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.
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 Do not simply trust any old map you find online as it could be out of date.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!