There’s an abundance of privately owned local buses that travel from Gaborone outwards to various parts of Botswana. The buses depart from 5.30am from the ‘bus rank’ situated behind Rail Park Mall.
There’s no schedule published, so you would have to go to the bus rank to enquire about departure times and fares. The bus rank is always heaving with people because it’s the hub of public transport. It can be very intimidating, as it’s also not very well organized. There are incidents of crime such as bags being snatched; but on the whole, it’s safer than it actually looks.
The bus fare is relatively low. The last time I travelled from Maun to Gaborone by bus (about 2 years ago), it cost me under P200 for a one-way journey. Please confirm fares before travelling.
Tickets can only be bought onboard the bus, not before. The longer the journey, the less comfortable the buses generally are. Sadly, bus operators don’t always prioritise their customers’ comfort. They don’t have any reclining seats, not much legroom and have no toilets onboard. Although the Department of Transport doesn’t approve of it for health and safety reasons, crammed buses are the norm. Additionally; there are almost always many standing passengers. This makes it even more uncomfortable and hot, especially in the summer months.
You are not able to buy any provisions on the bus either. There’s usually a break about half way through the journey, where passengers are able to get off and stretch their legs, buy some food and water and use the bathroom. Some bus drivers play very loud music or some ‘interesting’ movies’ (usually Nigerian), which may not be to your taste.
There are also night buses, which I’m reliably told can be just as noisy all through the journey. Travelling long distance by bus may not be the most pleasant of experiences, but the fact that it’s cheap may take the sting out of the discomfort. You could alternatively fly Air Botswana, but airfares are not very kind on the pocket, and delays are commonplace. However, there’s hope that this may change following the airliner’s partnership with Qatar Airways last year.
Air Botswana recently announced plans to introduce customer friendly fares. I’ve also observed that where there used to be complaints about the airliner all the time, there now appears to be a trickle of very positive reviews!
Combi – registered blue registration plates minibus
Route – as the word suggests, the route along which the combi goes
Station – the starting and termination point for most combis, buses and taxis
Bus Rank– where you’ll find outbound buses, taxis and some combis
As far as combis are concerned, if you need to be somewhere at a specific time, ensure you leave well in time. Or better still, grab a taxi.
If you don’t know where you’re going and feel overwhelmed, ask the driver to tell you when he gets to your stop. They are generally good with this sort of thing. Or alternatively, get a taxi.
Try to break down your money into smaller denominations and coins to avoid delays. I personally never give a combi driver or ‘conductor’ anything over P20. I carry around a lot of coins to avoid any problems or delays.
Try not to stress out because combis are relatively safe and you aren’t likely to be short-changed.
If you’re getting the bus for a long journey, ensure you get to the bus rank with at least 45 minutes to an hour to spare, so as to grab a seat. The seats fill up pretty fast.
Be sure to grab some provisions; especially plenty of water, wet wipes, some tissues, something to eat etc Even though the bus does stop for people to pick up provisions, the queues can be long and you don’t want to risk being left behind! You usually get about 10 minutes to dash into the store and use the bathroom.
If you’re travelling alone, you might want to load up your MP3 player with some of your favourite music and take along some reading material, as there’s not much to see along the way. You used to be able to spot some wild animals on the Francistown-Maun road. Sadly, as Botswana has grown over the years, we have encroached on the wild animals’ territory and forced the animals to move elsewhere.
If you miss your bus, breathe and try not to panic because there’s usually another one scheduled to depart about 30 minutes to an hour later.