Moving around Namibia, rental car, roads, public transport, hitch-hiking

3 months road trip in Southern Africa,
 Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. 
October - December 2014   

Average exchange rate: 1 € =  13,75 N$



Most of the main tarred roads are in central Namibia, connecting the capital city Windhoek with the Caprivi (north), Swakopmund/Walvis Bay (west), the transkalahari (east) and South Africa (south).
Then, all around Namibia, it´s thousand of km of gravel roads. Most of them are in perfect conditions. The road maintenance is good in Namibia.
Namibia is big (1 million km2).
So we did 4.000 km, half of them on gravel roads, with a normal Ford Fiesta, in the dry season. Incredible! We did!

If you want to visit Namibia properly, you need a vehicle.
That means you  need a car (you can rent one) or hitch-hiking (cheaper but maybe more difficult to get a lift quick, more time needed) or joining a tour... o travelling by bike (easier on a motorbike, hard in this big, empty, windy and dry country if by bicycle).
Public transport is really limited just to connect the towns and you will miss the best parts of Namibia: Sesriem and all around, Etosha, Fish River Canyon, the Atlantic Coast, the northern black Namibia...
The roadtrip in itself is a must.


Warning:

Namibia is a dry country, but there´s a short rainy season with heavy rains, specially in january and february.

Many roads are gravel ones, so keep in mind that driving in Namibia can be a complete different experience in the rainy season when the gravel roads can get muddy. So it´s not recomended to go around Namibia with a sedan car in rainy season, it´s better avoiding these months. Just driving on the main tarred tarred, you will miss the most amazing Namibia. Even in a 4x4 and if not experienced driver it is not a good idea to travel in the rainy period and to remote areas.

 
  Different kinds of roads in Namibia

Maps of Namibia:
We didn´t use navigation (no GPS) or map. It´s really easy to travel around, just had a look in advance with google maps and dowload a few detail maps. 
A very good website with plenty of informations is Namibia-1on1.com and you can download Namibia maps in Map-of-namibia.com, you can see the tarred and gravel roads, km, etc. ery useful to plan the trip.


In www.wheretostay.na, they have a map with the most important camps all around Namibia.

Also www.track4africa.co.za (has maps and accomodation).

   RENT A CAR IN NAMIBIA  

Renting a car in Nambia, it´s more expensive than in South Africa and less options and companies, and just a few main towns where is avalaible. Mainly Windhoek and Swakopmund-Walvis. Around 30 €/day for a small car (in South Africa you can get it for around 20 € or less). Just look online.
In Namibia, many travellers rent a Toyota 4x4 full equiped (for camping, with a roof tent) but it´s quite expensive (100-150 euros/day). Usually avalaible only in Windhoek and maybe less in Swakopmund.

Depending on your plans, compare prices in Namibia and South Africa, doing the pick-up and drop-off in diferent location can be interesting (check the price). Sometimes it´s very convenient.
We rented a Ford Fiesta at Johannesburg´s airport, for 3 months, manual, drop off in Polokwane (South Africa), and paid only 11.75 €/day.  We rented with www.rentalcars.com , was perfect, we can recomended.
Complete information here or in the South Africa chapter.

Normal small car or equiped 4x4 to go through Namibia ?

Most of the people who visit Namibia for a few days or weeks go to the main spots where we went: Etosha, Sesriem, Swakopmund and surrounds, Fish River Canyon, etc. And as many travellers arrive at Windhoek airport or rent the car there, they even drive more km on main tarred roads (as we skiped central Namibia, we used a lot of secondary gravel roads).

We did it with a normal sedan small car and a tent and it was perfect. But most of the people rent an expensive and heavy 4x4 with roof tent (and thirsty to drive!). Up to you and your budget! But if not going to the Caprivi game parks (very sandy), the middle of the Kalahari or the bushland, the wild Namib desert or the top northwest Kaokoland (even the road to Opuwo is tarred now), so you are looking for a real wild and remote adventure, you DON´T really need a 4x4!

So it was funny to cross these big 4x4 on the same roads and to share the good-equiped campsites with them.


PETROL IN NAMIBIA

Unleaded 95 is around 12 N$/l (less than 1 €) in november 2014, more expensive in remote places. 
Credit card are usually not avalaible at the petrol station. Weird, as they are usually in the supermarkets.
Keep in mind that sometimes there are no gas stations for 200 km as there are no towns! 

