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Moving to Botswana

Images of the vast Kalahari Desert may come to mind when thinking of moving to 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.

From the Okavango Delta, which is home to lions, hippos, elephants and much besides, to the massive salt flats of the Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana promises unique and beautiful experiences aplenty.

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.

Tourism is, no doubt, a major contributor to the country’s economy. Botswana has emerged as an upper-middle-income country. 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. Thanks to this, the job market is growing. Employment opportunities across a range of sectors are available. 

Expats relocating to Botswana for work, whatever the industry, won’t need to worry too much about culture shock. The people are warm – as is the climate. Batswana (citizens of Botswana) are known for their hospitality and new arrivals will feel welcome.

English and Setswana are the predominant languages, and few expats encounter major language barriers. Still, it’s recommended to learn some basic phrases of Setswana. This can be especially helpful if working in the mining and tourism industries or the more remote and rural parts of the country.

To access remote areas or even get around in larger towns or cities, most expats will drive a car. Transport options are limited, and this is an additional cost to consider.

Fortunately, expats provided with a decent salary and employment package find general expenses to be relatively affordable. 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.

The education system in Botswana has improved in recent years. Expats can enrol their children in local schools. However, the standards of these are lower outside of the main cities. Most expats choose to send their children to a private and international school where tuition and fees are high.

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. However, serious medical emergencies may require evacuation to South Africa. We recommend expats have adequate medical insurance to cover healthcare costs.

Whatever the reason for relocating, expats will face both pros and cons. What cannot be denied, is that moving to Botswana presents a new life, one in which expats may choose to settle permanently.


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: 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. 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 20 7499 0031

  • 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

Public Holidays in Botswana

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Easter Monday

5 April

18 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Ascension Day

13 May

26 May

Sir Seretse Khama Day

1 July

1 July

President's Day

19–20 July

18–19 July

Botswana Day

30 September – 1 October

29–30 September

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Public holidays that fall on a Sunday are observed on the following Monday

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 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.

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.

We advise expats to keep their valuables and bags out of sight when in a vehicle and to securely lock doors to their cars and houses, especially in large towns such as Gaborone, Francistown and Maun.


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. 

We advise expats to drive defensively, stick to the speed limits and keep an eye out for drunk drivers. If in a rural area, drivers should be vigilant of 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. Before travelling to Botswana, we also advise expats to consult their healthcare professional about anti-malarial medication.

Expats in Botswana should 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 should educate themselves and their families on how to identify and avoid these creatures.

Botswana has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world, and many families have been impacted by it in some way or another. Expats should take normal precautions and educate their children on the subject.

Working in Botswana

Thanks to its world-renowned diamond industry and fast-growing service, tourism and manufacturing sectors, Botswana is classed as an upper-middle-income country. The economy is one of the most successful in Africa, with close economic links to South Africa.

Botswana is an appealing country to expat investors. Relatively liberal economic policies and strong existing financial institutions in Botswana are seen to favour foreign investment. Botswana is also ranked among the least corrupt countries in the world, which suggests financial security when working here. Relatively low tax controls are another incentive for expats to do business here.

As the job market is growing, job openings in diverse sectors are available. Here is an introduction to the economic climate and the best ways to secure a job in Botswana.


Job market in Botswana

Botswana’s wealth of minerals and raw materials cannot be overlooked when discussing the job market. Most of the country's exports are in unmounted diamonds. Botswana is also home to the Orapa diamond mine – the world's largest diamond mine by area.

Botswana has experienced rapid growth in its ICT sector, driven by both public and private sector investment. This has led to an expansion in internet services, making it easier to do business in the country – as well as finding jobs within the information systems sector.

The country has a well-respected financial industry which attracts expats. The Botswana Stock Exchange performs well, and several international and local banks operate here.

The tourism industry is also thriving thanks to the country's immense biodiversity. Botswana is blessed with abundant wildlife, from lions and cheetahs to giraffe and antelope, as well as natural landscapes of wetlands and the semi-arid sandy savannah of the Kalahari Desert. Jobs in tourism hope to conserve this natural beauty while boosting the economy at the same time.


