Planning a road trip takes time and every aspect must be studied carefully, particularly if the journey we are talking about is in some African country; it is important not to underestimate any aspect.
How to plan and organize a road trip to South Africa and Botswana
South Africa, among all the African countries, is one of the simplest where to organize a road trip, despite this, there are many aspects that should not be underestimated, so it is fundamental to study the country and its characteristics.
Botswana is a wonderful country but, compared to South Africa, requires more attention in planning since there are remote areas where it is more difficult to penetrate and where, for example, the mobile phone has no coverage.
In both cases it is necessary to carefully study the two countries, the destinations and the attractions they offer, define an itinerary, taking into account the condition of the roads, the distances and related travel times, and define where to sleep and book in advance, especially in areas where there is little offer or where it is necessary to have a reservation to access.
Road trip to South Africa and Botswana: studying the destinations
The first thing to do is to find all the useful informationrelated to the countries you want to visit:
Useful information for organizing a trip to Botswana
Once you find all the information, you have to start studying the different destinationsto understand everything that is interesting to see; at this stage you can consult travel guides, read articles by bloggers and vertical sites, ask for information on the TripAdvisor forum or on Facebook travel groups, perhaps by selecting specific ones on a specific destination where there are people who have traveled in these places and countries.
Collecting all this information and travel inspirations is very useful as it allows you to have a more precise idea of what a country can offer and facilitates route planning.
Road trip to South Africa and Botswana: route planning
The itinerary planning phase to South Africa and Botswana is one of the most importantand it is necessary to dedicate time and energy to it.
Once the various stages of the journey and the related destinations to be visited have been decided, the itinerary must be defined.
Creating an itinerary to South Africa and Botswana is not always easy, often, especially in Botswana, the roads are unpaved, the slopes are sandy and therefore you must proceed at reduced speeds.
It is always better not to just use apps like Google Maps that have the flaw to calculate distances and travel times based on paved roads or do not have all the tracks and therefore are not enabled to show you the route.
We use Tracks4Africa, the mobile application while we are traveling and the site and the paper map when we are at home and study a path in detail; in particular the paper map indicates not only the distances between the places, but also the type of road surface and the travel time, this helps to understand the difficulty of a track and, the indication of the times is fundamental to define the various stages of a trip and the time needed to visit a national park or nature reserve.
It is important to calculate the time needed to reach your destination as it is not advisable to drive after sunset and before dawn; most of the roads have no lighting, on the road there are often animals, farmed or wild, that could suddenly cross, the roads often have holes or various obstacles and in the dark it is not easy to see them in time to avoid them.
In national parks and nature reservesit is absolutely forbidden to circulate before dawn and after sunset, therefore, also in this case, it is essential to carefully calculate the distances and travel times, taking also a margin for a possible unforeseen event, that can be a car breakdown or an exceptional sighting that requires a longer stay than expected.
Another aspect to consider when planning an itinerary to South Africa and Botswana is to check that fuel stations are available along the route, especially in the most remote areas, and also places where you can do your shopping, especially if you are camping or traveling self- catering; it is good to provide more than one solution, since it is possible, for example, that a gas station does not receive regular supplies.
We have never had problems of this kind during our trips precisely because we plan all these aspects and, in the most remote areas, we refuel several times so as to never go below the middle of the tank; we actually have two tanks on our car, that allow us an autonomy of about 1,200 km and despite this we pay a lot of attention to this aspect.
Road trip to South Africa and Botswana: where to stay and book
Where to stay in South Africa and how to book
In South Africa, at least in some areas, you can also decide not to book in advancewhere to sleep and, using some apps or going directly to a B&B or hotel, you can find accommodation quite easily; however, this is not the case for national parksbecause when registering at the entrance gate it is necessary to be holding the reservations, whether it is at the campsite or cottages, tents or other.
To evaluate where to stay in South Africa, you need to take into account different aspects, in addition to the price, to the services of the structure and the reviews of other users.
It is important to evaluate the area in which a B&B or hotel or a campsite is located, especially in larger cities, choosing the wrong neighborhood may not be a good idea; you must also check that there is a guarded car park or inside the structure for your car.
Where to stay in Botswana and how to book
In Botswana it is best to book all the accommodations and campsites in advance as there is much less availability and it is difficult, or impossible sometimes, to find where to sleep; to enter national parks and nature reserves it is necessary to have a reservation and in some places there are so few facilities that they must be booked several months in advance.
Even in Botswana it is important to evaluate the area in which the structure or the camp is located, in the cities it is better to avoid some areas, while in the rest of the country it is good to pay attention to the road that must be traveled to reach them and assess the travel times.
It is always better to read the reviews of other travelers and, in addition to evaluating the structure itself and its services, it is better to also consider other aspects such as the fact of having a generator for electricity or internal parking for the car.
It is always better to read the reviews of other travelers and, in addition to evaluating the structure itself and its services, it is better to also consider other aspects such as the fact of having a generator for electricity or an internal parking for the car.
To book the state campsites inside the parks and reserves, you need to go to one of the DWNP offices in the country, you can also contact them via email, but my experience is that they never answer, rather better to turn to a local agency that can make all the reservations, both for state camp sites and for those that have been privatized.
Road trip to South Africa and Botswana: entering national parks and reserves
Entry into national parks and nature reserves in South Africa
To enter national parks and national reserves in South Africa, it is sufficient to show up at the entrance gate, show the booking of the accommodation inside the park or declare that you want to enter only during the day, and pay the related entrance fee.
Each park or reserve has a different daily rate, it is possible to know in advance the amount by consulting the website of the Sanparksor of the single reserve, where it is also possible to book the accommodation online and prepay the admissions.
If during your trip to South Africa you intend to visit more than one national park or reserve you can consider taking the Wild Card, the duration is one year and it can be renewed even after the deadline; this card allows access to most of the natural areas of South Africa and eSwatini, the former Swaziland, without limits, it is possible to take an individual card, for couple or for the family.
We took it years ago and every time we return to South Africa we renew it because the national parks and nature reserves are many and all wonderful, so we always spend most of our journey there.
Entry into national parks and nature reserves in Botswana
To enter national parks and nature reserves in Botswanait is necessary to arrive at the entrance with the fee already paid at one of the DWNP offices, there are several on the territory, we know the following: Gaborone, Maun, Lathlekane and Kasane.
It is important to remember that these offices are open from Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 5.00pm so it is necessary to plan where and when to pay admissions; it is not possible to pay entrance fees online.
Alternatively, many local agencies also carry out this service but, as it is essential to hand in the original receipt at the entrance, the agency can send the receipt at your expense by registered mail or you will have to go to the agency's offices once you arrive in Botswana.
Once the itinerary is defined, the accommodations booked and the airline tickets have been bought, you just have to leave!