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Is it possible to travel Botswana on a Backpacker's Budget?

Updated: 3 days ago

In this travel guide for Botswana, I will tell you everything you need to know to backpack through Botswana on a low budget, with a sample itinerary full of ideas for fun and cheap things to do in Botswana.



CONTENTS




 


About Botswana


Botswana is boujee.


In fact, it's so boujee that some people say it's not possible to travel to Botswana on a low budget at all.


Botswana markets itself as a luxury safari destination, with package holidays sometimes costing tens of thousands of pounds. Supposedly this is to prevent mass tourism which is 'great for wildlife'.


I personally think it would be great for wildlife if they stopped the prolific poaching and trophy hunting, rather than deterring the backpacking community, but hey, that's just me.


Botswana is easy.


The official language is English, it's the safest country in Africa, and the currency is the pretty solid Pula. At the time of writing £1 is 17 Pula.



A Lilac-Breasted Roller
A Lilac-Breasted Roller

 


Why did we go to Botswana?


Being 15 months into our year-long trip around the world (yes, we kept extending) – Joe and I were in a position where we had to be careful with our money, so we did not plan on visiting Botswana at all.


The plan was to spend 10 days in Zambia – and then nip through the Caprivi strip into Namibia. However, after spending a weekend with the locals in Livingstone we learned that the road network through Botswana would get us to Windhoek in Namibia quicker, and so we re-routed our plans like we often do (stay flexible, fellow travellers.)


We decided to spend a grand total of 6 nights and 7 days in Botswana, and with some careful planning we discovered that YES, it is possible to travel to Botswana on a Backpacker's budget. Here's how...



Joe waiting for a combi with all of our stuff
Patience is key when backpacking in Africa!

 

Not sure what to pack for a backpacking trip across Africa? check out my article@



 

Our Botswana Itinerary


Kasane – 2 Nights

Nata – 2 Nights

Maun – 2 Nights


 


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Getting to Kasane (Botswana) from Zambia


Our new friend Bridget from Chipigo Cheese in Livingstone gave us a lift to the Zambia-Botswana Kazungula Border Post. This drive took about 45 minutes from Livingstone and could easily be hitch-hiked.


The crossing was super smooth, stamp in, stamp out, no visa is required for UK citizens to enter Botswana. They did confiscate all of our fruit and veg though, which was a massive bummer as we had just done a food shop at a big market in Livingstone.


The town of Kasane is just on the other side of the border, we actually got picked up from the immigration office by our guest house owner for free! This is very helpful indeed when trying to travel Botswana on a budget!



 


Where we Stayed in Kasane


We stayed at Sunshine Vibe which I highly recommend. As they are not in the town centre they offer a free shuttle service to and from the border, the bus station, and the supermarket. The rooms have AC, and Dan, the owner, is extreeeemely hospitable. This may have been our favourite guest house in all of our African travels.


The price is 400 Pula (£25) per night, including breakfast and the complimentary ferrying to and fro.



Your Cheap Activity in Kasane


A half-day game drive or boat safari in Chobe National Park - organised by Dan from Sunshine Vibe, is 450 Pula (£27) per person including the Chobe Park fee, which if you ask me is an absolute bargain.



An elephant having a drink in a river in Botswana
Botswana is elephant land

 


Getting from Kasane to Nata


Dan the man will drop you off at the mini-bus station, where a bus leaves Kasane every hour for Francistown - stopping at Nata on the way.


Mini-buses or Combis in Botswana are of a different sort. They are never overloaded, so you always get one seat per bum, which is a rare treat! The prices are pinned on the window too, so there is no way you can be overcharged. The price for the 4-hour journey from Kasane to Nata is 112 Pula per person (£7).


The drive from Kasane to Nata is full of elephants - we saw at least 7 different herds along the roadside, it's basically like going on safari!



 


Where we Stayed in Nata


In Nata, we stayed at the wonderful Eselbe Backpackers. This rustic camp had amazing vibes, really lovely staff, and lots of friendly dogs! There is a very well-equipped kitchen, a cute bar and a braai area. This was again, one of our favourite camps in all of Africa, and we were really grateful to have a budget option amongst all of the luxury lodges in this area.


We paid 125 Pula (£7.50) per person per night to camp at Eselbe Backpackers with our own tent.


We use the Robens Boulder 3 tent and we love it! It is super-easy to assemble, reliable in strong wind and heavy rain, and only weighs 3kg!



Your Cheap Activity in Nata


Eselbe backpackers actually have four canoes that you can use free of charge - to paddle up the river to go birding. They get the occasional hippo but no crocs, so it's quite safe.


You can also visit the local Salt Pan at sunset and the Bird Sanctuary (seasonal), which Rupert from Eselbe can arrange for you for 350 Pula (£21) per person.



The driving range at Eselbe Camp
The driving range at Eselbe Camp

 


Getting from Nata to Maun


Rupert gave us a lift to the mini-bus station in Nata free of charge, these free shuttle services are invaluable when trying to backpack through Botswana on a budget - every little helps!


Mini-buses are not super-frequent in Botswana; we waited about an hour to get a Combi that was scheduled for 9:30 am (we had no idea of the timings, we only found out when we arrived). We paid 105 Pula (£6) each for the 4-hour journey from Nata to Maun, which was quite comfortable, but sadly no elephants.



 


Where we Stayed in Maun


We actually stayed in this Airbnb in Maun, but we booked it offline, using a contact number we were sent by a fellow backpacker.


