What is an International Driving Permit or License?
An International Driving Permit is a legal document that permits foreigners to drive vehicles outside their own country/state with their local driving license. It is a translation document wherein your local driving license is translated into twelve (12) most widely spoken languages worldwide. English, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, German, and French are some languages in which the IDP is issued. As per international treaties, more than one hundred and fifty (150) countries accept IDPs.
How does an IDP work in Botswana?
The country’s laws allow foreigners holding a valid driver’s license to drive vehicles in Botswana for a maximum period of ninety (90) days without having an international driver’s license. However, after the prescribed period expires, foreigners must have an IDP for driving in Botswana.
However, there is an exception to the above rule. The nationals of member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are not required to have an IDP for driving in Botswana. The members of SADC states are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
What Do You Need To Apply for an IDP in Botswana?
The process of applying for international driving permits is simple and quick. You don’t have to go through any lengthy procedures or contact multiple authorities in this regard. Here is the list of documents that are required for the issuance of an IDP:-
- Copy of your valid Passport or identity document
- Complete particulars of your domestic driving license
- A legible scanned image of your domestic driving license
- Recent passport-size photographs of yourself
- A fee of USD 49/- for the issuance of an IDP with a validity period of one year
United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic
Botswana is a contracting party to the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, 1949. The United Nations Convention promotes international road traffic safety by devising uniform rules across the border. Being a contracting party to the convention, the government of Botswana is required to take appropriate steps for the following:-
- To devise and implement appropriate procedures for the issuance of a driving license.
- To ensure that all applicants take theoretical and practical tests for issuing a driving license.
- Allow foreign drivers to drive vehicles in the country if they hold a valid international driver’s permit.
- To enforce appropriate road safety and traffic rules in the country.
Benefits of Carrying an IDP in Botswana
Carrying valid international driving permits has several benefits, enabling the holder to drive vehicles in a foreign country. Some of the benefits of having an IDP are listed below:-
Valid Proof of Identity
Tourists must keep valid identification information with them at all times while traveling in foreign countries. A valid IDP serves as a proof of identity for tourists and allows them to roam around and explore the world without carrying multiple documents with them at all times.
Evidence of Your Local Driving License
An IDP is issued only if the applicant holds a valid domestic driver’s license for at least one year. Even learner/provisional driver’s license holders are not eligible to apply for IDPs. Due to this fact, an international driving permit is evidence that its holder already has a valid domestic driver’s license and is eligible to drive vehicles as per law.
An international license draws its strength from the rules of international conventions. It is issued only to the holder of a valid license issued by local authorities of a country/state. Hence, the IDP is a valid legal document that allows its holder to drive vehicles outside the territory of his/her own country/state.
Eligible to Rent a Car
An International Driver’s license is a mandatory document required by the car rental agencies working in Botswana for renting vehicles to foreigners. Without having a valid IDP with you, you cannot rent a car in the country of Botswana.
Peace of Mind
Having an international license gives the holder peace of mind and assurance that he/she can drive a vehicle during his/her visit to a foreign country as and when required without the risk of violating the country’s traffic laws. Even if you have hired the services of a local driver during your visit to Botswana, it is always recommended to have an international driver’s license with you so that in case of any unfortunate event of emergency, you can drive vehicles on your own.
When should I get a Botswana Driver’s License?
Foreigners can drive vehicles in Botswana for a maximum of ninety (90) calendar days without having a valid international driver’s license. However, after the expiry of ninety days, an international license is mandatory for driving, except for the nationals of SADC member states.
Further, an international driver’s license validity ranges from six months to a maximum period of three years. After the prescribed period expires, the foreigners must have a Botswana Driver’s license to drive in the country.
As far as citizens of Botswana are concerned, anyone above the age of eighteen (18) years is eligible to apply for a driver’s license after submitting the following documents:-
- Application for a Botswana Driving License
- Health declaration form by applicants above the age of sixty-five (65) years
- An eye examination report
- Passing the theoretical test and practical test
- Certified copy of identity document i.e., ID card or passport
- Two passport-size photographs
- Payment of government fees
Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in Botswana
The process of renewal of local as well as international driving licenses has become very quick and easy as most countries have automated these procedures through their websites or mobile applications. If your domestic driver’s license expires during your international trip, it immediately makes your international driving license invalid. Hence, while planning your international trip, don’t forget to check the validity period of your local license.
