Post by Rachel Stahl from the University of Colorado at Boulder
Coming to Botswana, I was unsure how much travel time I was going to have available, as well as if there would be anyone to travel with. Fortunately, everyone is determined to see as much of this area as they can, so do NOT be worried about having no one to travel with. Unfortunately, since the summer session is packed with a full class schedule and CIEE-sponsored trips/events, traveling has to be squeezed into a couple free weekends.
Take advantage of any open weekend (especially the longer weekends due to holidays)! You have already paid for the expensive plane ticket here, so these little trips will never be this cheap again. There are numerous different trips to take depending on time and money constraints. This summer, groups have planned trips to the Delta, Namibia, Cape Town, and the elephant sanctuary in South Africa. I personally just visited Namibia for a three-day weekend, and I will be flying to Cape Town for a four-day weekend.
My group decided to go with staying in an Airbnb in both Namibia and Cape Town, and we were able to find great houses for very cheap when split among a group. Another cost effective option is camping, just make sure you have the right supplies like sleeping bags, tents, etc. Also take a look in the book in the CIEE office to see where people stayed on their trips—it is a great resource!
As soon as you begin planning trips, look at flight prices! The drive to Swakopmund, Namibia took ~18.5 hours each way, so this drastically cut into the amount of time we could spend around the city. Some of the drives are much shorter, and these can be arranged with taxi drivers associated with CIEE.
I always use Trip Advisor as a first resource to research the top activities and attractions within an area. I also use Instagram by searching for pictures by location. This can give you great ideas for picture spots and must-see views! Create a list for what to do each day, and make sure to check what days/times things are open so you can plan around it. If you are booking activities, begin the process far in advance, as communication can be difficult through email.
My favorite part of any trip!!! My go-to resource is Yelp; it has yet to lead me wrong. In some smaller cities/towns, there are few postings on Yelp, so I would recommend using a guidebook like The Lonely Planet. Again, I also like to use Instagram for researching food. I usually just search something like “Cape Town Food,” and then various accounts and hash tags will show up.
Do the majority of your trip planning before you leave when you have stable Wi-Fi. This includes writing down the address to where you are staying, any phone numbers you may need, and names of restaurants. You do not want to get stuck without Wi-Fi and have no information. Also, if you are traveling to a different country, turn on roaming on the trap phones (bought during the first week of the program) before you leave Botswana.
Wishing you safe and happy travels!!