Finding a job in Botswana

Many expats relocate to Botswana with a job in hand, such as through an intra-company transfer. This is often the case when working in the financial industry or for a large multinational. Other expats drawn to Botswana may need to look for work.

For expat job seekers in Botswana, searching the internet is a good start. It’s advised to develop an up-to-date profile on popular networking websites like LinkedIn while looking for listings on job portals, such as Careers 24 and BotswaJob.com. Newspaper classifieds can also be useful. Alternatively, expats can go through a recruitment agency in order to guarantee finding a job in Botswana.

Prospective expats should also research the appropriate visas for Botswana that will allow them to work in the country.


Work culture in Botswana

English is commonly spoken in business and used in everyday life. Still, expats doing business in Botswana are encouraged to make an effort to use some basic phrases in the local language, Setswana.

Work culture and communication hierarchies are generally top-down. However, there is often collaboration and consultation between employers, managers and employees.

As across all spheres of life in Botswana, elders are treated with respect in the workplace.

Doing business in Botswana

We recommend new arrivals working in Botswana learn about the typical local business culture to know what to expect in the workplace.

Business in Botswana has elements of a conservative society, mixed in with more liberal workplace practices. Expats will find that elders are treated with the most respect and the dress code is conservative. In contrast to this, things such as 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 2020, Botswana was ranked 87th out of 190 countries. The country scored high in dealing with construction permits (44th) and trading across borders (55th). However, starting a business poses many challenges, and for this, the World Bank's survey rated Botswana 159th.


Fast facts

Business hours 

8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

Business language

English is the language of business, while Setswana is also widely 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

Business culture in Botswana is conservative and based firmly on mutual respect. Batswana (citizens of Botswana) can be reserved. So, 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, but making small talk before getting down to business can help with this. Communication is based on a reciprocal relationship, so expats should ask questions while 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 among 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

  • Do greet colleagues politely, for example with a friendly 'hello' or 'dumela'

Visas for Botswana

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

Visa regulations are subject to change. We recommend visiting a Botswanan embassy or consulate for up-to-date information.

The main visa types are tourism visas, visitor's visas, study visas, as well as business, investment and employment visas. Expats who wish to stay in the country could also obtain a residence visa.


Tourist and visitor's visas for Botswana

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

Nationals of many countries are exempt from getting a visa for short-term stays. This includes citizens from the European Union, the UK, the US and South Africa, among others. These foreigners will likely receive a visa on arrival. However, it’s best to check with the nearest embassy about the latest regulations as entry requirements change frequently.

Foreign citizens who are not from a visa-exempt country will need to apply in advance.

Tourism visas allow travel to Botswana for recreational or non-work activities. Visitor's visas allow foreigners to stay in Botswana for social reasons, such as attending an event or visiting friends and family. To get a tourism or visitor's visa, applicants will usually be asked to provide their flight and trip itinerary. Processing the visas normally takes two weeks.

Tourism visas are valid for one month and are single entry. However, they can be extended up to five years and allow multiple entries in some cases.

Visitor's visas are generally valid for three months, but dependants of residents can be issued a visitor’s visa valid for up to two years.

Neither tourism nor visitors visas allow foreigners to work in the country.


Study visas for Botswana

Prospective expats who plan to study at an educational institution in Botswana must apply for a study visa. There are several universities and technical colleges, and Botswana also offers research opportunities.

Among the supporting documents, applicants are often required to provide their flight itinerary and proof of acceptance to study.

Study visas are valid for three months and can be extended.


Work permits for Botswana

Expats who plan on doing business in Botswana must apply for the appropriate work visa. An expat cannot work or earn an income in Botswana on a tourism, visitor’s or study visa. Instead, specific business, investment and employment visas are available. 

Business visas

Foreign citizens who are prospective investors, entrepreneurs or traders are advised to apply for a business visa. This visa will allow expats to attend business conferences and explore and negotiate commercial opportunities. 

Validity ranges from three to six months up to one year.

