BotswanaOfficial Name: Republic of Botswana
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page required for entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required for stays under 90 days
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
Embassy Drive, Government Enclave
Telephone: +(267) 395-3982
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(267) 395-7111
Fax: +(267) 318-0232
Botswana, a country in southern Africa roughly the size of Texas with a population of approximately 2.1 million, has a stable democratic, parliamentary government and a stable economy. Diamond and mineral mining are key components of the economy, while facilities for tourism are also widely available. Read the Department of State's Fact Sheet on Botswana for additional information on U.S. – Botswana relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
A passport with at least six months of validity remaining is required. U.S. citizens are permitted stays up to 90 days total within a 12-month period without a visa. Travelers who attempt to enter Botswana with a temporary travel document (for example, a 12-page emergency passport) must have a visa to enter. It is not possible to obtain a visa upon arrival in Botswana, and U.S. citizens without a visa in a temporary passport will face possible fines and long administrative delays.
For additional information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana, 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 244-4990/1, fax (202) 244-4164 or the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Botswana to the United Nations, 103 E. 37th St., New York, N.Y., 10016, telephone (212) 889-2277, and fax (212) 725-5061. There are also honorary consuls in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. Visit the Embassy of Botswana’s web site for the most current visa information. As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from the passport.
Attention new South Africa regulations: Travelers who also intend to visit or transfer through South Africa should pay careful attention to new and additional travel requirements there. Please see Country Specific Information for South Africa regarding the requirements for at least two blank (unstamped) visa pages and carrying unabridged birth certificates for all children under 18.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Botswana.
The Embassy is unaware of any required vaccinations to enter Botswana. Visitors to the Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls areas should be aware that Zambia is now considered a low-risk yellow fever country. Travelers with Zambian immigration stamps in their passport may be required to present their current and valid “International Certificate of Vaccination as approved by the World Health Organization (WHO)” (commonly called a “yellow card”) or statement of medical exemption (also located on the same yellow card).
This requirement is also imposed on travelers flying through South Africa via yellow fever countries, even when transiting passengers are required to stay on board the plane (e.g., flights stopping in Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; or Nairobi, Kenya), or if the plane makes an unscheduled landing in a yellow fever country. As a precaution, all travelers to or through South Africa should carry their original yellow card. Letters, scans, copies, or faxes regarding prior yellow fever vaccination will not be accepted. While this requirement may not be consistently applied, travelers who cannot present an original and currently valid yellow card upon request may be refused entry into or transit through South Africa.
Yellow fever vaccinations are not administered at South African ports of entry for the purpose of entry into South Africa. Travelers are reminded that they are required to obtain a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days prior to their arrival in South Africa in accordance with WHO regulations.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
Safety and Security
Civil unrest and disorder are rare, but in the event of a protest, U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
To stay up to date:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.
- Follow the Bureau of Consular Affairs on Twitter and Facebook.
- Bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution.
- Follow the U.S. Embassy in Botswana on the Embassy’s website.
- In the event of an emergency, contact us at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or via a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
- Take some time before traveling to consider your personal security and checking for useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
CRIME: Crime is a serious concern in Botswana. Visitors must be vigilant and take security precautions. Petty street crime and crimes of opportunity, primarily the theft of money and personal property, are common. Home invasions, “smash and grabs” from vehicles, and cell phone thefts, often at knife point, are routinely reported to the police. Hotels and lodges are not immune from criminal activity, and visitors should remain alert and take reasonable precautions in safeguarding personal property (particularly money and electronic equipment). Visitors are urged to exercise extreme caution near the Gaborone Dam and Kgale Hill in Gaborone due to the high number of reported criminal incidents.
Travelers arriving in Botswana via South Africa should be aware that there is a serious continuing baggage pilferage problem at OR Tambo (Johannesburg) and Cape Town International Airports. Travelers are encouraged to use an airport plastic wrapping service and to avoid placing electronics, jewelry, cameras, designer athletic gear, or other valuables in checked luggage. Also, make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Botswana has three numbers equivalent to the “911” emergency line. For police assistance, dial “999.” For an ambulance, dial “997.” In the event of a fire, dial “998.”
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Botswana, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own 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 severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. Motorists should note that it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving; failure to comply could result in fines and/or confiscation of the cell phone. If you break local laws in Botswana, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Botswana, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. embassy.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Botswana experiences regular periods of rolling electric power outages that can leave areas without power for several hours. Visitors are urged to carry flashlights. U.S. citizens are also urged to be aware of how power outages might affect home security systems, garage doors and gates, and kitchen equipment, such as stoves and refrigerators. The power fluctuations could cause power surges that might harm computers, televisions, or other electrical appliances. Botswana is experiencing a drought and the Water Utilities Corporation is rationing water up to three times a week for eight hours a day in Gaborone and other areas. Check the Water Utilities Commission website for schedules.
