Botswana Travel Tips: Planning Before Traveling as a Self-drive

Elephant in a lake with grass in Bostwana

Botswana is a nature lover’s paradise, offering endless untouched expanses, a diverse animal world, and the largest free-roaming herds of wild animals in the center as well as in the Okavango Delta. Its landscapes are characterized by sand, savannah, and scarce water sources, making it a unique and captivating destination.

If you’re planning a self-drive trip to Botswana, you’ll be able to reach remote areas that are not served by buses. A four-wheel drive vehicle and a roof tent are essential for navigating the rugged terrain and experiencing all that the country has to offer. In some places in the Okavango Delta, like the more remote areas, the only way to reach them is by plane or mokoro (dugout canoe).

Traveling to Botswana is an experience that will leave you breathless and wanting more. The country’s natural beauty and abundance of wildlife will leave you with unforgettable memories that will make your heart beat faster. As a nature lover and self-drive enthusiast, I highly recommend visiting Botswana, and I hope that my Travel diaries will inspire you to plan your own adventure there.

An individual Botswana trip as a self-driver requires a certain amount of preparation, which I unfortunately underestimated. Without quite detailed planning, this trip is probably not possible during the peak travel season.

It is important to note that traveling to Botswana during the peak season requires a great deal of planning and preparation. Without adequate planning, it may be difficult to navigate the country and experience all it has to offer. This is especially true if, like me, you are planning to cover a lot of ground, including the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls (Zambia, Zimbabwe), Okavango-Delta with Moremi, and the Central Kalahari.

You will find my step-by-step travel planning for Botswana here, along with tips and advice for your Botswana trip, including everything else you need to know before your trip.

Here you can find my travel report for Namibia – Botswana with a roof tent!

Why is Botswana a Travel Destination?

South Africa and Namibia are gateway countries for travelers to southern Africa. But Botswana is different and very special. Botswana is an ideal country for adventurers who want to travel with a 4×4 and rooftop tent!

On the campsites of Botswana you will find a lot of space and peace, like here on the Savuti Campsite
On the campsites of Botswana, you will find a lot of space and peace, like here on the Savuti Campsite

“Low capacity high value” principle

Botswana is known for its high-end safari experiences, making it one of the most expensive destinations in Africa for travelers. However, even during peak travel seasons, it is not uncommon for tourist hotspots to remain relatively empty. This is particularly true outside of popular areas such as Kasane and the Chobe Riverfront, which can become crowded during national holidays.

Chobe National Park

Botswana’s easiest-to-reach national park is world-famous for its huge herds of elephants! A boat cruise on the Chobe River in the evening is a must-do.

Botswana's Chobe National Park - The Home of many Elephant herds
Botswana’s Chobe National Park – The Home of many Elephant herds

The famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia is just an hour away from Kasane.

Victoria Falls in Zambia - One hour from Kasane, Botswana
Victoria Falls in Zambia – One hour from Kasane, Botswana

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta, located in Botswana, is a vast wetland that spans between 6000 – 15000 square kilometers depending on the season. This unique and pristine ecosystem is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including elephants, hippos, and all the animals found in southern Africa. Visitors can explore the delta by taking a traditional mokoro ride or going on guided bush walks, both of which are offered by small lodges in the area.

During the dry season, the Okavango Delta is particularly popular among bird enthusiasts, who can spot a wide variety of species in this prime bird-watching destination. Whether you’re a fan of wildlife, or nature, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, the Okavango Delta offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience for travelers in Botswana.

Okavango Delta covers 6000 - 15000 km² of wetland depending on the season
Okavango Delta covers 6000 – 15000 km² of wetland depending on the season

Moremi Game Reserve

On the edge of the Okavango Delta, this area is probably Botswana’s most visited national park. The reserve is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including big cats, elephants, and a wide variety of antelopes and birds. Visitors can explore the reserve through guided safari drives, taking a traditional mokoro ride, or going on a guided walking safari.

Makgadikgadi Pans

The otherworldly landscapes of Makgadikgadi Pans offer a truly unique and unforgettable experience for travelers. To truly appreciate the beauty of the pans, it is recommended to spend a night under the stars. The crescent moon provides ample light, making a flashlight unnecessary. The silence and stillness of the pans at night is indescribable and it’s an experience that one will not forget.

