Driving in Namibia is not for the faint-hearted: roads are bumpy and dusty, potholes have the size of bathtubs, wild animals suddenly cross the road, terribly long trucks claim huge parts of the road. On the plus side, the roads are empty pretty much everywhere in Namibia, and they normally run straight for several kilometres.
If you want to drive yourself in Namibia, I'd recommend the following:
1. Take a jeep or SUV or any other car that is suitable for driving in offroad conditions. You will need it. We saw people in rented Volkswagen Polos for whom driving must have been an absolute nightmare.
2. Know how to change a tire. We drove along stretches of road where you could see the remains of flat tires every 200m. If you don't know how to change your tire in case of a puncture, you're in big trouble. In the desert, there is hardly any mobile reception, and even if you do get through to someone able to help you, they will have to drive for a very long time until they reach you. Moreover, the it will be scorching hot and the sun will burn mercilessly. So do have a lot of water with you.
3. While a large number of roads is very hard to drive on, there are also dirt roads where speeds of 100km/h are allowed. If you aren't sure how to drive on dirt roads, don't go full speed. Many locals seem to be hellbent on dying on the roads, but this doesn't mean that you have to follow their example. Also, if you're going at 100km/h, you won't see potholes fast enough to brake.
4. Take extra care when driving at night, in particular in areas with wild animals. We came across a dead elephant which had been hit by one of those huge trucks - if it had been a car, it might not have been the elephant for whom the bell tolled. When approaching a herd of cows, wildebeest, springboks or any other animal, slow down. They might just run away from the road, but some of them panic and do a detour via the middle of the road. All over Namibia, animals have right of way.
We found that the main roads are normally okay, in particular from the Caprivi Strip to Otavi, from Outjo to the Etosha NP, from Cape Cross to Swakopmund, and around Windhoek. In many other cases, there were quite good dirt roads. The most nightmarish roads, however, we found in the Etosha NP (offside the main roads), between Otavi and Outjo, from Walvis Bay to the Sossusvlei and further to Klein Aub as well as around Twyfelfontein and the Brandberg Mountains.Related to:
- Road Trip
Roads in Namibia
Random tips about the Namibian road system:
- always drive on the left
- Namibia has about 5000 km of tar road and 40.000 km of gravel road. For the most part, both are in very good condition and well maintained.
- plan ahead where to buy gas and fill up at every opportunity!
- on the gravel roads, your speed should not exceed 80 km/h and you should leave your car lights on as you are easier to spot in the dust cloud that will inevitably follow you.
- keep an eye out for wildlife next to the road - warthogs and baboons tend to cross the roads without warning.
- the access roads to guest farms usually have plenty of potholes, so drive slowly and with caution.
- when planning your trip, take into account that you will need more time on gravel roads.
- only drive during daytime, as wildlife accidents are more likely after sunset.
- you do not need a 4WD car for most regions of Namibia, but a robust SUV-style car would be helpful; I wouldn`t recommend to rent a regular city car.
- you should be able to change a tire and know that the tools and the tire are in the car.
- most rental car companies have a detailed set of free regional Namibia maps which will be very useful - ask for it
reliable safari tour agent
to travel around Namibia I wouild suggest to book at a reliable Namibian tour agent
eitehr if you do selfdrive tours or complete full tailored tours with professional guide/driver
we were lucky with our absolut excellent tour agent MATITITOURS
to a perfect 11 days tour organized by Marlene
with our perfect driver/guide LesleyRelated to:
The most unusual road surface I've ever driven on is the salt road that heads north from Swakopmund along the Skeleton Coast. Yes, the construction material is salt.
That being said; the drive itself is uniteresting and rather boring. Generally too far from the sea to see anything and too far from the more interesting parts of the country.Related to:
- Road Trip
Flights to Windhoek
Fly with Air Namibia,it is the easiest and cheapest way to get to Windhoek.Take the train or S.Bahn from brussels,Air Namibia might even include part of the trip in your ticket.Sure they have technical delays like any other airline.I would give a stop over a miss as this would ad almost a day extra traveling both ways.
In fact if they have a delay of more than 6 hours due to technical problems according to strict european law you receive Euro 600 for the inconvenience.
Flights leave 6 times a week from Frankfurt,and you can be in the bush by breakfast the next day.
enjoy the tripRelated to:
- Adventure Travel
- Business Travel
Extended Range Fuel Tanks
A number of companies rent "extended range" or "double tank" vehicles for trips to out of the way places in Namibia. I can only relate our experience, but it is my understanding that this is common practices amongst many of the companies that rent these vehicles.
