Africa

16-day trip guide to Botswana and Victoria Falls for free

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Day 1: Arrival to Johannesburg (South Africa)
Day 2: Excursion to Johannesburg and Soweto (South Africa)
Day 3: Route from Johannesburg to Serowe (Botswana)
Day 4: Moremi gorge and Khama Rhino Sanctuary (Botswana)
Day 5: Tracking rhinos and route from Serowe to Maun (Botswana)
Day 6: On horseback and flying over the Okavango Delta (Botswana)
Day 7: In mokoro through the Okavango Delta (Botswana)
Day 8: Relax in the Okavango Delta (Botswana)
Day 9: Route by car from Maun to Kasane and cruise on the Chobe River (Botswana)
Day 10: Livingstone Island and the Devil's Pool (Zambia)
Day 10 (in the afternoon): Romanticism on the Zambeze River (Zambia)
Day 11: Victoria Falls Tour (Zambia)
Day 12: Safari by Chobe NP (Botswana)
Day 13: Snakes and canoe on the Chobe River (Botswana)
Day 14: By car from Kasane to the border of Grobler's Bridge (South Africa)
Day 15: Relax at Sun City Resort (South Africa)
Day 16: Crocodiles in Sun City and back home (South Africa)

To fly to southern Africa, the easiest and most economical thing is to travel to Johannesburg. The flight cost us € 500 with AirFrance. From there you can take flights to Maun, Gaborone or Kasane with Air Botswana, but prices skyrocketed and logistics became very complicated. So we flew to Johannesburg and rented a car at the airport.

Vaccines for traveling to Botswana

In the vaccination center they told us that we needed the basic vaccines: tetanus, hepatitis A + B and typhus. When visiting the Victoria Falls in the part of Zambia it is necessary to have the yellow fever vaccine and the card that proves it, since Zambia has a border with Angola and in that country there are cases of yellow fever. It is very important to take the card because, otherwise, when you return to South Africa, you may have problems to enter the country.

In Botswana there is a risk of malaria both in the Okavango Delta and in Kasane, and also in Victoria Falls. That is why it is advisable to take malaria prophylaxis, use extra-strong Relec repellent, monitor with bites during sunrise and sunset, and impregnate clothes with permethrin. In the Uganda travel guide we already explain how to impregnate clothes with permethrin, so we recommend you take a look.

Soweto

Entry visa to Botswana, South Africa and Zambia

With the Spanish passport no visa is paid to enter South Africa or Botswana. The visa to enter Zambia to see Victoria Falls can be obtained at the same border. The one-day transit visa costs $ 20 (if you don't spend the night in the country), the entry visa costs $ 50 and the multi-entry visa $ 80. To move from Zambia to Zimbabwe to see the falls from the other side you can do two things: when entering Zambia, ask for a multi-entry visa (easy version) or pay two transit visas if you do not spend the night in the country. The visa must be paid in US dollars in both Zambia and Zimbabwe, so you have to have the necessary dollars before going to the border.

If you drive, it is necessary that you get your international driving license in the General direction of traffic. It costs € 10 and they process it on the spot. In Barcelona you have to make an appointment to send it to you. In Botswana there are road controls between provinces and they will ask for it.

We enter Botswana through Martin's Drift.

For more information on how to cross the border from South Africa to Botswana, do not stop reading the article: Travel to Botswana by car. Route from Johannesburg to Serowe by car, since our experience was a bit rough.

When you return from Botswana to South Africa you have to stop at the border border post. We crossed by Martin's Drift. There you first have to go to "Customs" to register the departure car and give them a piece of paper. Then you have to go to "Immigration" to have your Botswana exit passport sealed, you get in the car with the paper and leave the border post. Upon entering South Africa they will give you a piece of paper with the license plate number, park and go to the building to process the entry into the country. First you go to Immigration to have your entry passport sealed in the country and then you go to "Customs" to seal the paper with the registration you receive when you enter. In Immigration you may be asked for the yellow fever vaccination card if you have visited Zambia. With the passport and the paper with the stamp you get in the car and go out. Before departure you will be asked for the paper with the stamp and it is possible to look at the trunk, although this was not our case.