However, if your local driver’s license expires while being in Botswana, contact the local authority which issued your driver’s license in the first place, submit the required documents online or through the mobile application, as the case may be, pay the renewal fee, and get your license renewed. The same is the case with the renewal of an international driving permit which generally requires the submission of the following documents:-
- An application for renewal of license
- The original expired license or its certified copy
- Complete particulars of expired license
- Passport-size photographs
- Payment of renewal fee
Car Rental in Botswana
Vehicles can be rented in Botswana for rent ranging from $23 per day to $119 per day, depending on the type of vehicle. However, booking your vehicle at least one week before your visit may get cheaper rates. Further, off-airport car rental agencies generally provide vehicles at comparatively cheaper prices than on-airport car rental agencies.
For renting a vehicle in Botswana, you may have to provide the following documents:-
- Complete name, permanent address, contact number, and email ID
- In the case of foreign clients, a local contact address and telephone number as well.
- Bank details (if required)
- Credit card or debit card as required by the agency
- A valid local driver’s license held for at least three years or an international driver’s license
- An original identity document i.e., ID card or passport
Here are a few other tips for renting a car in Botswana:-
- The most popular rented vehicle in Botswana is the Economy.
- The average rent per day is $65.
- The best city to rent a vehicle in Botswana is Gaborone.
- Most car rental agencies also provide traveling equipment for rent.
- The minimum age to rent a car in Botswana is twenty-one years.
Driving and Safety in Botswana
Botswana is one of the safest countries in Africa. As a member of the international convention on road traffic, Botswana has taken several measures to improve road safety. However, while driving around the country, try to keep in mind the following rules:-
Drive on The Left Side of the Road
In Botswana, cars drive on the left side of the road; if anyone intends to overtake a vehicle, they have to come from the right side.
In Urban areas, road conditions are pretty good. However, rural roads are mostly unpaved and poorly maintained.
The legal speed limit in the country of Botswana is 120 KPH for freeways, 30 KPH for villages, and 60-100 KPH on Rural/Main roads. The local drivers do not pay attention to speed limits. However, you should abide by the country’s traffic laws for your safety.
Avoid Driving at Night
Considering the conditions of roads being unpaved and full of potholes and the possibility of animals coming across the road at night, it is advised to avoid driving at night unless necessary.
Number of Petrol Stations
In the rural areas, petrol stations are pretty infrequent, and the regular operating hours of the stations are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Hence, it is better to get your car tank full whenever you have the opportunity to do so.
Use of Seat Belts
Use of seat belts is mandatory for all passengers at all times. Children below the age of twelve (12) are not allowed to sit in the front seat. Further, proper child restraint is also mandatory for those who cannot use adult seat belts.
Driving under the influence of alcohol
Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited under the country’s laws, and violating this law attracts heavy fines and imprisonment.
Use of Mobile Phones
The use of mobile phones while driving is strictly prohibited. However, drivers can use hands-free devices as long as their focus on the road is not affected.
Use of Helmets
The use of helmets is mandatory for motorcyclists, although no such restriction applies to cyclists. However, bicycles are required to be fully equipped with front and rear lights.
Restriction on Overtaking
Overtaking vehicles is prohibited in school zones, railway level crossings, and while proceeding uphill or downhill.
The emergency contact numbers are 999 (Police), 992 (medical rescue), 997 (ambulance) and 998 (fire). In case of any crash, stop the vehicle, turn on emergency lights, call the police and stay there unless police arrive.
Top Six Destinations to Visit in Botswana
Botswana is a country in Southern Africa having English as its official language. Christianity is the most dominant religion in Botswana, and the country is famous for its incredible wildlife, great safaris, and exciting adventures. While visiting Botswana, you may want to visit the following destinations:-
Makgadikgadi Salt Pan
The Makgadikgadi Salt Pan is situated in northeastern Botswana and is one of the most extensive salt flats in the world. This salt pan is the remains of Lake Makgadikgadi, an enormous lake with a covered area more than the size of Switzerland. Imagine walking on this vast landscape without any land markings and constructed buildings; people say it feels like walking on the moon.
During the summer, visitors to the Pan see springbok, wildebeest, zebra, lion, and cheetah in the Pan.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is Botswana’s most famous tourist destination for its rich wildlife, water-based safaris, and commitment to low-impact tourism. UNESCO recognized the site as World Heritage Site in June 2014. The delta comprises more than one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) islands of different sizes, the largest of which is 70 KM long and 14 KM wide. An interesting fact about the delta is that its size grows nearly three times during dry winter (i.e., March to August) when floodwaters arrive.
