Botswana’s best bargains are handicrafts, and you’ll find a variety. Look especially for hand-woven baskets made from the fronds of the real fan palm, Hyphaene petersiana, and the many different handicrafts of the San, like jewellery made from ostrich eggshells.
There’s usually a divide between the simpler outlets, perhaps direct from the producers, and the more stylish, well-located shops which often have the best pieces, but invariably charge the highest prices.
If you’re starting or ending your trip in Livingstone, then don’t miss the curio stalls near the border post to Victoria Falls. This is one of the region’s best places for carvings (though expect to bargain hard here). Other places to include would be the Babomoso Basketry Co-op in Shorobe, for excellent baskets direct from the makers, and the smaller shop in Gumare. Ghanzi has a superb shop, Ghanzi Craft, for bushman crafts – although it was closed for some time, it is highly likely that it will reopen.
There are plenty of shops at the more stylish end of the spectrum, especially in Maun, and many lodges have small shops selling curios. (Ask them if the staff or a local village makes these – and if they do, then buy some to support the initiative!)
In the main towns, notably Maun, Kasane and Francistown, there are large supermarkets with extensive ranges of high-quality, mostly imported foods. Of these, the Shoprite store in Maun (part of a large southern African chain) is probably the best example in the area. Here you’ll find most everyday foodstuffs that you’d want, and a lot more besides. If they have weaknesses compared to the supermarket back home, it’s probably in the fresh food and vegetable section, where the logistics of transport can often make for a smaller selection than you might expect.
It’s usually best to stock up with food at these main centres, as away from them the range will become sparser. Expect villages to have just a bottle stall, selling the most popular cool drinks (often this excludes ‘diet’ drinks), and a small shop selling bread, staples like rice, and perhaps a few tinned and packet foods. Don’t expect anything refrigerated.
Mon-Fri 0800-1800; Sat 0830-1300.
Mon-Fri 0900-1530; Sat 0815-1045. Most banks work these core hours with occasional regional differences.
Pula (P) = 100 thebe. Notes are in denominations of P100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of P5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10 and 5 thebe.
Various gold and silver coins were issued to mark the country’s 10th anniversary of independence, and are still legal tender.
Money should be exchanged in banks at market rates. There are four main commercial banks in the country (Barclays Bank of Botswana, First National Bank, Stanbic Bank Botswana and Standard Charted Bank) with branches in major towns and villages. Owing to limited facilities in small villages, it is advisable to change money at the airport or in major towns, where credit card cash advances may also be available. There are also Exchange Bureaus at major border posts.
Credit and debit cards
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.
To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. Traveller’s cheques are accepted in large cities but with a high surcharge.
There are no restrictions on the import of local or foreign currencies, provided declared on arrival. Export of local currency is limited to P50 and foreign currencies up to amount declared on arrival.