Driving around Namibia is not difficult, but you will need to take note of a few things before you set out on your epic self-drive adventure through the Land of the Brave. This is part two in a series of posts giving you all the information you need to make driving through Namibia as easy, and enjoyable, as possible. For more useful tips, read part one on tips for a self-drive here.
Explore Namibia and get up close and personal with some of its residents.
(Image courtesy of Kruger 2 Kalahari)
Last time we covered the road network, looking out for animals on the road, things you should pack in your car, and how to keep your vehicle fueled up. This time we will be talking about some logistics behind planning your trip, how to drive on dirt roads and we will share some of the tips that we have picked up whilst driving around Namibia.
It is important to decide on a route before you launch out into the wild on your roadtrip adventure through Namibia. Recently our Go Big Team went on an extensive tour of our country by car. Have a look at this link to see how they got on. Click here to view their 10 day itinerary in Google maps and start planning your own.
Whether you are driving your own vehicle, or you have chosen to rent one you will need to pick the appropriate type of car for your journey.
You don't necesarrily need a vehicle like this one to get around Namibia!
Important first question: How many friends are you taking with you?
If you are planning to stay on the national roads and not go gallivanting into the untamed wilderness of Namibia then any reliable mass-produced four door sedan should do you just fine. For example, the main gravel roads in Etosha National Park (where most travellers choose to do a self-drive) don't require a 4x4 and you'll be just fine driving a normal car at a slower speed. Do bear in mind though, that if a car with a very low ground clearance may run into trouble, so it’s probably best to leave the sports-sedan at home.
Pictured above: Not the ideal car for a self-drive safari adventure.
(Image courtesy of Better Parts)
4x4’s are strongly recommended as driving on gravelled roads (graded or ungraded) is made much, MUCH easier if you have a car that has four-wheel-drive capabilities. This is not to say that you need an enormous truck of a vehicle, but just be aware that a front or rear wheel drive will not handle untarred roads as easily as a 4x4.
Off-road capable vehicles are reccomended but are not always essential.
Many visitors, especially those coming from outside of Southern Africa, will rent a car. There are many agencies in Namibia that specialise in all sorts of different kinds of vehicle hiring. From sedans to rugged off-road trucks to motorbikes you can hire the perfect vehicle for your self-drive adventure.
Rent a vehicle and get exploring!
If you are driving your own car please make sure that you have all the required documentation you need. Make sure you car is roadworthy and that you have all the equipment you will need in the event of a flat tyre or other minor mechanical faults.
Check out the Automobile Association's website for some useful information on bringing your private vehicle across Namibia's borders.
GPS is a wonderful invention and it has made navigating around unexplored parts of the world a cinch for the travel hungry adventurer and it is highly recommended that you invest in such a device if you plan on driving yourself around the countryside.
However, and we cannot urge this strongly enough, bring a physical map with you. Preferably it would be a map you have bought in Namibia, or at least authored by a company based in either Namibia or Southern Africa. Electrical equipment can fail, so it is always important to have a backup plan. A map is solid and dependable and it never has to reacquire its satellites.
It is always a good idea to have a backup plan.
(Image courtesy of Tom GPS System)
Many of the roads in Namibia are not tarred and as such you will find yourself driving on either dirt or graveled roads at some point. But do not fear. Most of these roads are well graded and easy enough to drive on. In case you are unfamiliar with driving on dirt roads we have put together some tips for driving on these types of roads.
Firstly, your car will handle very differently on a dirt road then it does on a tarred road. So if it's your first time driving on such roads start off quite gingerly and get used to the way your car stops, accelerates and takes corners.
When going around corners it is important to not accelerate or decrease your speed massively, try and keep an even, moderate pace as you go around the corner (rather slow down before you get to the turn).
Keep an eye out for deep loose sand as even larger 4x4 vehicles can get stuck in sufficiently deep or loose sand.
Stuck! This took a good few hands, and shovels to sort out.
Granted, this is not really a dirt road appropriate vehicle!
Make sure you keep an eye on your tyre pressure. Every time you get to a filling station ask the attendant to have a look at the pressure. While you're at it ask the attendant to check your car's oil and water as well (don't forget to tip the filling station attendant when you move on!).
You need to know how to change a tyre. Flat tyres happen and no matter how cautious one is there is always a chance that you will ride over something that will cause a small hole in your tyre. If you can, try and have two spare tyres.
When driving on a dirt road be aware that it will take considerably longer to cover a distance compared to travelling on a national, tarred road. So always plan your trip so that you have enough time to get where your going on time.
It's a good idea to leave your headlights on through the day and the night. Headlights, even in daylight make your car easier to see for oncoming vehicles.
Driving on dirt roads requires concentration but the rewards are well worth it.
After quizzing our resident road-trip experts and speaking to several visitors and locals who have driven through Namibia we have come up with some top tips for your self drive adventure:
Drive carefully and cautiously, as always.
Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit in your car. If you have rented a vehicle make sure with the agency that there is a kit in your vehicle.
You should always travel with a basic first-aid kit
Be especially careful when leaving or entering villages and towns. There are often people and cattle crossing the road.
Do not speed! The penalties for exceeding the local speed limits are extremely severe, and law enforcement is wide-spread.
Cellphone reception is not consistent all over the country so have a look at your service provider's coverage map to see if where you're going will have service.
Always ensure you have more than enough fuel to get to your destination or the next filling station.
Drive on the left, even on deserted dirt roads- this is VERY important.
If you pass through any farm gates you have to open, be sure to close them behind you. If you don't then livestock will escape and you will be costing a farmer a lot of damage.
Keep your eyes peeled for animals crossing the roads, from kudu to warthog to giraffe, you never know what you may come across in Namibia.
Driving in Namibia is just like driving anywhere else in the world, so be courteous and careful and you’ll be just fine.
Driving yourself around Namibia is one of the best ways to see our majestic country. Being able to explore the many facets of the land of brave, at your own leisure, and with a more flexible itinerary. And if four wheels are not your thing and you prefer the thrill of motorcycling around then check our blog post on Motorbiking Through Namibia.
There is a lot of Namibia out there, and you can see a lot of it by car.