Visas, Climate, Currency, Driving - all you need to know for your holiday in Namibia
Namibia is BIG and sparsely populated - only 1.5 million people live in an area which is 4 times larger than the UK (or bigger than France and Germany combined). Whilst it is generally a very easy and safe place to travel around, the vast distances, poor gravel roads in more remote places and the unforgiving desert heat do need to be respected and precautions taken.
CURRENT ENTRY RULES IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) - Updated 29 December 2020: International tourists may enter Namibia through Hosea Kutako International airport only.
Any person entering Namibia must present proof on arrival in Namibia of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the country of departure. The test result must not be older than 7 days at the time of entry into Namibia.
Upon arrival into Namibia, all visitors must also hand in a filled out health questionnaire (this will be supplied by Travel Butlers) which helps the Ministry of Health and Social Services to do contact tracing should anyone have a positive test whilst in the country.It is expected that these rules will be lifted and that the entry requirements will revert to normal as soon as the government of Namibia deems it safe to do so.
Normally, holders of the following passports do not require a visa to enter Namibia when travelling as a tourist for stays up to 3 months:
United Kingdom; United States of America; Canada; Australia; New Zealand; Ireland; Belgium; Netherlands; Italy; France; Germany; Spain; South Africa.
If you are a passport holder from another country, please contact your local Namibia High Commission or Embassy for up-to-date visa requirements, as citizens of certain countries are required to obtain visas before travelling. You can also check on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Namibia
Please note that if you are applying to the Embassy for your visa, some visas can take a long time to be processed so please do take this into consideration, as it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa in place before you travel.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Namibia and have at least one completely blank page for Namibian immigration to use.
TRAVELLING TO/FROM NAMIBIA WITH CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 18 YEARS OF AGE AT DATE OF TRAVEL: The following requirements apply regardless of nationality.
Parents travelling with children must produce an unabridged birth certificate for the child, showing full details of the child's parents. If the birth certificate is in a language other than English, it must be accompanied by a sworn translation issued by a competent authority in the country concerned.
If the child is adopted, the adoption certificate must be produced.
If only one parent is travelling, said parent must also show consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent named on the birth certificate authorising the child to travel (the affidavit must be no more than 6 months old from the date of travel), or a court order granting full parental responsibilities to the travelling parent, or (where applicable) a death certificate for the deceased parent. Legally separated parents should also provide a court order when the other parent does not give consent.
Where a person is travelling with a child who is not their biological child, he/she must produce an unabridged birth certificate for the child supplemented by affidavits from the child's parents/legal guardian giving consent for the child to travel and copies of the identity documents or passport of the parents/legal guardian PLUS their contact details.
There are also additional rules for unaccompanied minors - available on request.
PLEASE NOTE: All documents must be original - PHOTOCOPIES ARE NOT ACCEPTED. In the case of foreign countries that do not issue unabridged birth certificates, a letter to this effect issued by the competent authority of the foreign country should be produced.
For more information, please contact your Namibia High Commission.
PLEASE NOTE: Countries can change their entry requirements at any time. Travel Butlers try to ensure that the information displayed here is correct, but the onus remains with the traveller to verify the information with the relevant High Commission or Embassy and ensure that they can comply with the applicable entry requirements.
You are advised to contact your doctor or clinic around 4-8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations and to get their professional medical advice regarding travel to Namibia.
To help avoid heatstroke, drink plenty of bottled water/fluids, and keep out of the midday sun.
Tap water is chemically treated and safe to drink in major cities and towns, but you can often taste the chemicals, so it is not particularly pleasant. Bottled water is readily available and is a much nicer-tasting alternative!
We also advise that you do not drink the water in more remote places such as Etosha and other National Parks, or on farms - the water may be safe to drink, but it simply is not worth the risk or being laid up with a dodgy stomach for the next few days. Do not drink water from any river lake without firstly purifying the water.
Always take water with you on a long car journey to avoid dehydration.
