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Tips for a Self-drive Namibia Adventure - Part 2

  
  

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.


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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.

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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.

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You don't necesarrily need a vehicle like this one to get around Namibia!

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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.

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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.

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Off-road capable vehicles are reccomended but are not always essential.

Rental Cars

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.  

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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.

Navigation tools

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.

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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.

IMG 6256

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.

 

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Driving on dirt roads requires concentration but the rewards are well worth it.

Driving tips

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.

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There is a lot of Namibia out there, and you can see a lot of it by car.

Tips for a Self-drive Namibia Adventure - Part 1

  
  

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Filling stations

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.

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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.

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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.

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This road looks easy to drive on, but it is in fact made of very loose sand...

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... 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Etosha

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.

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Etosha elephants seen from inside our car.

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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.

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If your vehicle is rugged enough you can go just about anywhere in this vast country.


Stay tuned

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!

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Motorbiking through Namibia

  
  

There are few more exhilarating ways to get around a country than by motorbike. Namibia, with its extensive and well-maintained road network, is the perfect place to go on a long and winding ride through its scenic and sweeping landscapes.

In this post we have collected the information of several tour operators in Namibia that offer bike riders a chance to explore our country in a unique way. So read on if you have a taste for adventure of the two-wheeled variety.

Ride2Roam

This company offers tours in Namibia and its neighbouring countries. Take a trip from South Africa to Namibia, or why not travel between Namibia and Botswana.

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Riders heading toward Sossusvlei
(Image source Ride2Roam)

Ride2Roam limits its tour groups to ten bikers at a time so you will never be part of a swarm of tourists. Bike enthusiasts run the company so they know what they are doing and you can feel completely safe when striking out on the road with these guys.

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Riders striking out on a desert road.
(Image source Ride2Roam)

Their website is comprehensive and easy to navigate, check it out here.

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Mountain, biker.
(Image source Ride2Roam)

Dualsports Adventures

This is a company that specialises in doing tours throughout Southern Africa. There are guided tours and there are self-guided tours. Either option you choose the folks at Dualsports Adventures will hire out all the gear you need to tour around Namibia including GPS equipment when needed.

Their Southern Namibia Adventure is highly recommended as it will give you a unique way to explore Namibia’s Southern regions (read more about Namibia’s south over here).

The ride will take you past Sossusvlei, rugged landscapes and the Fish River Canyon as you make your way through Namibia and into South Africa.

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The Deadvlei, just outside Sossusvlei.

Motorcycle Tour South Africa

While based in South Africa this company does offer two tours through Namibia. The first is a ten-day tour that will take you along many of Namibia’s most scenic dirt roads. There won't be any camping on this tour and adventuers can choose betweenb a three or five star package.

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Exploring Namibia with friends on motorbikes- perfect!
(Image source Motorcycle Tour South Africa)

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The charming seaside town of Luderitz will be one of your many stops.
(Image source Motorcycle Tour South Africa)

The second tour begins in South Africa and heads up the West Coast into Namibia. Check it out here.

Africa Motorcycle Tours

This is the international agent for South Africa Motorcycle Tours, and you can read more about the man in charge, Tyler Hare, here.

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Tyler Hare.
(Image source Africa Motorcycle Tours)

This comapny offers perhaps one of the most interesting bike rides you can do in Southern Africa. Their Namibia/RSA tour is a must do for anyone who has 14 days and the urge to ride all around stunning Southern Africa. Starting in Cape Town your trip will take you north toward Namibia, and once in Namibia the real fun begins.

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You never know what you'll find when you bike into Namibia.
(Image source Africa Motorcycle Tours)

On this tour you will visit Keetmanshoop, Windhoek, the Skeleton Coast and Etosha National Park before returning south back down to Cape Town. For a detailed tour description click here.

Enduro Namibia

For those riders who are looking for a little bit more of a challenging ride through Namibia this is an operator that can cater for your needs. Enduro Namibia proudly takes riders, of varying degrees of skills, over Namibia’s 37000 km’s of untarred roads, showing them exactly what the country has to offer.

