If you are visiting Botswana for the first time, best believe just like any new place you are pretty much going to experience some culture shock. Having travelled to a few SADC countries and from what I have read and seen on the media, I like to call Botswana ‘The Comfort Zone’. Botswana is literally your home away from home. Your ideal holiday destination. If you are from a busy and buzzling country, you will definitely feel what I am talking about as soon as you land in Botswana. There is absolutely no hurry in Botswana and adding the fact that we are sparsely populated, a breath of fresh air is guaranteed.
You might have read somewhere that wild animals roam freely in Africa. Well.
Here are a few interesting things to know about Botswana before your trip:
Botswana has 2 official languages. English and Setswana. Even though we have a lot of native languages amongst our different tribes, majority of Batswana speak both English and Setswana. Most written communication and official business texts in English.
Depending on the District of Botswana you will be travelling to, you might want to learn a few basics of the native language mostly spoken in the region. Batswana are very friendly and welcoming so learning some basics is an absolute Love Language, no kidding. Apart from English and Setswana, we have Sekgalagadi, Kalanga, Sesubiya, Seyei, Seherero, Sesarwa ( a collective label for different dialects spoked by The San) etc.
Pula is the Botswana Currency.1 Pula is divided into 100 Thebe. Pula means Rain whereas Thebe means shield. If you have US Dollars, UK Pounds, Euros and South African Rands you will definitely exchange without a hustle with local regulated Bureau de change. You will also find ATMs across major towns and villages so you do not need to carry large amounts of cash around.
Picture by Africa4us
Botswana has diverse cultures and a range of ethnic groups. If you are into Cultural Tourism, I’d advise you get a hold of The official Botswana Calendar of Events to guide with where and when to travel to Botswana.
Dress – We do not have extremely strict dress code regulations in Botswana but depending on occasions and specific locations you might have to abide by set rules out of respect of our Culture and Traditions. For instance, at the Kgotla. This is a traditional law court of a Botswana village. It is headed by the village chief or headman, and that’s where crucial community decisions are taken or delivered. Anyone at all has the right to air their views. At the kgotla it is totally disrespectful to interrupt while someone is sill expressing their opinion . Batswana are the biggest believers in solving conflicts through dialogue and mutual respect. Because of this tradition, Botswana has always been deemed as a Beacon of Democracy.
Picture by Son of the Soil
Food – Botswana has adapted a lot of different dishes from across the world especially from the west, but we do have a variety of our tantalizing native cuisine. It will be amazing to try something new here. But if you are a picky eater, you will sure have a lot of safer options to stick by.
Picture by Botswana Craft (Phaleche – maize meal, seswaa sa podi – goat pounded meat and morogo
Song and Dance – Batswana love to sing and dances. Chances of us singing for you as a welcome gesture to Botswana are extremely high. Just do not randomly ask people to sing for you. We love free will so we might interpret that as rudeness even if your intentions are pure.
Picture by Mophato Dance Theater
Christianity is the dominating religion in Botswana. However, we have a lot of other religions such as Islam, African Traditional Religion, Bahai Faith, Hinduism etc. We also have Irreligion. Botswana is generally an easy-going country with freedom of religious practice as long as your beliefs do not endanger anyone’s life or against humanity.
Lastly, know what you want to do and where you want to go. Here are a few suggestions:
Historical Sites – Lobatse, Botswana National Museum – Gaborone, Matsieng’s Footprints, Lovers’ Hill – Otse, Phuthadikobo Museum – Mochudi etc
Ariel view of Lobatse by Botswana Unplugged
House of the late Fish Keitseng in Lobatse, the late and former South African Preident, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s preferred refuge during the Apartheid era in South Africa. Picture by Botswana Unplugged
You might also want to look up Makgadikgadi Pans, Lekhubu Island, Goo Moremi Gorge, Tuli Block and Khama Rhino Sanctuary.
Fun Fact : Botswana’s population is approximately 2,377,781 with an area of about 581,730 km², slightly larger than France.