Kazungula Ferry, border point of Botswana and Zambia

Rent a car in South Africa

We rent a medium-sized economy car (like a Golf) in AVIS through Twitter (@avis_spain). The 17 days of rent came out for € 360. On the other hand, many travelers, such as Sele, rent a 4 × 4 to go fully to their own. It is quite expensive, about € 100 a day, but it comes to mind if you travel with a group of several people and you are not afraid to drive on track roads. I think that to do this it is much better to have experience or better leave the subject to professionals.

How we became partners of Avis Preferred, which is free, they gave us an improvement of the category in our first rental as partners, so they gave us a Toyota Corolla, and then we verified that it was a good luck. This car has a 60-liter tank, so we never had a problem with gas supply. In addition, this Toyota has a good trunk that allowed us to store our bags without problems and load two 20-liter drums of gasoline in case we had problems with gas stations. We buy these drums in the Outdoor Warehouse, a large warehouse where you can buy all kinds of camping and safari equipment.

Our car had a fairly large trunk.

If the car is going to be taken out of the country where it has been rented, in our case from South Africa to Botswana, it is necessary to have a permit from the rental agency. We previously managed everything with Avis and upon arriving at the airport we already had all the papers and permits to be able to take the car out of the country.

Important: ask for the invoice when you return the car in South Africa, because in the airport terminal you can ask that you return taxes paid. In fact, this also applies to hotels and any activity you do in South Africa where you are issued an invoice.

What it is like to drive through South Africa

In the tickets of each day of the route of the trip we have given you more details of the itinerary that we follow, but in general driving through Botswana or South Africa is no problem. The main roads are in very good condition and there is hardly any traffic. Even so, you have to be very careful with animals that you can find on the sides of the roads, especially in Botswana, so don't even think about driving at night. The sun in November rises at 5.30 am and sets at 7 pm, so it is advisable to drive during these hours. I also recommend never exceeding the maximum speed allowed. The main roads in Botswana are one lane per direction and the maximum speed can vary between 80 and 120 km / h. In populations, the maximum speed is 50 km / h. There are quite a few speed controls on the roads, so if you get a ticket, you will have to pay it at the next police station. Although better not put any.

In Botswana it is very common to find goats and donkeys on the road.

On leaving Johannesburg, you take the highway for about three hours and then take National 11 to the border point of Grobler's Bridge. There are several, but the GPS marked this as the shortest path. South African highways are fine, as are the service areas. In South Africa we pay the following tolls: 8.50 rands, 40 rands, 32 rands, and 13 rands and 10.50 when returning from Sun City Resort. For tolls it is better to carry enough cash because some highways do not accept chip credit cards. For example, when we returned from the Sun City Resort on the N4, no debit or credit card was accepted at the toll and we did not carry a rand on it. In the end, such a tail was mounted, that the woman carrying the car behind us approached and paid us the toll so that we could all pass.

Something important to keep in mind when traveling through Botswana is that you can find sections of hundreds of kilometers without any town or gas station. That is why it is important to refuel gasoline to a minimum or carry drums to go safer, and also carry plenty of water in case the flies. On the other hand, on the roads there are usually quite a few picnic areas that, although austere and basically consist of a concrete table and chairs under a tree, allow a short stop.

Rest areas in Botswana

Finally, here is a brief summary of the stops and refueling of gasoline we made during the route:

1. From Johannesburg to Serowe: we leave «Joburg» with a full tank and stop to refuel in Mokopane, South Africa. 23 liters = 295 rands.
2. From Palapye to Maun. We put gasoline in Palapye (40 liters = 395 pula) and in Mopipi (22 liters = 250 pula)
3. From Maun to Kasane. We put gasoline in Nata
4. From Kasane to the South African border at Grobler's Bridge. We fill the tank in Kasane (23 liters = 256 pula) and stop to refuel in Palapye (40 liters = 390 pula). From Grobler's Bridge to Sun City Resort we went with that gasoline. Upon arrival at the Johannesburg airport, we fill the tank with gasoline from the drums (40 liters).