The vehicles are an aftermarket conversion, where a second non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) fuel tank is installed in the vehicle. The second tank is mechanically (through fuel lines) connected to the first tank. In our case, this roughly doubled the fuel capacity of the vehicle (original capacity of 70 l and extra tank took this to 135 l) This meant that a fill up would give us between 700km and 900 km range. This lead to two strange things happened as we drove:
1. The fuel guage is connected to the original tank only and the second tank would be the one that was used first. This meant that the fuel gauge showed "Full" until the auxilliary tank was empty (roughly half the fuel) and would then act normally.
2. The connection between the tanks meant that the original fuel tank would fill normally, and once it was full, the fuel would then run into the auxilliary tank. This was a very slow process and it would take around 15 to 20 minutes to fill the auxilliary tank.
All a bit strange, but things worked. We were told to less the gas station attendent know that the truck had double tanks and he would then take appropriate action to fill up the truck,Related to:
- Road Trip
Just Back - Namibian Road Trip May 2011
Our party of three middle-aged women travelled through Namibia in May 2011 on a self-drive, custom trip arranged by ATI Holiday Tours, Windhoek, Namibia (http://www.infotour-africa.com). What a huge difference it made to have someone in-country guide us in our choices and make all the arrangements.
We loved the beauty and variety of Namibia. We found detailed trip reports on Virtual Tourist and other websites very helpful, so are trying to reciprocate, so I offer some driving, clothing and planning details.
We arrived in Windhoek the last weekend in April 2011, visited with our friends and toured Windhoek. The day before our road trip, David (David Cartwright, BSc, Managing Director of ATI Tours) met with us to review our tour plan, give us our book of vouchers, review the rental car and contract, give us really helpful how-to tips about driving around Namibia, and answer our last-minute questions.
Weather. Fortunately, the rainy season ended the weekend we arrived, and we had gorgeous fall weather -- sunny, 70-85 F during the day, and 45 to 60 F at night. Generally, we were fine in shirt-sleeves and light jackets during the day, but sitting in open touring vehicles for hours often become chilly. We layered with windbreakers, sweaters, and jackets for afternoon/evening game drives and for Nhoma Camp plus winter caps and gloves for 5 am and late pm activities in the Namib Desert. While we did not see multiple large herds of animals often seen in dryer seasons, we loved the cool weather and desert in bloom.
Driving around Namibia. Namibia has an excellent travel infrastructure, and wherever we went people were friendly and helpful. We drove around Namibia for 12 days, then flew to the Namib Desert for 3 days before returning to the U.S.
We rented a Toyota Hillux 4WD from Europcar; it felt like a huge, very stable, and secure truck. ATI Tours handled rental details, including getting the best insurance to make it worry-free, as we'd requested. Only one of us drives a standard transmission and 4WD regularly -- and none of us had ever shifted on the left while sitting on the right and driving on the left side of the road. And we also wanted to be prepared if the truck got a flat tire. David suggested a driving preparation lesson and arranged for two of us to have lesson in Windhoek with a fantastic teacher, a delightful start to our adventure.
We'd read on travel websites that others have had trouble with Europcar rentals in Namibia, but we had a good experience. Our driving instructor did notice that 2 tire valve caps were missing. He explained that driving with missing caps in the desert could result in sand particles lodging in the valve, causing tire deflation. So, we picked up 4 caps at a gas station. He also gave us tips for deciding whether and where to traverse water over a road or in a stream bed; he said some tourists damage cars in and just after rainy season by driving through water not knowing what they're doing.
We drove from Windhoek to Okonjima (Africat Foundation), then to northeastern Namibia (Nhoma Camp in the Kalahari, about 100 km. west of Botswana). We then headed west to Etosha National Park (staying at Onkoshi Lodge), next to Ongava Reserve just south of Etosha, before heading to Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast, where we dropped the car off and flew to Namib Desert before returning to Windhoek. Speed limits are 120 kmh on the B roads (good tar roads) and 100 kmh on the C roads (hardpacked gravel/sand mix, also good roads generally). Namibian drivers often cruise along at 130 or 140.