Over four hundred (40) birds live in The Okavango Delta, including but not limited to the African Fish Eagle, Lilac-breasted roller, hamerkop, Pel’s fishing owl, and slaty egret. In addition to the birds, approximately two hundred and sixty thousand (260,000) mammals can be found in the delta during the dry season.
Another interesting fact to remember about The Okavango Delta is that it was named one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.
Chobe National Park
The Chobe National Park is one of the best national parks in Southern Africa and is famous for its large elephant population. It is one of the most biologically diverse parks, spread over 12,000 square KM. The park is famous for its diverse habitat, river wetlands, dry savannah, marsh areas, lush floodplains, dense woodlands, rolling grasslands, lagoons, varied animals and birds, and its beautiful river.
You can witness huge herds ranging from 50,000 to 120,000 elephants. In addition to elephants, you will also see lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and leopards in the park.
Tuli Block is located in Botswana’s eastern region, known as the “Land of the Giants.” On your trip to Tuli Block, you will find multiple traditional food corners; in addition to enjoying food, you can enjoy mountain biking, camping, and hiking. The best time to visit Tuli Block is from May to October.
The places to visit in Tuli Block include:-
At Solomon’s Wall, you will find a big lake near the wall with a waterfall having rich mineral deposits.
Tswapong and Lepokole Hills
Tswapong and Lepokole Hills comprise waterfalls, rock paintings, and eye-catching vegetation.
The Northern Tuli Game Reserve
The Northern Tuli Game Reserve is the largest privately owned game reserve in Southern Africa.
Nxai Pan National Park
Nxai Pan National Park is in north-eastern Botswana, a fossil lakebed about 40KM in size. The best time to visit the park is November to April because it is the rainy season. This national park of Botswana is famous for spectacular scenery, immense landscapes, remarkable dunes, baobab trees, and salt pans.
During the rainy season, the park becomes lush green and a host to the vast variety of wildlife that migrates through this area. During flooding, you can enjoy birding and vast game-viewing opportunities. The wet season highlight is the great annual zebra migration during which thousands of zebras move through Botswana’s parks.
In addition to the above, you can witness lions, giraffes, kudu, springbok, impala, wildebeest, ostriches, jackals, bat-eared foxes, and many more species in the Park.
UNESCO recognized the Tsodilo Hills as a World Heritage Site in 2001. The Tsodilo Hills are famous for rock paintings, shelters, depressions, and caves. The rock art in Tsodilo Hills boasts five hundred (500) individual sites representing thousands of years of human habitation. No one knows the exact origin and age of these paintings however, the estimated age ranges from twenty-thousand (20,000) years old to a century old.
The Tsodilo Hills consist of four large pieces of rock, which are known as “male” (Large rock), “female” (small rock), and “child” (smallest rock), while according to legend, the fourth rock was the first wife of “male” hill.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the minimum age to drive in Botswana?
The minimum age limit to drive in Botswana is eighteen (18). However, the minimum required age for renting a vehicle is twenty-one (21).
Can I ride a bike/motorcycle in Botswana?
If your local license makes you eligible to ride motorcycles in your country/state, you can also drive motorcycles in Botswana if you have a valid IDP.
Do I need an International Driving License in Botswana?
Tourists can drive up to ninety (90) days without having an international driver’s license. However, after the expiry of ninety days, having an IDP is mandatory unless you are a national member state of SADC.
Can a holder of a learner/provisional license application for an international driving permit?
No, an international driver’s license can only be issued to individuals with a regular driving license for at least one year.
Is the use of a seat belt mandatory in Botswana?
Yes, the use of seat belts is a must for all passengers and drivers and passengers sitting in the front seat. Using seat belts minimizes the chances of injury in case of an accident.
People drive on which side of the roads in Botswana?
In Botswana, people drive on the left-hand side of the road and overtake vehicles on the right.
What is the maximum validity period of an International Driving Permit?
The maximum validity period of an international driving permit is three years, although generally, the IDP is issued for a maximum period of one year. If your IDP expires before the expiry date of your local license, it makes your IDP invalid with immediate effect.
Is it safe to drive at night in Botswana?
No, driving at night is never advised in Botswana, considering the road conditions and risk of coming across animals. Travel in daylight to avoid any unfortunate event.