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.
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!
Not from personal experience, but I have heard, that you should be careful, when filling up your car in Keetmanshope (goes for other towns as well).
There a children gangs around.
Always keep all doors closed and keep both sides of the car in sight.
Don´t let your car stand there without anyone watching.
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
Namibia is a country that lends itself to getting away from it all and touring around by car. However its desert roads and civilised cafes can be deceptive. You’ll need to think ahead to be sure that, if the worst happens, you are properly prepared.
We blew a tyre on the long road towards the Skeleton coast. Although this road is one which is mentioned frequently in the guidebooks to Namibia (along the way you have the opportunity to see some rare plants etc) this does not mean that traffic is frequent. For the hour or so that we spent replacing the tyre, not one car passed!
Even if you are adept at changing a tyre, bear in mind that the ground underneath is not solid on the desert roads, and your jack is likely to sink into the sand – a few rocks are needed to stabilise the jack, and to ensure that the vehicle doesn’t roll forward while you are underneath.
Tyre blowouts are relatively common due to over heating and also from driving too fast on roads with lots of sharp stones
A second mishap befell us on the road. A stone, kicked up by a springbok shattered a side window. Tape and cardboard meant that we could continue on our journey without too much inconvenience.
Car hire insurance rarely covers burst tyres or windscreen damage (check the small print).
Some general advice about driving in Namibia can be found in the website below.
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.
I am for sure not the first, nor the only one who says this, but:
Namibias roads can be dangerous.
Not because of the bad road surfaces. This might be gravel, but it is actually quite good driving on it. Too easy, actually. After a while you tend to drive too fast for the conditions. Stopping on gravel takes longer than you think.
Often there are long distances where you only drive straigth ahead, you get used to it and suddenly there is a curve! Oups, brakes! steer! and you are rolling over (because your car has a higher center of gravity than you are used to)
It happens all the times, mostly to tourists.
The other things such as broken windows (from stones of other cars) or flat tires (because of the gravel) or animals on the road (mostly you have fences on every side of the road) come after this.
You should also be warned because often the insurance makes troubles if that happens (it is your fault always, that?s clear).
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
A driving holiday in Namibia is a great easy to get away from it all. there are some wonderful mountain roads, and You can drive for hours without meeting another vehicle or even another person. With this freedom however comes a set of warnings.
Most places that you would want to visit are accessible only by taking gravel roads. Driving on gravel roads is a specialised skill, and in hiring a car, you will be drilled on some basic points. Before setting off, make sure you have plenty of drinking water: refreshment stops are few and far between, and if you break down somewhere, you will probably have a long wait before another vehicle appears.
You’ll need to adjust your expectations of the amount of ground you can cover: we drove just over 200 km between Windhoek and Sessreim: it took the better part of the day (4 hours) and at times we were down to first gear and 5 kmh! Generally you should not exceed 60 kmh on gravel roads: faster than that and you risk skidding, running into some poor animal or generally being unable to manage an obstruction in a controlled way.
You also need to take the weather into account: rain will inevitably cause flooding on low points in the road: you may not be able to reach your destination. If you’re very unlucky, you may be stuck until the water subsides. Many people spend money needlessly on hiring a 4x4. Unless you are planning to go far off track, it is unlikely that you will need to engage the 4 wheel drive: during our 6 day safari they were engaged twice: once when we were driving across a sandy river-bed and got stuck, and once when the incline of a road was too steep for the heavily laden bus and trailer. That having been said, you should discuss your planned route with the representative of the hire company to ensure that your vehicle is appropriate in terms of power and also in terms of clearance.
The URL below will take you to a webpage that covers everything you need to think about when you drive in Namibia.
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!
Nothing got stolen but 2 guys tried to do an old trick. One distracted me at the side of the road - pointing as if the tyre was flat. Meanwhile his friend went round the other side of the car and opened the rear door. When I realised what was happening, he dropped the bag. So, when in town, it doesn't do any harm to keep all your doors locked. Otherwise, I've found Namibians honest and helpful.
Namibia is a beautiful country, with a varying landscape that stokes the creativity of any photographer. But, it's a largely rural land. When you're driving from town to town, you will be traveling vast distances, and will pass very little humanity in some cases.
Be prepared. Make sure you've got extra gasoline (if you're 4WDing through the boonies), make sure your spare tire is pumped and ready to go. Make sure you have a small tool kit, and that you have plenty of water and human necessities. Should you find yourself stranded due to car trouble or an accident, it could be a while before help will arrive.
The Namibian people are very friendly and helpful. But, there are quite a few places where these friendly people are few and far between. Be prepared.
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.
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.
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.