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Packing Guidance for Botswana

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

Botswana is a semi-arid country with a wet season in the summer, lasting from November to April with average temperatures in the high 80s and reaching up to 100 degrees F before the cooling rains. The dry season occurs in the winter months from May to August with average daytime temperatures in the mid-70s and nighttime temperatures in the 30s and 40s. Houses in Botswana are not insulated or hermetically sealed, so are often colder in the winter than the outside temperature.

Peace Corps Botswana provides the following items:

  • Safety equipment: All PCVs receive equipment and items listed:
    • A wrist band with numbers to call in cases of emergencies engraved on it
    • A small compass
    • A smoke and carbon monoxide detector
    • A fire extinguisher
    • An airhorn
  • Medical kit: All Volunteers receive a medkit. See the full list of items.
  • Water filter: The tap and/or borehole water in Botswana is not always potable. All Volunteers receive a high quality activated charcoal water filter for water purification at site.
  • Settling-in allowance: All Volunteers are provided an allowance to buy household furniture and non-furniture items such as a bed, table, stove, kitchenware etc.
  • Electronic device allowance: All Volunteers are eligible to receive an allowance to purchase phone, laptop and/or tablet to support their IT needs.
  • Bicycle allowance: All Volunteers are eligible to be reimbursed (up to a specified amount) for a locally purchased bicycle and helmet.
  • Library of work-related books and novels: The Information Resource Center at the main office in Gaborone has a lending library. Volunteers are encouraged to take and share for personal use.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms

Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps Botswana:

Work supplies

Peace Corps Botswana promotes the use of local resources in Volunteer work. One of the jobs of the Volunteer is to work with counterparts to identify local solutions to resource constraints using available means. Because of this, we discourage Volunteers bringing job aids from outside that may create conditions that are not replicable after the Volunteer’s departure.

Food

With the exception of high nutrition snack foods that you may want for your first week to help transition to the local diet, please do not bring large quantities of food. Part of cultural integration is learning to embrace and share local ways of eating.

Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.

Volunteers in Botswana hand wash their clothes with powder soap and fabric softener which are readily accessible at local stores. Almost eight months of the year is warm and very hot in Botswana so when you wash your clothes and hang them outside to dry they will take between 1 to 2 hours depending on the type of fabrics whether its thick or very light. Traditionally people work Mondays through Friday, and Saturday mornings are for cleaning and laundry.

Warm weather clothing is recommended as Botswana’s temperatures remain high for most of the year, however there are a few months where cold weather clothing may be needed. Past PCVs have found that clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton and linen are ideal to remain cool in high temperatures and are quick drying in the rainy season. Lightweight long-sleeve shirts are often worn in the summer months to protect against excessive sun exposure. Both summer and winter clothing are available in Botswana.

Work clothing

Batswana adhere to a relatively modest code of dress and value clean, neat, and professional clothing in the workplace. Clothing brought for the workplace should cover the shoulders and skirts and dresses should not expose more than a few inches above the knee. Collared shirts, blouses, dress pants, khakis, as well as modest skirts and dresses are all considered appropriate work attire. Ties, jackets and dresses/skirts are necessary for attending certain events at certain places like dinners, traditional law court of a Botswana village commonly referred to as Kgotla.

Part of being presentable at work includes wrinkle free clothing; it is recommended that you either be comfortable ironing or consider bringing wrinkle resistant clothing. Irons are easy and affordable in Botswana.

Traditional tailor-made clothing, as well as imported retail items are easily accessible in Botswana, though the quality of imported clothing and shoes may not be what you are accustomed to. A wide range of sizes can be found in Botswana though not all sizes will be found at all stores and some sizes may require additional effort to locate. Very big sizes are not easy to find in certain stores.

Women are required to wear a skirt past their knees at Kgotla meetings that Trainees and Volunteers attend as part of their work and community integration.

Leisure and recreational clothing

Batswana engage in recreational activities such as soccer, netball, dancing, both traditional and modern, and other sports and pastimes. Clothing for such activities can include leggings, mid length shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops that cover the stomach.

Hats are very popular in Botswana due to the sunny weather, as are umbrellas which protect from the sun as well as the rain. Volunteers can bring along raincoats for rainy days.

Weddings, funerals, and community meetings (Kgotla meetings) are dressy affairs. You will see long skirts and dresses, modest blouses, collared shirts, dress pants, khakis, jackets, ties, and head coverings worn at such events. Blue and white are popular colors at weddings, but any clean, dressy clothing is appropriate. Traditional outfits can be easily made in country.

When relaxed at home you can wear your leggings, jeans, shorts, t-shirts, sleeveless tops and casual dresses.

Professional looking sandals, open toed and closed dress shoes are appropriate in the workplace and many Batswana will choose to commute to work in a pair of durable shoes and change into more professional shoes upon arrival, particularly in the rainy season. You will be doing a lot of walking, durable and comfortable walking shoes are advised. Large/big shoe sizes are not easily available in country.

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

The plugs and sockets used in Botswana are types D, G and M. The country operates on a 230V supply voltage. Electricity is available in Botswana although spontaneous power outages as well as planned power cuts makes electricity somewhat unreliable, particularly in the rainy months. Phone chargers can be found in most mid to large size villages and surge protectors and adapters are also available for purchase.

Cell phones, tablets and laptops are also available for purchase and Peace Corps Botswana can assist with purchasing them upon arrival, though many Volunteers prefer to bring their laptops from home.

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having that might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but they might be nice to have.

Volunteers enjoy reading have found e-readers particularly convenient. Volunteers who enjoy camping may consider bringing a lightweight sleeping bag. Many Volunteers who play a musical instrument find comfort and connection by bringing an instrument with them. . Swim suites for those who like to swim, yoga mats etc. Volunteers bake, draw murals at their sites as well as at their organizations, go camping, engage in cultural exchange activities such as attending weddings and funerals.