Saturday, 23 November 2013

What you need to know in case you're thinking about moving to Botswana

This post is designed to help all needgreaters who would like to move here. You see, sometimes is difficult to get reliable information as far as visas, cost of life, transport, what to say and what to avoid, water, sickness, etc.

So as we survive out here, we'll add all those information to this blog. For now, we would like to give some info as far as Getting here, Visas, Transport, Housing as these are the things we have experienced until now.

Getting Here
When deciding on flights, keep in mind that Botswana is very close to Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport (4 hours to the closest border which is actually where we are, in Lobatse).
Flights to J'burg are generally much cheaper than flights to Gaborone. Having said, depending on your adventurous spirit, you can choose to:
  1. Rent a car from J'burg to Gaborone with Europecar and costs around £200 / $325. Then we can come and get you in Gaborone.
  2. Stay in a brother's owned B&B next to the airport (they come and pick you up and give discounts to pioneers) and then either:
    • we can come and get you in J'burg if you pay the petrol and one night for us in the same B&B
    • you can take the bus from J'burg to Gaborone which takes about 6 hours maximum but costs only around £20 / $30 per person. Then we can come and get you in Gaborone (Please let us know with some good time in advance or we won't be able to organize ourselves to come and get you)
  3. Get a 3 months return ticket from J'burg to Gaborone which costs around £250 / $400
I know these options sound like a lot of hassle but if you're looking to spend as less as possible, those are the ways to go. If you don't mind so much, then you can fly directly (with obvious stopover in J'burg) to Gaborone. 

One word of advice here. When you get the immigration officer and they ask you about the visa and how long you want to stay in the country, specify 90 DAYS. Do not say 3 MONTHS, 12 WEEKS or whatnot. Specify 90 DAYS and check your passport BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE BOOTH. When you drive into Botswana, they give you a form to fill asking how many "days/weeks/months" you want to stay. WRITE 90 DAYS and check they give you 90 DAYS. Sometimes they get confused or don't read properly and give you a week. So please, be extra careful when you get the stamp on your passport. 

Depending on where you're going to serve, you might or might not need a car. If you do, then keep in mind that decent cars are around £3000 / $4800. There's a dealer the brothers "deal" with (funny...) who imports cars from Japan and checks everything and fixes everything there is to fix before giving it to you. Once you give him a certified copy of your passport and the money, it takes about 1/2 days to register the car. He can give you a temporary registration if you live far away so that you can go home with the car and then go back to pick up the papers the next day or so. You can buy normal cars (Micra, Golf, etc.) or 4x4 (X-Trail, CRV, etc.). The first ones are generally newer years (2000 and up) while the second ones tend to be older years (1995 and up) but in excellent conditions as they have to pass a certain control before being imported. Parts are cheaper for some brands and very expensive for others, so you need to be careful. For example, VW: the cars are cheaper to buy but the parts are difficult to find and very expensive. HONDA: The cars tend to be more expensive but parts are everywhere and very cheap. So depending on how long you're planning to stay, just keep that in mind. As you know, we decided to go for the CRV because, as we're planning to stay here long, it's nice to know you can one day take a drive somewhere and not have the problem of off-roads trails and whatnot. If you're coming to check it out or want to stay in Gaborone, then you'll probably be okay with a smaller and newer car.
Petrol here is relatively cheap being at £0.65 / $1.05 per litre but it's up to you if you want a car which consume a lot or not.  

Again, depending on where you would like to live, houses can be expensive or cheap, decent or in pretty bad conditions. Gaborone is obviously more expensive with houses ranging from £290 / $470 to crazy prices like £700 / $1140 for a 2/3 bedroom (depending on the area). Having said that, Gabs has everything you can imagine of in terms of shopping while other areas further out might be cheaper in housing but have little choice as far as shopping forcing you to go to Gabs every so often. 
For example in our case, our house is £200 / $325 per month and it's too big for us with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, big sitting/dining room and very big veranda. Having said that, Lobatse doesn't fare badly as far as grocery shopping, but it's very difficult to find appliances or furniture at normal prices. So we found ourselves going to Gabs to buy a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner and whatnot. We've been lucky because our house is furnished, but if hadn't found it, we would have had the problem of getting all the furniture from Gabs to here (not every shop delivers more than 20km outside of the capital). 
I heard that houses in other villages like Otse, Ramotswa and Molepolole are even cheaper and pretty decent as well. 
So at the end of the day you need to sit down and see what you need to live comfortably here:
  1. Do you need a house with good standard of painting, finishing, kitchen, etc.?
  2. Would you be okay in an older house with wood paneling for ceiling and a couple of things not working as you would like?
  3. Do you prefer to be close to the action and malls and shopping and cafe's?
  4. Or would you rather be out in the village and don't mind driving once a week to the capital for some things?
Once you know what you want, then you can move toward that direction in a more confident way. We were lucky to find a furnished house as furniture unfortunately is relatively expensive here but some brothers have been moving toward plastic to keep their life simple. Appliances are not so bad if you shop around a little and get an offer when you see it.

