Namibia, located on the southwest edge of southern Africa, is one of the continent's safest and most budget-friendly countries to visit.
If you want to stretch your money and get the most out of your vacation, there are cheap options so you don't sacrifice any of the magnificent sites and experiences the country has to offer.
A trip to Africa is usually perceived as an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but with proper planning and a willingness to rough it a bit, you can save on food, activities, accommodations, transportation and tours.
Here are the top tips for creating an affordable Namibian adventure.
Fly to Johannesburg and take a bus to Namibia
If you’re traveling from the US, there are no direct flights to Namibia. Most itineraries have connections in Johannesburg, which has numerous flights arriving daily from around the world. The cheapest way to get to Namibia from Jo’burg is by bus and shuttle. A bus will take you to Gaborone, Botswana, where you can catch a shuttle to Windhoek, Namibia's capital. The cost is US$65 and will take about 20 hours. Along the way, you'll take in some pretty spectacular scenery while someone else does the driving.
Flying into Windhoek takes only five hours, but the price is around $500. Travelers coming from Europe benefit from a nonstop route from Frankfurt.
Travel during the low season
December through April marks the wet season in Namibia. The crowds are gone, bringing down the cost of accommodations and tours. For example, a three-night stay at a game lodge in Etosha National Park will run about $1200 in July, but only $800 in January. Private and group game drives also see price reductions. Booking a group drive in the low season might even result in a private or semi-private experience.
While it's not an ideal time of year for viewing throngs of big game, it's an excellent time for birding and seeing newborn animals. The landscape blanketed in wildflowers is also a gorgeous sight to see. Summer rains are typically isolated and brief, mainly occurring in the afternoon. Therefore, timing your excursions in the morning will allow you to relax and enjoy the welcome rain.
Self-drive your way around the country
Self-driving is a safe and economical alternative to a fully guided experience. A week-long scheduled group tour starts at around $1450. A 4WD vehicle outfitted for camping will cost $700 plus the cost of fuel.
The country is easy to navigate and clearly signposted. Though only about 25% of the roadways are tar, the dirt roads are well-kept and frankly more fun to drive on. Flat tires are the most common driver issue, so your vehicle will come with two spares. You'll want to make sure you know how to change one before your trip.
Stay at Namibia's vast network of campgrounds
Namibia has no shortage of organized campsites throughout the country, which are clean and affordable with good amenities. Not only will you save a ton on lodging, but it's also an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people and exchange stories and travel tips.
The average site costs $30 and has shared bathrooms, hot showers, as well as fire pits with grills at each spot. Some camps even have shops selling basic provisions like food, water and wood for your fire pit.
Join a scheduled camping tour
It’s also possible to join a scheduled guided camping program. Companies that run these types of tours include C Africa Safaris and Tours, African Overland Tours and Discovery Safari. Durations vary from three to 15 days, starting at around $450 per person. They typically include everything apart from drinks and water.
This is a great option for solo travelers and those interested in meeting others and sharing experiences. Because the logistics are taken care of and food and fuel are included, you won’t be hit with surprise costs.
Mix it up by staying in budget lodges and self-catering apartments
Budget lodges are plentiful in Namibia. They're located all across the country and are clean, some with refreshing pools, starting at just $18 per night for a room with a shared bathroom. Self-catering apartments and homes average $60 per night for the entire place. These types of accommodations are great for spending a night or two between campsites. A nice hot shower and some air conditioning let you reset and get ready for the next leg of your adventure.
Stock up on groceries at the beginning of your trip
Namibia's roads offer few opportunities to stop for a bite until you reach your destination, so it’s essential to shop for necessities like snacks and water before you head out. Some self-drive vehicles are equipped with a small refrigerator, allowing you to stock up and save on more than just the basics.
If you're camping or staying in an apartment, you'll have everything you need to prepare your own meal upon arrival instead of going to a restaurant in town, saving time and money.
Spend your days in Namibia’s affordable national parks
Namibia's national parks offer some of the world's greatest diversity: expansive sand dunes, vast deserts, plunging canyons, ancient salt pans and dramatic coastlines. Each of them is easily explored on foot or by vehicle. As of yet, Namibia doesn't offer a national park pass, but the fees are nominal. The government has added a small conservation fee to each park, bringing the total to a mere $7 per person per day.
Embark on Namibia's first shuttle service
Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global shortage of rental cars, the Gondwana Collection launched a shuttle service called Go2 Traveller Transfers. It stops at nine different areas of interest: the Kalahari, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Etosha and Damaraland. At each designated stop, lodges will arrange for pick-ups and returns. At $44 per leg, the service offers travelers a reliable, affordable, safe, and more environmentally friendly alternative to self-driving.
This new service could be a game changer for travel in Namibia. The drawback is that you'll need to stay in lodges and tented camps and pay for their excursions. But with the rising cost of fuel and the potential scarcity of rental cars, this option may be the more affordable one.
Daily costs in Namibia
- Dorm bed in a hostel: $5–10
- Basic room for two: $20–5
- Managed campsite: $15–35
- Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): $18–100
- Coffee: $1–3
- Lunch for two: $10–30
- Dinner for two: $20–40
- Beer at the bar: $1–3