Facts for the Visitor
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.
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.
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 sufficient blank pages for entry/exit stamps - the Namibian Government are currently stating that you need at least 6.
If you are planning to enter South Africa before or after you visit Namibia, please make sure you have an additional 2 blank pages in your passport as this is an entry requirement for South Africa.
PLEASE NOTE: Travel Butlers have made every effort to ensure that the information displayed here is correct and accurate, but the onus still remains with the traveller to verify the information with their local Namibia High Commission or Embassy.
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.
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 Reguations, 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.
There is a risk of malaria in the Caprivi Strip. During the summer/wetter months (November-June), it is 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.
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$5 once they have filled up your car, and funnily enough, you will often find that the total amount of petrol they put in the car means you will get enough loose change back for a tip!
We would also recommend travelling with 2 spare tyres. Most 4WD vehicles come with a second spare tyre as a matter of course, and it is usually possible to hire a second spare tyre for other types of vehicle from your car hire company for a nominal charge. Punctures are a common problem, especially on the gravel roads, and you may have to cover an extremely long distances before reaching the next town, where you can get the puncture fixed. The chances of getting a second puncture are quite high, and quite simply it is not worth the risk or worry of driving with no other form of emergency back up. Most garages will repair a puncture for a small fee, and whilst they generally do a good job (lots of practice!), we recommend that you should still take the repaired tyre to your car hire company when you get the opportunity to get it professionally fixed or replaced. change back for a tip!
If you are planning on taking your hire car across from Namibia into a neighbouring country, do remember to clear this with your hire car company beforehand - many companies will need to issue you with a Letter of Authority to show at the border post.You can read more in our guide to driving in Namibia.
language and people
English is the official language of Namibia, although it is only the first language of a small percentage of the population, about 7%. Afrikaans is the most widely spoken first language for most Namibians, and around 30% of the population also speak German. Different tribes throughout the country speak either a Bantu dialect (including Owambo, Caprivian and Herero) or a Khoisan dialect (including Nama, Damara and San). The Khoisan dialects are characterised by a 'clicking' sound.
Namibia's currency is the Namibian Dollar (N$), 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.
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.