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.
Dangers & Annoyances
Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa. It’s also a huge country with a very sparse population, and even the capital, Windhoek, is more like a provincial town than an urban jungle. Unfortunately, however, crime is on the rise in the larger cities, in particular Windhoek, but a little street sense will go a long way here.
Insect Bites & Stings
Most hazardous insects are confined to the far northwest of the country in the watery environs of the Kunene, Okavango and Kwando river systems. As you’d expect, malaria is rife here, so it’s important to take antimalarial precautions. Another waterborne disease is bilharzia, which is usually present in stagnant or slow-moving water. Most nasty of all is the prevalence of tsetse flies in eastern Caprivi, which are especially active at dusk.
Snake bites and scorpion stings are another potential hazard, although few tourists see either snakes or scorpions and bites and stings are extremely rare. Both snakes and scorpions love rocky hidey-holes. If you’re camping or trekking through any canyons or rocky areas, always pack away your sleeping bag when it’s not in use, and tap out your boots to ensure that nothing has crept inside them during the night. Don’t walk around barefoot or stick your hand in holes in the ground or between rocks. Another sensible precaution is to shake out your clothes before you put them on. Remember, snakes don’t bite unless threatened or stepped on.
A common scam you might encounter in Namibia is the pretty innocuous palm-ivory nut scam practised at various petrol stations. It starts with a friendly approach from a couple of young men, who ask your name. Without you seeing it they then carve your name onto a palm-ivory nut and then offer it to you for sale for anything up to N$70, hoping that you’ll feel obligated to buy the personalised item. You can obtain the same sort of thing at any curio shop for around N$20. It’s hardly the crime of the century, but it pays to be aware.
A more serious trick is for one guy to distract a parked motorist while their accomplice opens a door and grabs the bags from the back seat or from the front passenger seat. Always keep the doors of your vehicle locked, and be aware of distractions. It's rare but it does happen – Walvis Bay has been something of a hotspot for this scam in the past.
En route to Lüderitz from the east, keep well clear of the Sperrgebiet (Forbidden Zone), the prohibited diamond area. Well-armed patrols can be overly zealous. The area begins immediately south of the A4 Lüderitz–Keetmanshoop road and continues to just west of Aus, where the off-limits boundary turns south towards the Orange River. It’s best to have a healthy respect for boundaries.
Theft isn’t rife in Namibia, but Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Tsumeb and Grootfontein have problems with petty theft and muggings, so it’s sensible to conceal your valuables, not leave anything in your car and avoid walking alone at night. It’s also prudent to avoid walking around cities and towns bedecked in expensive jewellery, watches and cameras. Most hotels provide a safe or secure place for valuables, although you should be cautious of the security at some budget places.
Never leave a safari-packed vehicle anywhere in Windhoek or Swakopmund, other than in a guarded car park or private parking lot.
Theft from campsites can also be a problem, particularly near urban areas. Locking up your tent may help, but anything left unattended is still at risk.
An unusual natural hazard is the euphorbia plant. Its dried branches should never be used in fires as they release a deadly toxin when burnt. It can be fatal to inhale the smoke or eat food cooked on a fire containing it. If you’re in doubt about any wood you’ve collected, leave it out of the fire. Caretakers at campsites do a good job of removing these plants from around pitches and fire pits, so you needn’t worry excessively. As a precaution, try to only use bundles of wood that you’ve purchased in a store to start fires. If you’re bush camping, it's best to familiarise yourself with the plant’s appearance. There are several members of the family, and you can check out their pictures either online or at the tourist information centres in Windhoek.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information for travellers.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.voyage.gc.ca)
French Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes (www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs)
Italian Ministero degli Affari Esteri (www.viaggiaresicuri.mae.aci.it)
New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
US Department of State (www.travel.state.gov)
Travellers with student cards score a 15% discount on Intercape Mainliner buses, and occasionally receive discounts on museum admissions. Seniors over 60, with proof of age, also receive a 15% discount on Intercape Mainliner buses, and good discounts on domestic Air Namibia fares.
Electrical plugs have three round pins (like South Africa).
