Botswana

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail 

Mail from the U.S. to Botswana takes two to four weeks, Advise your family and friends to keep all documentation related to the packages that they send to Botswana so any package that does not arrive can be traced. Most mail will come with a tracking number that can be tracked online and will show when a package from the U.S. clears customs in Botswana. 

During pre-service training, your mail should be sent to the Peace Corps office address:

PCT Name
c/o Peace Corps/Botswana
Private Bag 00243
Gaborone, Botswana

Telephones

Domestic and international phone service is available throughout Botswana. Peace Corps purchases a cellphone for each Volunteer in-country. If you choose to bring a smartphone from home, be sure to unlock it for use prior to leaving the U.S.

Internet

Larger villages and towns in Botswana have Internet cafes. You should be able to access email at an Internet cafe during off-hours and on weekends. Approximately 25 percent of Volunteers only access the Internet once a month when they visit larger nearby villages for grocery shopping. If you bring a computer or other valuable equipment you should consider purchasing personal property insurance and ensure that you have anti-viral software.

Housing and Site Location

Your housing is provided by the government of Botswana or other partner organizations. Because of the wide range of housing in Botswana, there is considerable variation in Volunteer living situations. You should come prepared to accept the Peace Corps’ minimum standard for housing: a single room that is clean and can be secured with a lock, with access to clean water and sanitary bathroom and cooking space. Electricity and piped-in water are not required by the Peace Corps.

Volunteers placed at the district level can expect fairly comfortable housing, which typically means a one- or two-bedroom cement house with a kitchen, indoor plumbing, and electricity. Volunteers based at the village level can expect housing to be more rustic, perhaps a house on a family compound where services are limited or nonexistent. The government or partner organization is responsible for providing limited furnishings (bed, table, chair) and covering the cost of utilities (cooking gas, water).

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 

Food and Diet

The absence of basic food items is not an issue in Botswana. In fact, Volunteers may be surprised to find a large variety of English and American products, such as Heinz ketchup, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, and Doritos, although all might not be accessible at your site or given the Volunteer living allowance. Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually available, although variety may be quite limited. Those posted to district-level villages or large towns will be able to buy food items in their immediate vicinity. Those posted to villages, particularly in very rural spots, will be limited to periodic shopping trips in the larger towns. The traditional diet in Botswana relies heavily on meat and starches (notably corn or maize, beans, rice, potatoes, and sorghum). Starches are usually served in a stew or with gravy, made of vegetables such as cabbages, tomatoes, greens, and onions. Beetroot and butternut squash often give color to a dish. Committed vegetarians will find it relatively easy to maintain their diet but will have to find a way to convince meat-loving Botswana of the healthiness of their choice. Note that consumption of meat is given particular importance in some cultural celebrations.

Transportation

In general, it is not difficult to get around in Botswana. Common and inexpensive forms of public transportation include buses and private taxis. Buses travel on a fairly regular schedule throughout the country, although transfers may be necessary to reach one’s destination. Buses range in size from combis (10- to 12-seat minivans) to large luxury buses (similar to Greyhound). While most transportation is reliable, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to assess the condition of both the vehicle and the driver before boarding.

The Peace Corps’ recommended mode of transportation among Volunteer sites and the capital is a large bus and Volunteers’ travel allowances reflect the slightly higher cost for this service.

Social Activities

In fulfillment of the three goals of the Peace Corps, Volunteers are expected to make their host communities the center of their social life and to stay at their sites unless they are traveling for approved vacation or work purposes. The types of activities and relationships that constitute a social life will vary according to a Volunteer’s own interests and site assignment. Those in more urban settings will find a host of facilities, organizations, and other social outlets. Those in more rural settings may find limited formal social structures; in such cases, host families and friends in the community often become the center around which social activity revolves.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Batswana place great importance on conservative and professional dress in the workplace. The norms of professional dress mean slacks, shirts, and usually ties for men and dresses, skirts or nice pants for women. Ties are required of men in schools. Women are expected to wear skirts and men expected to wear jackets in the traditional chief’s meeting place in every town or village. It is seen as a sign of respect for others when you dress professionally, and how you are viewed by your colleagues will be highly dependent on the way you present yourself. Tennis shoes, sneakers, or sport sandals are not appropriate footwear for work. Although jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men wearing shirts with collars and casual slacks and women wearing skirts or slacks with blouses or casual dresses during non-work hours. Although shorts may be appropriate at home, most males wear long pants outdoors, even in summer months. Sleeveless tops with spaghetti straps, tank tops, and low-cut tops are not appropriate for women outside the capital and larger towns. However, many Volunteers choose to wear tank tops inside their homes, particularly during the hot summer months.