Border Crossing in Botswana: think about it when planning
Border crossing planning when driving through Africa. Planning for Botswana turned out to be more complicated than first expected (though entirely worth the effort). I pretty much planned a route on Google Map to get from A (South Africa) to B (Namibia) crossing Botswana on the way. To discover, A to B contained a myriad of unthought-of issues!
First, there are the border points—opening and closing times. Documents required. No meat, or fruit at specific points. Then you have to consider the road conditions. Or indeed if there are no roads at all. The time of the year and seasonal conditions appeared to dictate a lot. There was one situation that meant my chosen night stop left us in the middle of lion country – in a tent. Another involved, driving across a salt pan with no roads, and no GPS, described as especially disorienting in August. We would be there in August.
In my mind there is adventurous, this entire trip is adventurous, and then there is careless. Some of the above constituted unplanned and unprepared, and therefore careless. So, I started again by first looking at where the appropriate border crossing points were.
Border Crossing Botswana: from South Africa
Subsequently, I duly prepared to cross the Pioneer Gate border crossing in South Africa and take the short drive to our first stop at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve near to Gaborone.
Now, sometimes in life, I think you imagine scenarios in your mind that create problems – which do not need to be there. Fear is the same. It is all in the head. We had worked ourselves into a bit of needless stress, having read reviews about traumatic African border crossings. However, in the end, it was all very straightforward. Or at least it should have been. So here is what happened. Read it as a lesson on what not to do, and you will breeze over the border no problem at all.
Border Crossing: do as I say, not as I did
Number one. As you approach said border crossing, act like the normal rational human being you usually are. Do NOT join the massive queue of stationary lorries parked up by the side of the road. Why? Why would you want to do that? Simply proceed in the empty lane marked, cars. You are, most probably, going to be a car and not a lorry. This will save you being waved at in a ridiculous fashion by the border police. Sigh.
Next, go ahead to the LARGE building, clearly positioned to the left, to go and do the necessary border crossing stuff. Do NOT decide you will bypass all of this by going right, and simply attempt to cross the border without stopping. That is, wrong. No. You will then find yourself in embarrassing situation number two, being directed to the numpty escapee car park and having to take a walk of shame back to the LARGE official building.
“Yes, officer, we did see it, no we don’t know why we decided not to go to it.”
Once inside the building, it is again very straightforward. They are not interested in your paraphernalia. Simply hand over your passports, have them stamped, and be on your way.
Hello, it’s us again.
Now, being in the car park of people who can’t read signs, you just have to approach the border guards by foot waving to them you have now done the right thing and are about to now get on your way. They will laugh at you and wave back at you, signalling you can now proceed to the next border point in Botswana. All very simple really. If, you just follow the clearly marked signs. They are, clearly, marked.
Border Crossing Botswana: you know you have arrived
Here you find, mmm, a large shed? A small outhouse? A kind of hut, shall we say? Again, do not be intimidated into doing silly things. You have only driven a few meters; you are not now in some dreaded land where common sense has left you.
Don’t be deterred by the posters warning about malaria and Ebola; stay calm, simply follow the rules.
Please pick up your papers, fill them in, hand them to the person on the desk, smile, agree, and move down the line. Appreciate that everyone is trying to get across that border and body space is temporarily a thing of the past. Just keep smiling.
When finally you get to the stern woman at the end, who does want all your paraphernalia, give-it-to-her. Do not stare her in the eye suspiciously keeping a tight grip of your documents, hand-them-over. She will tut, shake her head officiously, take your money and wave you on your way.
Hooray, you’ve made it through. Incidentally, we could pay here using a credit card. There was a ‘bureau de change outside’, but I would be astonished if it has functioned in any way for many years. I may be wrong. We were also told beforehand that they would accept Pula or Rand, and this appeared to be the case when we were there.
Border crossing: pick up supplies at the other side
Although no one asked or checked we had read, you can’t take meat or dairy over the border. So, saving any fuss, we didn’t buy any and waited to get into Botswana before stocking up on fresh supplies. We went to a Pick N Pay supermarket in Lobatse, just over the border. This was well stocked with pretty much recognisable things, and we spent about £30 on food, alcohol and some washing supplies for the next week or so. They also accepted payment by credit card.
Goodbye, Botswana: hello Namibia
Leaving was an equally simple affair. We crossed at the northern border crossing point of Mahango into Namibia. Again, just follow the simple signs and maybe take a pen. Pens seem to be scarce. There was a lot of pen searching time wasted. Also, know which border you will leave from at your next destination. We stood like a pair of lemons staring at each other when asked this question. Ummm “one that goes into South Africa?” did not seem to be a suitable response. I had also read it is a good idea to pick up a couple of spare forms to fill in ahead of leaving at the next border crossing point to save you time, which I did.
This is a fantastic border crossing point. As soon as you cross the border, you are straight into the Mahango national park. We saw as many animals here as we had seen throughout other game drives. We also stopped at the park reception as you leave and paid to take a self game drive before leaving for Rundu. This is well worth it if you have the time. Rundu was our next port of call before travelling the short distance to our first stop in Namibia in Hakusembe on the Angolan border, fantastic.