It’s a perfect place for those looking for adventure and a chance to witness the beauty of the natural world in its rawest form.

Crescent over the Ntwtwe Pan (Makgadikgadi Pans)
Crescent over the Ntwtwe Pan (Makgadikgadi Pans)

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

The Kalahari Desert is a vast and remote region known for its arid and dusty landscapes. Despite its harsh conditions, the Kalahari is incredibly fascinating and offers a unique wilderness experience for visitors. One of the highlights of any trip to the Kalahari is a drive to Deception Valley. Here, temperatures often soar above 40 degrees, and the animals congregate around the few available shady spots.

3 Deer Under the shade of a single tree in Kalahari
3 Deer Under the shade of a single tree in Kalahari

Set travel time for the Botswana trip

It’s understandable that planning a trip to Botswana can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the country. It’s important to note that while the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, and Central Kalahari are all incredible destinations, they each have their own unique seasons and peak times for travel.

In our case, we made the mistake of not thoroughly researching the best time to visit. We had planned to go in late September, believing it to be the ideal time before the start of the low season in October. However, we later learned that October is still the peak travel season, particularly in the Okavango Delta.

To avoid making the same mistake, it’s important to research the best time to visit each destination and to be aware that peak travel season may vary.

The dry season offers some advantages such as no mud and dried-out slopes, but it is also the peak travel season so be prepared for more crowded places.

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and make informed decisions about your travel itinerary to ensure you have the best possible experience.

You are not allowed to drive faster than 40 kmh in Botswana's national parks
You are not allowed to drive faster than 40 kmh in Botswana’s national parks

Botswana Travel Guide

When planning a trip to Botswana, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s best to book well in advance. Many travelers recommend planning at least a year ahead to ensure you secure your desired accommodations and activities.

I too made the mistake of not considering the timing of the trip early enough, and I received warnings from other travelers on forums that it was too late to plan a trip to Botswana. I had previously traveled to South Africa and had not encountered any issues with last-minute bookings, so I was not initially concerned.

However, it’s important to note that every country and destination has its own unique booking and planning process, and it’s always best to err on the side of caution and plan ahead as much as possible.

It’s always a good idea to do thorough research and gather as much information as possible from various sources such as travel guides, forums, and recommendations from other travelers. This will help you make informed decisions and have a more enjoyable and hassle-free trip.

For self-drive:

Botswana travel guide by Hupe with GPS data

This travel guide has all the up-to-date information for places, routes with characteristics and information about accommodation. It not only helped me a lot when planning my trip but also served me repeatedly during the trip to read detailed descriptions of the routes.

Very up-to-date and detailed information on all national parks, accommodations, and valuable GPS coordinates. Especially for Savuti, I literally learned the route description by heart. Super guide you can buy here (German Only).

Botswana Travel Guide Lwanowski with Map

The guide includes a map which is pretty useful before the trip, I used it extensively for planning – highly recommended! The information also includes the Victoria Falls and the Caprivi Strip for those who, like me, travel to Botswana via Windhoek (Namibia).

Suggestions for routes with travel times and addresses for accommodation, which for Botswana cannot even be booked quickly on the Internet, are just as detailed as in the travel guide. View the travel guide on Amazon here (German Only).

Bought locally:

Travel and Field Guide of Botswana – The Shell Tourist

It receives a lot of detailed information about road conditions and access routes. It served as a useful addition to the travel guide by Lwanowski for Botswana and can actually be bought everywhere for about 15 dollars (Shell petrol stations, supermarkets…).

Which Botswana printed maps to buy?

Almost every travel guide or forum recommends buying the Shell Map of Botswana or the detailed maps for Moremi, Okavango Delta & Linyanti, or Chobe National Park. There are really everywhere and cost about 10 dollars per card.

Out of curiosity, I bought the Shell maps for Botswana, Moremi, and Okavango Delta. They contain coordinates for navigation via GPS.

In my honest opinion? Do not buy.

Maps from Tracks4Africa for Botswana

The coordinates are not much detailed in the travel guide (see above). Buy the printed map for Botswana from Tracks4Africa instead. If I were to travel to Botswana again (I’m sure I will soon), I would buy this card.

I also bought the map of Botswana for the Tracks4Africa app and loaded it onto my iPhone. The app contains the printed map and also shows where you are. This is often very very helpful as it makes navigation a lot easier.