Embassies & Consulates
It’s important to realise what your own embassy – the embassy of the country of which you are a citizen – can and can’t do to help you if you get into trouble. Generally speaking, it won’t be much help in emergencies if the trouble you’re in is remotely your own fault. Remember that you are bound by the laws of the country you are in. Your embassy will not be sympathetic if you end up in jail after committing a crime locally, even if such actions are legal in your own country. The embassies listed here are all in Windhoek.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Area codes||Namibia uses three-digit area codes|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Namibia is straightforward and hassle-free: upon arrival and departure, you must fill out an immigration card. If arriving by air, queues can be long, particularly when a couple of planes arrive at the same time (fill out the arrival cards while in the queue to save time), but once you finally reach the counter it's usually straightforward. If you are entering Namibia across one of its land borders, the process is similarly painless: you will need to have all the necessary documentation and insurance for your vehicle. Most nationalities (including nationals from the UK, USA, Australia, Japan and all the Western European countries) don’t even require a visa.
If travelling with children, parents should be aware of the need to carry birth certificates and may require other documents.
Most items from elsewhere in the Southern African Customs Union – Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland – may be imported duty-free. From elsewhere, visitors can import duty-free 400 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco, 2L of wine, 1L of spirits and 250mL of eau de cologne. Those aged under 18 do not qualify for the tobacco or alcohol allowances. There are no limits on currency import, but entry and departure forms ask how much you intend to spend or have spent in the country – we have left this blank every time we've entered the country and have never been questioned on it.
Vehicles may not be sold in Namibia without payment of duty. For pets, you need a health certificate and full veterinary documentation (note that pets aren’t permitted in national parks or reserves).
All visitors entering Namibia must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months after their intended departure date from Namibia. Also, allow a few empty pages for stamp-happy immigration officials, especially if you’ll be crossing over to see Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe. In theory, you should also hold proof of departure, either in the form of a return or onward ticket. In practice, this is rarely asked for.
Visas are not required for most nationalities visiting Namibia.
Nationals of many countries, including Australia, the EU, USA and most Commonwealth countries, do not need a visa to visit Namibia. Citizens of most Eastern European countries do require visas.
Tourists are granted an initial 90 days, although most immigration officials will ask how long you plan to stay in the country and tailor your visa duration accordingly.
Visas may be extended at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Windhoek. For the best results, be there when the office opens at 8am and submit your application at the 3rd-floor offices (as opposed to the desk on the ground floor).
Namibians are a pretty easy-going lot when it comes to their dealings with foreign visitors, but such tolerance conceals a society buit around a number of founding principles. For Namibians, keeping up appearances extends to behaving modestly and respectfully to one’s elders and social superiors, performing religious and social duties and fulfilling all essential family obligations. We encourage you to do likewise – err on the side of modesty when interacting with locals and be respectful in all of your dealings with locals, particularly older Namibians. Greetings are especially important to Namibians so take the time to greet people properly before launching into the main business of the conversation.
The need for modesty extends into other areas. Despite the way people dance in nightclubs, traditional Namibian culture frowns on excessive public displays of affection between couples, married or not. At the same time, locals, who are accustomed to travelling in cramped combis (minibuses) and living in shared housing, may not have the same sense of personal space you possess.
As in many African countries, homosexuality is illegal in Namibia, based on the common-law offence of sodomy or committing ‘an unnatural sex crime’. Namibia is also very conservative in its attitudes, given the strongly held Christian beliefs of the majority. In view of this, discretion is certainly the better part of valour, as treatment of gay men and lesbians can range from simple social ostracism to physical attack. In 1996 Namibia’s president, Sam Nujoma, continued his very public campaign against homosexuals, recommending that all foreign gays and lesbians be deported or excluded from the country. One minister called homosexuality a ‘behavioural disorder which is alien to African culture’, while in 2005 the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Teopolina Mushelenga, claimed that lesbians and gays had caused the HIV/AIDS pandemic and were 'an insult to African culture'.
The climate for gays and lesbians in Namibia has, however, eased somewhat in recent years. With no prosecutions recorded under the sodomy law since independence, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called in 2016 for the law against sodomy to be abolished and for laws to be introduced prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The call received the public support of Namibia's ombudsman and stirred little public debate. In the same year, an Afrobarometer opinion poll found that 55% of Namibians would welcome, or would not be bothered by, having a homosexual neighbour. Namibia was one of only four African countries polled to have a majority in favour of the proposition.
