Flights & getting there
Botswana is not the easiest or cheapest place in the world to reach by air, and some travellers prefer to enter the country overland from South Africa or, more recently, Namibia as part of a longer safari.
Flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
The only scheduled flights to Botswana come from Johannesburg and Cape Town (South Africa), Victoria Falls and Harare (Zimbabwe), Lusaka and Livingstone (Zambia) and Windhoek (Namibia). No European or North American airline flies directly into Botswana, and most travellers fly into either Jo’burg or Cape Town (both of which are served by an array of international and domestic carriers) and hop on a connecting flight.
Airports & Airlines
Botswana’s main airport, Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, is located 11km north of Gaborone. Although it's well served with flights from Jo’burg and Harare, it’s seldom used by tourists as an entry point into the country.
The national carrier is Air Botswana, which flies routes within Southern Africa. Air Botswana has offices in Gaborone, Francistown, Maun, Kasane and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe). It’s generally cheaper to book Air Botswana tickets online than through one of its offices.
Departure tax is included in the price of a ticket.
Botswana has a well-developed road network with easy access from neighbouring countries. All borders are open daily. It is advisable to try to reach the crossings as early in the day as possible to allow time for any potential delays. Remember also that despite the official opening hours, immigration posts at some smaller border crossings sometimes close for lunch between 12.30pm and 1.45pm. At remote border crossings on the Botswanan side, you may need to get your visa at the nearest police station in lieu of an immigration post.
There are five border crossings between Botswana and Namibia:
Gcangwa–Tsumkwe Little-used crossing along a 4WD-only track close to Botswana’s Tsodilo Hills.
Kasane–Mpalila Island Crossing this border is only possible for guests who have prebooked accommodation at upmarket lodges on the island.
Mamuno Remote but busy crossing on the road between Ghanzi and Windhoek.
Mohembo Connects Shakawe, Maun and the Okavango Panhandle with northeastern Namibia.
Ngoma Bridge East of Kasane, connecting to Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.
Gaborone is only 280km as the crow flies from Jo’burg along a good road link.
There are 14 border crossings between South Africa and Botswana. Five of these provide access of sorts from the South African side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, five are handy for Gaborone, and the remaining four are good for eastern Botswana and the Tuli Block.
The major crossings:
Bokspits The best South African access to the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park.
Martin’s Drift, Zanzibar, Platjan & Pont Drift Eastern Botswana and the Tuli Block from the Northern Transvaal.
Pioneer Gate Connects Gaborone (via Lobatse and Zeerust) with Jo’burg.
Ramatlabama Connects Gaborone with Mafikeng.
Tlokweng Connects Gaborone and Jo’burg via the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa.
Botswana and Zambia share one of the world’s shortest international borders: about 750m across the Zambezi River. The only way across the river is by ferry from Kazungula.
At the time of writing there was no cross-border public transport. A combi from Kasane to the border crossing at Kazungula should cost no more than P50. Once there, you’ll need to complete the formalities and take the ferry on foot. There is no regular public transport from the Zambian side of the river, although there is one combi that goes to Dambwa, 3km west of Livingstone. If you don’t have a vehicle, ask for a lift to Livingstone, Lusaka or points beyond at the ferry terminal or on the ferry itself.
Visas into Zambia cost US$50 per person for most nationalities. You'll also have to pay the Zambian road toll (US$48), carbon tax (ZMW150) and third-party vehicle insurance (ZMW487, valid for one month and payable even if you already have insurance) if you are taking a vehicle into Zambia.
If you're heading to Liuwa National Park and other places in Zambia's far west, consider crossing into Namibia at Ngoma and driving around 70km to the Namibia–Zambia border at Katima Mulilo – although it involves an extra crossing, the roads are much better on the Zambian side.
There are three land border crossings between Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Kazungula The main crossing point from Kasane to Victoria Falls. A temporary import permit for a vehicle to enter Botswana is US$30, payable at the Kazungula border in pula, US$ cash, ZAR or credit card.
