A 4x4 is required for all of Botswana’s national parks and reserves. You can’t really do a self-drive safari in Botswana without one. Hiring a 4x4 or safari camper will cost between $30 and $70 per person per day depending on the type of vehicle and number of people splitting costs. Then there’s fuel, food, camping and national park fees on top of that. Vehicle hire and fuel can account for more than half your total outlay (excluding flights), so the more people you can share it with, the more affordable your safari will be.
Inside the parks, camping for international visitors can be anything from $25 to $50 a night (it’s around $20 to $30 per person for SADC residents). Outside the parks, expect to pay between $8 and $10 per person to camp, regardless of nationality. National park conservation fees are then about $12 per day, plus another $5 a day per vehicle unless it’s registered in Botswana in which case it’ll cost around $1. Fuel is hard to estimate, but 4x4s can be thirsty, especially in soft sand and mud. A rough guess would be about $30 a day per vehicle for a two-week, 4000km roundtrip, with plenty of sand and off-road driving. Fuel costs about $0.8/litre in Botswana so that’s around 285km a day at 12l/100km (8.3km/litre), which is what you can expect from a heavily loaded 4x4 on rough terrain. Food and drinks are up to you, but supermarket prices are about the same as South Africa, so on the whole a bit cheaper than Europe and North America.
All these numbers are rough estimates, but a two-week self-drive safari for two should cost about $1500 each for international visitors, excluding flights. It’ll be bit less if you can share costs with a few more people, and a bit more if you treat yourself to a night or two in a lodge. All-in-all, it’s good value compared with basing yourself in Maun or Kasane and booking multiple day safaris from there. If you only have a few days then that would still be the simplest and most cost-effective option, but two weeks in Maun plus a few safari activities will almost certainly come to over $1000 per person. And you’ll not have seen more than a small slice of the country.
Most travellers opt for booking a rental with 4x4 hire South Africa to accommodate their travel plans.