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.
In order to enter Botswana and Zimbabwe (and South Africa on the tour extension), U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry. We recommend having at least three blank passport pages for entry stamps. U.S. and Canadian passport holders must obtain a visa in order to enter Zimbabwe. You may choose to obtain your individual visa by purchasing it on arrival at the airport. You may also purchase your visa in advance by applying directly to the Zimbabwean consulate or by using a visa provider, such as our partner company, VisaCentral. Please note: if you would like to visit both sides of Victoria Falls, you will need to purchase a multiple-entry visa to cross the bridge to Zambia and then re-enter Zimbabwe. If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each destination country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements. Botswana requires all visitors to pay a $30 USD tourism levy upon entry. This fee can be paid in cash or by credit card at any airport or border post. All minors traveling through Botswana border posts are required to have a valid passport and a certified copy of an unabridged birth certificate. In the event that one parent is not present, the minor is required to have an affidavit consenting travel from that parent. An affidavit will not be required if the missing parent's name does not appear on the birth certificate. Please note: If the minor is traveling through to South Africa on the tour extension, the documents they provided for the port of entry to Botswana will cover them going through the ports of entry to South Africa.
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. Chartered flights on small aircraft from Chobe to the Okavango Delta and from the Okavango Delta to Maun are included in the price of your tour. During your safari, you’ll travel in open air 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.
Loose-fitting, layered clothing that can accommodate varying temperatures will be most comfortable. Quick-dry material is best for hot days outside and a warmer layer may be needed for chilly evenings and early mornings. For game drives, wear muted colors, as bright clothing may scare animals away. Comfortable closed-toes shoes, such as sneakers or lightweight hiking boots, are best for walking during the day. Sun protection is very important. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face and the back of your neck from the sun. Occasional rain showers are common during certain seasons, so lightweight rainwear may be necessary depending on the timing of your trip. Insect repellent, binoculars and a flashlight are highly recommended.
Zimbabwe operates on 220 volts and uses a Type I plug with three large, flat pins. Botswana uses 230 volts and uses a plug Type G plug (with three large, flat pins) and a Type M plug (with two small, round pins and one larger round pin). South Africa operates on 220–230 volts and uses a Type M plug with two small round pins and one larger round pin. We recommend packing a universal adapter, as well as a voltage converter if you plan on using your own hairdryer or other device without a built-in converter. Not all of the hotels on this tour will have air conditioning. Your hotels may provide hairdryers, irons and other small appliances. However, these amenities cannot be guaranteed.
At least 60 days prior to departure, check with your doctor or healthcare provider for the latest updates and entry requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov. Local governments may require proof of a yellow fever vaccination (often referred to as a yellow card ) or a statement of medical exemption from the vaccine. This is only required of travelers arriving from a country with a risk of yellow fever virus transmission (Please note: This does not include the U.S. or Canada). Visit cdc.gov/yellowfever for more information.
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
- If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour and any possible delays encountered.
- If you have dietary restrictions and/or food allergies please notify us at least 30 days prior to your departure.
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.
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.
Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, though some charges may apply. There is no Wi-Fi on any of the motor coaches. Please contact your mobile service provider for information on roaming charges.
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.