Images of the vast Kalahari Desert may come to mind when thinking of moving to Botswana. While this semi-arid sandy savannah spans around 70 percent of the country, Botswana is far from entirely dry and dusty. The landlocked country in Southern Africa boasts myriad remarkable landscapes, great biodiversity, and plenty of natural wealth and resources.
From the Okavango Delta, which is home to lions, hippos, elephants and much besides, to the massive salt flats of the Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana promises unique and beautiful experiences aplenty.
The country’s abundant wildlife sees expats enjoying weekend breaks on safari, such as in Chobe National Park. Adventurous tourists, expats and locals alike can enjoy hiking and off-road trails and overland trips. The attractions in neighbouring Namibia and South Africa are also just a short flight away.
Tourism is, no doubt, a major contributor to the country’s economy. Botswana has emerged as an upper-middle-income country. It boasts political stability and a competitive banking system. Alongside its thriving tourism industry, the country is rich in natural resources – diamonds, in particular.
Indeed, diamonds have attracted foreigners from within the Southern African region and further afield. Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, prospecting for diamonds, gold, uranium and copper. Thanks to this, the job market is growing. Employment opportunities across a range of sectors are available.
Expats relocating to Botswana for work, whatever the industry, won’t need to worry too much about culture shock. The people are warm – as is the climate. Batswana (citizens of Botswana) are known for their hospitality and new arrivals will feel welcome.
English and Setswana are the predominant languages, and few expats encounter major language barriers. Still, it’s recommended to learn some basic phrases of Setswana. This can be especially helpful if working in the mining and tourism industries or the more remote and rural parts of the country.
To access remote areas or even get around in larger towns or cities, most expats will drive a car. Transport options are limited, and this is an additional cost to consider.
Fortunately, expats provided with a decent salary and employment package find general expenses to be relatively affordable. Botswana consistently ranks as having a low cost of living, but expats are advised to factor in potential healthcare costs and, for families with children, school fees.
The education system in Botswana has improved in recent years. Expats can enrol their children in local schools. However, the standards of these are lower outside of the main cities. Most expats choose to send their children to a private and international school where tuition and fees are high.
Additionally, expats are encouraged to explore the healthcare options available in the country before moving. Despite improvements in and an expansion of medical facilities, public healthcare remains under resourced.
Both public and private hospitals and clinics are available in the main cities and towns. However, serious medical emergencies may require evacuation to South Africa. We recommend expats have adequate medical insurance to cover healthcare costs.
Whatever the reason for relocating, expats will face both pros and cons. What cannot be denied, is that moving to Botswana presents a new life, one in which expats may choose to settle permanently.
Population: About 2.3 million
Capital city: Gaborone
Neighbouring countries: South Africa to the south, Namibia to the west, Zambia to the north and Zimbabwe to the east.
Geography: Botswana, which is the world's 48th largest country, is predominantly flat and dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers about 70 percent of its land surface. The Okavango Delta in the northwest of the country is one of the world's largest inland deltas. The salt pans of Makgadikgadi also lie in the north.
Political system: Parliamentary republic
Major religion: Christianity
Main languages: English and Setswana
Money: The Pula (BWP) is divided into 100 thebe. ATMs and card facilities are widely available in all major urban centres.
Tipping: Tipping is not compulsory, but is appreciated.
Time: GMT +2
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Plugs with three round pins are used (type D) as well as three rectangular pins (type G)
Internet domain: .bw
International dialing code: +267
Emergency contacts: 997 (ambulance) and 999 (police)
Transport and driving: Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road. Public transport in Botswana is unreliable and most expats choose to drive themselves or hire a local driver.
Are you an expat living in Botswana?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Botswana. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
GeoBlue is one of the best international health insurance plans for US expats abroad or internationals residing in the USA. The GeoBlue Xplorer plan includes worldwide coverage and great customer service with access to a premium international network of hospitals and doctors including the Blue Cross Blue Shield network in the USA.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.