Transport in Namibia
Namibia is a large country and the best way to see all of it is by car. Namibia has an excellent road network, but its remote areas are often real 4×4 territory. Whether you can use a sedan or a 4×4 will depend on how far you want to venture into the wilderness. Those who want to experience luxurious desolation has book fly-in safaris and if you’re on a budget busses and trains will get you to the to the major towns.
If you are visiting Namibia from overseas and want the full experience of Namibia’s open spaces, you will need a vehicle. Having your own set of wheels allows you to travel at your own pace and gives you a sense of freedom and independence that is essential to the Namibian experience. Namibia’s car rental companies maintain a high standard guaranteed by the Car Rental Association of Namibia (CARAN). The first question you want to ask yourself is whether you need a 4×4 or if a sedan will suffice. Also note that some car rental companies might restrict their services to only the tarred road and main gravel roads, which can be limiting. A sedan will get you to Namibia’s main attractions such as Etosha and Sossusvlei, but if you are travelling over deep sand or into game parks other than Etosha you need a 4×4. A third option is a camper van or a motor home for longer trips into the bush. Here are a few things to consider when choosing your vehicle:
- 4×4 vehicles are best suited to driving in Namibia. They have good ground clearance and ample storage space for long journeys.
- However, 4x4s are expensive to hire and expensive to maintain.
- Sedan vehicles are cheaper but offer less ground clearance and carry less.
- For many destinations a sedan camping vehicle is a good option as it comes fully equipped.
- 4×4 camping vehicles are the best solution for remote destinations with deep sand or bad roads.
- Motor homes are best suited for tar roads as they are top heavy and offer little ground clearance.
Went hiring your vehicle be sure to understand what is included in the price. The kilometres included, the cost for additional drivers, border crossing fees and the insurance packages may vary.
Thanks to the excellent condition of Namibia’s tar and main gravel roads, driving in Namibia is relatively easy. Yet there a few precautions, which especially overseas visitors will find helpful:
- Namibia has left-hand traffic.
- The speed limits in Namibia are 120km/h for tarmac roads, 80km/h for gravel roads and 60km/h in towns.
- The driver and all passengers must wear seatbelts.
- All drivers need a valid driver’s license. If your license is not in English apply for an international driver’s licence in your home country.
- Get car insurance. If you are renting a car this may be included. If you are driving your own vehicle check what your insurance policy covers.
- Always carry at least one spare tire.
- 4×4 vehicles are recommended for remote areas.
- Always carry enough fuel and drinking water.
- Watch out for wildlife crossing the road.
- Avoid travelling at night.
- Always comply with the safety rules in game parks.
- Take regular breaks and don’t drive when you are too tired.
- Always carry a map.
- Inform your tour operator, hotel or friends of your itinerary.
Tips for Gravel Roads and Off-road Driving
Gravel roads in Namibia are mostly in good condition. However, driving on gravel or in sand is very different from tarmac and comes with unique challenges:
- Take two spare tires when driving long distances on gravel.
- Always observe traffic signs.
- Switch on the headlights in dusty conditions.
- Beware of slippery conditions on the rain.
- If car skids to the left steer slightly right and vice versa. Don’t brake when you skid!
- Moderate your speed.
- When driving in sand don’t brake hard or spin your wheels as you will dig in. Never stop on an uphill.
Travelling from Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport is as easy as using the 24-hour taxi service or one of the shuttle companies. Several bus lines connect Windhoek to Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Noordoewer, Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Upington, Lusaka and Gaborone.
Train travel is a luxurious way to discover the Namibian landscape. The Desert Express offers a scenic journey between Windhoek and Swakopmund for discerning travellers. Starline Passenger Services are a more affordable option between Windhoek and Walvis Bay. Several South African trains visit Windhoek regularly, among them the Shongololo Express, JB Train Tours and the renowned Rovos Rail. Railway enthusiast should not miss a visit to the TransNamib Railway Museum in Windhoek.
All major tourist destinations in Namibia have landings strips or airports to receive airborne visitors. While international visitors pass through Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) in Windhoek, the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) operates eight airports throughout the country:
- Hosea Kutako International Airport (Windhoek)
- Eros (Windhoek)
- Walvis Bay
- Katima Mulilo
The Walvis Bay airport is currently getting an upgrade and be sporting an arrival hall under a large Bedouin tent. Airports in northern Namibia provides stopovers for flights into Angola and Central Africa and allow quicker access to remote areas in the Caprivi Strip.