Afriboyz (www.afriboyz.com/Homosexuality-in-Africa.html) Links to gay topics in an African context.
African Horizons (www.africanhorizons.com) Gay-friendly tour operator that offers trips to Southern Africa, including Botswana.
Global Gayz (www.globalgayz.com/africa/namibia) Links to gay issues in Namibia and other African countries.
A number of advocacy groups operate openly (if discreetly) in Windhoek. Among these, Out-Right Namibia (http://outrightnamibia.org) is a human-rights organisation based in Windhoek that was formed by gay and lesbian activists to challenge homophobia and advocate for equal rights. Namibian lesbians (and other women’s interests) are also represented by Sister Namibia (www.sisternamibia.org).
Travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical treatment is strongly recommended. Some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even trekking. If ‘risky’ activities are on your agenda, as they may well be, you’ll need the most comprehensive policy.
You may prefer to have an insurance policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation. Some policies ask you to call back (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country, where an immediate assessment of your problem is made. Check that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime, even if you’re already on the road.
Internet access is firmly established and widespread in Namibia, and connection speeds are fairly stable. Most larger or tourist-oriented towns have at least one internet cafe. Plan on spending around N$50 per hour online. An increasing number of backpacker hostels, hotels in larger towns and some lodges and guesthouses also offer wi-fi internet access, although this rarely extends beyond the hotel reception area.
All drugs are illegal in Namibia, penalties are stiff and prisons are deeply unpleasant. So don’t think about bringing anything over the border, or buying it while you’re here. The police are also allowed to use entrapment techniques, such as posing as dealers, to catch criminals, so don’t be tempted.
Police, military and veterinary officials are generally polite and on their best behaviour. In your dealings with officialdom, you should always make every effort to be patient and polite in return.
The best paper map of Namibia is the Namibia (1:1,000,000) map published by Tracks4Africa (www.tracks4africa.co.za). Updated every couple of years using detailed traveller feedback, the map is printed on tear-free, waterproof paper and includes distances and estimated travel times. Used in conjunction with Tracks4Africa's unrivalled GPS maps, it’s far and away the best mapping product on the market.
If for some reason you are unable to get hold of the Tracks4Africa map, other options include the Namibia map produced by Reise-Know-How-Verlag (1:250,000) or the Freytag & Berndt map (1:200,000). Shell Roadmap – Namibia or InfoMap Namibia are good references for remote routes. InfoMap contains GPS coordinates and both companies produce maps of remote areas such as Namibia’s far northwest and the Caprivi Strip.
Good for an overview rather than serious navigation is the Namibia Map endorsed by the Roads Authority, which shows major routes and lists accommodation. Even the Globetrotter Namibia map is easy to read and quite detailed. Also consider Nelles Vertag's Namibia (1:1,500,000) and Map Studio, which also publishes a Namibia map (1:1,550,000) and a road atlas (1:500,000).
InfoMap publishes a number of detailed maps to Namibia's regions. Its copious use of GPS coordinates for towns, attractions, accommodation and road junctions greatly aids the maps' usefulness. Maps in the series include Damaraland – Western Namibia (1:430,000) and Kaokoland – North Western Namibia (1:600,000).
National Park Maps
You'll find maps of Etosha National Park across the country. NWR's reliable English-German Map of Etosha (from N$40) is the pick and also most widely available. It has the added bonus of park information and quite extensive mammal- and bird-identification sheets.
A welcome recent addition to Namibia's mapping portfolio is the simple but handy Kavango-Zambezi National Parks map, which includes high-level overviews of Namibia's far northeastern parks: Khaudum, Mahango, Bwabwata, Mudumu and Nkasa Rupara. It's available at some lodges or online at www.thinkafricadesign.com.
Where to Buy Maps
The best place to purchase maps in Namibia is at petrol stations, although you can get your hands on more general maps at local bookshops. We found InfoMap's regional maps in both supermarkets and petrol stations across the north.
There's a good selection in the bookshops at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport.
