Exchange Botswana Pula in the Gabs city
by Marion Smith
Sassy Traveler – Weekend Getaway in Gaborone on a budget from South Africa
I woke one morning and looked outside at our grey wintery sky in Johannesburg and realised I wanted to see some true African sunshine and feel it pelting down on my back. After a little bit of thought I decided a long weekend trip to Gaborone was just what I needed. The only country on our borders that I had not been to.
I was excited, I thrive on last minute trips with little to no planning on my side. 😆 My only thought was how would I get there. I payed our local Checkers Hypa a visit and bought two return tickets on Intercape bus. One ticket cost 16 Euros one way, what a bargain.
Gaborone, or “Gabs” as it is affectionately known, is the capital of Botswana and is a melting pot of diverse culture. This capital city is relatively small by world standards but it has all the usual facilities of any modern city. There are numerous busy shopping malls , restaurants, sports clubs, as well as a museum, art gallery and three cinemas.
The journey began on Thursday morning.
Getting to Park station is not always easy despite the different means of transport available ( Gautrain, Rea Vaya bus etc ) which only work on select routes. So we called Uber and they were efficient as always. The trip from home to the station cost 13 Euros, using an Uber X. We ate a quick lunch at the Burger King at the station then boarded the bus. Downside to bus travel in South Africa is there are no reserved seats so its first come first serve. Lucky for us we were first so had the best seat in the house, upstairs number 3 and 4, these are front row with the best leg room and look out through the windscreen. We departed 10 minutes late running on African time but made it up during the journey. One of the most entertaining stops along the way was at Pretoria Station where we watched a vagrant planning cards rather aggressively with his imaginary friend . We reached the border in no time and passed through quickly. The pleasant smile on the Botswana side and the lack of rubbish make you feel like you had landed on another continent. The bus arrived as scheduled at Kudu shell garage at 19h30 across from the South African High commission.
We were welcomed by load shedding. We decided to then walk to our Hotel. It was dark but we felt totally safe. After a hiccup at the hotel they found us a replacement and drove us to Hotel Crystal Palace. The cost of 30 Euro a night excluding breakfast made us question the location. Well we were extremely surprised, the room was so big we could run around it, it was clean, had a bath, television,unlimited wifi and a kettle with tea and coffee. A good nights rest was now the order of the day.
This would be the day of sight seeing, we left early in the morning and decided to walk. This is always the best way to see things. We walked over the railway tracks and down Nelson Mandela road. Suddenly there was complete silence on the road, the traffic seemed to have just vanished. We stopped and out of no where a procession of police , a government vehicle with flags and and military escort approached us. in the back seat sat a very upright minister . The procession passed by and slowly the traffic started flowing again and never overtook or merged with the convoy.
It was a surprise to see such respect and discipline from the general population. We walked into town to view all the government buildings. The area was so clean and not once were we approached by a beggar. Nor did we see people sleeping on pavements or loitering at the traffic lights. Lunch time approached and with growling stomachs we made use of a taxi to get to Game City Mall. The distance was at least 6km and we paid 2.35 Euro to get there. The mall had everything South African in it. From Shoprite to Stuttafords to Mug n Bean. Lunch was a quick bite at Romans pizza. We then took another taxi back to the hotel. It had been 28 degrees during the day so a short fiesta came to mind. Later that evening we walked to the Bull and Bush restaurant that was 5 minutes away form the hotel. A true African vibe with a thatch lap, a live band and a crowd full of energy. An Amarula always goes down well at a time like this. We headed back later in the evening after have a really fun night.
Take it easy today, was our motto. We decided to leave this hotel and move onto the Lansmore Hotel. New developments like the iconic Masa Square in the new CBD, is making Gaborone one of the continent’s up and coming financial and entertainment hubs.
Masa square is one of the most enviable address’s in the country.We packed our bags and took the walk over the railway tracks. We checked in at 8am. The hotel allowed us to have breakfast as the following morning we would be leaving early. What a spread, I felt like I was in Europe all over again. We went to our room unpacked and realised we had not seen one of the most popular tourist attractions in Gaborone, the tribute to the three founding chiefs. Just 1km from the hotel we walked there and read the 6 brass plaques about the history, entrance is free. Now as mid day approached so did the hot sun, back at the hotel we went up to the sky pool and Vodka lounge.
A dip in the pool was freezing and we realised why we were the only people there. Later that afternoon we joined the Food and Wine festival in Masa Square , South African wines caught my eye as did the Nespresso coffee machine. Sipping my Posh water bottled in the Cape on the comfy Posh couch surrounded by societies finest and listening to the live band was a little piece of heaven.
We ended off the evening with a visit to the Sky Lounge, less than 1 km away this is the tallest building in Gaborone. With views of the city all around from the 19th floor there was no better way to end off our weekend in Gaborone.
An early departure meant waking up at 4am. We walked to the bus station at 5am, and gazed up at the stars in the night sky, enjoying the tranquility that surrounded us. Early arrival at the stop meant we could choose our seats again and yes, we did choose the exact same seats for the return trip.
The border crossing was quick. This time we arrived back much earlier than expected. Uber was just a touch of a button away again and in less than 8 minutes we seated in the back of our Uber X being driven home.
An enjoyable and affordable long weekend. I will definitely return to see more of the county.
Intercape bus runs daily at around 16 Euros a ticket. These ticket prices fluctuate. You can buy them at Park station or at Checkers Hyper. Be sure to take your ID or passport with when buying.
Pula is the official currency, at our time of travelling it was 0.08 Euro to a Pula. Lansmore Hotel cost 55.38 Euro including breakfast and tourism levy. Hotel Crystal Palace was 22.80 Euro a night for two people excluding breakfast. Eating out at 5 restaurants a total of 35.91 Euro. Taxi fare 3.22 Euro for two trips . Uber at 31.22 for two trips
Our weekend in total cost 171.38 Euro for two people.
Need to know
Most countries will be issued visas at the border but check before you arrive. Don’t take any dairy or meat products with you. Take sun tan lotion in the summer months. Always confirm if breakfast is included in room rates as they are normally separate. The electrical supply is 240V, best to take an adapter with, we were caught out here with charging phones. Foreign exchange is easy there are Bureau De Changes everywhere. You can use Visa and MasterCard and draw cash from ATM’S. Number plates are different colours, blue is for a taxi, red for the police and so on. The people are friendly and helpful, don’t ever hesitate to ask.
The next international Food Festival in Gaborone is on the 5 November 2016 This is the biggest food show and family fun day in Botswana is at Duma FM Grounds.
Lansmore Hotel + 267 315 9954 website : www.lonrhotels.com/lansmore-masa-square
Hotel Crystal Palace + 267 316 5071 email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Intercape website www.intercape.co.za
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