Distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast, the south-west country of Namibia is home to endless desert terrain, a night sky likened to impressionist paintings and diverse wildlife. Sparsely populated, the southern African country is one of the most breath-taking on the continent and promises a truly remote getaway.
Its wildlife offering includes the biggest population of free-roaming cheetahs to be found anywhere as well close to 100 other mammal species, all best observed at the pre-eminent Etosha National Park.
Complementing its vast landscapes and animal offering, are its alluring cities and friendly people. With its strong German influences observed through gothic cathedrals, and large European population, Windhoek is much more than the country’s capital and largest city, and is the perfect place to begin or end a Namibia trip.
Depending on where you are coming from, the requirements will vary. We strongly advise that before you travel, you must contact the relevant issuing authorities in good time to ascertain the entry requirements to their country, and to arrange the necessary permits and visas.
Namibia uses the Namibian Dollar (N$) this is linked on a one to one exchange with the South African Rand. The Rand is legal tender in Namibia, but the N$ cannot be used in South Africa.
If you are wishing to purchase currency before arriving in Namibia, it is easiest to buy Rand as the Namibian Dollar is seldom available in banks outside of Namibia.
Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. Most of them offer foreign exchange services – with cash, bank and credit cards as well as travellers cheques.
You can also obtain cash from many of the ATMs. Several international banks have branches in main city centres.
Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they have not been informed.
Public transport in Namibia is geared towards the needs of the local populace, and is confined to main roads between major population centres. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Namibia’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track.
It is easy to travel around Namibia by car, and a 2WD vehicle is perfectly adaquate for most journeys. However, long distances, poor mobile phone coverage outside of main towns and infrequent petrol stations that only accept cash mean that planning ahead is vital.
Namibians drive on the left and all signposts are in English. Seat belts must be worn at all times and talking on a mobile phone while driving is prohibited. The general speed limit is 120km/h on tarred roads outside of towns and 100km/h on gravel roads. In built up areas, the speed limit is 60km/h.
While most holiday areas in Namibia are malaria-free, certain areas do carry risks of malaria. Please consult your physician about malaria prophylactics at least six weeks before travelling if you are visiting any of these areas: the Kunune and Kavango Rivers year-round and the northern part of the country around Etosha and the Caprivi Strip from November to June.
Tell your doctor if you are going scuba diving after your trip to Namibia as this will affect the type of anti-malaria you may be prescribed.
GENERAL PRECAUTION TIPS:
Sleep under the mosquito net if it is provided in your room.
Lightly spray your room with bug repellent before you go for dinner.
At sunset, apply mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeve shirt and trousers with closed shoes.
GENERAL HEALTH TIPS:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap but especially after using the toilet and before eating.
- Carry anti-bacterial hand gel if soap and water are not easily available.
- Do not underestimate the effects of the sun.
- Apply high SPF sunscreen regularly and wear a sun hat.
- Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and seek medical assistance if you feel shaky, nauseous or clammy after a day in the sun as you may be suffering from sunstroke.
- Ensure that your regular vaccinations – such as rabies, tetanus, influenza, MMR and hepatitis are up to date.
Although incidents of theft are extremely rare, for peace of mind make use of your in-room safe or the Hotel’s safe to store your extra cash, travel documents, jewellery, cameras and electronic gadgets when you do not require them or when you are leaving your room.
Traditional Namibian cuisine is rarely served and so the food at restaurants tends to be European in style and is, generally, of a very high standard.
Namibia is very meat-orientated, and many menu options will feature steaks from various animals. However, there is usually a vegetarian and seafood section offered by most camps and restaurants.
In the supermarkets you’ll find pre-wrapped fresh fruit and vegetables (though the more remote the areas you visit, the smaller your choice), and plenty of canned foods, pasta, rice, bread, etc. Most of this is imported from South Africa.
The water in Namibia’s main towns is generally safe to drink, though it may taste a little metallic if it has been piped for miles. Natural sources should usually be purified, though water from underground springs and dry riverbeds seldom causes any problems. However, filtered and bottled water are readily available in most towns and all camps, lodges and hotels.
Partially covered by the Namib Desert, one of the world’s driest deserts, Namibia’s climate is generally very dry and pleasant – it’s fine to visit all year round. Namibia only receives a fraction of the rain experienced by countries further east.