There is a risk of malaria in the Caprivi Strip. During the summer/wetter months (November-June), it is also advisable to take malaria precautions if you are visiting the Etosha National Park although the risk of malaria during this time is still deemed to be low. Check with your doctor about suitable antimalarial tablets. Dengue fever can also be transmitted via mosquito bites. Try to avoid mosquito bites wherever possible - wear loose long-sleeved clothing and trousers, and use a repellent on clothing and exposed skin.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Namibia, so a yellow fever vaccination is NOT required for travellers whose sole destination is Namibia. However, in accordance with International Health Regulations, Nambia requires all travellers over one year of age arriving from a yellow fever risk country, or having been in transit longer than 12 hours at the airport of such a country, to have a yellow fever certificate. These countries include Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda but it is up to the traveller to check the full list via http://www.who.int/ith/2015-ith-annex1.pdf?ua=1.
Driving in Namibia
It is relatively easy to travel around Namibia by car, however, you need to be aware that the distances between destinations in this country are vast. In many cases, you may find that you do not pass a single person or car, let alone a town or village, for a couple of hours at a time.
Namibians drive on the left, and all signposts are written in English. Seat belts must be worn at all times, and it is prohibited to use a mobile phone whilst driving. Traffic lights are referred to as 'robots', and the 4 way stop is certainly a traffic control to master quickly if you want to avoid having a collision at a stop junction. The general speed limit is a comfortable 120 km/h on the tar roads outside of towns and 100 km/h on gravel roads. In built up areas the speed limit is normally 60 km/h.
The major roads are tarred, well signposted, and relatively well maintained, so it is possible to cover long distances along them in relative comfort. However, the majority of roads in Namibia are gravel, and more often than not during your driving holiday you will find yourself on one for a long time. The gravel roads range from well maintained straight roads that can safely be travelled at 70-80 km/h (the official speed of 100 km/h on gravel roads is not advisable), to bumpy tracks that are difficult to distinguish from the rock-strewn landscape.
All drivers must be in possession of a VALID driving licence from their country of residence. If the driving licence is not in English, then an International Drivers Licence is required. The licence must also contain a photograph of the holder and be valid beyond the point of returning the vehicle. UK citizens do NOT need to request a unique code from Gov.UK or the DVLA as you do not need confirmation of any penalty points to hire a car in Namibia. Please note that the various car hire companies have different regulations regarding the length of time you need to have held a driving licence, so it is advisable to check with your hire car company about their requirements. Most hire car companies also insist that you leave a credit card number as a security deposit when you pick up your car. The credit card HAS TO belong to the named driver - a person who is not the named driver cannot supply the credit card.
It is imperative to ensure that, before you set off on any trip, you have sufficient petrol in your tank. Even if you have ¾ of a tank, it is always worth filling up completely while you have the opportunity - it is not uncommon to find the nearest petrol station in the direction you are heading is a heartbreaking 400 km away! Investing in a non-plastic jerry can, and carrying an emergency supply of petrol - just enough to get you a further 100 km to the next petrol station - is strongly recommended, and also ensure that you have a good road map with petrol stations marked on it. None of the petrol stations in Namibia are self-service, and generally credit cards are not accepted as a method of payment. Many of the larger petrol stations do have ATMs on site so that you can take cash out, but in the more remote places, ATMs may not be present (or the machine may be out of service), so you should always ensure that you have sufficient cash whenever you pull in to fill up with petrol. When you pull into the petrol station, you will generally be waved to a free petrol pump by an enthusiastic attendant, complete with a beaming welcoming smile. Make sure that he waves you to the correct pump, however, and does not try to put petrol into your diesel car by mistake. It is customary to tip around N$5 once they have filled up your car, and funnily enough, you will often find that the total amount of petrol they put in the car means you will get enough loose change back for a tip!
We would also recommend travelling with 2 spare tyres. Most 4WD vehicles come with a second spare tyre as a matter of course, and it is usually possible to hire a second spare tyre for other types of vehicle from your car hire company for a nominal charge. Punctures are a common problem, especially on the gravel roads, and you may have to cover an extremely long distances before reaching the next town, where you can get the puncture fixed. The chances of getting a second puncture are quite high, and quite simply it is not worth the risk or worry of driving with no other form of emergency back up. Most garages will repair a puncture for a small fee, and whilst they generally do a good job (lots of practice!), we recommend that you should still take the repaired tyre to your car hire company when you get the opportunity to get it professionally fixed or replaced. change back for a tip!
