COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Botswana, a country in southern Africa roughly the size of Texas with a population of approximately 2 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 information on relations with Botswana for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP): If you are going to live in or visit Botswana, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. If you do not have internet access, you can stop by the embassy and complete your registration.
The U.S. Embassy Gaborone is located on Embassy Drive in the Government Enclave.
Mailing address: P.O. Box 90, Gaborone, Botswana
Telephone: 267 395-3982
After-hours Emergency Telephone: 267 395-7111
Fax 267 318-0232
Email the embassy
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport valid for at least six months after the intended date of departure is required to enter Botswana. U.S. citizens are permitted stays up to 90 days total within a 12 month period without a visa. If visitors are planning on staying longer, or have already exceeded the 90 day per year maximum, or who have not already obtained an airline ticket to depart Botswana, they will be required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Travelers who attempt to enter Botswana with a temporary travel document [12-page emergency photo-digitized passport (EPDP)] must have a visa to enter Botswana. It is not possible to obtain a visa upon arrival in Botswana, and U.S. citizens without a visa in their temporary passport will face possible fines and long administrative delays.
While there is no specific requirement in Botswana that visitors have a certain number of blank pages in their passport, most flights in/out of Botswana transit through South Africa, which has a strictly enforced policy requiring at least one completely blank visa page and frequently insists on travelers having two completely blank visa pages. Please note that these pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport. Without a sufficient number of blank pages, travelers, even when in possession of a valid South African visa, may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at the traveler’s expense.
For additional information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana, 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 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, NY, 10016, telephone (212) 889-2277, 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.
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, and any traveler with Zambian immigration stamps in their passport may be require 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 or 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, will 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.
There are no restrictions on the amount of currency visitors can bring into Botswana. However, visitors carrying more than 10,000 Pula or the equivalent in a foreign currency (approximately $1200.00 USD) are required to declare their currency to the Department of Customs at the port of entry.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on the embassy’s web site. For further information about U.S. customs regulations, please refer to the Customs Information web page.
THREATS TO 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.
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CRIME: Crime is a serious concern in Botswana. Visitors 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 not uncommon. 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 are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. embassy. We can:
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 on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 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 will go into effect on January 1, 2014. It will still be possible to possess or have shipped hunting trophies obtained before the ban takes effect, as per regulations described below. Previously, the hunting of any animal in Botswana generally required a license or a permit. The hunting of lions as well as protected game animals was explicitly prohibited before the ban. Protected game animals include cheetah, wild dog, otter, rhinoceros, all pelicans, and all flamingos. Leopards and elephants as well as certain other partially protected game animals are covered under a strict licensing and quota regime. Botswana's Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act makes it illegal to possess or remove from Botswana any living or dead animal or animal trophy without a government permit. 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.
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.
SPECIAL ISSUES FOR LGBT TRAVELERS: Botswana has no law explicitly criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity. However, “carnal knowledge…against the order of nature” is outlawed in the penal code. This law has not been used to prosecute LGBT individuals, but societal stigmatization of LGBT individuals is common. Generally, police do not target same-sex activity, and the Embassy is unaware of any reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nevertheless, it is recommended that LGBT travelers exercise caution with regard to expressing affection in public. For further information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 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 suggested for travel to the north. 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 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 also endemic to Botswana. Several hundred cases of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) have been identified in Botswana since January 2008 when Botswana first obtained the ability to test for this form of TB. Individuals who plan to reside or stay in Botswana for extended periods are advised to obtain a tuberculosis skin test (PPD test) prior to arrival and again upon departure from Botswana. 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.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC web site. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) web site. The WHO web site also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a Botswana, you 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. The combination of long, tedious stretches of two-lane highways without shoulders, high speed limits, intoxicated drivers, free-range domestic animals (even in urban centers), and large numbers of pedestrians and hitchhikers in the roadways make fatal accidents a frequent occurrence. Outside of Gaborone, it is also common to find large numbers of animals along or on the unlit roads, which can be particularly hazardous when driving at night. The Embassy prohibits government employees from driving outside of Gaborone after dark.
‘Smash and grab’ robberies from vehicles are increasingly common 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.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Botswana dated 02 August 2012 to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Special Circumstances, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Information.