Everything you need to know to plan a trip to Namibia
Namibia is a predominantly desert country but offers unique and incredible landscapes that leave the visitors breathless. High golden dunes, vast savannas teeming with animals, deep canyons and towering granite mountains are just some of the fantastic attractions you will enjoy on your tour. The trip’s organisation is quite easy, but an important thing must be taken into account: to visit Namibia, you need a rental vehicle, and you’ll travel very often for miles and miles on desert roads where you won’t meet anyone.
When to visit Namibia
The best time to visit Namibia is the months of the dry season (June – October) when the temperatures are more pleasant, and the heat is not strong. In this season, which corresponds to the Namibian winter, night temperatures can even reach zero degrees. From November to April, which corresponds to the Namibian summer season, temperatures are much higher and in some areas, it can rain (mainly from January to March).
Before booking the flight, you must check if you are entitled to a Visa exemption, a Visa on arrival or if you need to apply in person at the Namibian Embassy in your country.
How to get to Namibia
Namibia’s main international airport is Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako, well connected to major cities in South Africa. If you decide to begin your trip from the Atlantic coast, you can land at Walvis Bay International Airport, served by flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg.
How to move around Namibia
The country is extremely vast and almost uninhabited, therefore, getting around by local transport is really difficult. The best way to visit Namibia is definitely with a rental vehicle. Although well maintained, most roads are unpaved, and the best car is definitely a jeep or SUV. Remember to check if you need an international driving permit.
Warning: Namibia is the scene of serious car accidents every year. Always drive safely, respecting the speed limit (max 70 km/h) to prevent skidding. Many main streets are endless straight dirt roads with sand and gravel that make them slippery and dangerous. Therefore, it is very easy to exceed the speed limit without realizing it and to have a car accident. In many areas of the country, the telephone has no range and practically no one is met, so it could also be difficult to be rescued.
How to plan the itinerary
First of all, we suggest staying for at least 2 weeks. Namibia is huge and not easy to reach; therefore, shorter trips would not allow you to enjoy the beauty of this wonderful country. The classic itinerary starts from Windhoek and touches the main attractions such as the Namib-Naukluft Park, Swakopmund, the Skeleton coast, Spitzkoppe, Twyfelfontain, the Epupa falls with the Himba villages, the Etosha Park and if time remains the Waterberg Plateau. In three weeks, some spots in the south of the country can be added, such as the Fish River Canyon and the coastal town of Luderitz.
Travel expenses: Namibia’s journey is quite expensive, mainly due to the cost of the rental vehicle, which can be as high as 100 USD per day. For the accommodations, we spent an average of 60 USD per night in a double room and 15 USD per night to set our tent. The flight was another fairly substantial expense of around 650 USD (Ethiopian airline). In general, we can tell that the 2-week trip cost around 2500/3000 USD per person.
Where to sleep
You will find a great choice of accommodation to suit all budgets ranging from campsites to expensive lodges. We both chose to set our tent and to sleep in cheap hotels/guesthouses booked through booking.com. The accommodations inside the Etosha Park and the Namib Park – Naukluft, where we slept with the tent, must be booked through the NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) that manages the resorts (including the campsites) in the national parks.
The local currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD). 1 USD is about 15 Namibian dollar. You can exchange USD at the airport or the bank in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo. Furthermore, we had no problems with ATM withdrawals in the major cities we passed through (Swakopmund and Opuwo). The South African Rand with a 1-1 rating is also accepted in Namibia.
Telephone and Wifi
Cell phones have low coverage and only work in cities or accommodation areas. We often travelled for many kilometres without having coverage, especially in desert areas. Wifi is found in most hotels but is often very slow. If you need a local sim card, check at the airport or in Windhoek and Swakopmund.
Traveller’s safety and health
In general, Namibia is a safe country. As in all countries of the world, use common sense and avoid situations that could be dangerous. Never leave valuables in sight inside your vehicle, especially in the parking lots of the cities further north such as Rundu, Tsumeb or Grootfontain, as you may have unpleasant “surprises”.
Regarding the health situation, in the main tourist places, there are no particular issues. Avoid drinking non-bottled water and eating not cooked foods. The risk of contracting malaria is not as high as in other countries since Namibia is mainly arid and desert. However, pay close attention if you visit the country’s northern regions, especially the areas along the Kunene River, where the risk of malaria is much higher.
Important: for more information about safety and health, always check your Ministry of Foreign Affairs official website or other specific websites. Also, it is highly recommended to consult a travel medicine specialist to assess travel-related risks, and have information to ensure your health and safety.
Clinics / Hospitals: In case of need, you can turn to some excellent private clinics in Windhoek. In the rest of the country, excluding Swakopmund, a tourist town, you will find low-level medical facilities. You can also go to South Africa for any more serious injuries, where the medical standards are excellent.
Travel insurance: health costs abroad are always very high, especially if you rely on private clinics; It is essential to take out travel insurance that possibly also covers repatriation costs. In our travels, we usually rely on WorldNomads.