Botswana is modern and developed, and most things work. You can safely drink the tap water in the towns and cities, and you do not need protection against cholera or yellow fever.
HIV/AIDS is a serious issue but, unless you fail to take common-sense precautions, there should be no undue risk. In fact, the greatest danger to the traveller is posed by wildlife and the risks of driving in the bush.
Crime is rarely a problem in Botswana, and doesn't usually extend beyond occasional pickpocketing and theft from parked cars. Gaborone is one of Africa's safer cities, but it still pays to take a taxi after dark.
Police & Military
Although police and veterinary roadblocks, bureaucracy and bored officials may be tiresome, they’re mostly harmless. Careful scrutiny is rare, but you may have to unpack your luggage for closer inspection at a border or veterinary checkpoint.
The Botswana Defence Force (BDF), on the other hand, takes its duties seriously and is best not crossed. The most sensitive base, which is operated jointly with the US government, lies in a remote area off the Lobatse road, southwest of Gaborone. Don’t stumble upon it accidentally! Also avoid State House, the official residence of the president in Gaborone, especially after dark. It’s located near the government enclave, where there’s not much else going on in the evening, so anyone caught ‘hanging around’ is viewed suspiciously.
Although vehicle traffic is light on most roads outside of the major towns and cities, the most significant concern for most travellers is road safety. Botswana has one of the highest accident rates per capita in the world, and drunk and reckless driving are common, especially at month’s end (wage day). Cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and even elephants are deadly hazards on the road, especially at dusk and after dark when visibility is poor. Never drive at night unless you absolutely have to.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information for travellers.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.voyage.gc.ca)
- French Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes (www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs)
- Italian Ministero degli Affari Esteri (www.viaggiaresicuri.mae.aci.it)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- US Department of State (www.travel.state.gov)