Maps from Tracks4Africa for Botswana navigation
Maps from Tracks4Africa for Botswana navigation

Set a Route for Botswana Trip

The route was clear after some back and forth but deciding on how long to stay in each place was a bit more challenging. In our case, I wanted to spend 1-2 nights in Divundu in the Caprivi Strip, but since I travel often and will definitely come back to this region, I gave up.

Since we didn’t want to have so much stress at the end, we decided to skip the salt pans (Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Pan). For this, we stay 2-3 days in Maun to do day trips at a slower pace in between.

Note: I would also do this differently in the future before someone comes up with the (probably) legitimate question “why are you driving so fast through the Caprivi”.

Our route:

  • Arrival in Windhoek, 1-night stay at Windhoek Villa
  • 1-night stay at Waterberg Valley Lodge in Waterberg Plateau.
  • 1-night stay at Hakusembe River Lodge in Rundu
  • 1-night stay in a Namushasha River Lodge and 1-night stay at a campsite in Kongola
  • 2 nights stay at the campsite, 1-night stay at Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane, with a day trip to Victoria Falls
  • 2 nights stay at Savuti Campsite in Chobe National Park
  • 1-night stay at 3rd Bridge Campsite in Moremi
  • 2 nights stay at Gunn’s Camp in Okavango Delta
  • 2 nights stay at Moremi Crossing in Okavango Delta
  • 1-night stay at the campsite, 1-night stay in a permanent tent at Old Bridge Backpackers in Maun
  • 1-night stay at Planet Baobab and 1-night stay at Ntwetwe Pan Gweta
  • 3 nights stay at Haina Kalahari Lodge in Central Kalahari Game Reserve
  • 1-night stay at Tautona Lodge in Ghazni
  • 1-night stay at Wildlife Sanctuary Reservations in Windhoek
  • Return flight from Windhoek

Book a rental car for Botswana travel

If you want to travel to Botswana, everyone who has been there recommended renting a car in Namibia or South Africa. In both countries, the prices are a lot lower than the cost of renting in Botswana.

So we looked around for a 4×4 rental car with a roof tent. There are numerous providers in Windhoek, including ASCO Car Hire, with whom we booked the rental car. The car is a 4×4 manual with camping equipment. We also booked the recommended GPS with the maps from Tracks4Africa.

The car with roof tent and camping equipment costs $117 per day for 2 people. The GPS costs 60 NAD per day. That’s only $3.80 and well worth it. The maps are now also available as a smartphone app (Namibia and Botswana maps cost $9.99 each).

International driving license for Botswana

To rent a rental car (whether in Namibia, South Africa, or Botswana) you need a national and international driver’s license. This costs only $16 and is valid for three years.

Arrival to Botswana

By plane:

Botswana has international airports in the following cities: Gaborone, Maun, Kasane, and Francistown. In addition, almost every lodge has its own airstrip to save tourists the long journey over the many deep sand and gravel roads.

Depending on the duration and type of trip, it could be worth traveling via Windhoek or Johannesburg. There are daily flights from Johannesburg to Maun and Victoria Falls.

If you also want to drive to the north of Botswana (Chobe National Park), this journey is quite long. Then I recommend traveling via Windhoek and the Zambezi region (formerly the Caprivi Strip).

By car:

Most self-drivers fly to Windhoek (Namibia) or Johannesburg (South Africa) and pick up their rental car there. Not only are the rental cars – but also the flight prices – a lot cheaper. You can enter Botswana by car via one of the numerous borders.

Fees for crossing the border of unregistered cars in Botswana: 51 Pula for a Road Permit, 49 Pula for Insurance of MV, and around 51 Pula for the Road Fund. That’s a total of 150 pula (about $13).

Tips for National Parks

Wild camping is prohibited in national parks. If you cannot show proof of accommodation or reservation of a parking space, you will not be admitted to the national park.

In order to get into the national parks, you have to organize the permits. These are now available directly at the entrance to the park. That makes things easy.

Tip: Make reservations for the campsites in good time. You only have a limited number of parking spaces available. They are bookable by email or phone.

Apparently, those responsible for the campsites often sit at the park entrance. Here you can book your parking space directly (if available).

Here I will add the reservation addresses so that you don’t have to search for everything together.

