Gaborone

Gaborone is the capital of Botswana and located in the south of the country, near the border to South Africa.

Understand

Downtown Gaborone

From a dusty one horse town in the 1960s Gaborone is now a substantial city of 400,000. Generally it is a clean, safe and functioning city that is spreading ever further outwards in to a suburban sprawl that today measures about 15km from east to west.

There is a definite city centre based around the train station and the government enclave of Khama Crescent. However numerous shopping malls are dotted all over the city diluting the prominence of the downtown area.

Gaborone's nomenclature confuses most new arrivals. Different parts of town are called Blocks, Extensions, Phases etc. and there can be multiple names for the same place. Below is a rough guide:

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 31 30 29 26 23 21 21 24 27 29 30 30
Nightly lows (°C) 22 21 19 16 12 7 7 11 15 18 20 21
Precipitation (mm) 97 84 71 41 13 5 3 5 15 43 66 89

Source:w:Gaborone#Climate

Knight Frank, a real estate agent with an office near the Shell Garage on the Main Mall, has a useful map of the city.

Get in

Customs is very slow, but easy to get through (as appears to be the case for most of Africa). Have an address on hand for where you will be staying and they hardly give you a hassle.

By plane

By bus

There is a daily bus that connects Pretoria, South Africa with Gaborone, Botswana. The bus is operated by Intercape and the tickets can be booked online at or purchased at one of their offices. The bus departs from Pretoria Station on Paul Kruger & Scheiding Street at 13:15 and arrives at the Kudu Shell Service Station in Gaborone at 21:10 (an 8 hrs bus ride). This bus makes a brief stop at the Johannesburg bus station to pick up passengers. As of June 2011 the bus fare was R 195.00 rand per person (about $29 USD).

The bus is pretty nice: tourist class, reclining seats, and a working bathroom. However, be prepared for the “Christian materials on-board.” Basically, all the movies that are played on the Intercape bus have overly religious messages in them.

The border crossing between South Africa and Botswana is pretty straight forward. The passengers get off the bus (without the luggage, just the documentation) at the South African immigration check point to get their exit stamps, then they walk over to the Botswana side to get their entrance visa stamps. The bus attendant stays with the passengers for the process of the border crossing, so the bus is not going to leave anyone behind.

By train

Rail services will be revived in March 2016 with a daily overnight train linking Gaborone with Francistown as well as Lobatse, near the border with South Africa.

Get around

By taxi

Public taxis are generally small white cars and can be identified by their blue license plates. These cars travel designated routes, generally going to areas/neighbourhoods that combi routes do not. The fare for a taxi is P3.50. Since taxis can only hold a maximum of 5 passengers they also tend to be quicker than a combi in completing their route. You can catch a taxi at many combi stops and ask them to drop you off anywhere along the route. For route information simply ask the driver of the taxi. If you need to go to a particular destination not on the taxi route then ask for a "special", see cab section below.

By Cab

A cab is a private taxi or a "special" which takes you directly from your origin to destination. This may be a public taxi with a blue licence plate or a privately run cab. Generally you must request a cab by phone. There are several cab companies in Gabs and many display contact information on the cab itself. You can also hail public taxis on the road and request a special. To give directions, its usually better to give Plot numbers or easily identified places rather than street names (which aren't commonly used). If a driver gives you a good rate, ask him for his cell phone number and remind him of the place where you are staying. Using one driver the whole time you are in Gaborone can end up saving you money. Don't worry if you hail a cab with someone inside. Offer to split the fare for the destination and save each other some cash. Don't be afraid to try and discuss lower fares. Most trips should be P 20-30 (e.g. Main Mall to Game City is around P30).

By combi

Combis are white vans that are like mini-buses. Combis cost P 3. There are no route maps but there are different lines, so just ask the driver if that line passes where you need to go. If you know the direction you need to go, start walking there -- combis will honk at you as they are passing to let you know they're behind you.

By bus

You can get to most big cities by bus. However, do arrive at the bus station early, as the buses can fill up very quickly, and sometimes just leave as soon as they are full. Bring water, as the buses are often not air conditioned, and if you do not manage to get a seat, it is likely you will have to stand until at least halfway to your destination, particularly on week-ends.

By train

The last daily passenger train service was withdrawn in April 2009.

See

Do

The village has many stories about its people, one outstanding story is of the brave woman "Bosetlha" who killed a 3m Python which had wrapped itself around her body. Though she is now old but still active, Nkuku Bosetlha confirms she got attacked by the snake on her way coming from the lands, the snake wrapped itself around her body. After unsuccessful shouts for help, she desperately fought for her life by tightly opening the python's mouth wider for approximately 30minutes until good samaritans passed by and cut the snake head with a knife.

Cinemas

Movies typically cost 40 Pula per seat (February 2012). It is assigned seating, so tell the cashier your preference when buying the ticket. Theaters usually show big-name movies (as a small theater in the US would). There are three cinemas in Gabs, one in Riverwalk Mall, one in Game City Mall and one in Masa Centre.