In the USA, Trek Tools (www.trektools.com) is an excellent and exhaustive source for maps of Namibia. A similarly extensive selection of maps is available in the UK from Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk).
- There are a decent number of commercial newspapers, of which the Namibian and the Windhoek Advertiser are probably the best. The Windhoek Observer, published on Saturday, is also good. The two main German-language newspapers are Allgemeine Zeitung and Namibia Nachrichten.
- The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) operates a dozen-or-so radio stations in nine languages. The two main stations in Windhoek are Radio Energy (100FM) and Radio Kudu (103.5FM); the best pop station is Radio Wave, at 96.7FM in Windhoek.
- The NBC broadcasts government-vetted TV programs in English and Afrikaans. News is broadcast at 10pm nightly. Most top-end hotels and lodges with televisions provide access to satellite-supported DSTV, which broadcasts NBC and a cocktail of cable channels.
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.
Banks 8am or 9am–3pm Monday to Friday, 8am–12.30pm Saturday
Drinking and entertainment 5pm to close (midnight-3am) Monday to Saturday
Eating breakfast 8 to 10am, lunch 11am to 3pm, dinner 6 to 10pm; some places open 8am to 10pm Monday to Saturday
Information 8am or 9am–5pm or 6pm Monday to Friday
Petrol stations Only a few open 24 hours; in outlying areas fuel is hard to find after hours or on Sunday.
Post offices 8am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, 8.30–11am Saturday
Shopping 8am or 9am–5pm or 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am–1pm or 5pm Saturday; late-night shopping to 9pm Thursday or Friday
While many Namibians enjoy being photographed, others do not. You should always ask where possible. The main point is that you should always respect the wishes of the person in question, and don’t snap a picture if permission is denied.
Officials in Namibia aren’t as sensitive about photography as in some other African countries, but it still isn’t a good idea to photograph borders, airports, communications equipment or military installations without first asking permission from any uniformed personnel that might be present.
Memory cards for digital cameras are widely available in Windhoek and Swakopmund.
For pointers on taking pictures in Africa, look out for Lonely Planet’s Travel Photography book.
Domestic post generally moves slowly; it can take weeks for a letter to travel from Lüderitz to Katima Mulilo, for example. Overseas airmail post is normally more efficient.
Banks, government offices and most shops are closed on public holidays; when a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following day also becomes a holiday.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Good Friday March/April
Easter Sunday March/April
Easter Monday March/April
Independence Day 21 March
Ascension Day April/May
Workers’ Day 1 May
Cassinga Day 4 May
Africa Day 25 May
Heroes’ Day 26 August
Human Rights Day 10 December
Christmas Day 25 December
Family/Boxing Day 26 December
Smoking is banned in all public places in Namibia. Penalties range from N$500 to one month in jail (!). The definition of 'public places' has yet to be tested in court, so be discreet when lighting up.
Taxes & Refunds
Throughout Namibia, quoted prices and tariffs almost always include all local taxes.
Namibia has no system of sales-tax refunds for tourists who purchase items in the country.
The Namibian fixed-line phone system, run by Telecom Namibia (www.telecom.na), is very efficient, and getting through to fixed-line numbers is extremely easy. However, as in the rest of Africa, the fixed-line system is rapidly being overtaken by the massive popularity of mobile phones.
Fixed-line calls to the UK/US and Europe cost around N$3.60 to N$5 per minute at peak times; to neighbouring countries it's around N$2.40 to N$4.14 per minute. Click on 'Tariffs' and then 'International Services' on the website for exact charges.
Given the increasing number of wi-fi hotspots in the country, using Skype is also becoming a more common (and much cheaper) alternative.
Local SIM cards can be used in Australian and European phones. Wide swaths of the country are not covered by the mobile network.
MTC (www.mtc.com.na) is the largest mobile service provider in Namibia, operating on the GSM 900/1800 frequency, which is compatible with Europe and Australia but not with North America (GSM 1900) or Japan. The other provider is Telecom Namibia (www.telecom.na).
There is supposedly comprehensive coverage across the country, although in reality it’s hard to get a signal outside the major towns and along the major highways. The more remote you are, the less likely you’ll get coverage, which is why a satellite phone is an attractive backup proposition if you’re travelling extensively away from population areas.
