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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Botswana

Botswana - Consular Information Sheet
June 28, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Botswana is a southern African country with a stable democratic government and a growing economy. Facilities for tourism are widely available.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. U.S. citizens are permitted stays up to 90 days without a visa. For additional information on entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Botswana, 1531 - 1533 New Hampshire Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 244-4990/1, fax (202) 244-4164 or the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Botswana to the United Nations, 103 E. 37th St., New York, NY, telephone (212) 889-2277, fax (212) 725-5061. There are also honorary consuls in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Botswanan Embassy or Consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Civil unrest and disorder are rare. In the wake of the August 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and the ongoing worldwide threat to U.S. Government facilities, the American Embassy in Gaborone has increased its security precautions and counter-terrorism measures.

CRIME: Violent crime remains relatively infrequent in Gaborone, the capital. Residential burglaries and car theft, however, are increasing. Prudent security measures, such as alarms and immobilizers, may deter such crimes. In addition, a spate of carjackings at gunpoint in the capital during the first half of 2001 prompted the Embassy to warn American citizens of the need for increased vigilance while driving in urban areas, particularly after dark. Petty street crime and crimes of opportunity, primarily the theft of money and personal property, remain the most common forms of crime in Botswana. Visitors to Gaborone, as to any foreign city, should avoid walking at night in unfamiliar areas.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information on personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Gaborone and Francistown are adequate, but available facilities in other areas are limited. For advanced care Americans often choose to travel to South Africa. Most prescription drugs are available.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747), fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Botswana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Traffic circulates on the left in Botswana, as elsewhere in the region. While the roads in major population centers in Botswana are generally good, travel by automobile outside of large towns may be dangerous. The combination of long, tedious stretches of two-lane highways, high speed limits, and poor lighting make driving at night on rural highways particularly hazardous. Free-range domestic animals and large numbers of pedestrians and hitchhikers in the roadways make fatal accidents a frequent occurrence. There has also been a spate of carjackings in Gaborone, requiring drivers to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times while getting into and out of vehicles in the city.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Botswana driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Botswana national tourist organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.botswanatourism.org.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Botswana, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Botswana's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Botswana's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Botswana are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Botswana's laws mandate harsh punishments for unlawful dealing and possession of cannabis (known locally as motokwane or dagga). Botswana also has a well-publicized policy of zero tolerance for corruption, and any requests for the payment of bribes should be reported to the appropriate authorities.

ANIMAL TROPHIES: Botswana strictly enforces its law protecting animal trophies. Under this law, it is not permitted to possess or remove from Botswana, without a government permit or a receipt from a licensed shop, any living or dead animal or trophy from an animal. A trophy is any horn, ivory, tooth, tusk, bone, claw, hoof, hide, skin, hair, feather, egg, or other durable portion of an animal, whether the item has been processed or not. Curio shops and vendors throughout the country sell items such as animal skins, plain and decorated ostrich eggs and egg shells, and carved bones or teeth of animals protected by this law. All of the souvenirs, although widely sold, are subject to the national trophy law. Travelers departing the country with a trophy must have a receipt from a store licensed to sell such items. Elephant hair, ivory and rhinoceros horn products obtained in Botswana may not be removed from the country under any circumstances. Trophies may not be taken from the wild. Violators are subject to arrest and may face a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a substantial fine.

DANGERS POSED BY WILD ANIMALS: Tourists should bear in mind that, even in the most serene settings, the animals are wild and can pose a threat to life and safety. Tourists should use common sense when approaching wildlife, observe all local or park regulations, and heed all instructions given by tour guides. In addition, tourists are advised that potentially dangerous areas sometimes lack fences and warning signs. Exercise appropriate caution in all unfamiliar surroundings.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Botswana are encouraged to register at the Consular section of the U.S. Embassy Botswana and obtain updated information on travel and security within Botswana. The U.S. Embassy is located in Gaborone on Embassy Drive, Government Enclave. The mailing address is P.O. Box 90, Gaborone, telephone (267) 353-982; fax (267) 356-947, and the after-hours emergency telephone (267) 357-111.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 18, 2001, to add information on carjackings in the paragraphs on Crime and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

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