Shenton Safaris

10 need-to-know tips for road tripping Namibia

Information and photos courtesy of: The Namibia Tourism Board

Travelling through Namibia by car is one of the best ways to explore this extremely vast and beautiful country. This plus the freedom you have to stop and go as you please makes self-driving in Namibia extremely rewarding. Here you’ll find some important tips to make the most of your road trip in Namibia.

road trip namibia

1. 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 the 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 up your spirits and sugar levels. If you don’t eat properly your alertness could suffer and that’s not ideal. Biltong and droewors are great snacks which can be found for sale all over Namibia.

Sunglasses and sunscreen: Protect yourself from the sun while driving. Many people forget that they can get sun burnt whilst in a car. Wearing a good pair of sunglasses will not only protect your eyes but also reduce the sun’s glare, which will help you be able to spot animals and other things in the distance.

2. Fill up on petrol when you have the chance.

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. Some maps will tell you where the filling stations are,  but don’t simply trust any old map you find online as it could be out of date.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 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-drive adventure.**

3. Know the major national roads.

The national roads of Namibia are all labelled with the letter ‘B’ and you can use them to get to most major destinations 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.

4. Only take secondary roads if your car can handle it.

The secondary roads are identified by either their ‘D’ or ‘C’ prefixes, and these roads are mostly un-tarred, 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.

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!

5. 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.

Warthogs can be particularly dangerous as they are relatively difficult to spot from a distance, and will cause some serious damage to your vehicle if hit at high speed. Kudus (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.

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.

6. Plan your trip before you set out!

It is important to decide on a route before you launch out into the wild on your road trip adventure through Namibia. Do some googling before you depart, plot out the sights you want to see and then plan a route that’ll best get to there keeping the kind of car, and the kind of roads (being either national tar roads or dirt secondary roads) in mind.

Also, don’t over-estimate the amount of kilometres you can do in a day. With any road trip, it’s always better to give yourself more time to get to a destination rather than rush on roads you’re familiar with, in a place you haven’t been before. You never know what could delay you, whether it’s a particularly rough road that calls for you to slow down or stumbling upon a cute little town you want to spend time exploring.

Factor delays into your plan. After all, it’s better to arrive late than not arrive at all.

7. Make sure your car is ready for adventure

Whether you are driving your own vehicle or have chosen to rent one, you will need to pick the appropriate type of car for your journey. If you are planning to stay on the national roads and not go gallivanting into the untamed wilderness of Namibia then any reliable mass-produced four door sedan should do you just fine. Do bear in mind though that a car with a very low ground clearance may run into trouble, so it’s probably best to leave the sports-sedan at home.

Long with this, make sure that you have all the required documentation you need for a long-distance trip. Is your car is roadworthy? Do you have all the equipment you will need in the event of a flat tyre or other minor mechanical faults? Also check out the Automobile Association’s website for some useful information on bringing your private vehicle across Namibia’s borders.

8. Kick it old school – bring your map along

GPS is a wonderful invention and it has made navigating around unexplored parts of the world a cinch for travel, and it is highly recommended that you invest in such a device if you plan on driving yourself around the countryside.

However, it is still VERY important that you bring a physical map with you. Electrical equipment can fail, so you need to have a backup plan. A map is solid and dependable and it never has to reacquire its satellites.

9. Prepare to take a few dirt roads

Many of the roads in Namibia are not tarred and as such you will find yourself driving on either dirt or graveled roads at some point. But do not fear. Most of these roads are well graded and easy enough to drive on. But if you are unfamiliar with driving on dirt roads, now’s the time to familiarise yourself:

  • Firstly, your car will handle very differently on a dirt road then it does on a tarred road. So if it’s your first time driving on such roads start off quite gingerly and get used to the way your car stops, accelerates and takes corners.
  • When going around corners it is important to not accelerate or decrease your speed massively, try and keep an even, moderate pace as you go around the corner (rather slow down before you get to the turn).
  • Keep an eye out for deep loose sand as even larger 4×4 vehicles can get stuck in sufficiently deep or loose sand.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on your tyre pressure. Every time you get to a filling station ask the attendant to have a look at the pressure. While you’re at it ask the attendant to check your car’s oil and water as well (don’t forget to tip the filling station attendant when you move on!).
  • You need to know how to change a tyre. Flat tyres happen and no matter how cautious one is there is always a chance that you will ride over something that will cause a small hole in your tyre. If you can, try and have two spare tyres.
  • When driving on a dirt road be aware that it will take considerably longer to cover a distance compared to travelling on a national, tarred road. So always plan your trip so that you have enough time to get where your going on time.

