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Tips for Driving in Namibia

Namibia has an excellent road system that reaches just about every popular tourist destination in the country. However, most 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.

  1. First and foremost, in Namibia we drive on the left side of the road.
  2. Passengers in the back as well as the front seats must wear seatbelts.
  3. To drive a vehicle in Namibia, you need a valid driving license and must carry it with you when you are driving. If your driver’s license is not printed in English, it is advisable to travel with an International Driver’s License.
  4. Make sure you are fully insured.
  5. Before leaving on your self-drive tour, make sure the brakes of your vehicle are in good working order.
  6. Your tyres must have the correct air pressure for the roads on which you’re planning to travel and for the amount of luggage and number of passengers in your car.
  7. 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.
  8. In Namibia, four-by-four vehicles are recommended when travelling through remote areas.
  9. You should carry a well-equipped first-aid kit.
  10. Plan your trip carefully, ensuring that you have enough fuel for the journey you have planned. Always ensure that you have sufficient fuel in the event that your next / planned fuel stop might not have fuel available.
  11. 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.
  1. It is advisable to leave your itinerary 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 vehicle has extra fuel and water tanks, use them.
  4. 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.
  5. Avoid travelling at night. Wildlife is most active at dusk, and the possibility of a collision at this time of day is vastly increased.
  6. 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.
  7. As distances are long, take regular breaks.
  8. Even though the Cell phone network is wide spread in Namibia it is advisable to hire Satellite phones. These are recommended when driving into remote areas. It is helpful if you are stuck or do need any help.
  9. Drive with your lights on, especially when driving on gravel roads.
  10. Absolute speed limits: 
  • National roads:120km/h or less when indicated
  • Gravel roads:80km/h or less when indicated
  • Towns / National Parks: 60km/h or less when indicated

Additional driver information and safety tips

Not all gravel roads are the same. Be aware of this and drive accordingly. Take note of the following before you set out:

  • Punctures are common on gravel roads, it is therefore advisable to carry two spare wheels.
  • Do not exceed the prescribed limit. The safest speed on a gravel road is below 80km/h.
  • Observe road traffic signs conscientiously, particularly those indicating a gentle or sharp curve ahead, and reduce your speed accordingly. Some roads signs are absent, therefore always make sure that adapt your speed to the conditions. Make sure that you can stop the vehicle in the distance of road that is visible to you.
  • In dusty conditions it is advisable to switch on the headlights of your vehicle so as to be more easily observed by other road-users.
  • When there is oncoming traffic, reduce speed and keep to the left of the road as far as possible. Windscreen damage is likely to occur here.
  • In rainy or wet conditions, beware of slippery roads or sections of the road that have washed away. Drive slowly through running or stagnant water at drifts or causeways. If you are unsure about the water depth, walk through it first.
  • Always be on the lookout for animals, both domestic and wild animals.
  • Other hazards are dry stream crossings and dry dips in the road. These are often eroded or rocky, don’t rush through them!
  • Be constantly on the alert, as road signs have sometimes been removed or run over.
  • Overtaking on gravel roads is dangerous. Draw the attention of the driver in front of you by flicking your headlights, indicating that you wish to overtake.
  • The simple rule when going into a skid is: skid left, steer left – skid right, steer right. Gently! In other words, if the car starts to slide towards the left side of the road, gently steer to the left, and vice versa. Take your foot off the accelerator for a moment as the car is gently brought under control and stay off the brakes! Just don’t over react!
  • Be careful when you approach the top of a blind rise, as there is often a slight bend just out of sight which could catch you off-guard.
  • Be constantly on the lookout for the unexpected, some of the nasties are; loose and sandy patches, potholes, rocks or a sharp bend in the road.

Camping in Namibia

A camping holiday in Namibia can provide visitors with a great opportunity to enjoy the country’s vast unspoiled landscapes, spectacular scenery, fascinating flora and fauna and the experience of meeting rural people and observing their cultures.

The variety of camping places in Namibia is huge. Dedicated sites with full facilities are operated by local communities, Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) and private tourism companies, while further opportunities to camp al fresco (with the landowner’s permission) abound.

NWR offers the visitor a choice of twenty-two resorts, including must-visit destinations such as the Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei, the Namib-Naukluft Park, Terrace Bay, Ai-Ais, Lüderitz, the Waterberg and, in the north east, Popa Falls. Four other NWR resorts are conveniently close to Windhoek.

All the NWR resorts have purpose-built accommodation and restaurant facilities, while a computerised central reservations system handles all bookings. Visitors are advised to book well in advance.

The private sector presents campers with a vast choice of camping places, ranging from basic natural sites to purpose-built facilities. The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) will gladly answer all enquiries, while the Namibian Tour and Safari Association (TASA) and the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) both hold copious amounts of information on behalf of their members.

From the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Trans-Frontier Park in the south to the Namib, Damaraland and the Kaokoland areas in the west, and the Kalahari and Caprivi regions in the east, campers face only one dilemma: how to see as much as possible.

Suitable camping equipment and thorough planning is a vital prerequisite for any camping trip. Imagine erecting your tent and finding you forgot to pack the tent poles or trying to light a campfire without matches. All visitors wishing to travel independently through the awesome but often isolated Namibian landscapes should ensure that they are fully equipped and self-sufficient. 

Most visitors to Namibia will need to hire both a vehicle and all the camping equipment needed for their proposed trip. For those planning to explore more remote areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential. All Namibian car-hire operators will offer 4x4s but make your reservation well in advance. Many companies can supply their vehicles fully equipped for camping and are experts in providing everything you’ll need. 
Firewood should always be purchased in a pre-packed form, never collected loose in the veld. Take along a small hatchet, fire-lighters and matches, two powerful torches and plenty of spare batteries. Vehicle spares should include a spare wheel (preferably two), air compressor or pump, tyre gauge, battery leads, towrope, shovel and basic toolkit. Lastly, remember to take along sensible clothing and footwear, hats, sunblock, anti-malaria/mosquito treatments, toiletries and personal items.

And don’t forget your binoculars and camera, for the holiday of a lifetime that awaits you in Namibia! 

Which vehicles are the most suitable to rent?

Car-rental companies are frequently asked which vehicles are the most suitable for Namibia. The main choices are:

  • A 2WD – these could include, sedans, SUV’s or minibuses.
  • A 4WD – most commonly a single or double Cab pick-up and SUVs. These may be rented as standard vehicles or fully equipped camping vehicles.
  • A camper – van or motor home.

Namibia has an excellent road system that reaches just about every popular tourist destination in the country. However, most 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. These areas are not recommended for the inexperienced driver, for whom guided tours or organized safaris are recommended.

Important facts to consider

  • 4WD vehicles are more expensive to hire, because of the higher purchase price and increased maintenance. They are preferred due to higher ground clearance (better for gravel roads), more robust (thus able to reach destinations where a 2WD would struggle.
  • Most 4WD vehicles can be equipped with camping equipment. This allows clients the flexibility to choose either a camping holiday or a mix between lodging and camping.
  • 2WD vehicles cost less to acquire and maintain therefore they are cheaper than the 4×4 Vehicles to hire. Most 2WD’s don’t a have high ground clearance and are therefore not suitable for all gravel roads (many rental companies do not allow compact sedans on gravel roads).
  • Motor homes are usually better suited to tar roads as they tend to be top heavy and have poor ground clearance when not 4WD.

Your final choice of vehicle will be determined by your itinerary and your budget.