Namibia or Botswana? where to go in Southern Africa?

Namibia or Botswana? If you are struggling to choose which Southern Africa country you should travel next. Both are widely known African destinations, with amazing things to see and do, but which is better for you? We will explore everything about them and help you figure if you should go to Botswana or Namibia

Namibia and Botswana are relatively similar, both are some of the safest and most developed countries in Africa. Plus, they are huge countries with a tiny population. Yet. the two countries offer a wide range of activities for travelers, they are famous for their safaris, deserts, and national parks. So, let’s compare them in terms of:

  • General beauty;
  • Tourist attractions;
  • Beaches;
  • Safari;
  • Culture and heritage;
  • Resorts;
  • Nightlife;
  • Food scene;
  • Travel infrastructure;
  • Travel safety;
  • Costs;
  • Tourist index;

Namibia vs Botswana – Travel edition

General beauty

These are two of our favorite countries in the world. The vast stretches of land without people resonate with us. Namibia is almost all covered with the Namib and Kalahari deserts. The huge dunes of the Namib and the skeleton coast are really unique and unforgettable sites.

Botswana also has a vast portion of land with the Kalahari, but it doesn’t have the dunes of Namib. On the other, it has a much wider variety of sceneries with savannahs, wetlands, deserts, salt pans, hills, etc. And, if Namibia has the dunes, what can we say about the Okavango Delta… Instead of flowing to the sea, this huge river just disappears inland, creating a huge inland delta and swamp.

We will have to give this one a tie, as it really depends on what type of landscape you prefer.

Namibia Or Botswana
Boat ride in the Okavango Delta

Tourist attractions and activities

Both countries have huge tourist attractions, famous worldwide, though we feel that Namibia has a bigger variety. Namibia has a world-class game park (Etosha), but it also has the Sossuvlei dunes, the Tiras Mountains, Spitzkoppe, Fish river canyon, and the Skeleton Coast. And, let’s not forget that Swakopmund has beaches and lots of adventure activities.

Botswana is much more focuses on the Safari experiences of the game reserves and national park, particularly in the Okavango Delta and Chobe. It has a few other things like Makgadikgadi Salt Pans or the Tsodilo hills, but they aren’t as popular.

So, Namibia wins this one due to a bigger variety. Though, if you want to see animals and particularly have a luxury safari experience, then Botswana is a better option.

Namibia vs Botswana
Sandboarding in Swakopmund, Namibia

Beaches of Namibia vs Botswana

Neither Namibia nor Botswana is famous for its beaches. However, between the two, the winner is easy, as Botswana is landlocked, while Namibia has a long shoreline. The beaches in Swakopmund are average and well worth a dive and maybe a few hours of relaxing. Though, I don’t think anyone looking for a beach destination will choose Namibia as their first option.

Even so, Namibia wins this one.

Beaches in Swakopmund, Namibia

Safaris in Namibia or Botswana

The safaris are the main reason why people go to Namibia and Botswana, so this is an important topic. In general, we think Botswana wins this one; it has more options and with higher quality.

In Botswana, you’ll find Chobe National Park, the Okavango delta, and more game reserve. All of them are world-class Game reserves and National parks where you can see all the famous animals in Africa. With more than 130 000 elephants, Botswana is particularly famous for having more elephants than anywhere else in the world.

Namibia on the other hand has only one truly great safari destination, Etosha. Etosha is brimming with wildlife and a great adventure, though it’s the only world-class safari destination in the country. Caprivi Strip is nice, but it doesn’t come close to the others we mention. Yet, we need to mention that if Botswana is the place to go if you want to see elephants, Namibia has the largest population of wild cheetahs in the world (about 20%).

Where To Go In Southern Africa?
River Safari in the Chobe National Park in Botswana

Culture and heritage

In terms of culture and heritage, both countries have a lot to offer, but again Namibia has a wider range of things to explore and they are much easier to reach and do. In Namibia you can meet the Himba people, the San people (also known as the bushman) and you get to experience the unique blender of African and german cultures. The town of Swakopmund is particularly interesting in this regard.