One advice we would like to add here which is totally our personal opinion so it's up to you to take it or not: You're coming to Africa to serve and there is no point in pretending is going to be a walk in the park. Africa is tough. You will see and experience very stressful situations while serving Jah here and you will get over it of course with his help. BUT we noticed that we can get over it ONLY if we can, at the end of the day, come back to a place we can call HOME. Being a shed or a mansion, you need to feel at HOME. You need to go there, shut the door and everything else outside. For us it was a very old farmhouse with bats in the roof and a huge nest of wasps in the chimney, but it's out in the bush and all we can hear here is birds singing and crickets "cricketing". When we come home after a day in the field, we relax. Even if we have to work 4 or 5 hours (which we do every day), we're still working in our HOME. For some people it might take a lot of furniture to feel that way, for others it might be food they miss from home... for us it's just a duvet cover from UK for our bed, our espresso maker from Italy and a glass of wine or G&T at night while eating. 
We're all different so if you feel that you need an expensive house or expensive furniture or food or wine to feel at home, so what?! Get it and FEEL AT HOME. You need it and you know what? You deserve it! You are, after all, serving Jah out of your comfort zone!

Depending on your needs, internet is not the greatest thing IS RUBBISH here in Botswana. You can choose between:
  • BTC, home adsl line (you need a visa to put it in your name so you need to find a landlord willing to put it in his name, it's not super fast and it's fairly expensive: 2Mbps is around £50 / $80)
  • MASCOM, Usb dongle (expensive, slow and limited either in TIME or in DATA download... you can buy 1, 5 or 10 hours at £0.70 / $ 1.15 or you can buy 150MB at £1.40 / $2.30, 400MB at £5.60 / $9.20 or 800MB at £10.70 / $17.50)
  • SATELLITE, dish and whatnot at the house (super uber expensive both the installation and the monthly fee but reliable and fast. Installation is about £740 / $1200 and monthly fee is about £155 / $250)
  • ORANGE, Usb dongle (very similar to Mascom)
If you rely A LOT on FAST AND RELIABLE internet for work, then maybe Botswana is not the place to move to. You can get away with 1Mbps (maybe) and very slow upload. Video conference is very difficult to have unless you use the satellite (and even then we haven't tested it so don't take this for law).
So what we suggest is that you get a dongle for the beginning but as soon as you find a house, you get BTC installed. We're trying to do that but being out in the bush, they need to add cable between poles so we're still waiting. 
If you need to work with it, BTC is the way to go as soon as you can. If it's only to check emails and whatever, Mascom is enough and you can buy hourly and use it only when you need it. 

Cost of living
Electricity is pre-paid and about £20 / $30 per month;
Water (which by the way is generally off 2 days a week) is about £5 / $8 per month;
Food, really depends on what you like and what you can do without. We average between £50 / $80 and £70 / $115 per week and that includes the cheapest of the "treat" stuff like pasta, wine, cheese but it doesn't include imported stuff as they ask you an arm and a leg for that;
Petrol as I mentioned is £0.65 / $1.05 per litre;
Rent as we said depends on where you live and on the house you get and your budget of course;

Brothers, we won't lie to you. Visas here are a bit of a kerfuffle. Unfortunately we cannot get missionary/voluntary visas anymore which means that to be able to stay in the country after the 3 months tourist visa expire, you can try to extend for another three months and then go home or if you really want to stay, you need to get a work permit and a residence visa. Needless to say, you need to sort out your visas as soon as you get here or you will have to leave the country after the 3 months until you get your answer. To get a work visa, you need to open up a company and a bank account. IT'S DEFINITELY NOT CHEAP TO DO ALL THIS. The type of work you want to do here will determine if you will get the visa or not. There is a point system but even if you think you qualify as a business because you're getting the points, it doesn't mean that you qualify for immigration. We don't personally recommend it (we got kicked out even though we qualified) but again, not everybody is the same and there is no logic behind it so you might get or not get accepted. It's up to you if you want to try or not. 

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