When we crossed the Noordoewer border post from South Africa and into Namibia we had no expectations. We knew we were in for a month of vast landscapes, chilling coastlines, amazing wildlife, and a unique Africa. Namibia is a country you should self-drive. Which from the sheer amount of rental cars we saw on the roads, is not just our opinion. Whether you are self-driving, on an overland tour, or flying into one of the many desert lodges in the country here are 15 Namibia travel tips to know before you go.
Namibia Travel Tips
Distances are long
We had started planning our Namibia trip months before we arrived. Initially, we set aside a week for the country, and were constantly scoffed at, for good reason too! We got responses like “You’ll spend your entire time driving,” or another Namibian told us “there is way too much to see for a week.”
They were right.
After just a few of these comments, we decided to re-evaluate our trip and changed our time in the country from one week to one month. Namibia is a huge country with plenty to offer visitors. Days are hot and distances between destinations are long. Unless you are flying from point to point I would suggest at least two weeks to hit the major sights, and three weeks if you don’t want to always be rushed and spend your whole holiday driving.
If you are self-driving in Namibia then be prepared to fill up every time you pass a fuel station. Like I mentioned, the distances between towns are huge and fuel is only available few and far between. We ended up picking up a map the first day we got to Namibia with all the filling stations marked throughout the country. Cash is always good to carry, but we had no problem paying with a credit card at the majority of gas stations.
Drink the tap water
We saw many visitors buying or ordering bottles of water everywhere. The water throughout most of Namibia, and especially in the cities, is safe for drinking. We always ordered tap water at restaurants and lodges. In the rare case that we were questioning the water, we turned to our LifeStraw Go waterbottlesto ease our minds.
Also, keep in mind this is a desert country. Turn off the tap, don’t take long showers, and in general try to conserve water.
Temperatures are extreme
This is one Namibia travel tip I want to stress. Namibia is a dry desert country and the heat is intense. However, be aware that during the winter months nighttime can get very cool in the desert. If you are visiting in Namibia in the summertime pack things like shorts, tank tops, and sandals. In the winter the daytime will still be warm, but for evenings bring some extra layers. Check out Africa packing list for ideas on what to pack.
Namibia eats electronics
Pack up any electronics well before heading to Namibia. The dry air and dust really seep its way into the crevices of laptops and camera equipment. Thankfully, Cameron and I both keep our MacBook’s protected with a heavy-duty laptop sleeve as well as keep our cameras and drone protected with quality cases.. We left Namibia without having to replace everything, but if are a little more lax with your gear you may end up with some unwanted Namibian relics.
Namibia just doesn’t eat electronics, though. I can’t count the number of people we saw changing their tires on the Namibian roads. The main roads in Namibia are paved, but the vast majority are gravel, sand, and salt. Add to that some heavy corrugation and it is a recipe that will eat away at car tires. Long story short, always travel with an extra spare tire in Namibia. Keeping an eye on the tires is also crucial many unknowing tourists shred their tires because they fail to watch the tires, driving on them once they’ve gone flat.
The Namibian Dollar equals the South African Rand
Namibia is part of the Common Monetary Area along with South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. The Namibian Dollar is 1:1 with the Rand. This means the South African Rand is widely accepted in Namibia. We rarely had trouble using our credit cards in Namibia, so make sure to pick a good travel card and rack up those points.
At points we drove for hours in Namibia and never saw a soul on the road. With a population of only two million, you should expect this. If you are self-driving it’s important to know the basics of your car in case you have a breakdown – or else you could be stranded for a few hours in the heat. And most importantly carry plenty of drinking water in case of emergencies.
We got sim cards with TN Mobile (another provider is MTC) for emergencies and for data use. Unfortunately there was no signal outside of the towns, so if you think your Namibian sim card can get you out of trouble think again! This is why we would advise using MTC, which, has better coverage on the roads.
Namibia is a land of natural beauty
Namibia is a land of natural beauty. The landscapes in Namibia have an ability to make a traveller feel small. The landscapes at times feel other worldly. It is a land of extreme contrasts as the Namib Desert goes from a fiery warm in the day to a deathly cool at night. And when the lights go out at night a fireworks display of stars comes out on display.
Soak in the varying landscapes
We had spent two weeks in Southern Namibia and completely forgot what trees even looked like. All we saw were desert sands and boulders. However, when you arrive in the North, or the small section of Namibia called the Caprivi Strip, life flourishes. Namibia isn’t all dry desert, you just have to travel a little bit further and explore!
Just like their neighbors
South Africa wasn’t the only country under an Apartheid regime. Namibia (which used to be South-West Africa) also had laws separating white and black people. Apartheid wasn’t as bad in Namibia as in South Africa, but it left a deep social divide that can still be seen today.
Venture into the Namib Desert to find the mysterious fairy circles of Africa. There is no explanation to the circles – some scientist say termites cause the circles, while others say it’s the “footprints of the gods.” We say aliens!
Amazing wildlife sightings
We found Etosha National Park to be one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in Africa! Within one hour of our game drive, we had already seen giraffe, zebra, jackals, ostriches, wildebeest, and lions! I’m not sure if the best part was the abundance of wildlife or the fact that I only paid 80 NAD ($5) to enter and there were hardly any cars on the road (unlike the Kruger).
Not only are the national parks impressive, but we also smelled our way past thousands of Cape Fur Seals and their pups at the Cape Cross Seal Colony, got lost in pink with the flamingos at Walvis Bay, and tracked down hundreds of oryx in the desert with our Land Cruiser.
Welcome to Germany
Namibia was colonized by Germany in the 19th century, and much of that German influence is still prevalent today. Swakopmund and Luderitz show stark evidence with their art nouveau architecture, monuments, beerhouses, and meaty cuisines. At least 30,000 Namibians speak German and names like Hendrik and Hans are common.
Not only is the country a little Bavaria, but just about every foreigner we met in the country was from Germany. Namibia is quite the hotspot for Germans right now so practicing your beer drinking skills may be useful.
We found the food in Namibia to be very meaty and you may even get a little glance if you tell a Namibian you don’t eat meat. Despite this we found it possible to still be a vegetarian in the country. Grocery stores are well stocked with many produce imports from South Africa. Cities like Windhoek, Swakopmund, and Luderitz also offer many western luxuries like coffee shops and even pizza parlors! If you’re staying at a lodge in Namibia make sure to tell them your dietary requirements beforehand so that they are prepared.
No Safety Concerns
We never once felt unsafe or threatened in Namibia. I also believe that solo female travelers will have a pleasant time traveling the country and shouldn’t face any annoyances. In saying that, we decided to skip out on Windhoek as we didn’t want to travel the country to spend time in a capital city.
and finally, our month through Namibia…
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Plan Your Trip to Namibia
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Accommodation in Namibia: Find the best hotel deal at Hotels.com, or to feel more at home in Namibia try Airbnb. Here is a coupon for your first stay!
- Tours in Namibia: If you’re not much of a driver check out some of these Namibian tours.
- Flights to Namibia: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: We found the water in Namibia fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle
- Guide Book: Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights.
- Adaptor: You’ll need this adaptor in Southern Africa.
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- A Namibian Road Trip: Our Itinerary Across the Namib Desert
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- Experiencing Wolwedans Dunes Lodge and More in Namibia
- The Africa Packing List Items You’ll Want to Have • 2018 Update