We knew to expect some road damage because for some areas 2011 was the worst rainy season in decades. So for a 6 hour day trip, we assumed it would take 8 so we wouldn't be trapped driving at night in remote areas. For example, on the C road between Grootfontein and Nhoma Camp we traveled at 60-90 kmh instead of 100 kmh, due to very rutted roads in spots. (We saw road graders out doing repairs everywhere we drove.) The B roads were excellent. The D3303 that heads to Nhoma Camp was not difficult to drive except in a couple of spots with loose sand. I loved driving in the Kalahari - serene and "empty," with beautiful scrub/sand vistas, with an occasional small settlement.
There were a number of travel stretches where there were very few, if any, other vehicles on the road. We loved our driving adventure in part because we felt prepared: we'd rented a satellite phone in the U.S. in case we were ever stranded, particularly in the more remote areas of the Kalahari. (We also carried water and food in case that happened.) In addition, ATI Tours provided a cell phone with all the telephone numbers we might need programmed into the directory - ATI Tour numbers, lodge numbers, emergency phone numbers, etc. It was easy to get cards to add minutes during the trip.
We never had problems except one flat tire at Nhoma Camp after the bumpy drive from Grootfontein. Jacques, son of Arno and Estelle, Camp owners, changed it for us! Many tourists fly to Nhoma Camp, which has an airstrip. Don't attempt to drive the last 100 yards up the sand dune unless you have experience in 4WD and loose sand. Our experienced driver did it and it was a wild ride. Arno can arrange to meet you at the bottom and get your car up the dune to the Camp.
Highlights of our adventure included: At Nhoma Camp, fascinating walks through the northeastern bushveldt with a truly remarkable guide Bertus and Ju/'hoansi hunters (one of the San peoples of the Kalahari) plus visits to their nearby village to see their way of life, dancing and singing together, playing with the kids; wildlife drives in Etosha National Park, Okonjiwa and Ongava; seeing different towns and people as we drove through various regions; walking along the Atlantic ocean in Swakopmund after 9 days in the bush; and a spectacular 3 days in the magical Namib Desert.
On several wildlife drives, we enjoyed spending 30, 45, 60 minutes watching animals at a single location -- a leopard stalking then leaping on a bird (Okonjima); a bull elephant in musk charging a white rhino near a water hole (Etosha); a dozen rhino moms and their calves and a pride of five lions (Ongava). We spent 6 to 9 hours with our guides each day (2 drives a day of varying lengths, depending on what you encounter and how long you or the group want(s) to sit quietly and watch.
Our guides were personable, intelligent, extremely accommodating, unfailingly polite, and very careful: Rohan at Okonjima, Bertus at Nhoma, Isaiah at Onkoshi/Etosha, Abram at Ongava, and Alex at Mountain Homestead Lodge, Namib Desert. For us, it was an extra treat that our guides hailed from a range of Namibian cultures - Ju/'hoansi, Ovambo, Afrikaner, and Hai//om. We learned about Namibia by asking them lots of questions and hearing their stories.
Our trip was a good mix of walking at Nhoma, Swakopmund, and Namib Desert and wildlife drives at Okonjima, Etosha, Ongava -- which require sitting plus bouncing when you hit ruts. We had not thought about this beforehand, but in areas where predators live, you can't head out for a jog or hike away from the lodge, much less leave your "bush Ferrari" mid-drive for a stroll into the bush. (Some lodges offer hiking in fenced areas.)
The Namib Desert was stunning, not just the iconic orange-red dunes of Sossusvlei, but also the mountains, plains, and dunes as seen from a 5-seater bush plane flight to the Namib, from Mountain Homestead Lodge rooms, a hot air balloon (Namib Sky Balloon Safaris), and by horseback (available at Desert Homestead Lodge through a mountain valley.
Tour planning experience. As travelers who enjoy reading about our destination ahead of time and thinking about and planning our own trips abroad, ATI was the perfect partner for us. Our cost comparisons, based on website prices, suggested that costs through ATI were comparable and would save us money in some areas. We spent 2 nights at Okonjima (Africat Foundation), 3 nights at Nhoma Camp, and then 2 nights at Onkoshi Lodge in Etosha National park. After driving through the park, we exited through Anderson Gate to the south, and spent 2 nights at Ongava Lodge. From there we drove to Swakopmund, and stayed 2 nights at Sandfields Inn, returned the car and flew to the Namib Desert, staying 3 nights at Mountain Homestead Lodge. Booking through ATI tours was very convenient. We only had to send ATI a booking form and two payments (a deposit when bookings were first made in November 2010 and final payment in March 2011, six weeks before our trip). Each place was unique. We were thrilled with our excellent lodging, food, and top-notch staff. (Lodging reviews are on lodge pages.)