Investment visas

While business visas allow prospective businesspeople entry to Botswana, investment visas are issued to expats who regularly do business in the country. This often includes expats with investment projects and directors of organisations that operate in Botswana.

Investment visas are typically valid from six months to five years.

Employment visas

Foreign nationals who are offered an opportunity for employment or an internship, as well as research and voluntary work in Botswana must get an employment visa.

Expats with a job offer will apply for an employment visa and a work permit alongside their prospective employer. In most cases, the employer will carry the burden of applying for the work permit. Regardless, expats should ask their employer or consult with the nearest embassy about the required supporting documents.

Employment visas are usually granted for six months but can be extended.


Residence permits for Botswana

Residence permits allow foreign nationals to live in Botswana. Expats who wish to stay longer than their visa allows can explore their options for a residence permit, whether they are an investor, employee or student. Accompanying dependants must also apply for residency through the Botswanan immigration authorities.

The documents required vary depending on the applicants' circumstances. However, in many cases, applicants must provide a medical report and a certified copy of their birth certificate.

Expats who have lived in Botswana for a minimum of five years can then apply for permanent residence.

Expats will likely need a fair bit of time collecting the necessary documents and then waiting for the application to be processed. This could be at least thirty working days for a residence permit or six months in the case of permanent residence applications.

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

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.

Still, according to Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living report, Gaborone was ranked 199th out of 209 cities. So, expats who choose to 'live like a local' will find that it is easy to live inexpensively in Botswana.


Cost of accommodation and food in Botswana

Accommodation in Botswana varies, especially if living in the capital. For expats who choose to settle in Gaborone, being close to local transport and schools pushes up the price of housing. Expats can expect monthly rental costs to be one of their biggest expenses in Botswana, but don't overlook the price of groceries. Prices of imported products, including food, can be quite high.


Cost of healthcare

Public healthcare in Botswana is affordable, thanks to government investment, but the standards and waiting times are variable. Most expats prefer private healthcare.

We advise expats to invest in comprehensive medical insurance when relocating to Botswana. While this could be a high monthly cost, having to pay out of pocket without cover at a private hospital could be exorbitant.


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. These schools offer a high standard of education and highly qualified teachers, while their curriculum will be internationally recognised when families move back home or relocate elsewhere. Fortunately, while they charge high tuition fees, 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 November 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

BWP 7,000 - 9,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

BWP 4,000 - 5,500

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

BWP 2,000 - 4,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

BWP 2,000 - 3,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

BWP 27

Milk (1 litre)

BWP 14

Rice (1kg)

BWP 25

Loaf of white bread

BWP 9

Chicken breasts (1kg)

BWP 54

Pack of cigarettes 

BWP 47

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

BWP 60

Coca-Cola (330ml)

BWP 12

Cappuccino

BWP 30

Bottle of local beer

BWP 20

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

BWP 500

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

BWP 1.70

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

BWP 600

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

BWP 640

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

BWP 28

Bus fare in the city centre

BWP 4

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

BWP 9.50

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.

Five key principles define Botswana's national character: democracy, development, self-reliance, unity and botho. In Setswana, botho refers to the qualities of courtesy, self-discipline and respect for others. Botho is also about realising oneself as an individual as well as a community. Expats who respect these principles will adjust quickly to their new lives in Botswana. 


Language barrier in Botswana

Botswana’s official and predominant 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. Seswaa, for example, is a dish of heavily salted mashed-up beef, goat, chicken or lamb meat. Mopane worms are also eaten in Botswana, commonly served dried and salted as a snack.

While it's worth tasting some of the local fare, expats shouldn’t worry too much about changing their eating habits. There are plenty of Western-style grocery stores and restaurants. However, as Botswana is a landlocked country, fresh seafood may not be readily available.


Traditional values and family in Botswana

Batswana pride themselves on hospitality and friendliness. Respect for elders remains a strong value, and the family plays an important part in Botswana's culture. When doing business in Botswana, expats are advised to treat elders with respect.