Botswana strictly enforces its laws controlling the trade in animal products. In November 2012, Botswana announced a suspension of commercial hunting in public or private controlled hunting areas which went into effect on January 1, 2014. Botswana's Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act makes it illegal to possess or remove from Botswana without a government permit any living or dead animal or animal trophy. 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 eggshells, 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. For more information, please see our customs information page.
Wild animals may pose a danger to tourists. 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.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT RIGHTS: The Botswana Penal Code states that, “any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature… is guilty of an offence and is liable for imprisonment.” While the meaning of Penal Code language is subject to interpretation, same-sex sexual relations are considered to be illegal in Botswana. Generally police do not target same-sex activity, and historically the law has not been enforced. While the Embassy is unaware of any official reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, there is discrimination and stigma against LGBT persons, particularly in villages and rural areas outside the capital. It is recommended that LGBT travelers exercise caution with regard to expressing affection in public. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our LGBT Travel Information page.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Botswana, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Botswana law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in education, employment, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. While the government mandates access to public buildings or transportation for persons with disabilities, most privately owned buildings and business, and older government buildings remain inaccessible.
Private medical facilities in Gaborone are adequate for simple medical problems, but facilities outside of Gaborone are severely limited. Adequately equipped emergency rooms and trained physicians are available in the capital but services are rudimentary elsewhere. Professional private emergency rescue services operate air and ground ambulances throughout the country, but care is rendered only after a patient’s ability to pay is established. Response times are often slow in less populated areas. Outside of Gaborone, most airports are either not equipped or may have malfunctioning night lighting capability, so airborne medical evacuations can often only be conducted during daylight hours. Malaria is prevalent only in the north of the country, particularly around the Chobe and Okavango National Parks. Malaria prophylaxis is not required in Gaborone but is highly recommended for travel north of the Tropic of Capricorn. For advanced care U.S. citizens often choose to travel to South Africa. Many South African manufactured prescription drugs are available in Gaborone.
In many areas of Botswana (including Gaborone), tap water can be unsafe and should be avoided or boiled for at least one minute before drinking. Bottled water and beverages are believed to be safe. However, visitors should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Ice may also come from tap water and should be avoided. For more information, please refer to the Embassy’s most recent Safety and Security Message.
Approximately one-quarter of the adult population of Botswana is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Travelers are advised to exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if exposed to blood products through injuries or rendering assistance to accident victims.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Botswana. Several hundred cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) have been identified in Botswana since January 2004 when Botswana first obtained the ability to test for this form of TB. Individuals who plan to reside in or visit Botswana for extended periods are advised to obtain a tuberculosis skin test (PPD test) prior to arrival and again upon departure from Botswana. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
There are occasional diarrhea outbreaks in areas affected by heavy rains. Travelers in those regions are encouraged to take necessary precautions when handling food and drinking water.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Travel & Transportation
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 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.
Driving in Botswana is challenging and motorists must drive defensively. As elsewhere in the region, traffic circulates on the left in Botswana. While the roads in major population centers are generally good, rural roads can be in poor condition and treacherous. Rolling power outages mean that many traffic lights and street lamps do not work properly. Approach traffic lights with caution; even when operational drivers should first visually confirm that they are clear to proceed after a light has turned green as opposing traffic frequently continues well after a red light. The combination of long, tedious stretches of two-lane highways without shoulders, high speed limits, free-range domestic animals (even in urban centers), and large numbers of pedestrians and hitchhikers in the roadways make fatal accidents a frequent occurrence.
Smash and grab robberies from vehicles are not uncommon in Botswana, particularly in urban areas at traffic lights. Motorists should avoid carrying anything of value (hand bags, briefcases, purses, cell phones, etc.) in the passenger compartment that could attract potential assailants.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Botswana, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Botswana’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
On October 14, 2011, a Cessna Caravan C208B 12-seater aircraft operated by Moremi Air Services crashed shortly after takeoff at Xakanaka airstrip in the Okavango Delta, northwest Botswana, killing seven passengers and the pilot. Tourists flying on small aircraft are advised to be aware of and comply with safety regulations limiting the weight of the baggage they may bring on board, to listen carefully to the pre-flight safety briefing given by pilots (and demand such a briefing if one is not given), and during the briefing ask any safety-related questions they deem appropriate.