Travelling to Botwana and South Africa

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  • Travelling to Botwana and South Africa
  • pingu66

    I have to travel to Botswana and South Africa at very short notice for about two weeks.

    I know that with the wealth of information here someone can give me good advice. I will not have time for any inoculations and have never been outside of Europe.

    I guess the two fundamental questions are first personal safety and equal first personal health? I am an idiot going without inoculations? What personal, sensible safety precautions should I take?

    Hoping that the personal safety just comes down to don’t be a dick and all will be ok. On the health side I have absolutely no idea.


    For the north of Botswana you may need anti-malarials. I found personal safety in Botswana not a problem. Last summer I drove right round and into the Kalahari, picking up hitchhikers etc etc and had no problems. South Africa, I suspect, requires a bit more caution.


    Been to Botswana a long time ago and felt very safe. There’s a chap on here who lives there I believe.

    S.A – no experience but as above sounds more of a concern.


    Never felt threatened in SA. There are rough bits to be avoided like everywhere and the locals make it sound like a war zone but I’ve always been happy there.

    Anti malarials should cover it but check the .gov website for health and safety advice.

    It depends where you are staying in SA really. Speak to your hotel reception/locals you are doing business with, who should be able to advise you. Don’t go wandering off at night though.

    Roads are dangerous. Drink driving is rife.

    Safe sex if you are tempted – there is a fair bit of the old HIV/AIDS around.


    In the unlikely event you’re in the area, check out:

    The bushmen there were fascinating and charming. Bushmen in those awful resettlement compounds were a different story.


    Botswana was very safe when I was there. Felt fine during the day. Didn’t feel apprehensive about driving around Gabarone at night but I didn’t search out any dark corners for a midnight stroll either.

    South Africa was different. Daytime in most downtowns was fine but as soon as the sun fell it was a very different and less friendly atmosphere. IMVHO you’d want to be somewhere safe (your accommodation or a safe restaurant/bar/complex with not dodgy taxis available to get you home) when it starts to get dark. With the exception of a small bit of Cape Town IMVHE South African towns aren’t that nice anyway – but the countryside is stunning. Everyone was very nice with the exception of one cab driver between two tourist hotspots (and even that didn’t feel dangerous, just a bit of a ripoff). You also need to drive very defensively because you don’t want to get in a smash with a minibus rammed with people (because you might get in a pagga with the survivors).

    In other words, the usual “dont be a dick” approach isn’t quite enough in Safrica.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise

    As konabunny alluded to, it depends where you’re going. They are both big countries. Imagine asking the question “is it safe to travel in the UK?” The tourist area of Cape Town during the day is a very different kettle of fish to the rougher areas of Jo’Burg for example, much like a leafy village in Hertfordshire is a very different proposition to <insert rough UK location>

    It’s 16 years since I was in either, so who knows how things have changed. At the time I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable, threatened or unsafe.


    hopefully knott will chime in …..

    user name knottinbotswana

    is he like brant and stoner – say knott three times and he will appear ?


    Regarding innoculations, Fit for travel indicates that the same immunisations are recommended as for the UK, so you should already be covered. If you are going to particularly remote areas or if you know you will be living in rough conditions or drinking non-bottled water then you could ask your GP or somewhere like the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (you used to be able to ask for advice over the phone) if it is worth getting a crash course for Hep A and any of the “other vaccines to consider”.

    If the maps (SA, Botswana) indicates there is high-risk of malaria, then take prophylaxis. You will be able to buy them here over the counter with a script from your GP, or online within about 7 days, or once you get there, but make sure you get the right ones for the area(s) you are visiting.

    Regarding security, I only have first hand experience of travelling through the Western Cape. But we had absolutely no issues with driving, we just didn’t drive at night and we didn’t drive and stop in rougher areas. I know that Johannesburg has a bad reputation, but why would you be going anywhere near the rough areas? If work necessitates visiting a rough area, I would expect your work to provide the appropriate level of security.

    Enjoy the experience. We loved the place and are going back in August to see more of SA.

    Unfortunately, violent crime is not restricted to ‘rough areas’.


    Botswana is one of the safest, least corrupt and best organised countries in Africa and you will feel very safe there. Don’t get casual though because petty crime does exist and thieves can be very enterprising (strolling into your room when they think you are in the shower and then pretending they’ve come to borrow some toothpaste).

    South Africa is perfectly safe as long as you take advice and stay away from the wrong areas. In both countries you will be amazed at the polite and charming welcome and the genuine warmth towards visitors. Take time to chat with locals, you will find them sweet, charming people with their own concerns and problems.

