Driving around Namibia is not difficult, but you will need to take note of a few things before you set out on your epic self-drive adventure through the Land of the Brave. This is part two in a series of posts giving you all the information you need to make driving through Namibia as easy, and enjoyable, as possible. For more useful tips, read part one on tips for a self-drive here.
Explore Namibia and get up close and personal with some of its residents.
(Image courtesy of Kruger 2 Kalahari)
Last time we covered the road network, looking out for animals on the road, things you should pack in your car, and how to keep your vehicle fueled up. This time we will be talking about some logistics behind planning your trip, how to drive on dirt roads and we will share some of the tips that we have picked up whilst driving around Namibia.
Planning your trip
It is important to decide on a route before you launch out into the wild on your roadtrip adventure through Namibia. Recently our Go Big Team went on an extensive tour of our country by car. Have a look at this link to see how they got on. Click here to view their 10 day itinerary in Google maps and start planning your own.
Choosing the right vehicle
Whether you are driving your own vehicle, or you have chosen to rent one you will need to pick the appropriate type of car for your journey.
You don't necesarrily need a vehicle like this one to get around Namibia!
Important first question: How many friends are you taking with you?
If you are planning to stay on the national roads and not go gallivanting into the untamed wilderness of Namibia then any reliable mass-produced four door sedan should do you just fine. For example, the main gravel roads in Etosha National Park (where most travellers choose to do a self-drive) don't require a 4x4 and you'll be just fine driving a normal car at a slower speed. Do bear in mind though, that if a car with a very low ground clearance may run into trouble, so it’s probably best to leave the sports-sedan at home.
Pictured above: Not the ideal car for a self-drive safari adventure.
(Image courtesy of Better Parts)
4x4’s are strongly recommended as driving on gravelled roads (graded or ungraded) is made much, MUCH easier if you have a car that has four-wheel-drive capabilities. This is not to say that you need an enormous truck of a vehicle, but just be aware that a front or rear wheel drive will not handle untarred roads as easily as a 4x4.
Off-road capable vehicles are reccomended but are not always essential.
Many visitors, especially those coming from outside of Southern Africa, will rent a car. There are many agencies in Namibia that specialise in all sorts of different kinds of vehicle hiring. From sedans to rugged off-road trucks to motorbikes you can hire the perfect vehicle for your self-drive adventure.
Rent a vehicle and get exploring!
Bringing your own vehicle into Namibia
If you are driving your own car please make sure that you have all the required documentation you need. Make sure you car is roadworthy and that you have all the equipment you will need in the event of a flat tyre or other minor mechanical faults.
Check out the Automobile Association's website for some useful information on bringing your private vehicle across Namibia's borders.
GPS is a wonderful invention and it has made navigating around unexplored parts of the world a cinch for the travel hungry adventurer and it is highly recommended that you invest in such a device if you plan on driving yourself around the countryside.
However, and we cannot urge this strongly enough, bring a physical map with you. Preferably it would be a map you have bought in Namibia, or at least authored by a company based in either Namibia or Southern Africa. Electrical equipment can fail, so it is always important to have a backup plan. A map is solid and dependable and it never has to reacquire its satellites.
It is always a good idea to have a backup plan.
(Image courtesy of Tom GPS System)
Driving on dirt roads
Many of the roads in Namibia are not tarred and as such you will find yourself driving on either dirt or graveled roads at some point. But do not fear. Most of these roads are well graded and easy enough to drive on. In case you are unfamiliar with driving on dirt roads we have put together some tips for driving on these types of roads.
Firstly, your car will handle very differently on a dirt road then it does on a tarred road. So if it's your first time driving on such roads start off quite gingerly and get used to the way your car stops, accelerates and takes corners.
When going around corners it is important to not accelerate or decrease your speed massively, try and keep an even, moderate pace as you go around the corner (rather slow down before you get to the turn).
Keep an eye out for deep loose sand as even larger 4x4 vehicles can get stuck in sufficiently deep or loose sand.
Stuck! This took a good few hands, and shovels to sort out.
Granted, this is not really a dirt road appropriate vehicle!