Petrol is a bit cheaper in Botswana and similar in South Africa (prices vary depending of the area).

ROADS AND DRIVING IN NAMIBIA

Main roads are tarred and good. Very little traffic.
For other secondary roads and national parks, it´s gravel roads, very well maintened (you will see the machines), so usually the average speed on gravel is 60-80 km/h(just a few places are bumpy).

We never had a police control, in 4.000 km. Only the vet-police control south of rundu, on the way to Grootfontein. They didn´t check anything.

Many wild animals and cattle, eveywhere but more in the northern part, so better don´t drive at night.
Also, drive safely. We saw a lot of  "ghost" cars on the sides of the roads, scars of accidents and maybe too expensive to take away. Roads are empty but don´t drive too fast please. Namibia has a high accident rate!


You don´t need a 4x4 for a normal trip across Namibia: we did 2.000 km on gravel roads with a Ford Fiesta!We did it and you can do it!
Access to camps and hotels is usually Ok for a sedan car.

Just if going to explore remote places in northwest Namibia (the main road is now also tarred) or visit national parks in the Caprivi or off road in the Namib you need a strong 4x4.
Always drive carefully as cattle and wild animals can cross the road.
Always keep left. In Namibia, it´s like in South Africa and UK, the driver seats right of the car.

Keep Left! Yes, it´s like in UK or Australia or South Africa.

We travelled without a detail map or GPS navigation and it was really easy. The roads are well signed.
If entering Namibia by car, you have to pay a cross border permit of 220 N$ (15 €). See our chapter about visa and borders (menu, right sidebar).

A great roadtrip is waiting for you in Namibia! Enjoy the wild!

   PUBLIC TRANSPORT   

We didn´t use the public transport in Namibia, but crossing the country by car we saw that public transport is really limited in Namibia, specially if travelling as we did on secondary and beautiful roads, empty Namibia.
Only between the main towns you will find a few buses and vans... more or less cheap. For exemple the most travelled road Windhoek to Swakopmund-Walvis Bay is around 15 €.


                                                         Main roads served by transport

In northern Namibia (where most of the black population lives) the local people do hitch-hiking or walk a lot.
In the Caprivi towns (north), we saw taxis and shared vans around. Then as we travelled in remote places, we didn´t see too many.

If travelling to/from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, etc., there are international coaches. Different companies depends of the destinations, modern coaches. Most of them connect Windhoek and other capitals or main cities.
One of the most famous ones is Intercape.
For exemple, they connect Walvis Bay-Swakopmund-Windhoek with Cape Town or Johannesburg (3 times a week) or Windhoek with Victoria Falls (once a week).
Windhoek-Cape Town costs around 50 €.

Trains in Namibia:
Transnamib. Quite limited service, slow. Probably similar prices and much quicker by bus or van.
Only Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Tsumeb, Keetmanshoop and karasburg. All the information on  www.transnamib.com.na  or even more complete on  Seat61.com

There´s a luxurious train travelling between Windhoek and Swakopmund once a week only, the Desert Express. Not for low-cost travellers. 

Flights: 
Namibia´s main airport is in Windhoek. Namibia has a small population and there are not many busy airports in other areas. Domestic flights are expensive and few.
The main airline in Namibia is Air Namibia.
Connecting flights with other Africa capital cities... and tourist town like Maun in Bostwana.
Some low-cost companies from South Africa also connect with Windhoek, from Jburg, Cape Town and Durban. Like Kulula.
There´s a new company offering flights between Windhoek and Jburg/Cape Town/Lusaka, Fly Africa.

Organised tours:
If you like organised tours, you can join one. The backpackers in Windhoek (and few in Swakopmund) do trips around Namibia. But not too cheap... and you have to like this kind of travelling.


   HITCH - HIKING  

Many local people in Namibia do hitch-hiking in the Caprivi (the populated area), but usually pay for the trip. 
You can always try, wherever you are in Namibia. The counrty is quite safe but also very empty. So maybe you will have to wait long long time.

We pick up same ladys on the road and never had any problem.

You can always ask other tourists in the camps if they can give you a lift... or share the cost of petrol...
Good luck!

Some travellers told us that they hitch-hiked in Namibia and was fine.
 

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