Hitching is possible in Namibia, but it’s illegal in national parks, and main highways see relatively little traffic. It’s reasonably safe and fairly common, though it’s still always a risk. Truck drivers generally expect to be paid around US$1.50 per 100km, so agree on a price before climbing in. Your best options for lifts are Windhoek backpackers lodges, where you can post notices about rides.
The easiest way to get around Namibia is by road, and an excellent system of sealed roads runs the length of the country from the South African border at Noordoewer to Ngoma Bridge on the Botswana border and Ruacana on the Angola border in the northwest. Similarly, sealed spur roads connect the main north–south routes to Buitepos, Lüderitz, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Elsewhere, towns and most sites of interest are accessible on good gravel roads. C-numbered highways are well maintained and passable to all vehicles, and D-numbered roads, although a bit rougher, are mostly (but not always) passable to 2WD vehicles. In the Kaokoveld, however, most D-numbered roads can only be negotiated with a 4WD.
For a compact car, the least-expensive hire companies charge US$40 to US$60 per day (the longer the hire period, the lower the daily rate) with unlimited kilometres. Hiring a 4WD vehicle opens up remote parts of the country, but it can get expensive at an average of US$80 per day. Most companies include insurance and unlimited kilometres in their standard rates, but some require a minimum rental period before they allow unlimited kilometres.
It’s cheaper to hire a car in South Africa and drive it into Namibia, but you need permission from the rental agency and paperwork to cross the borders. Drivers entering Namibia in a foreign-registered vehicle must pay a N$70 (US$10) road tax at the border.
It’s probably best to deal with one of the major car-rental companies following:
Trans-Namib Railways (061-298 2032; www.transnamib.com.na) connects most of the major towns, but trains are extremely slow – as one reader remarked, moving ‘at the pace of an energetic donkey cart’. In addition, passenger and freight cars are mixed on the same train, and trains tend to stop at every post. As a result, rail travel isn’t popular and services are rarely fully booked.
Cardboard Box Travel Shop (061-256580; www.namibian.org ; PO Box 5142, Windhoek) This friendly agency offers bookings (including last-minute options) for all budget safaris; lodge, safari, car hire and transport bookings; national parks bookings; good advice; and other travel services.
Chameleon Safaris (/fax 061-247668; www.chameleonsafaris.com ; 5-7 Voight St, PO Box 6017, Windhoek) This budget safari company is geared to backpackers and does a range of good-value safaris: six-day Damaraland/Skeleton Coast (US$400); three-day Sossusvlei (US$150); 18-day 4WD tour (US$950); 14-day northern and southern highlights (US$600); and seven-day northern or southern highlights (US$350 each).
CrazyKuduSafaris (061-257642; www.wilddog-safaris.com ; PO Bo 26188, Windhoek) One of Namibia’s friendliest and most economical safari companies, Crazy Kudu does 10-day all-inclusive Namibia Explorer adventures through northern and central highlights (US$440); a six-day northern highlights tour (US$275); and a three-day Sossusvlei Express tour (US$130), which may also be joined in Swakopmund. All departures are guaranteed. Crazy Kudu will also organise custom safaris, an Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls excursion, and Fish River Canyon or Kaokovled extensions for the best possible price. Bookings for Crazy Kudu are typically made through your accommodation.
Muramba Bushman Trails (067-220659; firstname.lastname@example.org; PO Box 689, Tsumeb) Owned by Reinhard Friedrich, this company provides a unique introduction to the Heikum San people.
Namib Sky (061-293233; fax 061-293241; email@example.com; PO Box 5197, Windhoek) For those who dream of looming over the dunes in a balloon, this company offers Namib Desert balloon flights for US$246 per person. The early-morning flight departs before sunrise, when not a breath of wind is stirring.
WildDogSafaris (061-257642; www.wilddog-safaris.com ; PO Box 26188, Windhoek) This friendly operation runs seven-day northern or southern Namibia adventures (US$340 each) and three-day Etosha or Sossusvlei circuits (US$160 each, or US$350 for both), as well as longer participation safaris and accommodated excursions. Bookings for Wild Dog Safaris are typically made through your accommodation.
Trans-Namib’s Star Line (061-298 2030; www.transnamib.com.na) buses travel to Bethanie, Buitepos, Gobabis, Gochas, Grootfontein, Helmeringhausen, Henties Bay, Kamanjab, Khorixas, Lüderitz, Mariental, Opuwo, Oshakati, Outjo, Rundu, Walvis Bay and other destinations.
Fares on long-distance private minibuses, which depart when full, work out to US$0.03 per kilometre (but they also may charge US$1.80 per piece of luggage). Fares on minibuses generally work out to be cheaper than on buses, but minibuses are not nearly as comfortable.
Air Namibia (www.airnamibia.com.na) has an extensive network of local flights operating out of Eros Airport (061-299 6500) in Windhoek. There are regular flights to Tsumeb, Rundu, Katima Mulilo, Lüderitz, Swakopmund and Oshakati/Ondangwa.