Make sure you keep an eye on your tyre pressure. Every time you get to a filling station ask the attendant to have a look at the pressure. While you're at it ask the attendant to check your car's oil and water as well (don't forget to tip the filling station attendant when you move on!).
You need to know how to change a tyre. Flat tyres happen and no matter how cautious one is there is always a chance that you will ride over something that will cause a small hole in your tyre. If you can, try and have two spare tyres.
When driving on a dirt road be aware that it will take considerably longer to cover a distance compared to travelling on a national, tarred road. So always plan your trip so that you have enough time to get where your going on time.
It's a good idea to leave your headlights on through the day and the night. Headlights, even in daylight make your car easier to see for oncoming vehicles.
Driving on dirt roads requires concentration but the rewards are well worth it.
After quizzing our resident road-trip experts and speaking to several visitors and locals who have driven through Namibia we have come up with some top tips for your self drive adventure:
Drive carefully and cautiously, as always.
Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit in your car. If you have rented a vehicle make sure with the agency that there is a kit in your vehicle.
You should always travel with a basic first-aid kit
Be especially careful when leaving or entering villages and towns. There are often people and cattle crossing the road.
Do not speed! The penalties for exceeding the local speed limits are extremely severe, and law enforcement is wide-spread.
Cellphone reception is not consistent all over the country so have a look at your service provider's coverage map to see if where you're going will have service.
Always ensure you have more than enough fuel to get to your destination or the next filling station.
Drive on the left, even on deserted dirt roads- this is VERY important.
If you pass through any farm gates you have to open, be sure to close them behind you. If you don't then livestock will escape and you will be costing a farmer a lot of damage.
Keep your eyes peeled for animals crossing the roads, from kudu to warthog to giraffe, you never know what you may come across in Namibia.
Driving in Namibia is just like driving anywhere else in the world, so be courteous and careful and you’ll be just fine.
Driving yourself around Namibia is one of the best ways to see our majestic country. Being able to explore the many facets of the land of brave, at your own leisure, and with a more flexible itinerary. And if four wheels are not your thing and you prefer the thrill of motorcycling around then check our blog post on Motorbiking Through Namibia.
There is a lot of Namibia out there, and you can see a lot of it by car.
Travelling through Namibia by car is one of the best ways to explore this extremely vast and beautiful country. The freedom you have to stop anywhere and go anywhere can make driving in Namibia extremely rewarding.
This post, the first in a series of two (click here for part two), will give you all the tips you need to make the most of your self drive road trips in Namibia.
Things you should have in your car
A Camera. This is something that is invaluable on your trip through Namibia. From wild animals to stirring landscapes and interesting people there are photo opportunities galore and documenting your road trip is a great way to make your memories of your adventure last even longer.
Water. Always bring loads of bottled water in the car with you. Namibia can be very hot and you may drive for an hour without seeing any settlement, so always make sure you’re hydrated.
Snacks. As always when driving, make sure you have a little bit of food to nibble on to keep your spirits and sugar levels where they need to be. If you don’t eat properly your alertness could suffer and that’s not ideal at all. Biltong and droewors are great snacks for those of you who eat meat and it can be found all over Namibia.
Piet's Biltong, a Namibian institution- read all about it here .
Sunglasses and sunscreen. Protect your self from the sun while driving. Many people forget that they can get sun burnt whilst driving in a car. And wearing a good pair of sunglasses will not only protect your eyes but will also help you spot animals and other things in the distance as the lenses reduce the ambient glare from the sun’s light.
There are many fueling stations dotted along the national roads, but you must always make sure that you have enough petrol or diesel in your car to get from one station to the next. Namibia is a sparsely populated country and getting stuck with no fuel is not an ideal situation.
If you are going to drive through Namibia make sure you buy the latest map of the country’s road networks and this will tell you where the filling stations are. Do not simply trust any old map you find online as it could be out of date.