The Himba are famous for their unusually red skin that comes from spreading red clay on to their face and hair, while the San people are said to be the oldest people in the world. Botswana has an even bigger population of San people, which you can visit and learn about their culture.

Both countries have 2 UNESCO heritage sites, and each has one natural (Namib desert vs Okavango delta) and one cultural (Twyfelfontein in northern Namibia and Tsodilo in Botswana). Curiously, both are rock-art sites.

In a hindsight, the German-African blend and the Himba people give Namibia a bigger variety and a small advantage in this topic.

Namibia vs Botswana
Traditional German house in Swakopmund in Namibia

Resorts of Botswana vs Resorts of Namibia

Botswana is worldwide known for the quality of its resorts. Fly-in safaris in Botswana, luxury jungle resorts, and glamping sites are the main focus of Botswana’s tourism. And they have been successful with it.

Namibia also has some of these kinds of options, but not with the same diversity and quantity. Tourism there is more focused on independent travel.

You known that tourist agency image of a luxury tented safari with elephants and giraffes in the back? well, that’s Botswana. So, in terms of resorts, Botswana wins easily, as it’s simply their core business.

Namibia Vs Botswana - Travel Edition
Resort in the Okavango Delta in Botswana

Nightlife of Namibia and Botswana

Let’s be honest here… who goes to Namibia or Botswana for their nightlife? Not us for sure! Though we believe that it really shouldn’t matter, Namibia seems to have a few better options.

Both in Swakopmund and Windhoek, have nice restaurants and a few relaxed bars where one could enjoy the hot summer nights. And, it is pleasant to have a cold drink at night, after a long day exploring the country. In Botswana, we didn’t really try to do this kind of thing, and the few cities we visited didn’t really attract us in this regard. Though, you have the bars and restaurants of the resorts, which are more than pleasant.

Food scene in Namibia and Botswana

We love to try new foods and local dishes. It’s one of our guilty pleasures on any trip… Yet, when I look back to our trips to Botswana I can’t remember doing it there. So, we are not sure if it was us that didn’t really find the correct spots or if that’s something Botswana doesn’t have to offer (yet).

In Namibia, we had the opportunity to try a few game meat, like Zebra or crocodile. Joe’s Beerhouse in Namibia is the place to go to try these and other quality meats. Oysters are also good by the shore in between Luderitz and Swakopmund. And, of course, you can’t traverse the Namib and skip McGregor’s bakery famous apple pie in Solitaire.

Best place to visit Botswana or Namibia
A mixture of game meat in Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek, Namibia

Travel Infrastructure

In terms of infrastructure, Namibia is slightly ahead of Botswana as the roads are better, there are more restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, and hostels.

This means that if you are an independent traveler, your life if simply easier, but as we said, that’s Namibia’s niche, not Botswana.

Yet, if you think of infrastructure as National Parks, luxury resorts, eco-resorts, fly-in safaris, then Botswana is better.

Safari in Chobe National Park 
River safari in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Which is safer? Botswana or Namibia?

While Namibia is considered a relatively safe country, Botswana is one of the safest countries in Africa. So, Botswana has to win this topic.

In general, Namibia is rather safe, but a traveler needs to be careful in some areas, and at night. Crime is on the rise in the capital Windhoek and other suburban areas. Muggings, bag snatching, and ATM robberies are other thins to be specially ware. As in almost every country, taking a taxi is also something to be aware of.

Botswana has a low crime rate, though increasing. Street crime is quite rare, particularly against travelers as people in Botswana tend to be very friendly and the country is heavily investing in luxury travel. It helps that tourists tend to concentrate in the resorts, national parks, and game reserves where there’s no crime. Maun (tourism capital) and Gabarone (the actual capital) are the two areas where you need to be more careful.