Tribal tradition is also important but this is slowly changing as younger generations are influenced by Western lifestyles. While traditional faiths are practised, Christianity is the dominant religion.


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. Formal business meetings may be more punctual than informal arrangements, where plans with friends may end up much later than originally planned.


Arts in Botswana

Many Batswana are highly skilled craftsmen and talented artists. Arts in all forms are traditionally valued and expressed in dance, music and poetry, as well as pottery, carpentry and craftwork. Many expats appreciate and enjoy the arts in Botswana. New arrivals moving into an unfurnished apartment will have no trouble finding high-quality locally-made furniture.

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, to be close to amenities and avoid long journeys on local buses.

Botswana boasts an affordable cost of living and Gaborone is frequently ranked among the cheapest cities to live in. Nevertheless, property prices can be high if expats opt for a modern home in a popular area. And, of course, holiday accommodation in a luxury lodge while on safari in one of Botswana's national parks won't come cheap either.


Types of accommodation in Botswana

Depending on the length of time an expat will be staying in Botswana, they may want to rent accommodation. Some expats may be interested in investing in and buying property in Botswana, from houses to farms. Typical expat accommodation includes houses, townhouses and apartments.

Houses

Houses are one of the most popular types of property in Botswana. Both single- and multi-family homes can be found across the country. Standalone houses generally offer a garden, which is great for expat families with children or for hosting friends for a barbecue. Some houses have swimming pools, which is much appreciated by residents during the hot and humid summer months.

Townhouses

In addition to freestanding buildings, semi-detached townhouses and cluster homes are also available in Botswana. These are often located within gated complexes, which offer greater security than a typical house. Many of these are relatively modern and offer contemporary designs.

Apartments

Expats living in a large city, such as Gaborone, can also find apartments or flats. As with other types of accommodation, expats can rent unfurnished, semi-furnished or fully-furnished apartments in Botswana. Furnished flats usually come at a higher price. Expats who decide to rent an unfurnished apartment can rent furniture by the month or buy new furniture, easily sourced within the country.


Finding accommodation in Botswana

The property search can be done from abroad as well as after arriving. Some expats may stay in a hotel or temporary accommodation before moving to a more suitable home. Online portals and listings, such as Property24 and TswanaHome.com, as well as social media platforms, are great ways to start the search.

We highly recommend enlisting the services of a real estate agent when looking to buy or rent accommodation in Botswana. These professionals offer intimate knowledge of the available housing market and can match this to a house hunter’s preferences.

Popular expat areas in Botswana

When looking for accommodation in Botswana, expats should focus their search on particular areas. It’s wise to choose housing away from busy areas with lots of pedestrians and heavy traffic, but to also consider proximity to work, schools and amenities.

Many expats move to the towns or cities of Maun, Francistown and Gaborone, the capital city.

Popular suburbs of Gaborone include Broadhurst and Phakalane. Phakalane is built around a golf estate and is the preferred residential area for many expats. As it is over 7.5 miles (12 km) north of Gaborone, some people prefer to live closer to town, nearer to schools and workplaces. Many areas are numbered and named as 'Extensions', radiating out from the Government Enclave. Extensions 9 and 11 are among the most expensive parts of the capital city.


Renting accommodation in Botswana

Before signing a lease, prospective expats should make sure to read and understand all the terms and conditions, including deposits, fees, utilities and notice periods.

Leases

Fixed-period leases are available which establish a set end date to the rental agreement. This is popular among expats working in Botswana who know how long they plan to stay in the country.

Indefinite leases and those terminated at will are also available. If tenants sign a rental agreement allowing either the landlord or themselves to terminate the contract, they should agree to and confirm a reasonable notice period.

If expats hope to continue renting for several years, we advise them to ask the landlord about annual rent increases.

Deposits

A deposit of at least one month’s rent is required to lease accommodation in Botswana.

Utilities

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

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. We recommend expats 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

Botswana offers universal healthcare to all its citizens. A nominal fee may be charged for some health services in the public sector, but sexual reproductive health services and antiretroviral therapy services are free.

