Money and Costs
Namibian dollars (N$)
Budget: Less than US$50
* Dorm bed/campsite US$10/18
* Two meals in cheap restaurants US$10
* Double room in midrange hotel US$50–150
* Two meals in nice restaurant US$25
Top End: More than US$150
* Double room in top-end hotel from US$150
* Per person in high-season lodge from US$1000
* 4WD rental per day US$150
* Meals in top-end restaurants US$40–50
Bargaining is only acceptable when purchasing handicrafts and arts directly from the producer or artist, but in remote areas the prices asked normally represent close to the market value. The exception is crafts imported from Zimbabwe, which are generally sold at large craft markets for inflated prices that are always negotiable.
Money can be exchanged in banks and exchange offices. Banks generally offer the best rates. ATMs at all the main bank branches throughout Namibia.
Credit cards can be used in ATMs displaying the appropriate sign or to obtain cash advances over the counter in many banks; Visa and MasterCard are among the most widely recognised. You’ll find ATMs at all the main bank branches throughout Namibia, and this is undoubtedly the simplest (and safest) way to handle your money while travelling.
While most major currencies are accepted in Windhoek and Swakopmund, once away from these two centres you’ll run into problems with currencies other than US dollars, euros, UK pounds and South African rand (you may even struggle with pounds). Play it safe and carry US dollars – it makes life much simpler.
When changing money, you may be given either South African rand or Namibian dollars; if you’ll need to change any leftover currency outside Namibia, the rand is a better choice.
There is no currency black market, so beware of street changers offering unrealistic rates.
The currency of Namibia is the Namibian dollar (N$). It’s divided into 100 cents, and is linked to the South African rand. The rand is also legal tender in Namibia at a rate of 1:1. This can be confusing, given that there are three sets of coins and notes in use: old South African, new South African and Namibian. We quote prices in Namibian and occasionally US dollars.
Namibian dollar notes come in denominations of N$10, N$20, N$50, N$100 and N$200, and coins in values of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and N$1 and N$5.
Credit & Debit Cards
Credit cards and debit cards are accepted in most shops, restaurants and hotels, and credit- and debit-card cash advances are available from ATMs. Check charges with your bank.
Credit-card (but not debit-card) cash advances are available at foreign-exchange desks in most major banks, but set aside at least an hour or two to complete the rather tedious transaction.
Keep the card supplier’s emergency number handy in case your card is lost or stolen.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com
Tipping is welcomed everywhere, but is expected only in upmarket tourist restaurants, where it’s normal to leave a tip of 10% to 15% of the bill. Some restaurants add a service charge as a matter of course. As a rule, taxi drivers aren’t tipped, but it is customary to give N$2 to N$5 to petrol-station attendants who clean your windows and/or check the oil and water. Note that tipping is officially prohibited in national parks and reserves.
At safari lodges, guides and drivers of safari vehicles will also expect a tip, especially if you’ve spent a number of days in their care.
Most safari companies suggest the following as a rule of thumb:
- guides/drivers – US$10 per person per day
- camp or lodge staff – US$10 per guest per day (usually placed in a communal box)
- transfer drivers and porters – US$3
Travellers cheques can be cashed (normally fetching a better rate than cash) at most banks and exchange offices. American Express (Amex), Thomas Cook and Visa are the most widely accepted brands.
It’s preferable to buy travellers cheques in US dollars, UK pounds or euros rather than another currency, as these are most widely accepted. Get most of the cheques in largish denominations to save on per-cheque rates. Travellers cheques may also be exchanged for US dollars cash – if the cash is available – but banks charge a hefty commission.
You must take your passport with you when cashing cheques.