Pandamatenga A little-used backroads crossing off the road between Kasane and Nata.
Ramokgweban–Plumtree Connects Francistown with Bulawayo and Harare.
The public-transport options between the two countries are few. Going to Namibia, one option is to catch the daily combi (minibus) from Ghanzi to Mamuno (three hours) and then to cross the border on foot, bearing in mind that this crossing is about 1km long. You will then have to hitch a ride from the Namibian side at least to Gobabis, where you can catch a train or other transport to Windhoek. It’s time-consuming and unreliable at best.
Tok Tokkie Shuttle makes the 12-hour Windhoek–Gaborone run, departing Windhoek at 6pm on Wednesday and Friday, and from Gaborone at 1pm on Thursday and Saturday. One-way fares cost N$500 and there's free wi-fi and air-con on board.
Intercape Mainliner runs a service from Jo’burg to Gaborone (from SAR420, 6½ hours, one daily); while you need to get off the bus to sort out any necessary visa formalities, you’ll rarely be held up for too long at the border. From Gaborone, the Intercape Mainliner runs from the petrol station beside the Mall and tickets should be booked a week or so in advance; this can be done online.
The Mahube Express runs twice-daily services from Gaborone to Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport, leaving the Square Mart close to the city centre at 7am and 2pm. Tickets cost P300.
You can also travel between South Africa and Botswana by combi. From the far (back) end of the bus station in Gaborone, combis leave when full to a number of South African destinations, including Jo’burg (P310/R4100, six to seven hours). Be warned that you’ll be dropped in Jo’burg’s Park Station, which is not a safe place to linger. Combis also travel from Selebi-Phikwe to the border at Martin’s Drift (P52, two hours).
Public transport between the two countries bears South African number plates and/or signs on the door marked ‘ZA Cross Border Transport’.
Incredibly, there is no public transport between Kasane, the gateway to one of Botswana’s major attractions (Chobe National Park), and Victoria Falls. Other than hitching, the only cross-border options are the ‘tourist shuttle’ minibuses that take about one hour and can be arranged through most hotels, camps and tour operators in Kasane. There is little or no coordination between combi companies in either town, so combis often return from Victoria Falls to Kasane empty. Most combis won’t leave Kasane unless they have at least two passengers.
Some hotels and lodges in Kasane also offer private transfers to Livingstone/Victoria Falls (from P1450, two hours). They usually pick up booked passengers from their hotels at around 10am.
From the Zimbabwean side of the border, try Backpackers Bazaar in Victoria Falls. Some hotels and hostels in Zimbabwe will arrange for your transport from the border, but you need to contact them beforehand.
Elsewhere, buses leave early to mid-afternoon from the bus station in Francistown bound for Bulawayo (P80, two hours) and Harare (P150, five hours). For anywhere else in western Zimbabwe, get a connection in Bulawayo.
Car & Motorcycle
Drivers crossing the border at Mohembo must secure an entry permit for Mahango Game Reserve. This is free if you’re transiting, or N$100 per person per day plus N$50 per vehicle per day if you want to drive around the reserve (which is possible in a 2WD).
From Divundu, turn west towards Rundu and then southwest for Windhoek, or east towards Katima Mulilo (Namibia), Kasane (Botswana) and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), or take the ferry to Zambia.
Most border crossings are clearly marked, but it is vital to note that some crossings over the Limpopo and Molopo Rivers (the latter is in Botswana’s south) are drifts (river fords) that cannot be crossed by 2WD in wet weather. In times of very high water, these crossings may be closed to all traffic.
The ferry from Kazungula, the only way across the Zambezi River, normally operates from 6am to 6pm daily.
If you’re driving, ferry costs depend on which ferry you catch. The Botswana-registered ferry costs P100 for Botswana-registered vehicles, and P250 for foreign vehicles. The Zambian-run ferry charges ZMK150 per vehicle.