Driving in Namibia, Namibia

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  • Calm before the storm - agricultural checkpoint
    Calm before the storm - agricultural...
    by GrumpyDiver
  • You drive in sand this deep near Sossusvlei
    You drive in sand this deep near...
    by GrumpyDiver
  • Herd of goats blocking the road
    Herd of goats blocking the road
    by GrumpyDiver
  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Drive safely

    by toonsarah Updated Feb 27, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Namibian road

    I know I’ve already mentioned this on my introductory page and in my Transportation tip, but you really can’t be too careful when driving in Namibia! Most of the roads, even major routes, are gravel, but because they’re wide, straight, very quiet and mostly pretty smooth, it’s easy to start to relax and let your speed creep up above the recommended 50 MPH. This happened to us one day while Chris was driving - not that I’m passing the blame ;)

    We were on the fairly good stretch of road heading towards the coast from Solitaire to Walvis Bay. Unnoticed by either of us our speed was increasing. Suddenly Chris spotted a larger-than-most stone in his path and swerved to avoid it – the one thing you should never do, but a natural reaction in the circumstances. Next thing we knew the car was spinning wildly and all we could see was flying gravel. Luckily (but not unusually in Namibia) there were no other cars around for us to hit, and equally luckily all four wheels stayed on the road. We’d be warned that on average one tourist car a day is flipped on its side, and for a while there I was sure we were going to be that day’s statistic. So please be careful – but don’t let this tale put you off, as it really is safe if you stick to the rules!

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    Driving in Namibia - Back roads

    by GrumpyDiver Updated Dec 10, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Back road in Namibia - sandy and steep!
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    This is a warning to those peope that do not have any experience in driving on gravel and sand roads. SLOW DOWN!

    I saw too many people driving these as if they were the Autobahn or some other western superhighway. They are not and even though the speed limit is normally 80 km/hr and in some cases higher, you can't do it. Sand and gravel do not give you the same grip as asphalt or gravel and stopping and turning distances are far greater than you are used to. Roll overs are frequent and a lot of people get flats and in some cases the tires are so badly damaged that they have to be replaced.

    Try to drive towards the centre of the road, that way you won't damage your tires (sidewall damage that can't be repaired) and move over to the left when approaching blind hills or curves you can't see around.

    Animals, can dart out unexpectedly and your first reaction is to swerve to avoid them. If it something small like an impala or warthog, just hit it; it's safer. Larger animals; elephants, kudu, giraffes should be dodged.

    Another problem is domestic animals, especially as you get into the north. Cows and goats often wander across the road in great masses. Cows are predictable and don't do anything too quickly, but goats will often cut across quickly. Donkeys are unpredicatable as well, but far less common than goats and cows.

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    Driving in Namibia - Wet Gravel / Sand Roads

    by GrumpyDiver Updated Dec 10, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Calm before the storm - agricultural checkpoint

    As they say, when it rains, it pours. The sand and gravel roads turn from acceptable driving surfaces to soft mud very quickly and you will have very limited control of your vehicles. If you are an experienced ice and snow driver things will feel very familiar to you! Most people will probably visit in the dry season, but if you are there during the little rains or rainly season, please take note!

    SLOW DOWN! Deep ruts can develop very quickly and your car will follow these rather than where you want to be. Take it easy of the gas (spinning your tires will throw mud around and you won;t have any control) and don't try to brake too hard as you will just slide like on an icy surface.

    If you are driving a 4x4, consider switching into 4x4 mode; low or high, depending on the conditions.

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    Driving in Namibia - Choosing a vehicle

    by GrumpyDiver Updated Dec 10, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The paved B roads can be driven with normal vehicles, but the C and D roads may be problematic.

    If you are planning to drive on any unpaved roads, consider getting a 4x4 with high clearance. This applies to Etosha National Park as well. The main roads are fine, but the side ones, especially during rainy season can be problematic if you have a slow slung vehicle and front or rear wheel drive only.

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    Driving in Namibia - Deep Sand on Roads

    by GrumpyDiver Updated Dec 10, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    You drive in sand this deep near Sossusvlei

    There are some areas on main roads (C and D roads) where you might frun into deep sand. The last part of the drive to the sand dunes near Sessriem and the road up to Nhoma are two places we ran into this.

