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What You Need To Know about Gaborone

Gaborone is the capital and largest city of Botswana. It is situated between Kgale and Oodi Hills, on the Notwane River in the south-eastern corner of Botswana, and 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the South African border. The city is served by the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. It is an administrative district in its own right, but is the capital of the surrounding South-East District.  Locals often refer to the city as Gabs.

The centre of the city is a long strip of commercial businesses, called the Mall, with a semicircle-shaped area of government offices to the west of the Mall. The city is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, and this has created problems with housing and illegal settlements.
Area: 65.25 mi²
Population: 231,626(2011)

Currency

The Botswana Pula is the currency of Botswana. The currency code for Pula is BWP, and the currency symbol is P.

Climate

  • Botswana’s climate is semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months. Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and highly regional.
  • There are on average seventy-four days per year with temperatures above 32 °C (90 °F). There are on average 196 days per year with temperatures above 26 °C (79 °F). There are on average fifty-one days per year with temperatures below 7 °C (45 °F). There is on average one day per year with temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F). The average dew point peaks around January and February at 16 °C (61 °F) and hits the lowest levels in July at 2 °C (36 °F). The average dew point in a given year is 10 °C (50 °F).

Language

The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is widely spoken across the country, Kalanga and Basarwa is also spoken in Gaborone.

Safety and security

Botswana is a very safe, politically stable country. If you are travelling on an organized trip and staying at lodges and camps, safety problems are very rare. Like anywhere in the world, most crime occurs in the cities and safety precautions are advised. Overall, Botswana is so safe that the greatest danger posed to travelers on safari is its wildlife.

Religion

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaborone, which is under the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pretoria, is located in the city. The diocese contains the southern half of Botswana, and the bishop for the diocese is Bishop Valentine Tsamma Seane who was consecrated on 25 April 2009. The previous bishop was Boniface Tshosa Setlalekgosi. The mother church for the diocese is the Christ the King Cathedral.

There is a Hindu temple in Gaborone, nicknamed Hindu Hall, as well as a gurudwara and several mosques. Construction started in May 2001 on a Venkateswara temple in Gaborone West for a local community of Telugu people by the Botswana Hindu Charities Trust and was complete in September 2007. The Indian High Commissioner, and the former President Festus Mogae visited the temple upon its completion.

Getting Around

Travellers not used to left side of the road driving should exercise caution while driving and crossing the street, as most of Southern Africa (Gaborone, Botswana included) drives on the left.

By (shared) 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 BWP4.10. 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. 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.

By combi: Combis are white vans that are like mini-buses. Combis cost BWP3.50. There are different lines which are painted on the front of the combi, 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.