Having moved to Botswana twice in 5 years, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about what you need to do from your home country before your relocation. This is in order to be ready to enjoy fewer headaches once you arrive.
Many of the items on my checklist of “Things to Do Before Moving to Botswana” can be applied towards moving abroad to any country, but there are a few things specific to life here.
Navigate The Streets
While you don’t really need a GPS to get around my “second home” city of Gaborone, Botswana; you do need one for when you go on a road-trip around the country or cross borders into other countries. (However, if you have a GPS that allows you to save your location and label it, this can be particularly helpful when you’re learning your way around your new city so you can find your way back the next time).
We’ve made many a trip to Johannesburg and really appreciate having a GPS in the chaotic traffic there. Often when you are out of cell tower reception, you can’t rely on your phone’s GPS to get you to where you need to be. Nothing is worse than being lost, without phone reception, and with a crying baby/toddler or bored child in the car!
My recommendation: Garmin GPS with either Garmin City Navigator Southern Africa maps or Tracks4Africa maps loaded. Price compare the cost of purchase in your home country vs. buying in Botswana or South Africa. It may be cheaper in your home country.
Get Plugged In Locally
Once you arrive in Botswana, you’ll probably want to charge your phone, laptop, iPad or other electronic device. Many electronics are dual voltage so check the label on your device (either on the back/bottom of it or on the power cord itself).
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as purchasing just one type of plug adapter in Botswana. You’ll find the British (Type G) ‘square’ plug and the South African (Type M) ‘round’ plug outlets throughout the country, and even throughout the same house! I like a good universal adapter.
You can find these universal devices in Gaborone, but be prepared to really pay a lot for just one. I once bought one at the local Cape Union Mart for Rand 99 equivalent, while Amazon in my home country offered 3-4 of these universal adapters for the same price! Don’t forget to talk to your children about not plugging anything in unless they check with you first!
Another problem with electrics arises from expats coming from the majority of the Western Hemisphere (North & Central America, Caribbean, and half of South America to name a few). Electrics in countries there run on 110-ish volts while electric in Botswana (and much of the rest of the world) runs on 220-ish volts. So, plug in your non-dual voltage hair appliance and you’ll fry it immediately.
If you’re in love with some appliances/electrics from your home country (110v) and want to use it in Botswana (220v), then you’ll need to purchase a step-down transformer. This is a device which will transform the 220v current running from the wall outlet down to 110v.
This is particularly useful if you want to bring your favorite kitchen appliance and don’t want to re-buy the appliance in Botswana.
Medications To Stay Happy And Healthy
Once you get settled in Botswana, you may get a case of traveler’s tummy issues or come down with a common cold virus. I recommend you bring your favorite over-the-counter medications with you, so that you have something comforting and reliable when you get your first illness.
In addition to your favorite OTC’s be sure to bring a year’s supply of your prescription meds. Often the OTC and prescription medications from country to country are different. You may be able to find the same thing, but it might be called a different name than you are accustomed to. You have children to care for who depend on you to stay healthy and probably can’t afford having their parent fumbling around at the chemist/pharmacy trying to find a particular medication that no one else knows about! Give yourself a break and pack those meds; you’ll thank me later!
A few more must-haves are a region-free DVD player and a mosquito net. Botswana DVD’s may be labeled for use in a different ‘region’ than your home country and local DVD players may not play DVDs from your home country either. Save yourself the headache and the tears of your children when you can’t figure out how to get a Region 1 disc to play in a Region 2 player or vice versa. Purchase & bring a region-free DVD player and enjoy watching DVDs from all over the world when you arrive!
As for mosquitos, if your children are ‘mosquito magnets’ like mine, you’ll want a nice net for over their beds. The mosquitos are not much of a problem during the day, and malaria isn’t a concern in areas like Gaborone. However if you leave your doors or windows open, then you’ll want to make sure that they don’t get eaten up during the night.
My children tend to get giant welts after a bite, then scratch and get the bites infected or bleeding. It isn’t unusual for one of them to wake up with 10 or more bites after we’ve forgotten to use the net or don’t have one at all. So, pack the net.
Learn The Language
Finally, learn some basic Setswana before you arrive! The Batswana will love your attempt to speak their language. It will go a long way to give a smile and ‘Bua Setswana’ (speak Setswana). It shows you are willing to embrace your new culture, and it is wise to use it as a sign of respect with your elders or in business interactions.
- Sell or lease your home / Terminate lease on rental
- Prepare shipment/airline baggage
- Sell car & consider keeping some auto insurance for renting a car in your home country
- Choose a bank that has great international benefits (no ATM fees worldwide, no foreign transaction fees)
- Apply for a credit card with great international benefits (no foreign transaction fees)
- Invest in a GPS
- Get an international driver’s license & keep your home country’s driver’s license up to date (renew before you go if it will expire while you’re away!)
- Check the voltage of the appliances in your home country and see if they are compatible in your new country
- Purchase plug adapters and lots of them – Type M & Type G & pack in carry-on
- Purchase step-down transformer & send in shipment (if applicable)
- Update your will, power of attorney, change your address, & designate someone as your ‘person’ to act as guarantor/power of attorney/mail collector
- Research airline routes, baggage fees, baggage policy (max), & enroll in frequent flyer clubs
- Check your health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and travel/evacuation benefits for overseas
- Visit a travel clinic – get vaccines, prophylaxis, antibiotics, etc.
- OTC medications – bring your favorites
- Prescription Medications – bring a supply for duration of stay in country or 1 year whichever is longer
- Unlock your mobile phone so it’s ready to pop in a SIM card (be sure to bring a phone that takes a SIM!)
- Purchase a Region-Free DVD player
- Download Whatsapp, Facetime, Facebook, Skype, Magic Jack, Keep Calling, etc. to keep in touch with loved ones and friends
- Adjust your tax withholding and know your rights concerning earning of foreign income
- Prepare resident/work permit paperwork – copies of important documents & get certified
- Obtain a virtual IP address for accessing favorite shows/music streaming services, etc. in your home country
- Get copies of long form of children’s birth certificates & travel affidavits if both parents aren’t travelling
- Learn some Setswana before you arrive
- Bring your favorite things from home: mosquito nets, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, ranch dressing packets, onion powder, dried beans, Mexican spices, brown sugar, favorite cereal, etc. 1-2 personal items per person that they can’t live without so your new life feels like ‘home’ – could be scents, pictures, foods, objects, etc.
- Favorite thread count bed linens (300 + count) – the linens in local stores are scratchy ?
Do you want my tips for once you have arrived in Botswana? Have a look at my post on just that!