**Note! Many filling stations do not accept card payments for fuel, so always have enough Namibian dollars in cash to pay for your fuel. It should also be noted that not every filling station has an ATM so be sure to have enough cash on you before you start your self-driven adventure.**
The National Roads
The national roads of Namibia are all labelled with the letter ‘B’ and you can use them to get to pretty much any major destination in the country. The major highways in Namibia are the following:
B1 from Noordoewer (South African border) to Oshikango (Angolan border), 1694 km
B2 from Walvis Bay to Okahandja, 285 km
B3 from Nakop (South African border) to Grünau, 324 km
B4 from Lüderitz to Keetmanshoop, 351 km
B6 from Windhoek to Buitepos (Botswana border), 335 km
B8 from Otavi to Katima Mulilo (Zambian border), 837 km
These tarred roads are in great condition and navigating them is a cinch.
The roads in Namibia are well maintained and are kept to international standards.
When driving on the highways at higher speeds you need to always be alert and prepared for anything. This includes people, animals and adverse winds- just remember- if you are unsure, slow down. There’s no shame in taking a bit longer to get somewhere when everything is so beautiful! And remember, when you slow down you may just notice little places you would have otherwise never seen.
Take it easy, and find little spots on the side of the road during your trip.
The Secondary Roads
The secondary roads are identified by either their ‘D’ or ‘C’ prefixes, and these roads are mostly untarred, graded dirt roads. These roads are more often than not easy to drive on, but do bare in mind that you will need a car that can handle a little bit of sand and dust when using some of them.
This road looks easy to drive on, but it is in fact made of very loose sand...
... so drive carefully to avoid getting stuck in the soft sand!
It is easy to slide around on these untarred roads, particularly if there is visibly loose gravel and/or small stones- so be much more careful when using these kinds of roads. You will have to get used to driving on these well maintained, but untarred, roads as they account for over 36 000 km’s of Namibia’s roads.
There are so many beautful vistas to take in when you travel the roads less driven on.
When you begin exploring the country's secondary road network in earnest you will find loads of little gems hidden along the way. Quiet rest camps, conservation centres, traditional communities and even the largest meteorite in the world!
The roads are well sign posted in Namibia.
You will never drive for too long without seeing a direction board
Look out for animals!
No matter what road you're driving on, highways or side roads, you need to be on the lookout for animals. Not only because they are amazing to spot and observe, but because they can run into the road rather unexpectedly.
Outside towns and villages look out for bovine road crossers!
Warthogs can be particularly dangerous as they are relatively small so difficult ot spot from a distance, and will cause some serious damage to your vehicle if hit at high speed. Kudu’s (and other antelope) have also been known to panic and run in front of cars so be aware, especially if you see road signs warning of the likeliness of one of these animals being in the area you are driving through.
There's no telling what you can find on Namibia's roads.
The animals are most active during the dusk and the dawn, so if the sun’s going down, or if the sun’s coming up, then sharpen your wits and keep a close eye on the verge of the road as you drive on.
Why driving in Namibia is worth it
The Etosha National Park is one of Namibia’s biggest attractions and if you are planning on going to Etosha you should really consider driving your self there in your own vehicle. With your own vehicle you can drive yourself around the park and explore whichever section of the park you would most like to see. Check out our guide to Etosha here.
Etosha elephants seen from inside our car.
Road block ahead! Driving through the national park is always full of excitement.
Anywhere you want to go
There are many reasons why driving through Namibia is a great way to explore our vast and sweeping country. The main plus is that you have the freedom to go when and where you like- you set you itinerary and decide when it changes. If you want to stay longer in one place then you can, it’s as simple as that. The open road is yours to explore.
If your vehicle is rugged enough you can go just about anywhere in this vast country.
That’s it for part one of our guide to road-tripping in the land of the brave. Next time we will tell you about the kind of car you should use in Namibia, how to rent a car, and a few more insider tips that will help make your self-drive holiday as full of adventure and excitement as possible!
Namibia is a very, very big country and driving from each location to amazing location can take hours. As a result of this, many intrepid locals have set up small rest camps along the national roads where travellers can break their long drives and rejuvinate. These lodge-style establishments can be found all over Namibia, and in this post we’re going to tell you what you can expect from a rest camp and where you can find a few of them.
Rest camps are character filled and unique and each one has something different to offer explorers. Above is a picture of Roy's Rest Camp where we spent a night
Our rest camp experience
After travelling up to Etosha for some game viewing, we were next going to visit Rundu. We decided we would rather break our long drive with a stay at a rest camp. After looking at the map and the available rest camps along the B8 we eventually settled on a place called Roy’s Rest Camp.