Game Reserves

Events

Buy

Gaborone abounds with shopping malls, and pretty much every South African chain store has at least one branch somewhere in the city. Unfortunately this crowds out local independent shops. Coupled with seemingly rampant collusion and price fixing among retailers makes Gabs a disappointing and quite expensive place to shop, despite the 12% VAT rate undercutting the 14% in South Africa.

That said there are a smattering of arts villages and local workshops that buck the trend, and a visit can make a pleasant diversion for an afternoon.

Independent art

Shopping Malls

Eat

Gaborone is not an exciting place to eat – and the city suffers more than most from South African culinary hegemony. However if you keep your expectations low there are some interesting nooks and crannies to interest your taste buds.

The restaurants below are organised by compass point from the city centre.

City Centre

North-east

North-west

South-east

They have Happy Hour from 5PM-6PM. Buy 1 get 1 free on all cocktails.

Inside Riverwalk Mall

Tlokweng

South-west

Inside Game City

Chain restaurants with multiple outlets

Groceries

Drink

Clubs

Covers range from 20 to 100 Pula. Many have dress codes. And like most places, the popular nights at each place vary. Check with local Batswana (people from Botswana) for time relevant information.

Sleep

Gaborone compares to South Africa in terms of accommodation choice and costs. There are a handful of large chain hotels costing P800+ offering conference facilities, curio shops, evening restaurants, gyms and bars - and dozens of smaller guesthouses, lodges and bed & breakfasts varying in quality, cleanliness and price. However it is difficult to go much below P400 per night for a room. For those staying for months rather than days there are a handful of relativity expensive serviced apartments, although these are often full. Finally if you have your own car and want to keep away from the city there are some good options out in the bush 15km to the south of Gabs that cost about the same as a guesthouse in town. there is now a Backpackers hostel in Gaborone.

Mid-range

Splurge

For longer stays and a Backpackers hostel If you are staying in Gabs for weeks or months the following may be of interest.

Connect

There are internet cafes all over the city, in practically every shopping centre. Prices range from P10-P20 per hour. Many cafes have memberships of 5-20 hours which provide cheaper rates. Network speeds are moderate to good. Many cafes also offer photocopying services.

Stay Safe

People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is relatively low. However the recent contrast between rich and poor has seen crime on the rise. Always be aware of your surroundings. When going out at night to a restaurant take a taxi called from your hotel. Take the mobile number of your driver and call him when you want to go home. Do not walk around at night away from places with lots of people. At night, do not walk back 5 blocks to your hotel from a pub. Do walk around during the day. Basic common sense will keep you safe from criminals. You should have a safe and pleasant trip as hundreds of thousands of other people have each year. If your staying at a hotel it is safe, beware for some residential areas affected with burglars.

Stay alert when driving in cars for smash and grabs when using mobile devices near traffic lights (talking on the phone without a handsfree kit is illegal anyways). Beware when walking at evenings/night in street corners as muggings occur, displays of wealth and property make you a target, particularly tempting objects such as mobile phones, laptops. Crowded public areas are a heaven for pick pockets. Be cautious especially if you are a woman with a handbag. Areas often affected with such crimes are near Old Naledi, Mogoditsane, Broadhurst, Phase I and II. Police are honest and helpful but sometimes can be late to respond.

When driving to rural areas be extra careful as cows and wildlife often walk in the middle of the road. Be prepared to stop for a herd of goats. Do not drive at night unless you know what you are doing. Drunk driving on weekends and holidays is common and dangerous. Drivers do not look out for or give way to pedestrians. Be very cautious when crossing any street day or night. Do not immediately get out of your car if bumped/hit from behind - drive to a public place (service station/restaurant) to inspect for damage. Do enjoy the beauty!

Police: dial 999 for the helpline or 351161 Fire Brigade: 998

Health

Gaborone Private Hospital Emergency number: 997

Bokamoso Private Hospital Tel: 369 4000

Princess Marina Hospital Tel: 362 1400

Med Rescue ambulance (+267) 3901601 Emergency number: 992 Mascom Cell phone Emergency: 147

If for you are headed to the North of Botswana like the Okavango Delta, haven't pack any anti-malaria pills with you and it is possible to get a prescription and have it filled in Gaborone. Try Capital Medical Center at the Riverwalk Shopping Center, Dr. Banu Khan(narrow glass door on the left-hand side of the Pharmacy that is right behind the stairs that go up to the second floor) for a drop-in appointment. The consultation visit to get a prescription will cost you 165.00 pula (about $23 USD). As of June 2011 the cost of an anti-malarial drug called Doxycycline was 1.00 pula per pill (about $0.15 USD) and Malarone was 44.33 pula per pill (about $6.70 USD). Tel: 370-0066/7

Cope

Consulates and Embassies

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, February 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.