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Off the main roads are some truly beautiful untouched landscapes.
(Image source Enduro Namibia)

Most of the tours are suitable for the average rider, with only two (the Wild West and the Kaokoveld rides) being singled by the folks at Enduro Namibia as needing more skilled and physically prepared riders.

The company has a page with need to know facts about biking through Namibia as well as detailed biographies of some of the riders who will be leading you on your group tour.

On many of these tours you will be camping out in the wild and this would make it the perfect tour for those bikers looking for a bit more adventure than usual.

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One of the many camping spots you will visit on one of this company's tours.
(Image source Enduro Namibia)

Gravel Travel

Another company that specialises in off-the-beaten-path tours is Gravel Travel. Check out their site here.

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Cut your own path with your group of riders.
(Image source Gravel Travel)

They also have several package options available for you to choose from just head to their website and begin planning your trip.

Great African Outdoors

With over 20 years of experience and a brand new fleet that has just been bought, GAO are one of the more established companies offering motorbike tours throughout southern Africa.

GAO have a “Windhoek to Windhoek” tour and on this ride you will visit Etosha, Epupa Falls, Swakopmund and Sesriem. It is a 12 day tour and will take you through some of Namibia’s top attractions.

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Sesriem Canyon.

The “Ocean to Desert” tour is another tour that starts in Cape Town, South Africa and makes it way up to Windhoek Namibia. On this tour you will go through Sesriem, the Fish River Canyon, Etosha, Swakopmund and Windhoek. It is a 14 day tour finishing in Windhoek.

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Stunning views abound in the Fish River Canyon.

The “Big Five” tour will take you on a circular route between Zimbabwe and Namibia and as you can guess the focus will be on visiting safari parks and seeing big game. The Okavango delta, Etosha National Park, Mdumu Game Reserve and Chobe National Park are some of the highlights on this 13 day tour.

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Elephants in Etosha National Park.

Overlanding Africa's Bike/Car Tour

Now many riders have families. And many riders’ families are not necessarily able, or willing to ride a motorbike through a foreign country. So if you have family members or significant others who are not too keen on riding around Namibia then fear not. The people at Overlanding Africa have a solution for you.

While you are riding along the dirt roads, tearing up a dust storm on your motorbike your companions, if they choose to not join you on two wheels, will be right behind you in the Overland Safari Truck. Not only will you all be able to share in the same views and experiences but you everyone gets to do it in the manner that they’d prefer to.

Their website is a bit light on information but they respond to any queries you might have about doing a motorcycle tour with you via email.


Additional reading

Live to Ride- Windhoek

Live to ride is the oldest motorcycle club in Namibia. If you are looking for like-minded riders and advice on the best routes to travel on throughout Namibia and Windhoek then be sure to visit their official page and drop them a line.

Cynthia in Namibia

Cynthia, a Dutch motorcycle enthusiast talks about her time biking through Namibia. Read all about it here.

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Cynthia on her way through Namibia.
(Image source Motoress)

A Guide to Namibia for the First Timer

  
  

In a country with so much to do, and so much to see it can be difficult to know what you want to do on your first visit to Namibia. This post is aimed specifically at the traveller visiting our beautiful country for the first time, but even the most seasoned Namibia explorer could benefit from reading on.

What to do

First, you have to decide what you want to get out of your holiday. If you have a limited amount of time it is probably best to try and not do everything Namibia has to offer since there is simply too much to do in a short period of time.  

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Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Windhoek.

 
Ask yourself, are you looking for a high-octane adventure holiday?

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A climber scales a cliff face.
(Image courtesy of Element Riders)

Or perhaps you would like to take it a bit slower and build your travelling plans around photographing the stunning landscapes and wildlife on offer.  

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Namibia’s wide open spaces are perfect for panoramic photographs.  

If, on the other hand you like nothing more than relaxing in a sun drenched dipping pool overlooking the wilderness and not doing much else, there is something for you in the land of the brave.  

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Have a soak whilst taking in a view of the Fish River Canyon.

 
Below, in no particular order, are some of our travellers’ favourite spots and activities in Namibia. Click on the images for more information.