The entrance to Roy's Rest Camp
The accommodation at your typical rest camp is simple and clean and Roy’s is no exception, but each rest camp in Namibia also has its own character and vibe. Roy’s Rest Camp, for example, has been painstakingly decorated by its owners.
Derelict classic cars and all manner of Namibian inspired homemade décor can be found hanging in the trees, at the restaurant and in the rooms.
We found this old car just by the camp's reception.
Our stay at Roy's was very typical of a rest camp in Namibia. The staff are friendly and interested in your stories and always have time to sit around and chat about what's going on around the camp and the country as a whole. Places like this afford you an opportunity to swap notes with other travellers and get some ideas on what to do while you are in Namibia.
What you can expect from a rest camp
These small camps are unpretentious and unassuming and the people who run them are almost always friendly, welcoming people. Rest camps can also be excellent place to meet up with fellow travellers and maybe make a few new friends by sitting round the fire or poolside.
Rooms are typically simple, clean and comfortable
Some of the rest camps have other unique features such as farm tours and bird walks, or even game viewing, and so it is always a good idea to ask at the camp's reception if there are any recommended activites for visitors to experience while staying at a particular rest camp.
Another beautifully rusted out car at Roy's Rest Camp
Some of the camps are self-catering and others have a more typical travel lodge setup. The whole point of a rest camp is to allow a weary traveller to lay down their head for a good night’s rest so that in the morning they can carry on with their journey refreshed and impressed.
Many of the rest camps you will find in Namibia will give you the option of either staying in built chalets, or camping in your own tent. Roy's Rest camp is one such place that offers both, but it is not the only one. So, if you and your travel buddies are up for some outdoor camping then a rest camp may make even more sense for you as you travel through the vast countryside of Namibia.
A short list of rest camps in Namibia
Below is a list of several rest camps situated around the country. As already mentioned, rest camps can be found all over Namibia, so when you are planning your trip consider breaking up some of the long distances and travel days.
Roy's Rest Camp
Roy’s Camp is perfectly situated on the B8 main road from Grootfontein to Rundu, 55 km north of Grootfontein. At ideal stop over to Northern Namibia, Zambezi (formerly known as Caprivi) and Bushman land.
Brandberg Rest Camp
Located in Damaraland, the Brandberg rest camp has a restaurant, bar, pool and internet facilities.
The camp also offers guests some climbing, exploring and hiking activities.
Ombo Rest Camp
70km North of Windhoek on the Hochfeld road, Ombo Rest Camp has a restaurant but has self-catering chalets as well.
This camp is unique in that it has a wateringhole on its property for game and sunset viewing.
Kamanjab Rest Camp
3km from the village of Kamanjab this quirky camp has a restaurant, bar and can be reached via a nearby landing strip for private planes.
This camp has unique game watching oppurtunities and is home to several friendly giraffes.
Quiver Tree Forest Camp
13km Northeast of Keetmanshoop the Quiver Tree Forest Camp has a swimming pool, a choice between either self-catering or you can use the a la carte restaurant.
Near the camp are incredible geological formations, birdlife and a veritable forest of quiver trees.
Khorixas Rest Camp
Situated nearby the Damaraland capital of Khorixas this camp has everything you need to relax when you are halfway thorugh a long journey.
The surrounds in this part of Damaraland are famed for unusual geological formations and ancient rock engravings.
As mentioned above this is not a complete list of rest camps in Namibia and no matter where you are travelling in this wide open country you should be able to find a rest camp where you can split up your journey and have an extra mini-adventure.
Each little place that you find in Namibia has something unique and interesting about it and these small establishments give you a chance to experience some of that first hand.
Namibia has an excellent road system that reaches just about every popular tourist destination in the country. However, the majority of the roads are gravel, and in the more remote areas they become tracks, which require careful driving, and for safety considerations, a second vehicle. Here are some tips to help get you to your destination safely.
First and foremost, in Namibia we drive on the left side of the road.
Passengers in the back as well as the front seats must wear seatbelts.
To drive a vehicle in Namibia, you need a valid driving licence and must carry it with you when you are driving. If your driver’s licence is not printed in English, it is advisable to travel with an International Driver’s Licence.