    If you are not an experience deep sand driver (or if you are used to driving in very snowy areas, many of the same skills apply). You can get stuck. If in deep sand, try to drive through it slowly and try to not stop! Don't drive too quickly and you can easily loose control and get stuck. If in a 4x4, switch into 4x4 mode (low) before driving through the deep sand.

    Watch where other vehicles have gone and follow the tracks that have gone through the shallowest sand, don't get into the deep stuff if you can avoid it!

    If you do get stuck:

    1. Try to rock your way out by switching between 1st gear and reverese.

    2. If you get really stuck and rocking does not work prepare to dig your way out. Make sure that your front wheels are straight and not turned. If your vehicle has a shovel, great, otherwise use any other tool (bucket, pot, pan, even your hands if the sand is not too hot!) and dig a trench that is 0.75m - 1m / 2ft - 3 ft long as deep as your tires are buried in front of all 4 tires. When done, get into a low gear (4x4 mode if you have it) and drive straight ahead. This should get you going.

    3. If all else fails, wait for someone else to show up!

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    Deceptively Deadly

    by jdd1701 Written Jan 21, 2011
    Damage to the cab.
    4 more images

    I have read several of the posts regarding the travel conditions in Namibia, and I must say more emphasis must be placed on personal awareness, each visitor taking their safety completely upon their own shoulders. I say this because I received zero information, instructions, warnings, or any material regarding driving dangers from my rental company. Please see the blog I created specifically to address my concerns for drivers that follow behind us visiting Namibia.

    http://namibiandrivingdangers.blogspot.com/

    The posts I did read on Virtual Tourist mention actions and factors that lead or contributed to particular accidents. Our story is different, in the fact that we were driving under the posted speed limit, and suddenly, without warning our truck went into a slow-motion clock-wise spin on a smooth straight section of gravel road, resulting in 2 violent rollovers before settling back on our tires. By luck or grace neither my wife or I lost our lives, but I was close as I suffered a head gash that the attending doctor thought was almost miraculous as somehow a critical vein was "skipped over", and if that had been damaged, bleeding out was a distinct possiblity.

    I can't stress enough the need to drive with utmost care and caution to secure the health if not lives of yourselves and loved ones with you. I discovered very concerning information regarding deaths on the roads of Namibia AFTER we returned from our trip. Namibian governmental staistics (I stumbled onto a government report online that's a .pdf file), and frank disclosure from car hire companies I communicated with presented pictures of numerous injuries, property loss, and death of tourists and Namibian citizens. Allow me to put it this way - if I knew before going what I discovered post trip, I would've taken much more care than I already practiced. And my wife, during the 2-week trip, already thought I was being too cautious on several occasions! Of course she changed her tune after our horrible experience.

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201006240789.html

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    Deceptively Deadly

    by jdd1701 Written Jan 21, 2011
    3 more images

    I have read several of the posts regarding the travel conditions in Namibia, and I must say more emphasis must be placed on personal awareness, each visitor taking their safety completely upon their own shoulders. I say this because I received zero information, instructions, warnings, or any material regarding driving dangers from my rental company. Please see the blog I created specifically to address my concerns for drivers that follow behind us visiting Namibia.

    http://namibiandrivingdangers.blogspot.com/

    The posts I did read on Virtual Tourist mention actions and factors that lead or contributed to particular accidents. Our story is different, in the fact that we were driving under the posted speed limit, and suddenly, without warning our truck went into a slow-motion clock-wise spin on a smooth straight section of gravel road, resulting in 2 violent rollovers before settling back on our tires. By luck or grace neither my wife or I lost our lives, but I was close as I suffered a head gash that the attending doctor thought was almost miraculous as somehow a critical vein was "skipped over", and if that had been damaged, bleeding out was a distinct possiblity.

    I can't stress enough the need to drive with utmost care and caution to secure the health if not lives of yourselves and loved ones with you. I discovered very concerning information regarding deaths on the roads of Namibia AFTER we returned from our trip. Namibian governmental staistics, and frank disclosure from car hire companies I communicated with presented pictures of numerous injuries, property loss, and death of tourists and Namibian citizens. Allow me to put it this way - if I knew before going what I discovered post trip, I would've taken much more care than I already practiced. And my wife, during the 2-week trip, already thought I was being too cautious on several occasions! Of course she changed her tune after our horrible experience.

    http://allafrica.com/stories/201006240789.html

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    ANIMALS IN THE ROAD

    by DAO Updated Feb 25, 2008

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

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    Elephants! You always wanted to see them, but did you want to run into them with your car? Poor Elephants. It will hurt them when you hit them. They will walk off from the mangled wreckage of your car and body and be sore for days. If you survive your travels will at the very least be over. Giraffes, wild boar, donkeys, horses, children and gemsboks all run or crawl into the road. You need to keep looking and slow down when you see shadows ahead. Driving at night? Not an option. There are no street lights and you are asking for an accident. Also you get bugs the size of your hand that come out to cover your windscreen. If you are driving, get up early and get going. Be careful out there!