We recommend ATI Tours for the following reasons (in addition to really enjoying David's wry sense of British humor):
--Outstanding attention to every detail of the trip, including excellent, well organized trip materials, a voucher packet, and a road map with routes marked to assist with our driving.
--Arrangements for our Toyota Hillux to be delivered and picked-up at our convenience.
--Excellent relationships with lodges and other types of tour operators (boat tours, etc.), making the inevitable snafus such as late arrivals and missed connections much easier to deal with.
--24/7 accessibility to ATI staff. ATI responded quickly and completely to our emails. ATI even called us once while we were traveling to alert us to a potential problem with a road we were heading toward due to weather conditions.
--ATI is committed to responsible tourism and the company assists local non-profit organizations as part of their business objectives, and we were pleased to participate in this effort.
We also learned that ATI can plan tours throughout several countries in Southern Africa, and we're planning to design a Namibia-Botswana tour with David as soon as we can save for our next adventure.
Namibian Explorer with African Routes
There are really only two options for visiting the park and Namibia in general. One option is to hire a car which is great because it gives you flexibility and allows you to go where you want when you want. This can be expensive unless you have a several people to split the cost.
The other option is to take a tour with an overland company. There are various companies that offer trip through Namibia. The one that I used, African Routes, was very reliable and a great value for my money. The guide and driver was perhaps one of the nicest guys I have ever met, and the itinerary was solid.
It took the 19 day Namibian Explorer that left from Capetown and ended in Victoria Falls. We visited the Orange River on the boarder of Namibia and South Africa, Fishriver canyon, The Namib Naukluft National Park, Duwisb Castle, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Cape Cross Seal colony, Damaraland (rock art), Etosha National Park, Okavango Delta in Botswana, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
The cost is about $1000 US and includes many activities.Related to:
- National/State Park
With Air Namibia to Windhoek
I traveled from Frankfurt/Germany to Windhoek with Air Namibia. I bought the ticket at a special price for EUR 520 (in USD it is round about 550).
It was a new plane, the service was excellent and there was enough place between the rows.
In 2004 I booked my flight last minute with www.ltur.de for EUR 532. It was also with Air Namibia. On L Tur's homepage you always find serval offers! The prices vary. From Frankfurt you have non-stopp flights with Air Namibia four times a week. The flight takes about 10 hours.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Moving around Namibia
Public transport in Namibia is far from ideal. The railway network is scarce, trains are slow and unreliable - that's why train travelling is not popular. As for the system of roads it is good. It's made up of excellent tarred roads (7800km) linking main cities and good gravel roads (64 800 km) leading to majority of tourist attractions in Namibia. The problem is that a few long distance buses take you only from one main city to another. And what next? How to get from there to your destination which is still a hundred km away?
So the best solution it is to hire a car. I'd love to come back to Namibia one day and try this option. But sometimes it may be impossible. It was so in my case. As I travelled only with my sister-in-law, renting a car would be at least insensible and also too expensive. That's why we decided to join a guided-tour. There are a lot of offers of such trips and majority of them use trucks as a means of transport. In our case it meant covering a distance from Cape Town to Victoria Falls in a truck, which turned out to be reliable and quite comfortable. The number of passangers ranged from 14 to 18 people, depending on the section of the route. Luckily, we had never the maximum of 24 people, which would definitely mean the lack of room for the luggage.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Road trip in Namibia
Most Namibian roads from Windhoek the capital to Namib-Naukluft National Park in the south are on gravel roads. A normal tarnsmission car is fine although a four by four with its superior traction is better. Greatest danger fro tourists driving in Namibia is overturning their vehicles becuase they're driving too fast or they hit an animal. But its the ebst way to see this beautiful country - so just be careful. Never drive after dusk and don't drive to close to the edge of the road where loose gravel can cause you to skid. On most roads you can comfortably travel between 70 and 100km.Related to:
- Road Trip
Driving in Namibia is on the left hand side of the road. That’s the rule for paved roads. For salt, sand and gravel roads you drive where ever you need to in order to avoid car-killing rocks and animals. Keep a watch out for other cars coming towards you on unpaved roads. They are also trying to avoid animals and rocks which destroy instead of looking out for you.Related to:
- Road Trip
- National/State Park
- Business Travel
birds, overtaking, waving and Over-Landers
Mostly you will have the roads to yourself - although every bird in the country will try to bombard you as you drive - I am sure they sit there on the roadside "ahhh oncoming car let's play "chicken" with it - you fly left - you right and you, you fly head on'. I sadly believe there is probably not one car that goes through Namibia without killing at least one beautiful bird. I got two that I am aware of and was so up - we had to reverse and give them a bush burial!
