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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: Botswana

Botswana: Republic of Botswana
Capital: Gaborone
Population: 1,591,232
Currency: pula (BWP)
Languages: English (official), Setswana
Religions: indigenous beliefs 85%, Christian 15%
Borders: Namibia 1,360 km, South Africa 1,840 km, Zimbabwe 813 km

Botswana is a country in southern Africa with a stable democratic government and a growing economy. Facilities for tourism are widely available.

Civil unrest and disorder are rare.

Violent crime remains relatively infrequent in Botswana, but appears to be on the rise in urban centers. Prudent security measures such as house and car alarms and immobilizers should be used to deter residential burglaries and car theft. In addition, the increased instance of armed carjackings in Botswana over the past two years warrants increased vigilance while driving in urban areas, particularly after dark. Petty street crime and crimes of opportunity, primarily the theft of money and personal property, remain the most common forms of crime in Botswana. Visitors to Gaborone, as to any major city, should avoid walking at night in unfamiliar areas.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Botswana's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Botswana are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Botswana's laws mandate harsh punishments for unlawful dealing and possession of cannabis (known locally as motokwane or dagga). Botswana also has a well-publicized policy of zero tolerance for corruption, and any requests for the payment of bribes should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

Botswana strictly enforces its laws controlling the trade in animal products. The hunting of lions is explicitly prohibited and leopards and elephants are covered under a strict quota regime. Botswana's Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act makes illegal the possession or removal from Botswana, without a government permit of any living or dead animal or trophy from an animal. A trophy is any horn, ivory, tooth, tusk, bone, claw, hoof, hide, skin, hair, feather, egg, or other durable portion of an animal, whether the item has been processed or not. Curio shops and vendors throughout the country sell items such as animal skins, plain and decorated ostrich eggs and egg shells, and carved bones or teeth of animals protected by this law. All of the souvenirs, although widely sold, are subject to this Act. Travelers departing the country with a trophy must have a receipt from a store licensed to sell such items. Ivory and endangered rhinoceros horn products obtained in Botswana may not be removed from the country under any circumstances; elephant hair jewelry may be removed only with the appropriate license from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Trophies may not be taken from the wild without a permit. Violators are subject to arrest and may face a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a substantial fine.

Tourists should bear in mind that, even in the most serene settings, the animals are wild and can pose a threat to life and safety. Tourists should use common sense when approaching wildlife, observe all local or park regulations, and heed all instructions given by tour guides. In addition, tourists are advised that potentially dangerous areas sometimes lack fences and warning signs. Exercise appropriate caution in all unfamiliar surroundings.

Medical facilities in Gaborone and Francistownn are adequate, but available facilities in other areas are limited. For advanced care Americans often choose to travel to South Africa. Most prescription drugs are available.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Botswana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Traffic circulates on the left in Botswana, as elsewhere in the region. While the roads in major population centers in Botswana are generally good, travel by automobile outside of large towns may be dangerous. The combination of long, tedious stretches of two-lane highways, high speed limits, and poor lighting make driving at night on rural highways particularly hazardous. Free-range domestic animals and large numbers of pedestrians and hitchhikers in the roadways make fatal accidents a frequent occurrence.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at For specific information concerning Botswana driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Botswana national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Botswana, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Botswana's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

January 8, 2004

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