healthcare system mainly serves a lower-income bracket, while expats and those who can afford it use the private healthcare system.

Many local people in Botswana rely on faith healing or herbalists, both of which currently operate informally as the country is yet to regulate traditional medical practice.

Although there are adequate provisions in Botswana’s private hospitals, medical evacuation to neighbouring South Africa is common in serious cases.


Public healthcare in Botswana

The country’s public healthcare system focuses on disease prevention, as almost a quarter of adults are infected with HIV/AIDS. There are a number of non-governmental organisations providing mostly HIV/AIDS-related services such as counselling and testing.

A nominal fee of USD 70 is charged for most health services in the public sector, while sexual reproductive health services and antiretroviral therapy services are free.

Public health facilities are mainly in Gabarone. Outside the capital, medical provisions are of a lower standard and resources are limited across the country.

Expats should carry identification and proof of medical insurance to avoid being taken to a public facility in an emergency.


Private healthcare in Botswana

To ensure access to the best quality of care and medical treatment in Botswana, expats should invest in a good health plan.

Doctors in private hospitals in Botswana are generally locals educated elsewhere, returning to their home country to practise medicine. In addition to the network of health facilities in Botswana, there are over 800 mobile services to populations in remote areas or those outside the 8km (4.9 miles) radius of a health facility.

Private healthcare in Botswana is expensive so an adequate health insurance policy is recommended to pay for the cost of treatments.


Health insurance for Botswana

If expats travel outside of Botswana regularly or will be returning home, it’s a good idea to purchase an international health plan, which will cover them wherever they go.

Expats in Botswana should ensure their health plan covers medical evacuation. If their employer provides medical cover, they should also evaluate whether it is comprehensive enough to provide for their specific needs.


Health hazards in Botswana

Expats moving to Botswana should be fully vaccinated for the following diseases before they arrive: hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B, rabies and yellow fever.

Expats will need to take malaria prevention if they will be in the districts of Central, Chobe, Ghanzi, Northeast, and Northwest. There is no risk in the cities of Francistown and Gaborone. Transmission occurs mainly from November to June.

Expats should also avoid drinking tap water.

Education and Schools in Botswana

Expats will have to think carefully about their children's education options in Botswana. The public schooling system is an option for expats planning to stay long term, but these schools often lack the resources and academic culture many expats expect.

The primary language of instruction for schools in Botswana is English, although there might be dedicated Setswana classes.


Public schools in Botswana

The education system in Botswana has improved as the economy has grown. There are seven years of primary, three years of junior secondary, and two years of senior secondary education. Expats are able to enrol their children in local schools.

However, many public schools outside of the main cities still lack resources and most expats choose to send their children to an international school.


International schools in Botswana

International schools in Botswana are of a high standard and follow a curriculum model from a foreign country. If possible, expats will probably want to choose a school that follows their home country's curriculum to ease their children’s transition into life in Botswana.

Most of the country's international schools are based in Gaborone and offer the UK or International Baccalaureate curriculum. There is often limited space, especially in the schools with good reputations. Tuition tends to be expensive but gives access to high standards of learning, smaller class sizes, first-rate facilities and a wide range of extracurricular activities.

Transport and Driving in Botswana

Public transport in Botswana isn’t particularly reliable or widespread, especially outside of Gaborone or other big cities. For this reason, most expats living in Botswana opt to drive themselves around, while some others hire a driver and a vehicle to get transport them.


Public transport in Botswana

Expats will find that their options are rather limited when it comes to public transport in Botswana. Within Gaborone, public transport mostly consists of combis, or minivans that seat about 16 passengers. These minibus taxis travel along fixed routes and are easily hailed on the street.

Buses 

Buses are one of the most popular transport options in Botswana when it comes to travelling between cities or further afield to neighbouring countries. Various companies operate along the busiest bus routes, the biggest of which is Seabalo.


Driving in Botswana

Most expats moving to Botswana opt to buy or rent a car and drive themselves around.