Note: You have to follow up on e-mails more often, as people in Africa usually respond late to emails. In addition, those responsible are often out in the bush for days and have no internet access. Patience!

Opening Hours and Entrance Fees of The National Parks

Depending on the season, the opening hours of the national parks vary. When I travel (September – October) the gates of the parks are open between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Unlike in other African countries, the entrance fee is the same in all national parks: 120 pula for tourists plus 50 pula per car (for cars with a license plate from Botswana even only 10 pula) per day. That makes a total of about 14 dollars.

Botswana Travel Tips: Clothing and Camera Equipment for Safaris

When traveling to Africa, it’s important to pack clothes in neutral, muted colors such as khaki, sand, or blue. Avoid flashy or bright clothing as it can attract insects and make you stand out in the natural environment. Black clothing, in particular, should be avoided as it attracts mosquitoes that can transmit malaria. It’s also a good idea to spray all your clothes with mosquito repellent.

For daytime activities, shorts and cotton or merino shirts are sufficient. In the evening, pack long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt to stay warm. A softshell jacket or hooded jacket with fleece or a pullover is also recommended for cool African nights.

Closed-toe shoes are a must for bush walks, and flip-flops or sneakers are great for the campsite showers. A light rain jacket from Patagonia is also a good idea as it can provide protection from the cold and rain.

My camera with gear probably looks like this:

  1. Sony Alpha 7R3 with kit lens, zoom lens, wide angle, and possibly a fixed focal length (I’m still thinking about which one I’ll get). At least three batteries, polarizing filters, neutral density filters, neutral density filters, and a tripod.
  2. GoPro Hero6
  3. iPhone X with various apps (eBirds lite etc.)
  4. MacBook with an external hard drive (see my camera and photo accessories here)
  5. Binoculars
  6. Headlamp (with infrared light, does not blind animals and you can still see something on a dark night)
  7. External battery pack
  8. Various cables for listening to music in the car, charging batteries, etc.

View my safari packing list for clothing tips here

Vaccinations & Malaria in Botswana

No specific vaccinations are required for a trip to Botswana.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

When entering Zambia you must be able to prove a yellow fever vaccination. Since this has never been checked in other regions, I don’t think anyone is interested here either. I always have a copy of my vaccination book with me. Proof of yellow fever vaccine is not mandatory for entry into Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, or Germany.

Malaria in Botswana

It’s important to consider the risk of malaria and take necessary precautions. The risk of malaria varies throughout the country, with a higher risk in the northern regions and no risk in the southern regions.

It’s always a good idea to consult your family doctor or a travel medicine specialist for advice on which type of anti-malaria medication is best for your trip. Doctors commonly prescribe Malarone as medication for malaria prophylaxis, however, some doctors may also recommend standby options.


  1. High malaria risk especially during the rainy season (November – June): In the regions of Boteti, Chobe, Ngamiland, Okavango, Tutume.
  2. Lower malaria risk (July – October) in the same regions.
  3. Low malaria risk in the border areas with Zimbabwe in the Bobirwa and Selebi-Phikwe regions.
  4. No risk of malaria in southern Botswana.

In general, I advise you to consult a doctor for vaccination advice before you travel. They can tell you exactly which vaccinations you need and whether there is a high or low risk of malaria when you travel.

Travel Literature for Botswana

For Botswana, I definitely recommend this book! I’m currently halfway through and would like to continue reading the rest of its “live” site:

Cry of the Kalahari - Seven years in Africa's last great wilderness
Cry of the Kalahari – Seven years in Africa’s last great wilderness

Cry of the Kalahariby Mark and Delia Owens is considered a classic when it comes to the Kalahari Desert. The book describes the couple’s seven-year journey in Africa’s last great wilderness, where they traveled to Botswana with all the money they had saved to explore the wilderness. The book is written in a captivating style that makes it hard to put down. It is currently only available in English, but it is a must-read for anyone planning a trip to Botswana, especially if you’re interested in the Kalahari Desert. If you’re looking to travel light, the book is also available as an e-book for the Kindle, making it a great option to take with you on your journey.

If there’s war, we’ll go to the desert by Henno Martin is actually a book about Namibia. I read it last year as I was thinking of traveling to Namibia in 2015. The book is about the escape of two Germans to the Namib Desert before the war. Your daily struggle for survival and you ask yourself: is war or the desert actually more dangerous? The book is poignant, and gripping and is recommended by Namibia fans as the “Namibia Bible”.