Between about December to March some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localised, afternoon thunderstorms. These are more common in the centre and east of the country, and more unusual in the desert.
April and especially May are often lovely months in Namibia. Increasingly dry, with a real freshness in the air, and much greenery in the landscape; at this time the air is clear and largely free from dust.
From June to August Namibia cools down and dries out more; nights can become cold, dropping below freezing in some desert areas. As the landscape dries so the game in the north of the country gravitates more to waterholes, and is more easily seen by visitors.
By September and October it warms up again; game-viewing in most areas is at its best, although there’s often a lot of dust around and the vegetation has lost its vibrancy.
November is a highly variable month. Sometimes the hot, dry weather will continue, at other times the sky will fill with clouds and threaten to rain – but if you’re lucky enough to witness the first rains of the season, you’ll never forget the drama.
Namibians have a somewhat relaxes attitude to dress codes. A jacket and tie is very unusual. In fact, long trousers and a shirt with buttons are often quite adequate for a formal occasion or work wear. A pair of sensible shoes, jeans and a t-shirt is recommended.
During the day it is generally hot, so pack light weight loose fitting clothes in natural fabrics, such linen or cotton, that will keep you cool and are easy to wash and dry.
Avoid blue clothing – the tsetse flies are drawn to the colour blue, and their bite can give you African sleeping sickness.
Long sleeved shirts and long trousers will protect your against mosquitoes at night.
Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. A three-point round-pin adapter plug should be brought for your electrical appliances. Such adapters are also available at major airports.
- Disable the GPS function on your social media and other apps when uploading images of wildlife. Poaching syndicates use online and digital information to track highly endangered rhino. Think twice before you make these images publicly available and consider who you are tagging.
- Namibia is a very arid country and fresh water is scarce in most areas, especially the desert. Take shorter showers, do not fill the bath tub and switch off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving – avoid letting the water run unnecessarily.
- Smoking, eating, drinking or singing on game drives aren’t permitted. Do go ahead and ask your guide questions or tell him or her if you would like to stop for a while longer. Remember that your guide cannot guarantee what sights you will see.
- Don’t goad your guide into driving closer to especially babies or kills in order to get a better view. Young and their mothers are skittish and you could frighten off hungry predators from a much-needed meal.
- Leave natural items including plants, fungi, rocks or animal products where you found them. It is illegal to procure ivory or rhino horn.
- Always obey your guide’s instructions. No matter how “tame” animals may seem, they are still wild and unpredictable. Do not attempt to entice them with food, imitate animal sounds, clap your hands to get their attention, or teas them to provoke a reaction. If an attack does occur, you may be far from significant medical attention so always be wary of the animals and act cautiously.
Only Air Namibia flies directly from Namibia to Europe, with a direct overnight flight seven days a week between Windhoek and Frankfurt. The time difference between Western Europe and Namibia is either an hour or two hours depending on the season, so there’s no jet lag.
Air Namibia also operates connecting flights to/from Johannesburg and Cape Town to link up with most intercontinental flights to/from Windhoek. From London, travellers can connect to Air Namibia via Frankfurt or use one of the major carriers to Johannesburg (11 hours), and then connect through to Windhoek. If you consider flying via Johannesburg, then there are a whole host of other options, from many European airports.
British Airways and South African Airways have frequent services, and both operate add-on connections to Windhoek, run by their subsidiaries.
From the Americas
South African Airways operates direct flights from Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC and J F Kennedy International Airport in New York, NY to Johannesburg. They also have direct flights to Johannesburg from Atlanta, GA, code sharing with Delta. From Johannesburg there are numerous regional flights to Windhoek.
Air Namibia offers services from Accra, Ghana to Windhoek, connecting with Delta/American codeshares to the U.S. Canadian and U.S. citizens should be aware they require visas to transit through Ghana. Alternatively, many travellers from the US approach southern Africa using connections via Europe, joining Air Namibia’s flights in Frankfurt, or travelling on one of the many carriers servicing Johannesburg, and then connecting through to Windhoek. Given the duration of these flights, travellers often include a few days in Europe as they transit.
Travellers in Central and South America might use the Atlanta or European gateways, or the direct flights from São Paulo or Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, run by South African Airways.