10. A few more nuggets of important information to get you going:

  • It’s a good idea to leave your headlights on through the day and the night. Headlights, even in daylight make your car easier to see for oncoming vehicles.
  • Drive carefully and cautiously, as always. Be especially careful when leaving or entering villages and towns. There are often people and cattle crossing the road.
  • Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit in your car. If you have rented a vehicle make sure with the agency that there is a kit in your vehicle. You should always travel with a basic first-aid kit.
  • Do not speed! The penalties for exceeding the local speed limits are extremely severe, and law enforcement is wide-spread.
  • Cellphone reception is not consistent all over the country so have a look at your service provider’s coverage map to see if where you’re going will have service.
  • Always ensure you have more than enough fuel to get to your destination or the next filling station.
  • Drive on the left, even on deserted dirt roads.
  • If you pass through any farm gates you have to open, be sure to close them behind you. If you don’t then livestock will escape and you will be costing a farmer a lot of damage.

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  • bassetluv

    Windhoek-Etosha-Palmwag-Opuwo-Swakopmund-Windhoek. 7 days and 2500km in a VW Polo, truly wonderful drive/experience. Would have been even better with air conditioning!

  • Simply, make a checklist of the things you want and need to take…I usually would fill up before heading out but I had 3/4 of a tank and decided to just go 3 hours later and half way to my destination I pulled over for for fuel.I love these tips. I’ll definitely be sharing this with our friends! Thanks.

  • Lena

    I am thinking of going to Namibia. Where’s the best place to rent a car?

    • deepak

      I am travelling solo to Namibia – Windhoek in April 2017. Will be driving from Windhoek to Etosha and Sossusvlei (desert safari). If anyone interested , you are most welcome to tag along. cheers

  • They_say

    Warning – Beware! The dirtiest smelly toilet I ever experienced
    worldwide (and we travelled a lot) is at the Namibian border control in
    Noordoewer. The urinal was completely broken and turned upside down and according
    to the marks this must have happened months ago – I was very close to puke. So
    everyone used the toilet but the floor was urine-soiled. And the staff, at
    incoming and outgoing, very unfriendly and therefore unprofessional, sort of “we
    are not interested in tourists spending millions and creating jobs for thousands”.
    Will someone please forward this to the responsible minister.

    Rather use the clean toilets on the SA side and enjoy the friendly
    staff there.

  • davids

    Hello, I am Judith Alex currently living in New jersey city, USA. I am a widow at the moment with two kids and i was stuck in a financial situation in June 2015 and i needed to refinance and pay my bills. I tried seeking loans from various loan firms both private and corporate but never with success, and most banks declined my credit. But as God would have it, I was introduced to a Man of God a private loan lender who gave me a loan of $105,000USD and today am a business owner and my kids are doing well at the moment, if you must contact any firm with reference to securing a loan without collateral , no credit check, no co signer with just 2% interest rate and better repayment plans and schedule, please contact David James He doesn’t know that am doing this but am so happy now and i decided to let people know more about him and also i want God to bless him more.You can contact him through his email: deliverydiplomatdavidjames@gmail.com

  • deepak

    I am travelling solo to Namibia – Windhoek in April 2017. Will be driving from Windhoek to Etosha and Sossusvlei (desert safari). If anyone interested , most welcome to tag along. cheers

  • Jade

    I am traveling to from Pretoria to Windhoek VIA Botswana in April 2017. This will be the first time I leave the country. Could someone please advise me of what to take, what needs to be done for and at border posts etc. and also a friend told me that I will have to pay road taxes? what is it and how much is it roughly?

  • Lassina

    Hello, Thank you for the useful tips. I am visiting Windhoek and will rent a car and travel to Opuwo. If someone need a ride let me know. Will be travelling from the 8th of April 2017t o the north (Opuwo) and returning around the 14th.

  • Campbell Louw

    We recently spent 2 months travelling in Namibia, for tips, budget and itinerary you are welcome to look at our blog http://stingynomads.com/namibia/

  • Linar

    Having come from Australia and having lived in Namibia for over 18 months couple of things to remember:
    1. Never drive after sunset – this is a very standard rule applied across the country (where possible). Large antelopes, cattle, warthogs roam the road and they will create maximum damage to the vehicle and can be fatal for humans;
    2. Never speed on gravel roads – avoid over/understeer at high speeds (above 100KM/H) as it can result in vehicle rollovers. Stick to 60-80KM/H and always observe the road conditions in front of you. Majority of tyre punches are a result of gravel thrown back from the front wheel to the back wheel damaging the sides of the rear.
    3. Always carry the following tools – tyre repair kit, tyre inflators via cigarette lighter, for longer distances 25L jerry can, WD40 to loosen the nuts, jumper cables & a spade if you plan on traveling on sand; good set of gloves & a set of shades are helpful.
    4. Always be mindful of the incoming traffic as people overtake a lot; especially on the B2 with all the trucks going from Walvis Bay to Angola / Zambia and Zim via Katima

    Remember the highest killer in Namibia after HIV is road fatalities – safe driving, drive to conditions and drive to your capabilities.

    Enjoy wonderful Namibia

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