If you are planning on taking your hire car across from Namibia into a neighbouring country, do remember to clear this with your hire car company beforehand - many companies will need to issue you with a Letter of Authority to show at the border post.
You can read more in our guide to driving in Namibia.
language and people
English is the official language of Namibia, although it is only the first language of a small percentage of the population, about 7%. Afrikaans is the most widely spoken first language for most Namibians, and around 30% of the population also speak German. Different tribes throughout the country speak either a Bantu dialect (including Owambo, Caprivian and Herero) or a Khoisan dialect (including Nama, Damara and San). The Khoisan dialects are characterised by a 'clicking' sound.
We would ask that all travellers are respectful of the local culture as follows:
If the army or police are protecting a building or place, check before taking any photographs. If in doubt, put your camera away!
Homosexuality is not prohibited by law, but local attitudes can be less tolerant and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. Whilst everyone is of course entitled to their own sexual preferences and gender identity, we would advise all clients of the LGBT+ community to refrain from public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and to be as discrete as possible about their relationship.
Namibia's currency is the Namibian Dollar (N$), and does not float on the currency markets, but is tied to the South African Rand (R) at a rate of 1:1. The Rand is widely accepted throughout the country, and even if you pay using all Namibian notes you will often get a mixture of N$ and Rand in your change. Namibian bank notes come in N$10, N$20, N$50, N$100 and N$200 denominations. There are 100 cents to N$1. Coin values are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, N$1 and N$5.
International Visa and MasterCard credit cards are generally accepted throughout Namibia. Holders of other cards are advised to clarify with a commercial bank whether their card is acceptable in Namibia. Please note, however, that many properties are unable to accept American Express or Diners cards. Credit cards are not accepted at some fuel filling stations.
Much of Namibia is part of the great dry deserts of the Namib, which runs along the entire western coastline, and the Kalahari in the east. Contrasting with these huge deserts is the sub tropical rainforest area of the far north-east around the Caprivi Strip, and the inland plateau of Central Namibia is characterised by mountains and rocky outcrops. Because of these wide geographic variations, the climatic conditions differ immensely as you travel through Namibia.
The central area around Windhoek is generally cooler, partly due to its elevation at just over 1,600m. The rainy season is January to March, and is accompanied by violent thunderstorms and heavy downpours. Average summer temperatures are around 30°C, but coupled with the high humidity levels summer in the capital city can be almost unbearable. The winter months are more pleasant and comfortable.
In the arid desert regions, daytime temperatures in the summer months can reach over 40°C, and drop rapidly to below freezing at night. Most of the rain falls during these months, but being a desert the average annual rainfall is only about 50mm.
Summer temperatures in Etosha average just over 30°C, and January and March are also the wettest months, which although great for the green vegetation, can make game viewing more difficult. The Winter months between May and August are much cooler and there is little or no rain. The bush is drier, making for better viewing both in the bush and around the many waterholes, where the animals will more frequently gather to drink.
The best climate is found on the coast around the towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, where a cooling sea breeze eases the harshness of the desert sun. The downsides, however, are frequent morning coastal fogs.
You can read more about the climate in our guide to the best time to visit Namibia.
The International Dialling Code for Namibia is +264, followed by the regional code and then the number. The Namibian emergency telephone number is 10011. Namibia is a vast, sparsely populated country, however, and there are places which are not currently covered by the mobile networks - although these same places may not have fixed line phones either!
The Namibian power is 220 volts, 15 amps, which is delivered through either a 2 or 3 pin round socket. Although the socket is 3 pin, it is not the same as a UK socket, so an adaptor will be needed. Most airport shops sell adapters for foreign plugs, or they can be bought in selected hardware shops in larger towns. Electricity supply is reliable in cities and towns, but you may experience problems in more remote areas, especially during heavy thunderstorms, and you should be prepared for a sudden power failure!
Namibia Standard Time is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1) and does operate Daylight-Saving Time. Winter time (one hour in advance of Greenwich Mean Time) applies from the first Sunday of April through May, June, July, and August to the first Sunday in September. Summer time (2 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time), or Central African Time, applies from the first Sunday in September to the first Sunday of April.