    One BIG point though: you MUST MUST MUST get your yellow fever jab, not because of the risk of yellow fever but because airport health officials will ask you for the certificate and will take cash from you if you haven’t got it. Don’t hesitate, ring your GP now and arrange to get it done. It doesn’t cause a fever and you WILL be asked to show the certificate. They are relying on you to be ill-informed for their cash earnings.

    On malaria, nobody I know who lives in Africa takes tablets, they just avoid getting bitten and use a repellent (Boots own is fine) when going out at night. I have been flamed on here for giving this advice but the standard drugs can have some odd side effects. You may be forced to take them anyway as a requirement of your medical insurance. If you are staying in air conditioned hotels in cities the risk is extremely low but if you are in a tented camp in the bush you will get bitten.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise

    standard drugs can have some odd side effects

    FWIW I took Lariam and had no odd side effects


    i take malarone when in Eg – but thats falcipium malaria …. you dont want that.

    it doesnt affect me , but it sent my colleague loopy. – company rules say we take some form of prophilaxis. We do spend all our days working outside though.

    i wouldnt like to be a rotator taking them day in day out for months as thats not going to be good for your liver.


    I would take antimalarials if your stay is short term and you’re in malaria zones.
    I grew up in Africa in Zimbabwe we only ever used them in the lowveld. When I was a lot younger we lived in Nigeria and didn’t bother. I did get it then and can still remember the 5 days with a double dose of injections to kill the parasites.


    You wouldn’t be advised to take mefloquine (tradename Larium) at very short notice, because it needs time to develop (as well as time to ensure you don’t get any of the psychological side-effects). You can start doxycycline or atovaquone/proguanil (tradename Malarone) 1-2 days before travelling.

    Regarding yellow fever, I don’t believe South Africa or Botswana are on the “at risk” list. So as long as you don’t travel into those countries from a country at risk, or have a stamp in your passport from an at risk country, you should be fine. If you have travelled to an at risk area (central / east Africa or South America for example) then you would similarly struggle to get back in the UK without the vaccination certificate.

    I was in Gabarone recently – felt fine and safe. I did not need or use any medicines. But check if you are going up N. Like SA, I imagine there are malaria zones.

    As above, SA v different kettle of fish especially driving. Need to be far more aware and vigilent. I was almost mugged walking to the waterfront in Cape Town at midday!!! CT is just as risky as J’burg IME and according to the stats but the image is presented differently. Still a great place to visit. Use a bit of common, and have fun!!


    All thanks for the feedback. I agree they are both big countries and you can get problems anywhere etc. Exactly what I needed a little reassurance. Same in most places, don’t be stupid and you should be safe having travelled all over Europe and first African adventure had no idea.

    Probably would decline if it was DRC or Somalia. Will actually be in Joburg and collegues will be sorting accom etc although will have some down time, same in Gabarone. Gona try and sort flights so I at least have a day or two to sight see.


    Never been to Botswana but lived and worked in several other African countries. A good friends boyfriend works and lives in Gaborone, Botswana is one of the few good countries but still common sense is recommended.

    South Africa though is a different package I have studied there, tourist visited and worked there been there at least twenty times in the last ten years.

    Its a beautifull place but you need to take extra care especially if you are not so travel wise as ou seem to be.

    First advice avoid going somewhere after dark and don’t drive unless taken by someone you can trust i.e. your local boss or so not somone you had a chat with earlier. Lots depends on where you are worst are Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. Often the town center is the worst and a no go even in day. Inform yourself well from a reliable source. Don’t take valuables don’t take yous passport just a copy. Lock doors(car house) lock windows

    Watch your stuff watch your luggage. Pack nothing of an value in your luggage rather overload your hand luggage. Lock your suitcase and take a hardcase one. Johannesburg internationl airport is one of the worst thieving pits in the world.

    Don’t get we wrong I love South Africa in general and enjoy going there. Though some times it does go wrong and I would say I am relatively streetwise but might get a bit complacent.

    If the place looks a bit off turn around good places and bad places can be really close to each other so an uninformed stroll around your hotel can be a bad idea.

    I once woke up with a knife against my troath over there and escaped at least a dozen attacks while out cycling over there it doesn’t stop me it just makes me very vigilent and makes sure I check before I go somewhere. Also make sure info is recent a good place two years ago can be a shithole now.

    Diseases not that many vaccins there are a lot worse places to be. South African cuisine is actually really good and not expensive. Though as said above Hiv and other sexual transmittable diseases are rife statistics are scary and most likely still quite below reality. In africa always wear a rain jacket even if it ain’t raining and even better abstain.

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