If you do encounter other drivers, 9 out of 10 times they will, regardless of whether they are local, tourist, black, white....) smile and wave to you. I think a lot of tourists, especially the ones in more dubiously able cars, are simply just relieved to see another automobile.
We met one 2WD that was stuck in the sand and with the help of us and another car (it was obviously a busy section of road to have 3 cars congregating!!!) we managed to get them out and (nervously) back onto the road. Most cars slowed down if we had stopped - doing the old 'are-you-stopping-for-a-wee-or-because-you-need-help-check', and we soon got into the habbit of doing the same. I always felt that if we did need roadside assistance, we would get it.
Lorries are very polite drivers. Overtaking is not always easy 1) because of the bright and glaring sun, 2) because of the levels of sand, dirt and grit that is hurtled fromt he ground as the vehicle in front plunders over the road surface & 3) because of the possible pot holes, donkeys, goats, people, sudden dips (that could take the front of your car out) etc... We found pretty much all lorry drivers would slow down, pull tight over to the left and then indicate to show it was safe to go past. Unlike their British counterparts, they do not seem to care about being overtaken! Always indicate to thank them :-)
The Over-Landers GRRRRRRRRR (Huge lorries of varying levels of comfort, full of smelling European tourists, crammed together to get from POINT A in Africa to POINT B, usualy with a South African tour guide and a local driver) do not seem the need to show any kind of courtesy to other road users (and if I rant I could say that in our experience the inhabitants of these Over-Landers feel equally that they do need need to show any courtesy to other travellers!). I was frequently annoyed and aggitated by these tours!!!! I was delighted when they all seemed to vanish around the Etosha area!
I guess what I am saying is, other than suicidal birds, the goats, cattle and donkeys that I have not mentioned and the Over-Landers who are just annoying, the roads are pretty safe and easy going.Related to:
- Road Trip
of borders, papers and pens....
To take the car across the border you must have all the necessary paperwork. If it is a hire car you will need chassis numbers, engine numbers, registration numbers, letters of authority blah blah blah... and do tke a note of the colour of your vehicle... ours was actually silver but by the time we concluded our trip... the colour under all that dirt realy was anybodies guess!!!
And what can I tell you about the borders? Make sure you ALWAYS have a working pen. Do not be tempted like me to give that last bic biro away to the child who desperately wants it because you could end up like me - stuck at the border - penless, waiting for the next vehicle to come along so that I could borrow their pen to fill out all the paperwork - you may get lucky... Mrs Sunglasses behind the border desk may like you and allow you to use her pen. Clearly, I was not liked!
Paperwork... You will get writers cramp! Onleaving the country you must complete the leavers book, "export" yourself, your fellow passengers and your vehicle. You must complete various other forms because, surely everbody knows, the more forms there are to complete, the more official the country is... and this is an official country (actuall I even m the secretary of state at the border between Namibia and Botsana who wanted to check that everything was fine with me!). Form after form after form... and they DO check them! Then of course when you cross back in you have to do all these forms in reverse! FORMS FORMS FORMS...
Oh and I should mention pretty much each form require s separate desk and offical officer (in sunglasses).Related to:
- Road Trip
The utter darkness...
As with all of Africa - the sun sets fast and then is is VERY DARK!
There are bad roads, drunken people staggering to their villages, big animals, small animals, other vehicles (on occasion!)... there is not a lot of fun driving in Africa in the dark and it is quite dangerous and tiresome. So, set off in good time, know where you are going and when the sun starts to sink.... you must race against it :-DRelated to:
- Road Trip
We only stayed for one night sadly, as on our return to Windhoek we travelled on to a game farm. But...more
Our second night at Etosha National park was at Halali which inside the gate has a convenient water...more
If you want a good campsite at Sossusvlei (Sesriem campsite) you need to book in Windhoek and/or...more
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