Moving to Botswana
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A comprehensive guide to moving to Botswana
Botswana is a spot of pristine natural beauty, almost unique in our overpopulated world. As such, moving to Botswana can mean on the one hand getting in touch to the wild flora and fauna, on the other experiencing the city life of the capital. Our guide introduces you to the land and its people, visa regulations, and more.
Relocating to Botswana
This mid-sized country is one of the most sparsely-populated in the world, with just over two million inhabitants. Roughly 10% of the population resides in or around the capital of Gaborone and the nation is divided into nine districts of varying sizes. There are 15 councils, including the nine district councils and six extra town or city specific councils.
The Land and Its People
Botswana is a land-locked country in southern Africa with an estimated population of just over two million. The country is a similar size to France, shares borders with South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the capital city is Gaborone. Since 2000, there has been an increase in the number of Zimbabwean refugees crossing the border into Botswana both legally and illegally, with the number living in the country now estimated as being in the tens of thousands.
Broadly speaking, Botswana is flat, with the Kalahari Desert making up roughly 70% of its territory. The Okavango Delta in the northwest of the country draws a wide variety of wildlife when it floods during the months from June to August, making Botswana one of the most popular safari destinations in the whole of Africa. Expats have more of a chance of seeing an African elephant here than anywhere else in the world, plus free-roaming big cats, rhinos, antelopes, wild dogs and various exotic birds.
Tswana is the dominant ethnic group making up 79% of the population, and there are a number of native tribes. The official language is English, with Setswana being widely spoken. Expats moving to Botswana should be able to get by with English alone.
Visas for Botswana
Citizens of Commonwealth countries, with some exceptions, do not require a visa to enter Botswana for short visits (up to 3 months). Expatriates from countries who have signed a Visa Abolition Agreement with Botswana are also exempt from requiring a tourist visa. A list of these countries can be found on the Botswana Government website. This list includes Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
Expats who are planning to work in Botswana and/or want to stay for more than three months, on the other hand, do require a visa to enter Botswana. They can apply at diplomatic missions in 20 countries around the world and will require documentation including bank statements, an application form, any work or residency permit, birth certificate, and any relevant business documents. Visa application forms are downloadable from the website.
Getting to Botswana
Being landlocked, overland travel to Botswana is relatively easy. From Namibia, expats traveling by car can use the Trans-Kalahari Highway, which crosses the border at Mamuno-Buitepos, the Ngoma Bridge, or the crossing at Mohembo and Mahango. Travelers coming from South Africa usually pass through the Ramatlabama, Tlokweng or Pioneer border crossings.
Foreigners entering from Zambia have to use the Kazungula ferry to cross the border in the middle of the Zambezi River, which happens to be the shortest international border in the world. Expats entering from Zimbabwe typically use border crossings at Ramokgwebana-Plumtree and Kazungula. The Intercape coach company is the largest of its kind in southern Africa and also has routes into Gaborone. Anyone traveling overland into Botswana may be asked to walk through a disinfectant solution to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease.
The main airport in Botswana is the Sir Sereste Khama International Airport, which is just outside of Gaborone, and most arrivals are from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Harare, and Nairobi. The national flag carrier, Air Botswana, operates domestic flights from here. There is a smaller international airport in Maun, which attracts a more touristic clientele.