 

Bird Watching Namibia The Waterberg Namibia Experience Sossusvlei Namibia
Meet the himba Namibia Track desert rhinos namibia Etosha Namibia
Katutura township tour Namibia Adventure Camping Namibia Hiking in the Fish river canyon
Explore ghost towns Namibia Flying safaris Namibia Volunteering in Namibia
Adventure Activities in Namibia Windhoek Namibia Meet the San Namibia


The basics  

Click here and have a look through our travel guides. The most important thing is to make sure that you have all the necessary documentation to ensure that you can enter and travel freely through Namibia. To check if you need a visa, visit Namibia's Ministry of Foreign affairs here and click on the visa link on the right hand side.  
Namibia is a country of contrasts, and its weather is no exception. In the summer expect hot days with very rare thunder storms in some of the regions. Winter nights meanwhile can get very cold, so if you are in the desert regions of our country then be sure to pack some warm jackets as the temperatures drop with the sun.  

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Always remember to pack according to the activities you have planned.        

Getting around

By train

Namibia is a big a country, vast and largely uninhabited so there isn’t a vast public transport network. There are tourist trains like the Desert Express, but most travellers get around by either driving or flying.  

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The Desert Express.
(Image courtesy of Rail Tours)  

By car

Many tourists drive their own vehicles or hire one from a company to get around the country. Driving is very manageable in Namibia as the national road network is easy to navigate and is well maintained.

Below is a list of some car-hire companies in Namibia: **Note make sure you have a driver’s licence that is valid in Namibia as the penalties for unlicensed driving are severe, and there are several police checkpoints on the national roads that will ask you to display a valid licence.**  
When driving always make sure you have enough petrol in your car and be certain that you have planned your trip so that you are never out of reach of a petrol station. Also, make sure you have enough hard cash to pay for petrol as many of the more remote service stations do not accept cards for fuel.  

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A car stopped on the side of the road in Etosha National Park.  

Another option is to enquire about hiring a driver for a few days, although this can be expensive. You can always use the local taxis in whichever town or city you find yourself in, and check with your hotel or lodge reception to know the going rate.  
As with driving anywhere the same rules apply, be cautious, alert and considerate. Note, in Namibia we drive on the left.

By plane

Something that many people do not know about Namibia is its extensive network of private and public airports dotted around the country.

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An Air Namibia plane at Luderitz airport. 

The three major airports can be found in Windhoek (including Hosea Kutaku International) and there are several domestic airports around the country. If you want a full listing of airports run by the Namibia Airport Company here.  

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Hosea Kutako International.

There are also many private airstrips at several of the game lodges, national parks, and secluded areas in Namibia with landing strips for light aircraft. There are chartered plane companies and if you are able to pilot a craft you can even hire a plane.  
And if it's a scenic flight or flying safari that you're after, here are just some of the operators you can get in touch with:

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A map of many of Namibia’s airport.
(Map courtesy of Maps of the World)

Here is a detailed list of airstrips and information you will need if you wish to fly yourself around Namibia. There is no exhaustive list of landing spots, so always remember to check wherever you go to see if they have a nearby airstrip if you require one.  

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Have aircraft will fly!
(Image courtesy of the Namibian)

 

Photography guides

We have several photography tips from professional photographers for those of you who would like some advice on taking photographs of this beautiful land. Below is a list of some of the people who spoke to us about snapping the perfect shot in Namibia, and shared the amazing images they managed to capture. 

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Marsel van Oosten

Christopher Rimmer

Paul van Schalkwyk

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Bill Gozansky

Roy van der Merwe

Hougaard Malan

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Matthew Hood

Ted Alan Stedman

Jan & Jaye Roode

 

Come and visit

The people of Namibia are friendly and welcoming and if you arrive adequately prepared there is no reason why you won’t enjoy your first (and definitely not only) trip to Namibia.  

 

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Namibia is waiting to welcome you!

 

Download our Travel Planning Guides

Click hereto download our planning guides about traveling to Namibia, adventure, photography, self-drives and wildlife.

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