New arrivals may drive on an international driver’s permit and their valid home country licence for up to three months. Thereafter, they have to get a local driver’s licence. In most cases, expats will not need to complete a driving test and will merely have to present their valid licences and residency permit to their nearest branch of the Department of Road Transport and Safety.

Road conditions in Botswana are better than in many other African countries, with roads in urban areas being particularly well maintained. The speed limit is 74mph (120kmh) on highways, and 37mph (60kmh) in cities and towns; expats caught exceeding these limits may be subject to hefty fines. 

Despite many roads being in good condition, driving in Botswana still has its challenges. Particular difficulties include limited signage, erratic driving and the presence of animals on the road. Directions are commonly given using landmarks, rather than street names and numbers.

Dirt roads in remote areas can be hazardous, particularly during the rainy season, and driving after dark on these routes is discouraged.

Expats should also take note that Botswana is crisscrossed by various veterinary fences, the purpose of which is to prevent the spread of cattle diseases like foot and mouth. Any travellers will have to hand over all meat products at the control points along these boundaries, and will have to clean tyres and shoes on disinfectant mats. The thoroughness of the checks depends on whether there has been a recent outbreak of one of these diseases.


Air travel in Botswana

Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Smaller airports can be found in Maun and Kasane. The national carrier is Air Botswana, which operates daily flights between South Africa and Botswana. Most expats moving to Botswana travel via Johannesburg in South Africa.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Botswana

The financial sector in Botswana is a growing industry, and the country's national stock market is among the best performing in Africa. The Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) is based in the capital city of Gaborone, and most of the biggest companies doing business in the country are listed. 

A number of global entities are investing in Botswana's economy, encouraged by its lack of exchange controls and a relatively stable currency.


Money in Botswana

The currency in Botswana is the Pula, abbreviated as BWP. There are 100 thebe to one pula. US dollars and Euros are accepted in hotels and other businesses that cater to international tourists, but expats should expect to use pula for all day-to-day transactions.

  • Notes: 10 BWP, 20 BWP, 50 BWP, 100 BWP and 200 BWP

  • Coins: 1 BWP, 2 BWP and 5 BWP, and 5 thebe, 10 thebe, 25 thebe and 50 thebe 

Currency can be exchanged at banks, licensed moneychangers, airport terminals and some hotels.

Bank branches are plentiful, especially near busy shopping areas. ATMs are just as widely available in Botswana's cities, and most larger stores accept debit and credit cards. 


Banking in Botswana

The Bank of Botswana is the country's central bank, but a selection of local banks and various international institutions are available too. Expats living in Botswana tend to have a local account for daily expenses such as paying utility bills and buying groceries while keeping an offshore account for savings. 

Expats can open a personal account at any of the Botswana banks, most of which offer a full spectrum of services that include cheque and credit cards, online banking and specialised investment services.

Banking hours in Botswana are usually 9am to 3pm from Monday to Friday, with some branches open on Saturday mornings.

Expats shouldn’t have a problem finding English-speaking tellers or consultants at banks in Botswana.

Credits cards in Botswana

Some major international credits cards are widely accepted in Botswana – these include Visa and MasterCard. Expats carrying American Express and Diners Club cards may not be able to use these. Most petrol stations and some shops outside of the cities still only accept cash, so it’s useful for expats to carry pula with them at all times.


Taxes in Botswana

The tax system in Botswana changes often and can be tricky for an expat to navigate on their own. For this reason, foreigners moving to Botswana are encouraged to a hire a specialist with a detailed knowledge of that country’s tax system.

The tax year in Botswana runs from 1 July to 30 June. Returns are due within 90 days after the end of the tax year, unless an extension is requested.

Generally, expats will have to pay taxes in Botswana if:

  • their permanent place of abode is in Botswana

  • they have been physically present in Botswana 183 or more days during the tax year

  • they earn an income from sources in Botswana