Accommodation in Namibia is some of the best priced and most well kept in Southern Africa, and covers a huge range of options.
- Hotels and hostels Backpacker hostels inhabit Windhoek, Swakopmund and elsewhere. Hotels are everywhere, with a vast range in quality.
- Rest camps, campsites and caravan parks Most are fenced, and may have a small kiosk and even a swimming pool.
- Guest farms Often in remote areas with rustic accommodation and activities.
- B&Bs and guesthouses These are found all across Namibia and are often simple but welcoming and well priced.
- Safari lodges From well priced and relatively simple to opulent with sky's-the-limit prices.
Most establishments are graded using a star system based on regular inspections carried out by the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN; http://hannamibia.com). Hotels with restaurants also get a Y rating: YY means it only has a restaurant licence, while YYY indicates full alcohol licensing. For a full list of accommodation, pick up the comprehensive booklets Namibia: Where to Stay, Welcome to Namibia – Official Visitor’s Guide and the Namibia B&B Guide, free from any tourist office. HAN also publishes a map showing the locations of most lodges and guest farms.
Many lower-budget and backpacker places do not include breakfast in the price. In B&Bs, guesthouses, farmstays and safari lodges, breakfast is usually included in the cost of the room along with either half-board or full-board options. The former would include breakfast and a set dinner, while the latter also provides lunch (either a set lunch or a buffet-style spread).
While most budget and midrange options tend to have a standard room price, many top-end places change their prices according to the season. High season is from June to December, while low season corresponds with the rains (January to April).
If you are booking one of the high-end lodges you will usually have to confirm your booking with a credit card. Increasingly, at least in high season, payment in advance may also be required to secure your booking. At other times it may not be necessary, however, for the bulk of accommodation.
B&Bs are mushrooming all around the country. As they are private homes, the standard, atmosphere and welcome tend to vary a great deal. Generally speaking, B&Bs are a pleasure to frequent and can be one of the highlights of any trip to Namibia. Some places don’t actually provide breakfast (!), so it pays to ask when booking.
For listings, pick up the Namibia B&B Guide or contact the Accommodation Association of Namibia (www.accommodation-association.com), which also lists a number of self-catering flats and guest farms.
Namibia is campers’ heaven, and wherever you go in the country you’ll find a campsite nearby. These can vary from a patch of scrubland with basic facilities to well-kitted-out sites with concrete ablution blocks with hot and cold running water and a kiosk.
In many of the national parks, campsites are administered by Namibia Wildlife Resorts and need to be booked beforehand online or through its offices in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Cape Town. These sites are all well maintained, and many of them also offer accommodation in bungalows. Unlike in Botswana, most campsites, at least in national parks, are fenced.
To camp on private land, you’ll need to secure permission from the landowner. On communal land – unless you’re well away from human habitation – it’s a courtesy to make your presence known to the leaders in the nearest community.
Most towns also have caravan parks with bungalows or rondavels (round huts), as well as a pool, restaurant and shop. Prices are normally per site, with a maximum of eight people and two vehicles per site; there’s normally an additional charge per vehicle. In addition, a growing number of private rest camps, with rooms and campsites and well-appointed facilities, are springing up in rural areas and along major tourist routes.
Farmstays are a peculiarly Namibian phenomenon, whereby tourists can spend the night on one of the country’s huge private farms. They give an intriguing insight into the rural white lifestyle, although, as with B&Bs, the level of hospitality and the standard of rooms and facilities can vary enormously. The emphasis is on personal service and quaint rural luxury, and bedding down on a huge rural estate in the middle of the bush can be a uniquely Namibian experience.
As an added bonus, many of these farms have designated blocks of land as wildlife reserves, and offer excellent wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities. With that said, many also serve as hunting reserves, so bear this in mind when booking if you don’t relish the thought of trading trophy stories over dinner.
For all farmstays, advance bookings are essential.
In Windhoek, Swakopmund, Lüderitz and other places, you’ll find private backpacker hostels, which provide inexpensive dorm accommodation, shared ablutions and cooking facilities. Most offer a very agreeable atmosphere, and they are extremely popular with budget travellers. On average, you can expect to pay around N$100 per person per night. Some also offer private doubles, which cost around N$250 to N$400.
Hotels in Namibia are much like hotels anywhere else, ranging from tired old has-beens to palaces of luxury and indulgence. Rarely, though, will you find a dirty or unsafe hotel in Namibia given the relatively strict classification system, which rates everything from small guesthouses to four-star hotels.
One-star hotels must have a specific ratio of rooms with private and shared facilities. They tend to be quite simple, but most are locally owned and managed and provide clean, comfortable accommodation with adequate beds and towels. Rates range from around N$350 to N$500 for a double room, including breakfast. They always have a small dining room and bar, but few offer frills such as air-conditioning.
Hotels with two- and three-star ratings are generally more comfortable, and are often used by local business people. Rates start at around N$450 for a double, and climb to N$650 for the more elegant places.
There aren’t really many four-star hotels in the usual sense, though most high-end lodges could qualify for a four-star rating. To qualify, a hotel needs to be an air-conditioned palace with a salon, valet service and a range of ancillary services for business and diplomatic travellers.
Over the last decade the Namibian luxury safari lodge has come along in leaps and bounds, offering the kind of colonial luxury that has been associated with Botswana.
Most of the lodges are set on large private ranches or in concession areas. Some are quite affordable family-run places with standard meals or self-catering options. In general they are still more affordable than comparable places in Botswana or the Victoria Falls area, yet more expensive than those in South Africa.
Time of Arrival
It is most important that you advise your accommodation of the time that you will be arriving – that's partly so that they will know when to expect you, but in high season some places (not those that you've prepaid) may give your room to someone else if you arrive too late. Be conservative and give a time that is an hour or two later than you expect to arrive.