Healthcare professionals working in public hospitals are generally well trained. Unfortunately, problems of being under-staffed and under-resourced contribute to a strain in public healthcare. Large public health facilities are mainly in Gaborone. Outside the capital, medical provisions are of a lower and variable standard, and resources are limited across the country.

The country’s public healthcare system focuses on disease prevention. Botswana has had one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, so a number of non-governmental organisations and public health facilities provide related services, such as counselling and testing.

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


Private healthcare in Botswana

The standard of medical treatment in Botswana's major towns is generally good. Many doctors in private hospitals in Botswana are locals educated elsewhere, returning to their home country to practise medicine.

While mobile clinics are available in remote areas, health facilities are more limited further from urban areas.

Private healthcare in Botswana is expensive. Outpatients are generally asked to pay cash before receiving treatment. Moreover, for emergency services, patients may only be treated if they have health insurance. So, to ensure access to the best quality of care and medical treatment in Botswana, expats should invest in a good health plan.


Health insurance in 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 and vaccinations in Botswana

Before moving to Botswana, expats are recommended to have the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis A 
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever

Expats will need to take malaria prevention, particularly if they will be in the districts of Central, Chobe, Ghanzi, North-East and North-West. The cities of Francistown and Gaborone are generally considered to have low to no risk of malaria. Nevertheless, we recommend new arrivals consult a healthcare professional about antimalarial medication, and make use of mosquito nets and insect repellent.

Botswana has had occasional incidents of rabies and anthrax, while tick bites are also a risk in the bush.

Expats are also advised to avoid drinking tap water, or at least drink filtered water.


Emergency medical services in Botswana

Expats who need emergency medical care must dial 997 to call for an ambulance. Ambulance services reach the areas of Francistown, Gaborone, Kasane, Lobatse, Mahalapye, Maun, Mochudi, Palapye and Phikwe. 

MRI Botswana is the country's leading emergency service provider and offers both ground and air ambulances.

Education and Schools in Botswana

Expat families with children will have to explore the education options in Botswana. To choose the right school, parents will likely consider their budget and the cost of living, the language of instruction and curriculum, as well as the academic culture.

While public schooling is available, these schools often lack resources and the standard of education is variable. Most expat parents opt for private and international schools.

The primary language of instruction for many private schools in Botswana is English, although there might be dedicated Setswana classes. These schools are known as English-medium schools.

Botswana also offers higher education opportunities at several universities and technical colleges. Nursing and teaching vocational courses post-secondary school are also available.


Public schools in Botswana

The education system in Botswana has improved as the economy has grown. Botswana’s Ministry of Basic Education manages the public schooling system.

There are seven years of primary, three years of junior secondary and two years of senior secondary education. The senior secondary level offers both vocational and academic streams.

In primary school, each year is referred to as a 'standard', while in secondary school, a 'form'. 

Expats can enrol their children in local schools, but many public schools outside of the main cities lack resources and are underfunded and understaffed. Most expats therefore choose to send their children to an international school.


Private and international schools in Botswana

International schools in Botswana are of a high standard and follow a curriculum model from a foreign country. Parents often choose a school that follows their home country's curriculum as this could ease their children’s transition into life in Botswana.

Most of the country's international schools are based in the capital and other large cities and towns. 

Many offer the UK’s curriculum with IGCSEs and A-Levels or International Baccalaureate curriculum. These are recognised worldwide. Some schools incorporate the national curriculum alongside an international curriculum.

Botswana’s international schools are typically well resourced and staff with qualified and experienced teachers. Children here will benefit from access to high standards of learning, smaller class sizes, first-rate facilities and a wide range of extracurricular activities.

The catch is the high cost of tuition. Expats working in Botswana may be able to negotiate an allowance for their children’s school fees. Some private schools may offer discounts for the attendance of second and third children from the same family.

Given the high demand for international schools, space is often limited. We recommend that expat parents research the schools available and their admissions procedures.


Nurseries in Botswana

Preschool is not compulsory in Botswana, but many options are available. Parents can find private childcare and daycare centres easily if they live in Gaborone or other large towns and cities. When selecting a nursery, expats may focus their search in areas and suburbs close to their accommodation.