Make sure you are fully insured.
Before leaving on your self-drive tour, make sure the brakes of your vehicle are in good working order.
Your tyres must have the correct air pressure for the roads on which you’re planning to travel and also for the amount of luggage and number of passengers in your car.
Always carry at least one spare tyre. When visiting remote areas, it is advisable to carry a second spare tyre and a tyre-repair kit.
In Namibia, four-by-four vehicles are recommended when travelling through remote areas.
You should carry a well-equipped first-aid kit.
Plan your trip carefully, ensuring that you have enough fuel for the journey you have planned. Fill your tank at every available opportunity, even though you may not be in immediate need.
Always carry water when you travel. Plan to have enough water for your entire journey, also in case you have a breakdown or become stuck.
It is advisable to leave your itine-rary with your tour operator, hotel or friends. In the unlikely event that you become lost, authorities will be able to find you if they know your plans.
Make sure you have a current, authoritative map before you leave on your trip. When you leave the official roads marked on your map, there may be no road signs to direct you and the condition of the road may be poor.
Take time to listen carefully to the safety briefing given by your car-hire company. Ask advice on the condition of the roads in the areas you plan to visit. If your car has extra fuel and water tanks, use them.
Watch out for animals crossing the road or grazing near the roadside. Both wild and domestic animals frighten easily and can jump directly in front of your moving car.
Avoid travelling at night. Wildlife is most active at dusk, and the possibility of a collision at this time of day is vastly increased.
When entering any game park or other area where there are wild animals, read the safety guidelines provided. It is dangerous to leave your vehicle when you are in a wildlife area. The only safe way to look at a wild animal is from the safety of your vehicle.
As distances are long, take regular breaks.
Hidden away in Namibia’s north-eastern Kavango Region, the Khaudum National Park is not to be taken lightly. Rarely visited, very large, extremely wild and with only a rudimentary tourist infrastructure, it could be described as Namibia’s ‘forgotten wilderness’. If you have an adventurous streak, however, forgetting it would be a big mistake!
A visit to the Khaudum National Park is all about adventure, discovering a true African wilderness and perhaps a bit of self-discovery. Master the challenging and rugged 4x4 trails that weave through plains and thick Kalahari forests. The trails may come as a shock to those used to ‘the path well travelled’ – the park receives fewer visitors than elephants in a year. Relax at one of the state-of-the art hides and enjoy watching the wildlife that congregates around the 12 established waterholes. The Khaudum National Park is home to large herds of elephants, the African wild dog, Africa’s most endangered large predator, rare sable antelope, and over 320 species of birds. Listen, not only to the sounds of the wild, but also to the voices of the local people, conservancy members and Ministry of Environment and Tourism personnel. In their stories of spirits, rescues, ordeals, struggle and strange events; the park comes alive.
Namibia Country Lodges group has recently taken over the Sikereti and Khaudum camps within Khaudum National Park and have made extensive upgrades to the sites. They are also in the final stages of building two small lodges at both Sikereti and Khaudum. They don’t want to tame the park, though. The lodges will be built away from the campsites, which will remain rustic and wild. It would be impossible to tame this place anyway.
Just south of Khaudum National Park is Bushmanland. The Historic Living Museum at Grashoek village offers visitors the opportunity to meet traditionally dressed Ju/’Hoansi-San people and learn about their culture through demonstrations of what it takes to survive in the wild armed with only a bow and arrow, a digging stick and an intimate knowledge of the environment passed down for generations.
Have a look at this video blogger's experience....
Namibia is a long, long haul destination, from many parts of the world, but once the plane lands, adventures in Namibia don’t require another flight. All you need is an international driver’s license, a good map and a strong desire to explore. Namibia’s infrastructure is well established, its people are friendly and the combination lends itself to self-exploration. Fill up a sedan car or a 4x4 and off you go!
The country has a vast, well-maintained road network with international links to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia; cell phone coverage that spans virtually the entire country; and accommodation that varies from community-based campsites to five star luxury.
English is the widely-spoken official language, and many Namibians also speak German, so many visitors Europeans find the country easy to navigate - both on the roads and with the locals!