Both providers offer prepaid services. For visitors to the country, you're better off paying a one-off SIM-card fee then buying prepaid vouchers at the ubiquitous stores across Namibia.
You can easily buy a handset in any major town in Namibia, which will set you back from N$600.
Most Namibian mobile-phone numbers begin with 081, which is followed by a seven-digit number.
When phoning Namibia from abroad, dial your international access code (usually 00, but 011 from the USA), followed by Namibia's country code 264, the area code without the leading zero and, finally, the required number. To phone out of Namibia, dial 00 followed by the desired country code, area code (if applicable) and the number.
When phoning long distance within Namibia, dial the three-digit regional area code, including the leading zero, followed by the six- or seven-digit number.
Telecom Namibia phonecards are sold at post offices to the value of N$20, N$50 and N$100. They are also available at most shops and a number of hotels. Public telephone boxes are available at most post offices and can also be found scattered around towns.
In the summer months (October to April), Namibia is two hours ahead of GMT/UTC. If it’s noon in Namibia, it’s 10am in London, 5am in New York, 2am in Los Angeles and 8pm in Sydney. In the winter (April to October), Namibia turns its clocks back one hour, making it only one hour ahead of GMT/UTC and one hour behind South African time.
Public toilets are extremely rare in Namibia. In towns, you're far better off ducking into the nearest hotel or restaurant. Out in the bush, check carefully for hidden wildlife before going behind that tree…
Apart from in rural villages, toilets are all of the Western, sit-down, flush variety.
The level of service in Namibia’s tourist offices is generally high, and everyone speaks impeccable English, German and Afrikaans.
Namibia’s national tourist office, Namibia Tourism, is in Windhoek, where you’ll also find the local Windhoek Information & Publicity Office. There’s also a branch of the latter in the Post Street Mall that is open the same hours, but closed from noon to 1pm.
Also in Windhoek is the office of Namibia Wildlife Resorts, where you can pick up information on national parks and make reservations at any NWR campsite.
Travel With Children
Many parents regard Africa as just too dangerous for travel with children, but in reality Namibia presents few problems to families travelling with children. We travelled with our own children in the country and not only survived unscathed but had a wonderful time.
As a destination Namibia is relatively safe healthwise, largely due to its dry climate and good medical services. There’s a good network of affordable accommodation and an excellent infrastructure of well-maintained roads. In addition, foreigners who visit Namibia with children are usually treated with great kindness, and a widespread local affection for the younger set opens up all sorts of social interaction.
The greatest difficulty is likely to be the temperature (it can get very hot) and distances can be vast.
For invaluable general advice on taking the family abroad, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
While there are few attractions or facilities designed specifically for children, Namibian food and lodgings are mostly quite familiar and manageable. Family rooms and chalets are normally available for only slightly more than double rooms. These normally consist of one double bed and two single beds. Otherwise, it’s usually easy to arrange more beds in a standard double room for a minimal extra charge.
Camping can be exciting, but you’ll need to be extra vigilant so your kids don’t just wander off unsupervised, and you’ll also need to be alert to potential hazards such as mosquitoes and campfires. Most mosquito repellents with high levels of DEET may be unsuitable for young children. They should also wear sturdy enclosed shoes to protect them from thorns, bees and scorpion stings.
If you’re travelling with kids, you should always invest in a hire car, unless you want to be stuck for hours on public transport. Functional seatbelts are rare even in taxis, and accidents are common – a child seat brought from home is a good idea if you’re hiring a car or going on safari. Even with your own car, distances between towns and parks can be long, so parents will need to provide essential supplemental entertainment (toys, books, games, a Nintendo DS etc).
Canned baby foods, powdered milk, disposable nappies (diapers) and the like are available in most large supermarkets.
Sights & Activities for Children
Travelling by campervan and camping, or staying in luxury tented lodges, are thrilling experiences for young and old alike, while attractions such as the wildlife of Etosha National Park or the world’s biggest sandbox at Sossusvlei provide ample family entertainment.