Many nurseries are independent, some are faith-based or follow a Montessori approach. Several international schools offer a crèche and preschool, as well as primary and high school education.


Special needs education in Botswana

Unfortunately, special needs education is limited in Botswana. While the need for integrated classes is recognised, few schools afford the resources and staff to support this, particularly in public schooling. Traditional schools that cannot offer comprehensive support may be reluctant to admit students with behavioural, learning or physical disabilities or challenges.

However, given pushes for inclusivity, this could slowly change in the future. International schools are more likely to offer learning support programmes and ensure the whole school community is aware of the diversity of learning needs. It's best to contact the schools directly to find out what support services are available.


Homeschooling in Botswana

While education is compulsory from ages six to 16, homeschooling is legal in Botswana. Expat families who find traditional schooling unsuitable or too expensive can look into a wealth of homeschool resources available online.

The homeschooling community in Botswana is supportive. New arrivals can easily find other homeschooling families on popular social media platforms, who will be happy to provide advice.


Tutors in Botswana

As education is highly valued, it's easy to find a tutor in Botswana. Whether students don't want to feel left behind academically or they want extra support close to exam time, private tutors specialised in certain subject areas can help prepare and support children. Tutors also offer extra-curricular activities, from piano and guitar to dance and horse riding.

One of the best ways to find a tutor is through networking and asking other families. A number of private tutoring companies can also be found.

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. Nevertheless, taxis, kombis and coach buses are available.

Buses

Coach 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.

Taxis

Within cities and towns, public transport mostly consists of kombis. These are minivans or minibus taxis which seat 15 passengers. These minibus taxis travel along fixed routes and are easily hailed on the street.

Taxicabs are another common way of getting around. Getting a taxi in Botswana is generally a safe choice. We do advise passengers to agree on a price before departing. As there are several different taxicab companies, there is no set design to identify them. Some ride-hailing applications are available Gaborone.

Trains

Rail transport in Botswana is not as well developed as the road networks. It is largely limited to freight trains. However, there is a passenger train operated by Botswana Railways known as the BR Express. This offers services connecting Lobatse, Gaborone and Francistown. We advise expats to check the Botswana Railways and contact the relevant station for up-to-date schedules and information.


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 generally 74mph (120km/h) on major highways and 37mph (60km/h) in cities and towns. Expats caught exceeding these limits may be subject to hefty fines. 

Despite many roads being in good condition, road safety still presents some challenges. Particular difficulties include limited signage, erratic driving and the presence of animals on the road in rural areas. 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. 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 illnesses like foot-and-mouth disease. Any travellers will have to hand over all meat products at the control points along these boundaries. Travellers may have to clean the 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 International Airport in Gaborone. Smaller airports can be found in Francistown, Maun and Kasane. The national carrier is Air Botswana, which operates flights between South Africa and Botswana.

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 some 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 fairly liberal economic policies.


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 major hotels and other businesses that cater to international tourists, but expats should expect to use pula for all day-to-day transactions.

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

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

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


Banking in Botswana

The Bank of Botswana is the country's central bank, but a selection of local, regional and international banks are available too. This includes Bank Gaborone, First National Bank and Standard Chartered.

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 with ease. Most banks offer a full spectrum of services that include debit and credit cards, online banking and specialised investment services.

Banking hours in Botswana are usually 9am to 3pm or 3.30pm 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. Language in Botswana shouldn't pose a major culture shock to expats who speak English.

Credits cards and ATMs

Some major international credit 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. Many 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.

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.


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, we encourage foreigners to a hire a specialist with detailed knowledge of Botswana’s tax system and working with expats.

The tax year in Botswana runs from 1 July to 30 June. Returns are typically 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 for at least 183 days during the tax year

  • they earn an income from sources in Botswana

Thanks to Botswana's double taxation agreements with several countries, some expats may be eligible for foreign tax relief. This list includes expats from France, India, Namibia, South Africa, the UK and Zimbabwe, among other countries.