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Our guide to driving in Namibia
Deciding on how to travel around Namibia is primarily down to time and cost. Those short on time should opt for scheduled light aircraft flights. Most remote accommodation has its own airstrip or one very close by – and one real positive is that the views on these flights are spectacular. The most popular way to travel around Namibia though is a self-drive holiday; a more adventurous and more affordable option than flying - it is a hugely rewarding way to travel. Also worth considering is a combination of internal flights and driving.
Type of car
When renting a car, it is likely that budget will determine which class of vehicle you choose. Sedans are the cheapest, but certainly the least comfortable and should very much be seen as a last resort. Above this are large 2x4 vehicles with the look, ruggedness and importantly, ground clearance of a proper 4x4 but with better fuel economy. They present a good balance and are a comfortable option. Finally, and most expensive, are 4x4s such as Land Cruisers and Hiluxes. These are highly recommended if travelling during the rainy season or to very remote areas where you will need to engage 4x4, otherwise they are not strictly necessary.
Good quality gravel and sand roads make up the majority of Namibia’s road infrastructure. A handful of ‘major’ roads are well surfaced with tarmac. The tarmac roads are very good, straight and fairly quiet, explaining the profusion of well-hidden police speed traps along their length. Control points before major towns and when crossing regional borders are common and friendly.
• Do not plan to travel more than 400km in one day – leave plenty of time and don’t rush!
• Never drive at night.
• Check with fellow self-drivers, lodge staff or locals about road conditions ahead.
• Inform your destination of your expected arrival time, and inform your origin of your destination.
• Check all tyres – including the spare – have sufficient tread depth before setting off.
• Be prepared to change a tyre – roads can be punishing and punctures are not infrequent, although most locals are also experts at changing tyres if you encounter problems!
• Stop for fuel wherever you can.
• Speed limit outside of urban areas is 120km/hour and fines for breaking it are substantial.
• 60-80km/hour is the recommended safe speed due to rapidly changing road conditions which can prove dangerous at higher speeds.
• Often the best tracks are in the middle of the road – just remember to move left when approaching oncoming traffic or at the brow of a hill!
• Beware of the dust kicked up by your vehicle, as well as others, as it can obstruct your view.
• Beware of wildlife – especially on tarred roads where baboons or warthogs are hidden in the long grass by the road side.
• Seasonal rains can damage and sometimes wash away large sections of roads – slow down and pick your path carefully (usually already well worn).
• Some roads leading to remote lodges can be in poor condition – if concerned, arrange for a lodge vehicle to pick you up
• Good map (usually provided by rental car company) and directions (provided by us)
• Driving licence (an international licence is not necessary, but recommended)
• Plenty of water and snacks
• Cash for fuel – most petrol stations, especially in remote areas, only accept cash as payment
• Credit card for rental deposit (in the name of the person hiring the vehicle)
• Mobile phone
• A cheap Namibian mobile SIM card with a small amount of prepaid credit
• An iPod or CDs
• Common sense and patience!
• A sense of adventure!
Ready to explore Namibia on a self-drive adventure?
Check out our Discover Namibia itinerary.