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I'm an American planning to travel to Botswana in September. I'm wondering about the best way to access money while there. I don't want to carry very much cash, but my experience traveling in some countries is that foreign cards aren't usable in many situations. So, here are my questions:

  1. Can I expect a more favorable exchange rate when converting cash (USD -> BWP), using an ATM with a US card, or using an American credit card?
  2. How likely am I to be able to find ATMs that accept an American debit card (MasterCard- or Visa-branded)? In previous travels, I've sometimes found that only certain ATMs will accept foreign cards.
  3. How easy can I expect it to be to use an American Visa credit card to make in-person purchases?
  4. Alternatively, am I thinking about this all wrong?
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  • Take what cards you can, and be glad when you can draw cash with one, instead of worrying about exchange rates. The cost of living (things you pay cash for) is much cheaper than in USA and you can afford the convenience. Jul 23, 2021 at 18:20
  • My challenge is that "be glad when you can draw cash with one" doesn't ensure that I'll be able to access money when I need it. Jul 23, 2021 at 18:24

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I presume you have travelled by now and can probably answer this question yourself! But for those that may want to travel to Botswana (my favourite country in Africa!) in future:

Botswana readily accepts visa and master cards, notify your bank that you will be using the card in a foreign country, with dates. I've travelled extensively in Botswana (and lived there for a while) and never had a problem with my South African bank card being accepted anywhere in Botswana - I have a Visa card, and carry my Mastercard as a backup. The only country so far where the ATM would only accept Mastercard, was Malawi.

Most lodges and large shops readily accept your credit card as payment, it does however happen that the power is off or that the internet reception is poor, or maybe "the machine is broken" - so I always carry enough cash to pay for a tank of fuel, or my shopping (about P2000= about US$200). You can easily withdraw Pula at the ATMS, or if you bring dollars in cash, can exchange this at most forex bureaus. Cards that are not readily accepted is American Express and Diners club.

Hope that helps for future travels to Botswana!

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    I ended up withdrawing cash at ATMs and going that way. Every ATM I tried accepted my cards without issue. I never tried using a card at the point of sale ("swiping" in the local parlance), but it seemed to be a frequent option. Jan 11 at 16:57

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