From the Far East, there are flights between Johannesburg and most of the major centres in the region, including Hong Kong (with South African Airways or Cathay Pacific) and Singapore (South African Airlines and Singapore Airlines). From Australasia, the best route is probably one of the flights from Perth to Johannesburg, with South African Airways or Qantas, connecting to Windhoek.
If you are not flying in, then entering over one of Namibia’s land borders is equally easy. . If you are crossing with a hired car, then remember to let the car-hire company know, as they will need to provide you with the right paperwork before you set off.
Road-user charges have been imposed to generate sufficient funding to maintain a safe and economically efficient road sector in Namibia. Cross-Border Charges (CBCs) or Entry Fees to be paid by all foreign-registered vehicles entering the country amount to N$220.00 per vehicle, N$140.00 for a trailer, motorcycle or caravan, and buses either N$520.00 or N$660.00, depending on the number of axles.
Tourists driving privately owned vehicles and foreign-registered rental vehicles are required to pay CBCs, for which a CBC certificate will be issued for every entry into Namibia. The fees vary between the types of vehicle.
Permits for regular road users travelling within 10 km of a designated border post will be issued at the discretion of the RFA (Road Fund Administration) at a cost of N$310.00. These permits will be valid for three months or 30 crossings.
Cash payments can be made in Namibia dollars at all border posts or designated payment offices, while creditcard payments can be effected at all border posts except Ruacana/Omahenene. Prepayment options are available at Ariamsvlei, Noordoewer, Buitepos, Katima Mulilo and Oshikango. Please note that these fees are subject to change.
Visitors can travel through the country by means of scheduled tours in luxury coaches or microbuses, by train, fly-in safaris, self-drive tours, off-the-beaten-track camping trips in 4×4 vehicles, specialised tailor-made tours, wilderness safaris, safaris on horseback, canoeing and white-river rafting. Specialist tailor-made tours for birdwatchers, geologists, anglers, ethnologists, photographers and other specialist travellers are guided by experts in the respective fields.
Self-drive trips are are available for travellers who like to have some flexibility in their itinerary and explore places off the beaten path. All you need is a reliable vehicle, an international driver’s license, a good map and a good sense of adventure. Namibia has good infrastructure and friendly people and the combination lends itself to self-exploration. The country has a vast, well-maintained road network with international links to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, cell phone coverage that spans the entire country and accommodation that varies from community campsites to 5 star luxury. English is the official language, so North Americans and most Europeans find the country easy to navigate and with the locals. You can connect with other travellers visiting Namibia here.
Fly-In safaris are an option for travellers with a flexible budget and limited time in Namibia. Small private charter flights can be arranged to all points within the country, including many of the smaller lodges and guest farms. It’s a very easy way to travel. It is also the only way to get to some of the more inaccessible corners, like the northern section of the Skeleton Coast. Fly-In safaris can also be combined with overland trips. The majority of fly-in operators agree that the most popular scenic flights are to Sossusvlei, famous for its magnificent star-shaped red and orange dunes, and day trips to authentic Himba villages in the north-western part of Namibia.
Hotels & Lodges
Most visitors choose to stay in lodge style accommodation while travelling in Namibia, but the country also has a range of hotels. The choices vary from rustic country hotels to large luxury hotels in the major town such as Windhoek and Swakopmund. Bush camps and lodges are available at various price levels, and often have a distinct feel and atmosphere.
Guest farms are private farms, which host small numbers of guests and offer a very personal experience. Guests will often dine with the hosts and be taken on excursions by them during the day. Most have some wildlife on their land and conduct their own game drives. Many guest farms cater to German-speaking visitors. As space in these establishments is limited, they should usually be booked in advance.
Namibia is a camper’s paradise. There is a wide choice of sites all over Namibia for seasoned campers or nervous novices on their first camping holiday, from luxury campsites under shady trees and grassy lawns, to wild places under a camel-thorn tree in a sandy riverbed. In the more remote areas, far from settlements, it is perfectly acceptable to just sleep by the road.
In recent years, there has been a growth in the number of community campsites. These campsites, especially in the northwest and north-east of the country, have stylishly natural designs, and have been built with material from the area. Community campsites provide a base from which to enjoy and explore the highlights of the country and magnificent scenery, while offering opportunities to meet the various and interesting ethnic groups of Namibia, eat local food, visit local homesteads, make new friends and experience new cultures.