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  • dropbear's Profile Photo

    Driving on gravel roads

    by dropbear Written Jun 30, 2007
    slow down and pay attention to the road conditions

    When driving in Namibia, on unsealed roads keep your speed down to 80km/h or less and drive with care. This is what happend in this photo. The van was going to fast to take the sharp bend in the road. This photo was taken in Etosha NP About 1km from a leopard sighting, there are also lions in this area

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Watch out for wildlife!

    by toonsarah Written Jan 13, 2007

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Female kudo

    As well as the danger of skidding on the gravel road surface, there’s an additional hazard to be aware of when driving in Namibia – animals! This is particularly true in Etosha of course, but you’re liable to see different types of deer and smaller animals anywhere. On our first day in the country, just 15 minutes drive from the airport, we spotted our first kudu, so don’t think you’ll need to be miles from anywhere to encounter this hazard. There are very few fences and the quietness of the roads means that animals are likely to regard them as a simple extension of their usual territory.

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  • Gili_S's Profile Photo

    Drive on the wrong side

    by Gili_S Written Nov 16, 2006

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    One thing to remember, in Namibia they drive on the wrong side (on the left) so coming from mainland Europe it took me some hours to adjust to it. Well, at list there is not traffic in Namibia so it was not that big problem.

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    Big animals on the road

    by Gili_S Written Nov 16, 2006

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The only real danger I could think of in Namibia is car accidents and, big animals.
    Read my transportation tips regarding the roads and speed. Other danger was this that I was a little bit too close to this elephant crossing the road, well, he did not took a look at me and did not wave his ears, if he would do so, I was just in reverse gear to escape out of his way.

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  • SanguiniA's Profile Photo

    Be Safe ...

    by SanguiniA Written Aug 2, 2006

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Rental car

    You should have no problems driving in Namibia if you follow a few basic rules

    * Gravel roads are so good & smooth you might give in to the temptation to overspeed - be careful, no matter how good they are they the car is prone to skidding at curves. So keep an eye on the road and avoid any sudden swerves or braking. It is very easy to lose control of the car on a gravel road!
    * Do not drive close to the car in front of you in a gravel road as the front may be damaged by gravel-blasting
    * when you pass another car from the opposite direction reduce the speed and put your hand on the windsreen. This will help to absorb the shock of the impact of any stones which may otherwise shatter it. Many insurances won't cover damage to the winscreen so better safe than sorry
    * Always beware of animals in the road, even in the middle of the desert
    * Be prepared for punctures, they are a way of life on such roads
    * Drive slowly when there are people walking near the road, to avoid them any injury due to flying stones
    * If you can, always get the advice of a local about the state of the roads especially if travelling in the rainy season or exactly after it. It is common for the gravel roads to be damaged or swept away.
    * Always keep an eye on the car temperature

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  • Acirfa's Profile Photo

    Do not drive at night

    by Acirfa Written Nov 20, 2005

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    Firstly, watch your speed on the dirt roads, think of them as icy roads as the problems driving on them are similar. A sensible speed is required at all times, the gravel can change and one dirt road needs a different type of driving to another one.

    Keep alert, wild animals come out of nowhere before you realise it and especially do not drive of a night as animals are more difficult to spot and breaking down during the night is much more problematical. Nature comes alive and you never know what is out there.

    Also take care with being mesmerised by the roads, some are long, dusty and never ending, with the sun beating down too, this can cause sleepyness and thus an accident, try to keep alert and cool.

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  • diageva's Profile Photo

    Warning Wild animals

    by diageva Updated Oct 26, 2004

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    Traffic

    All along Namibia you will find different traffic warning of different kinds of animals. One of my favorites is this one ... cheetas warning ... great :))) more if you are sleeping near it at a camp with any kind of fence:)

    The real animals that will get near your tent at night are the jackals ... they will still your shoes if you left them outside

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