Very important: in almost all gas stations you have to pay in cash. Luckily, in some there are nearby ATMs, but if you do not carry enough money ask before refueling.

By the way, in the Outdoor warehouse We also bought a Garmin GPS for 1600 rands that included maps of the countries of South Africa. To drive through Botswana is not very necessary, since the main towns are very well signposted, but in Johannesburg it is advisable because it is a mega-city with a mess of streets and highways. In addition, the GPS helped us to calculate the times of the routes when planning the travel days since the times indicated by Google Maps are not at all reliable.

Upgrade: We recommend that instead of buying a GPS you get the Sygic App. It is a GPS that works on your mobile or tablet without having an internet connection and works great. In 2014 we bought it with the world maps for € 59 for the trip to the west coast of the United States And it has been one of the best investments.

To plan the trip I recommend you consult this interactive map of Botswana Tourism.

Safari in the Khama Rhino

Currency and money during the trip

The official currency in South Africa is the rand, in Botswana they are the pula, in Zambia the kwacha and in Zimbabwe the American dollar. In Botswana you can pay almost everything by credit card and in the largest cities there are ATMs. In the tourist areas there are also currency exchange offices, but this one was so disastrous that we ended up paying almost everything with a card and taking money from the ATMs. The only places where you cannot pay by card are some gas stations and in small shops.

When to go to Botswana

The best time of the year is undoubtedly the dry season. The dry season is from May to October, but perhaps the best months to visit the country are between July and September. In October it is very hot, as in November, when the rains begin. We traveled in November, we found that it was very hot and from the 12th it started to rain and that made us some plans because the rains make many dirt roads impracticable due to the mud.

In mokoro through the Okavango Delta

JOHANNESBURG

Where to stay in Johannesburg

We spend enough time searching for accommodation online. I do not recommend staying in the city of Johannesburg because there are unsafe areas. The best part is Sandton, where there are many hotels and a shopping center with restaurants. In the end we stayed at the Thatchfoord Lodge, a B&B located in a very quiet residential area on the outskirts of Sandton. We booked the suite for € 107 a night.

Thatchfoord Lodge

Johannesburg and Soweto excursion

To get to know Soweto and Johannesburg better we hire an organized tour in Viator. We came to find the hotel and the tour was very interesting, especially the part of Soweto. You can read more about this excursion in the article Excursion to Soweto and Johannesburg

Entrance to Soweto

Cross the border at Grobler's Bridge / Martin's Drift

The schedule for this border crossing is from 6 am to 10 pm, although there are other points that close before, so it is important to know well what time they close.

When you leave South Africa, first you have to go through the “customs-nothing to declare” window and then through the “Immigration” window, so that you can get the exit stamp from the country. Once with the passport sealed you get into the car and stand in a covered shed. There they will ask the driver to get off and show the driving license and the papers of the car. Officers will look at the chassis number and that everything is in order before taking the car out of the country. Once checked, you get in the car and leave South Africa across the bridge.

Leaving South Africa through Groblersburg.

Once in Botswana, you park your car and go to the building to complete the paperwork. You go to immigration and there you have to register the car, then you give the passports and they will give you the entry stamp. The next step is to go to the last window at all where it says «Cashers». There you have to pay third-party insurance for the car and traffic permits. The price is 140 pula, which you probably won't have, or 190 rands. Remember to have that amount of money in rands to cross the border. To bad, there is a place of change in which they will change what you need with a bad rate.

Once you have paid everything, you can already get in the car and proceed to leave the border. Before they stop you to ask what you carry in the trunk and, according to the mood of the officer, it will make it open or not.

Elephants in the Elephant Sands

SEROWE AND THE KHAMA RHINO

We made the first stop in Botswana in the town of Serowe to visit the Khama Rhino Sanctuary and the Moremi gorge or Moremi gorge.

Where to stay in Serowe

We stay at the Serowe Hotel because the Khama Rhino I only had one night available. The hotel is fine, although the price is a bit disproportionate to what it offers. It has a restaurant that serves meals from morning to night that is not bad. The room price is 750 pula with breakfast and wifi. It also has a small pool.

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