Additional Information About Travel to Botswana/Zimbabwe
TippingAt the conclusion of your tour, it is customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. Your WEST tour coordinator will collect the gratuity at any point during the tour (many travelers like to pay ahead of time to get it out of the way). Although not required, your driver and tour director work hard to ensure an unforgettable experience, and deserve to be compensated accordingly. We recommend tipping the equivalency of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalency of $2USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
If you’re a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you’ll need a passport to enter Zimbabwe and Botswana. Make sure that your passport has an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of your return home and at least two blank stamp pages (one page for each country). A visa is required for U.S. and Canadian citizens to enter Zimbabwe. You’ll have the option to purchase your visa when you arrive at the airport, but we recommend obtaining it in advance using VisaCentral. If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, contact the consulates of Zimbabwe and Botswana for your entry requirements.
The flights for tours beginning or ending in Botswana will arrive or depart from Victoria Falls or Maun. These flights will route through South Africa. You’ll take a small, chartered aircraft to get in and out of the Okavango Delta. Before boarding, you may be weighed along with your luggage. This is necessary to determine a seating arrangement that properly distributes weight throughout the aircraft. As a result of these restrictions, travel companions may be required to fly separately. During your safari, you’ll travel in openair safari vehicles, motorized boats and traditional canoes. Transfers between parks are long and cross bumpy terrain, so we recommend bringing a small pillow to ease the ride.
Safari luggage restrictions are strict and strongly enforced. Due to limited space in the vehicles and chartered aircrafts on your tour, it’s essential that your luggage meet the following requirements:
- You must pack in a soft, flexible duffel bag (absolutely no wheeled or hard suitcases are permitted)
- Your bags can be no larger than 10” W by 12” H by 24” L
- The total weight of your baggage cannot exceed 44 lbs (this includes your camera equipment/hand-luggage)
Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs. For details, please contact your airline.
Since you’ll spend a lot of time outdoors, we recommend packing lightweight cotton clothing that can be layered as temperatures change throughout the day. For game drives, we recommend muted colors, as bright clothing can scare animals away. You should also bring comfortable shoes that don’t expose the skin, such as sneakers or lightweight hiking boots, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. As you’re preparing to go, make sure you label your baggage and pack any valuables, medications and documents in your carry-on luggage.
You’ll find that most cuisine in your game lodges reflects the region’s British colonial influence. In many areas of Botswana and Zimbabwe, you may find locals indulging in porridge for breakfast and pausing for afternoon tea. In addition to porridge and maize-based dishes, local staples include game meats, particularly beef and goat, as well as many different types of fish and fresh varieties of melon.
Before traveling to Africa, it is important that you check with your
healthcare provider to determine what immunizations are recommended for
you. Upon arrival, you may be asked to present a valid International
Certificate of Vaccination (“yellow card”) or statement of medical
exemption regarding the yellow fever vaccination. Your healthcare
provider can advise you about receiving the yellow fever vaccination
and/or any additional recommended immunizations, including malaria
medications as some areas in Africa still carry malaria.
In order for you to stay healthy throughout your tour, we recommend the following:
- Drink bottled water. Refrain from drinking tap water, including when brushing your teeth.
- Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
- Bring a small first aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication and any prescription medications.
The currency you’ll be using in Botswana is the Botswanan pula, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. In Zimbabwe, it’s recommended that you use U.S. dollars or South African rand. Full banking services are available in major towns only, but ATMs are becoming increasingly prevalent. We recommend that you carry a little local cash and U.S. dollars for small purchases, such as souvenirs in local markets. (Please make sure that you bring U.S. dollars printed in 2004 or later.) Most major American credit cards are accepted at hotels and restaurants (Visa is the most widely accepted). We suggest that you inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges and freeze your account purchases.
You’ll have the opportunity to shop for handicrafts and souvenirs at outdoor markets, small shops, tribal roadside stalls and some lodges. Prices in Botswana and Zimbabwe are almost always negotiable, providing an excellent way to meet the local people.
Items to Trade or Donate
Many Africans are fond of North American goods, and travelers often bring token items to offer as gifts or to use for bartering for souvenirs. Inexpensive items include: tee shirts, baseball caps, pens, cosmetics and toiletries. Offering African children candy and gum is somewhat controversial because the availability of dental care may be limited. Instead, offer children’s books in English or crayons. Note that the Rose of Charity community visit occurs prior to any internal flights and therefore any gifts or donations will not be subject to the stricter luggage restrictions.
Zimbabwe operates on 220 volts, while Botswana uses 230 volts.
Botswana and Zimbabwe are two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or nine hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). When it’s noon in California, it’s 9 pm in Victoria Falls.