Facts & Figures

  • Phone code: +267
  • Currency in Botswana: Pula (BWP): $1 equals approximately 11.66 BWP
  • Time zone: Central Africa Time (CAT), there is no time difference from Germany
  • Public Holidays: 30th October National Day (in 2016 Botswana was celebrating its 50th anniversary while I was there). Then people sometimes have up to 10 days of vacation and accommodation (especially around Kasane) is fully booked.

Which Adapter do I Need in Botswana

For Botswana, you need a plug adapter to charge your electronic items. The plugs are three-pin-like in South Africa. From time to time you can also charge your devices without an adapter at accommodations if the accommodations have multiple sockets for different plugs. This is rarely the case.

Tip: Be sure to take enough batteries with you for your camera and possibly pack an external battery to charge your cell phone, GoPro, or camera batteries if, like me, you spend a lot of time on campsites or eco-lodges with solar power.

Best Travel Time Botswana

Weather and Climate

Botswana is a unique travel destination, known for its dry and hot climate. The country’s aridity is a result of its distance from the ocean, with moist air masses often bringing rain to the mountainous regions surrounding Botswana.

Despite its dry climate, Botswana is a year-round destination with something to offer in every season. The rainy season, which runs from October/November to April, can bring severe restrictions and flooded roads in the Okavango Delta. However, it also offers a chance to see the region in a different light and appreciates the lush greenery.

During the rainy season, most of the rain falls between November and April, usually in short but heavy bursts. The strong winds and hot temperatures mean that much of the rainwater often evaporates into the air, with the rest quickly seeping into the sandy surface. The hottest month in Botswana is January, while the coolest is July, with temperatures dropping below 0 degrees at night.

The dry, winter season runs from May to September/October and is characterized by pleasant day temperatures of 20 – 25° C, sunny skies, and a bright blue sky. In the Kalahari, temperatures can sometimes drop to freezing point, making it a perfect time to experience the region’s unique desert landscape.

From November, the summer rainy season begins with hot temperatures and long-lasting rainfall. However, it’s important to note that the rainfall can vary greatly depending on the region. In the north, for example, the most rain falls in February. There are even three rainy seasons in the east and southeast regions. The first rain falls at the beginning of October, then again towards the end of November. From mid-December to late February, it remains hot and dry, with heavy rain showers returning in March and April.

Overall, Botswana is a destination that offers a unique and diverse experience, whether you’re visiting during the rainy or dry season. Whether you’re an adventurer or a nature lover, you’re sure to find something that suits your interests in this beautiful country. So, if you’re planning a trip to Botswana, be sure to pack accordingly and make the most of your time there.

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents do I need to bring with me when self-driving in Botswana?

You will need to bring your driver’s license, car registration, and proof of insurance with you when self-driving in Botswana. It is also a good idea to bring copies of these documents in case the originals are lost or stolen.

Are there any specific road safety tips I should follow when self-driving in Botswana?

Some road safety tips to follow when self-driving in Botswana include:
– Obey all traffic laws and speed limits
– Always wear your seatbelt
– Do not drink and drive
– Avoid driving at night if possible, as roads can be poorly lit and there may be wildlife on the road
– Keep a safe distance from other vehicles, especially when driving on unpaved roads

Can I use my own car when self-driving in Botswana?

Yes, it is possible to use your own car when self-driving in Botswana. However, it is important to note that the roads in Botswana can be rough and poorly maintained, so it is recommended to use a vehicle with high clearance and good ground clearance. It is also a good idea to make sure your car is in good working condition before embarking on a self-drive trip in Botswana.

Are there any areas in Botswana where self-driving is not recommended?

There are some areas in Botswana where self-driving is not recommended due to the risk of theft or other security concerns. It is advisable to check with the Botswana Tourism Organization or a local tour operator before self-driving in these areas.

What should I do if I have car troubles while self-driving in Botswana?

If you experience car troubles while self-driving in Botswana, the first thing you should do is try to find a safe place to pull over. If you are unable to fix the problem yourself, you should contact your car rental company or a local mechanic for assistance. It is also a good idea to have a spare tire and other basic tools with you in case of emergencies.

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