As the house was not booked, the owner, Bev, let us stay at a discounted rate. The place was really lovely, and we even had the luxury of Netflix for 2 nights!


We had to take a taxi from Maun bus station to the address for 60 Pula (£4).



Your Cheap(ish) Activity in Maun


Maun is the gateway to the Okavango Delta - a myriad of waterways created by hippos, which makes for a really scenic and unique ecosystem.


You need a 4x4 to reach the Okavango Delta from Maun, and if you're not in a position to drive, getting there is the expensive part of this itinerary. The drive is roughly 1.5 hours, and it will set you back $70 (USD) per person.  You can book directly with this tour guide: Jones +26776025090. if you can figure out a cheaper way to do this journey, please let me know.


Most tour guides drop off at the same point and then use the same Mokoro guides, but they keep a lot of the money for themselves. If you want your money to go directly to the community, book your Mokoro tour with Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community Trust (+267 686 5210, not on WhatsApp). Their office is in Maun (3F6R+JJ6, Mathiba I St, Maun, Botswana).


They charge 600 Pula per person ($45) (in 2023*) for the park entry fees and the Mokoro tour, and that money goes directly to the community.


*I am waiting to hear back from them about their 2024 prices, I will keep this post updated.



 


Getting from Maun to the Namibia Border


We planned to get a mini-bus to Ghanzi, and then take a shared taxi to the border.


We started by getting Bev to arrange a taxi pick-up at 6 am, to take us to Maun bus station for 60 Pula (£4). When we arrived there we realised that there are only 2 buses a day from Maun to Ghanzi, one at 5:30 am and one at 1:30 pm. Damn.


The taxi driver suggested we get the 7 am bus to Sehithwa and then hitchhike from there. Which is what we did.


We paid 70 Pula (£5) each for the bus to Sehithwa which took about an hour and dropped us off at a crossroads in the Kalahari desert, basically in the middle of nowhere. There were 4 other local people all alighting to hitchhike to Ghanzi as well. While this seemed promising, it turned out to be very detrimental to us...


With cars only passing once every 15 minutes or so - us being 7 people meant that it would take a while for us to get a ride, especially when the local people basically shoved us out of the way to jump into any cars that stopped (even if it was us who flagged them down).


Lo and behold some time later it's just me and Joe left, too polite for our own good.


Joe getting a little bit tired of the lack of passing traffic
Joe getting a little bit tired of the lack of passing traffic

After 2 hours standing on this dusty corner, our spirits were fading, and just as we were starting to crisp up* and more hitch-hikers were beginning to arrive, a trucker pulled over and saved the day. We jumped in immediately in Botswanian fashion and thanked our lucky stars when Carlos the driver told us not only was he going to Ghanzi, he was going all the way to Namibia!


*This sunblock is probably the only thing that saved us from getting severe burns from being stranded in the Kalahari Desert in the middle of the day for 2 hours. It is the only sun protection that doesn't make me sweat and it is in solid form so ideal for hand luggage-only backpackers. It can be really difficult to find sun cream in Botswana. I LOVE IT.


We rode with Carlos for the next 5 hours, and said goodbye at the border, giving him all of our leftover Pula as a thanks (I think it was about 300, but it's best to negotiate a hitch-hiking fee as soon as you get in the vehicle). Truckers are your best bet in catching a ride as picking up hitchhikers gives them a bit of pocket money on top of their salaries.


At the Namibia Border, we crossed very quickly on foot (UK citizens do not need a visa for Namibia for 90 days. They WILL ask you how long you plan to stay, and they WILL ONLY write the visa for that amount of time, so just ask for the max, even if you only intend to stay less).


A 10-minute walk along the Trans-Kalahari Highway on the Namibian side brings you to East Gate Rest Camp - a fantastic place to rest your head for the night!



Aimee after a successful day of hitch-hiking the Trans-Kalahari Highway
Aimee after a successful day of hitch-hiking the Trans-Kalahari Highway

 


So is it possible to travel Botswana on a backpacker's budget? You decide...



7 Day/6 Night Botswana Budget for Two People



  • Zambia border to Kasane transport for 2: FREE

  • Kasane Accommodation 2 x Nights: £50

  • Kasane Activity for 2 (Chobe Safari): £60


  • Bus Kasane to Nata for 2: £14

  • Nata Accommodation 2 x Nights: £30

  • Nata Activity for 2 (Canoeing, Salt Pans and Bird Sanctuary): £42


  • Bus Nata to Maun for 2: £12

  • Airbnb in Maun 2 x Nights: £50

  • Taxis in Maun x 2: £8

  • Maun Activity for 2 (Mokoro in Okavango Delta): £180


  • Bus Maun to Sehithwa for 2: £10

  • Hitch-hiking Sehithwa to Namibia for 2: £18 ('donation')


  • We self-catered the entire time and spent around £30 on groceries and water.


Total budget for 7 Days in Botswana for 2 people (with lots of activities): £504


This is quite a bit more than our normal backpacker's budget (we aim for £300 a week in Africa) – but for Botswana, I think it's quite impressive! What do you think?!


(As a solo traveller, with half the fee for activities and transport but the same price for accommodation, this budget lowers to about £350).



 


I know a week is probably not enough time to really enjoy what Botswana has to offer, but for a surprise add-on, I think it's not bad at all.


Thank you for reading my post: Is it possible to travel Botswana on a Backpacker's Budget?


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Happy Travels!

xx



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I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

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