Full-scale safaris are generally suited to older children. Be aware that some upmarket lodges and safari companies won’t accept children under a certain age and those that do may require you to book separate game drives. Endless hours of driving and animal viewing can be an eternity for small children, so you’ll need to break up your trip with lots of pit stops and picnics, and plenty of time spent poolside where possible.
Older children are well catered for with a whole host of exciting activities. Swakopmund is an excellent base for these. They include everything from horse riding and sandboarding to ballooning and paragliding. Less demanding activities might include looking for interesting rocks (and Namibia has some truly incredible rocks!); beachcombing along the Skeleton Coast; or running and rolling in the dunes at Lüderitz, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and elsewhere along the coast.
Travellers with children should be aware of rules regarding the documents you must carry while travelling through the region. The law requires that all parents arriving, transiting and departing South Africa, Namibia and Botswana must produce an unabridged birth certificate for their children, and the birth certificate must state the names of both parents. Families not in possession of these documents will be refused to travel.
If one parent is travelling alone with their children, the travelling parent must carry with them an affidavit from the other (ie nontravelling) parent who is listed on the birth certificate granting their consent for the travel to take place in their absence. Where this is not possible, either a court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or a death certificate of the other parent must be produced.
We have travelled across the borders of all three countries with our children on numerous occasions and although we were not always asked for these documents, we were asked for each of these documents at least once. Travel without them at your peril.
There are very few special facilities, and people with limited mobility will not have an easy time in Namibia. All is not lost, however – with an able-bodied travelling companion, wheelchair travellers will manage here. This is mainly because Namibia has some advantages over other parts of the developing world: footpaths and public areas are often surfaced with tar or concrete; many buildings (including safari lodges and national-park cabins) are single-storey; car hire is easy and hire cars can be taken into neighbouring countries; and assistance is usually available on internal and regional flights. In addition, most safari companies in Namibia, including budget operators, are happy to ‘make a plan’ to accommodate travellers with special needs.
Namibia has a good track record for grassroots projects and community-based tourism. However, it’s seldom possible to find any volunteering work in-country due to visa restrictions and restricted budgets. Any organisations that do offer volunteer positions will need to be approached well in advance of your departure date. Many conservation outfits look for volunteers with specific skills that might be useful in the field.
The most well-known organisations offering volunteer positions are Save the Rhino Trust (www.savetherhino.org), the Afri-Cat Foundation (www.africat.org) and the Cheetah Conservation Fund (www.cheetah.org). Projects such as the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (www.irdnc.org.na) may also offer the occasional post.
International volunteering organisations sometimes also have Namibian projects on the go, among them Frontier Conservation Expeditions (www.frontier.ac.uk), which offers a range of teaching and wildlife conservation possibilities.
Another possibility is Harnas Wildlife Foundation, an animal-rescue centre northwest of Gobabis.
The following international organisations are good places to start gathering information on volunteering, although they won’t necessarily always have projects on the go in Botswana.
Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (http://ccivs.org)
International Volunteer Programs Association (www.volunteerinternational.org)
Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov)
Step Together Volunteering (www.step-together.org.uk)
Worldwide Experience (www.worldwideexperience.com)
Weights & Measures
Namibia uses the metric system.
On the whole Namibia is a safe destination for women travellers, and we receive few complaints from women about any sort of harassment. Having said that, Namibia is still a conservative society. Many bars are men only (by either policy or convention), but even in places that welcome women, you may be more comfortable in a group or with a male companion. Note that accepting a drink from a local man is usually construed as a come-on.
The threat of sexual assault isn’t any greater in Namibia than in Europe, but it’s best to avoid walking alone in parks and backstreets, especially at night. Hitching alone is not recommended. Never hitch at night and, if possible, find a companion for trips through sparsely populated areas.
In Windhoek and other urban areas, wearing shorts and sleeveless dresses or shirts is fine. However, if you’re visiting rural areas, wear knee-length skirts or loose trousers and shirts with sleeves. If you’re poolside in a resort or lodge where the clientele is largely foreign, then revealing swimwear is acceptable; otherwise err on the side of caution and see what other women are wearing.
There are few opportunities for getting work in Namibia and those that do exist – such as working in a lodge or hotel, or as a tour guide – must be arranged through a company well in advance of your visit to the country.