Useful country information

Train operators :

Botswana Railway (BR) - https://brexpress.botrail.bw/botswanarailwaysonline/passengerbooking/bookandpay.aspx

 

 

Time zone & dialling code:

 

GMT+2 all year.  Dial code +267.

Currency:

 

£1 = 11.4 Botswanan Pula.  $1 = 7.2 Pula.  Currency converter

Tourist information:

 

www.gov.bw     Tripadvisor Botswana page

Visas:

 

UK citizens do not need a visa to visit Botswana.   

Page last updated:

5 November 2016


Francistown - Gaborone - Lobatse

Francistown - Gaborone - Lobatse trains resumed 23 March 2016.

In early 2009, Botswana Railways announced it was to stop all passenger service on the main line across Botswana because of mounting losses.  The day train stopped running in 2006, and the overnight train between Francistown, Gaborone & Lobatse stopped running in April 2009.  However, in 2015 they announced that passenger service would be revived.  Refurbished coaches have been procured and an overnight Francistown-Gaborone-Lobatse train service resumed as of 23 March 2016 - see http://umhambi.blogspot.de/2016/03/botswana-botswana-railways-has-launched.html.

 Francistown Gaborone, Lobatse

            

 Lobatse, Gaborone Francistown

 BR Express

Daily

 BR Express

Daily

 Francistown 

depart

21:00

 Lobatse

depart

19:10

 Serule 

arr/dep

22:56

 Gaborone 

arrive

20:22

 Palapye 

arr/dep

00:21

depart

21:25

 Mahalapye 

arr/dep

02:16

 Mahalapye 

arr/dep

00:56

 Gaborone

arrive

05:40

 Palapye 

arr/dep

02:50

depart

06:05

 Serule 

arr/dep

04:37

 Lobatse

arrive

07:31

 Francistown 

arrive

06:11

You can check these times & buy tickets online at https://brexpress.botrail.bw/botswanarailwaysonline/passengerbooking/bookandpay.aspx.

The BR Express currently has all-air-conditioned First Class sleepers, Business Class seats & Standard Class seats and a buffet car.  The train also allegedly has WiFi & TV screens, see news item at www.mmegi.bw/index.php?aid=58774&dir=2016/march/23.  Also see photos of the train at http://umhambi.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/botswana-botswana-railways-has-launched.html.

The fare between Gaborone & Francistown is 88 pula in Standard Class, 146 pula in Business Class & 244 pula in First Class.

The fare between Lobatse & Francistown is 102 pula in Standard Class, 171 pula in Business Class & 285 pula in First Class.

You can take up to 20Kg luggage in Standard Class, up to 40Kg in Business & First.

Travellers reports...

Traveller Richard Walsh tried the new train in November 2016:  "I can confirm that the train from Francistown to Gaborone (and Lobatse) is a gem. Absolutely beautiful and very well appointed. We had a first class sleeper coupé, and yes there is a buffet car on board.  We even were given drink and sandwiches...  Probably only for first class, but maybe also business class.  A new station is being built in Francistown.  Train left and arrived to the minute.  Piped music in the corridor was an unwelcome feature."


International trains to & from Botswana

  Map of train routes in Southern Africa

Click for interactive map

of African train routes

South Africa to Botswana by train...

There are no trains from Botswana to South Africa, as the daily train to Mafeking and weekly train to Johannesburg were withdrawn in 1999.  However, you can take a comfortable train between Cape Town and Johannesburg, see the South Africa page for details.  Then there's a daily bus between Jo'burg and Gaborone leaving Johannesburg at 14:30 and arriving Gaborone at 21:10.  In the other direction, the bus leaves Gaborone daily at 06:30, arriving Johannesburg at 13:00.  For times, fares and online booking see www.intercape.co.za.

Zimbabwe to Botswana by train...

In 1999, the weekly Johannesburg-Gaborone-Bulawayo train was withdrawn and the daily Mafeking-Gaborone- Bulawayo 'blue train' was cut back in to run purely within Botswana, Francistown-Gaborone-Lobatse.  However, after an absence of 6 years, an international train service between Zimbabwe and Botswana restarted in June 2006, from Francistown to Bulawayo, initially 3 times a week, now twice a week.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 2016:  As a November 2016 this train is currently not running until further notice.  Do not trust agencies or hotels, ask at the station in person to check current status.  Feedback appreciated.

 Francistown Bulawayo

            

 Bulawayo Francistown

Tuesday & Saturday.

Train cancelled

Monday & Friday.

Train cancelled

 Francistown 

depart

12:00

 Bulawayo

depart

09:00

 Plumtree (border)

arrive

13:40

 Plumtree (border) 

arrive

11:40

depart

14:10

depart

12:15

 Bulawayo

arrive

17:15

 Francistown 

arrive

14:25

The train has standard class coaches with reclining seats.

The fare between Bulawayo & Francistown is 30 Pula one-way (£3 or $5).

For train connections to Gaborone and Lobatse (near the South African border) see below.

 

The train uses Zimbabwe's modern standard class coaches like this, complete with with TV entertainment(!)


Find hotels in Botswana

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...


Guidebooks

To get the most from a trip to Southern Africa, you'll need a good guidebook - and I think the Lonely Planet guides are about the best ones out there.

Buy Lonely Planet Southern Africa online at Amazon

 

 

 


Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

 


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