Entering Botswana is usually straightforward provided you are carrying a valid passport. Visas are available on arrival for most nationalities and are issued in no time. If you’re crossing into the country overland and in your own (or rented) vehicle, expect to endure (sometimes quite cursory, sometimes strict) searches for fresh meat, fresh fruit and dairy products, most of which will be confiscated if found. For vehicles rented in South Africa, Namibia or other regional countries, you will need to show a letter from the owner that you have permission to drive the car into Botswana, in addition to all other registration documents.
Since May 2017 all visitors must pay a US$30 Tourism Development Levy (TDL) upon arrival, which will help fund conservation. At all border crossings you must also pay P120 (a combination of road levy and third-party insurance) if you’re driving your own vehicle. Hassles from officialdom are rare.
For a moderately useful list of the government’s entry requirements, see www.botswanatourism.co.bw/entryFormalities.php. The Tracks4Africa Botswana map has opening hours for all border crossings.
Most items from elsewhere in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) – Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland – may be imported duty free. You may be asked to declare new laptops and cameras, but this is very rarely enforced.
Visitors may bring into Botswana the following amounts of duty-free items: up to 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2L of wine or 1L of beer or spirits; and 50mL of perfume or 250mL of eau de cologne.
The most rigorous searches at customs posts are for fresh meat products – don’t buy succulent steaks in South Africa for your camping barbecue and expect them to be allowed in.
There is no restriction on currency, though you may need to declare any pula or foreign currency you have on you when entering or leaving the country. This depends on the border crossing and who is on duty.
All visitors entering Botswana must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months. Also, allow a few empty pages for stamp-happy immigration officials, especially if you plan on crossing over to Zimbabwe and/or Zambia to Victoria Falls.
Visitors to Botswana are issued a visa on arrival, valid for 30 days.
Most visitors can obtain tourist visas at the international airports and borders (and the nearest police stations in lieu of an immigration official at remote border crossings). Visas on arrival are valid for 30 days – and possibly up to 90 days if requested at the time of entry – and are available for free to passport holders from most Commonwealth countries (but not Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), all EU countries, the USA and countries in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), ie South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.
If you hold a passport from any other country, apply for a 30-day tourist visa at an overseas Botswanan embassy or consulate. Where there is no Botswanan representation, try going to a British embassy or consulate.
Tourists are allowed to stay in Botswana for a maximum of 90 days every 12 months, so a 30-day visa may be extended twice. Visas can be extended for free at immigration offices in Gaborone, Francistown, Maun and Kasane. Whether you’re required to show an onward ticket and/or sufficient funds at this time depends on the official(s).
Anyone travelling to Botswana from an area infected with yellow fever needs proof of vaccination before they can enter the country.