Dangers & Annoyances
Central Windhoek is quite relaxed and hassle free. As long as you stay alert, walk with confidence, keep a hand on your wallet and avoid wearing anything too flashy, you should encounter nothing worse than a few persistent touts.
However, you do need to be especially wary when walking with any kind of bag, particularly on backstreets. Most importantly, don’t use fannypacks or carry swanky camera or video totes – they’re all prime targets.
One popular con is for would-be-thieves to play on the conscience of white tourists and get their attention by posing the question, ‘Why won’t you talk to a black man?’ Ignore this and keep walking. As an extra precaution, always travel by taxi at night, even in the wealthy suburbs. The streets in Windhoek are ominously quiet once the sun goes down, which sadly means that foreign tourists quickly become easy targets.
The most likely annoyance for travellers is petty theft, which more often than not occurs at budget hotels and hostels around the city. As a general rule, you should take advantage of the hotel safe, and never leave your valuables out in the open.
If you’re driving, avoid parking on the street, and never leave anything of value visible in your vehicle. Also, never leave your car doors unlocked, even if you’re still in the car: a common ploy is for someone to distract you while someone else opens one of the other doors, grabs a bag and does a runner.
During the day, the safest and most convenient parking is the underground lot beneath the Wernhill Park Centre. At night, you should stay at accommodation that provides off-street secure parking.
The township of Katutura and the northwestern industrial suburbs of Goreangab, Wanaheda and Hakahana are not as dangerous as their counterparts in South Africa, and are reasonably safe during the daytime. However, if you do visit these neighbourhoods, it’s best to either go with a local contact or as part of an organised tour.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|City Police||290 2239|
Windhoek is probably the best place in Namibia to be a gay man or lesbian – the city, particularly its younger inhabitants, is generally more tolerant of what are considered here to be 'alternative lifestyles', but even here discretion is the watchword. There are no openly gay bars or hotels.
Virtually all hotels and hostels offer cheap and reliable internet access, with wi-fi increasingly the norm. If you’re out and about, internet cafes can be found in every mall in the city.
Office of the Surveyor General You can purchase topographic sheets of much of Namibia for around US$4 from the map section of the Office of the Surveyor General.
Major banks and bureaux de change are concentrated around Independence Ave, and all will change foreign currency and travellers cheques, and give credit-card advances. As a general rule, ATMs in Namibia handle Visa and MasterCard.
Banks 8am or 9am-3pm Monday to Friday, 8am-12.30pm Saturday
Information 8am or 9am-5pm or 6pm Monday to Friday
Shopping 8am or 9am-5pm or 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am-1pm or 5pm Saturday; late-night shopping to 9pm Thursday or Friday
Eating breakfast 8-10am, lunch 11am-3pm, dinner 6-10pm; some places open 8am-10pm Monday to Saturday
Drinking & Entertainment 5pm to close (midnight-3am) Monday to Saturday
Namibia Tourism Board The national tourist office can provide information from all over the country.
Namibia Wildlife Resorts Books national-park accommodation and hikes.
Windhoek Information & Publicity Office (Main Office) The friendly staff at this office answer questions and distribute local publications and leaflets, including What’s On in Windhoek and useful city maps. There’s another branch that is open the same hours but closes from noon to 1pm.
Cardboard Box Travel Shop Attached to the backpacker hostel of the same name, this recommended travel agency can arrange both budget and upmarket bookings all over the country.
Chameleon Safaris Attached to the backpacker hostel of the same name, this travel agency is recommended for all types of safaris around the country.
Travel with Children
Windhoek has very few child-friendly attractions – booking a hotel with a swimming pool may be a lifesaver to compensate for the lack of other attractions for children to enjoy.
Few restaurants will make any concessions to children (high chairs are rarely available), although children are made to feel welcome in many restaurants; the most upmarket places can be exceptions.
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 adult double room for a minimal extra charge.
Canned baby foods, powdered milk, disposable nappies and the like are available in most large supermarkets.
As for the rest of Namibia, so, too, for Windhoek: there are very few special facilities, and people with limited mobility will not have an easy time in Windhoek. That said, Windhoek has some advantages over other African cities: footpaths and public areas are often surfaced with tar or concrete.