Botswana is one of the most expensive destinations to visit in Africa, but it’s on every safari lover’s bucket list for a reason: its vast expanses of wilderness, unfenced national parks and rich wildlife.
The country has adopted a conservation strategy based on high-end, low-volume tourism, which means it is free of crowds and mass resorts. There’s no shortage of very expensive lodges with butlers to pull your bath, tasting menus to rival Michelin-starred restaurants, and well-stocked wine cellars that wouldn’t seem out of place in London or New York. But with wise planning, Botswana doesn’t have to go broke. Here are our top tips for stretching your budget further in Botswana.
Avoid peak season and highest prices
Between June and September is peak season in Botswana, and deals are rarer than black rhino sightings, so consider traveling during the shoulder season – around April, May, October and November – when you can catch a great deal on accommodation and 4×4 rental. The weather can be unpredictable as the seasons change from wet to dry and back again, but Botswana has no shortage of wildlife action, especially around permanent water sources.
The green season (aka the rainy season) from December to March is even cheaper, as some lodges reduce their rates by up to 40% – although some close completely, especially during the wetter months of January and February. Some roads and tracks can become difficult to navigate, but the rains bring lush landscapes, and areas like Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta are teeming with so many wildlife that no matter how period of the year. go.
Go on a safari drive
If you’re confident behind the wheel of a 4×4, a game drive is one of the most economical ways to explore: a week’s rental can cost less than a night in a luxury lodge. As a bonus, you can go from the desert to the delta at your own pace. Want to spend a few hours watching a playful pride of lions or watching over a wild dog den? No problem.
But like a good scout, you have to be prepared. Plan your route (no driving after dark) and organize your camping reservations and national park permits in advance, download an offline map such as Tracks4Africa and consider renting a satellite phone for any off-network emergencies.
Hire the vehicle from a company such as Avis or pay a little extra for a fully equipped 4×4, complete with roof top tent and cooking equipment, from a safari drive specialist such as Driving Botswana, who can also organize your itinerary and book accommodation for you. The only additional costs will be fuel, food, drinking water and firewood, which you can get cheaply in Kasane or Maun.
Join a small-group mobile safari
Join a small-group 4×4 tour and you’ll set up camp in different bush locations, eat under the stars, and leave no footprints. You’ll be surrounded by wilderness from the moment you open your tent, and you’ll travel with a top-notch guide who will make it easy to spot wildlife.
If you’re happy to be active – pitching and tearing down your tent, washing dishes and helping to tear down and set up camp – a semi-participatory safari is the cheapest option. You will share your two-person tent, bush toilet and bucket shower; all you need is a sleeping bag.
Alternatively, you can upgrade to a fully-equipped mobile safari – again a fraction of the price of a high-end lodge – where your walk-in tent comes complete with a camp bed and private bathroom. Examine Safaris in Letaka‘ Northern Highlights 10 Day All Inclusive Safari (from US$3445 pp).
Hop on an overland truck
Group safaris come in all shapes and sizes, and if you’re rich in time and money, landing in a purpose-built truck is an age-old way to explore the African continent, from Cairo to Cape Town and all points in between.
With companies such as Take-away tours and Intrepid, Botswana is usually paired with Victoria Falls, Namibia and South Africa for 10+ day itineraries. These options are not only cheaper than a small-group tour, with campsites, meals, and some excursions included, but they’re also a great way to meet fellow travellers, especially if you’re visiting Botswana solo.
Choose a drive-in rather than a fly-in camp
Due to Botswana’s size and the remoteness of some of its parks and reserves, some camps are only accessible by low-budget charter flights, so choose protected areas that are easily accessible by road, such as the game reserve of Moremi, rich in fauna. or Nxai Pans National Park.
Focus on a national park or reserve
You don’t need to dive into different national parks and reserves to experience a range of habitats and wildlife, and focusing on one area reduces the cost of vehicle hire or transfers.
Decide on your priorities: if you fancy seeing elephants, head to Chobe. If you are desperate to see African wild dogs, try Moremi Game Reserve. If you want to mingle with meerkats, make it Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Swap a luxury lodge for a tent
Wild camping is illegal in Botswana, but the country has no shortage of brilliant campsites. If you want to be immersed in nature, opt for an unfenced area of a national park or reserve and expect plenty of wild visitors. Some sites have a water tap and fireplace, and all have an ablution area with shared bathrooms and showers. You should reserve a space in advance, especially from June to September, and set up camp before it gets dark.
Or you can opt for a livelier place to pitch your tent, like Planet Baobab, and enjoy the open-air restaurant and bar and smart facilities, all dominated by sculptural baobab trees.
Look for budget lodges in five-star locations
If you would be happier with four strong walls and a roof, you can still save money on your trip to Botswana. Savvy travelers should look for cheaper accommodations in the same vicinity as super luxurious safari lodges: budget digs may not have it all, but they’ll share the same scenery and encounters wild.
Planet Baobab is the cheaper cousin of the famous Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi Pans. If you don’t want to camp, you can book a Rondavelle style room. Game drives will allow you to get up close to lions, meerkats and the dazzling migration of desert-adapted zebras.
Settle into the urban jungle
It may not be as atmospheric as wild camping, but base yourself in Maun – the gateway to the Okavango Delta, Nxai Pans and the Central Kalahari – or Kasane, a few pebbles from the edge of the Chobe River, will give you access to more wallet. local accommodations, groceries and restaurants. Use the money you save to splurge on day safaris, sunset cruises, and even scenic flights.
Bring a bottle of filtered water
With Botswana’s mix of heat and humidity, it’s important to stay hydrated, so save money on bottled water and reduce plastic pollution by investing in a water filter bottle like LifeStraw Go, which you can fill from almost any water source.
Daily costs in Botswana
- 4×4 rental per day: from 100 US$
- Camping in national parks and reserves: from 18 US$ per person
- Camping in a campsite: around 30 US$ per tent
- Double room in camping (gîte): from 50 US$
- Double room in a mid-range lodge (half board): from 100 US$ per person
- Double room in a 4-star lodge (all inclusive): from US$500 per person
- Suite in a luxury lodge (all inclusive): from 1000 US$ per person
- Scheduled flight from Maun to Kasane: around US$40
- Panoramic flight in the Okavango Delta (45 minutes): approximately 100 US$
- Canoe trip in the Okavango Delta: around 100 US$
- Intercity bus: from US$25
- Dinner for two in a budget restaurant: around 10 to 20 USD
- Dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant: around US$25-30