Overall, Botswana is a safe country – probably the safest one in Africa, and a good place to start your exploration of this content if you’ve never been there before. Attacks towards tourists are rare and people are welcoming and warm.

During our trip through Namibia and Botswana, we didn’t experience anything dangerous and felt comfortable driving and traveling through the country. Though, you should note that we were living in Angola and were used to live and traveling in Africa. And, Angola is much more dangerous than Namibia or Botswana.

Safaris in Namibia or Botswana
hippopotamus in the Okavango Delta Botswana

Which is Cheaper? Namibia or Botswana?

This is a much harder question than in other comparisons we have made. There is less information online and in our opinion, it really depends on what you want to do and what kind of traveler you are. Despite looking similar, Namibia and Botswana cater to very different kind of travelers.

In our experience we found Namibia to be a bit cheaper than Botswana. Hotels are very cheap and as there are many options we usually can find a nice value for money option. As there are some nice supermarkets and fast food options, it’s also possible to save on food. Yet, even good restaurants aren’t that expensive. Attractions tend to be on the expensive side, but nothing extraordinary really, particularly if you keep in mind what kind of activity is. Our rental car was also very budget-friendly.

Botswana has less low budget offers, making it more challenging to save money. In general, even budget hotels are more expensive than in Namibia. Saving on food is also harder as there are less fast food and good supermarkets to stock up. It is still possible to have a cheap trip, but it requires more planning, and even so you’ll probably spend a little more than in Namibia.

Botswana or Namibia
4×4 drive in the Desert of Swakopmund, Namibia

Which has more tourists? Namibia or Bostwana?

Namibia and Botswana have a very similar number of tourists every year. Namibia received 1.5 M, while Botswana had 1.6 M international travelers. these are considerable numbers, taking both of them into the top 10 most visited countries in Africa.

Despite these high numbers, we are talking about huge countries with very little population. Furthermore, the activities are mostly done in limited groups, so crowds aren’t a problem in either country.

We really dislike feeling cramped in a crowded, and one of the reasons we enjoy Botswana and Namibia so much is the sense of freedom and emptiness.

Our Namibia vs Botswana verdict

In conclusion, when we look at Namibia and Botswana closely we can see that despite being similar in some ways, they offer very different things to travelers. And, more importantly, they attract different kinds of travelers.

Botswana has become an eco-tourism and luxury destination, focusing on high-end and fly-in safaris and organized tours. This tends to be more expensive and lacks a variety of things to do, with less cultural and heritage things to offer. However, if what you are looking for is animal spotting, then Botswana is the place to go. Furthermore, Botswana has a bigger variety of sceneries, with deserts, swamps, hills, savannahs, and wetlands.

Namibia has slightly cultural and heritage to explore, it has beaches and lots of adrenaline activities in Swakopmund. However, when it comes to wildlife and safaris it has less quantity, but the quality is similar. It also has a very different setting. While Botswana has very different landscapes, Namibia is mostly made of deserts (Namib and Kalahari). Amazingly beautiful desert, but still… deserts.

We preferred Namibia to Botswana, as it has more diverse activities, and more importantly, it’s much easier and fun to travel independently… However, it’s a close call, and in the end, it mostly depends on what you are looking for on this trip.

You should choose Botswana if you are looking for:

  • Luxury and eco-resorts;
  • Organized tours;
  • Mostly safaris and wildlife;
  • The safest country;
  • Diverse sceneries;
Botswana vs Namibia
Leopard in Chobe National Park, Namibia

You should choose Namibia if you are looking for:

  • A more diverse range of activities;
  • But still want to do a few safaris and animal spotting;
  • Adrenaline rush activities;
  • The cheapest option;
  • Travel independently;
Best Southern Africa
San people in Namibia

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Namibia Or Botswana? Where To Go In Southern Africa?
Namibia Or Botswana? Where To Go In Southern Africa?

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