Our road trip in Namibia was one of the best road trips we have ever taken.
What is Namibia Like? Namibia is breathtakingly beautiful, vast, and empty. It’s easy to explore independently, the locals are friendly, it’s safe, and tourists are almost non-existent in some places. It’s a great time.
It’s the Perfect First Splash into Africa.
Ever dreamed about African travel but didn’t know where to start? Namibia is the place to go. Screw Botswana: it’s expensive and teeming with tourists!
Many people think of Africa as a country (it’s not) riddled with AIDS, sketchy thieves, and Malaria. This can be true of almost anywhere on the planet (hate to tell you this, but there’s AIDS in The States, too!). I think a lot of people opt for the overland tours and pre-arranged itineraries “just to be safe”, but that is so not necessary for Namibia! You can easily do it independently. And, I think, you’ll enjoy yourself more.
There are some bumpy roads and some seriously empty places (bring water and food in case you get stuck for a few hours…) but otherwise traveling on your own here is not too much worse than travel in any other “western” style country.
Namibians speak English! Woohoo! Oh, they also speak German, too! You can get directions, order food, talk about the weather and even eat delicious German cuisine.
Petty theft is not really a thing to worry about in Namibia outside of the major city centers. Your biggest concerns will be based around your car: flat tires, cracked windshields, busted suspension coils, running out of gas, and getting stuck in sand are very common problems on the road.
Namibia has so much to offer the adventure seeker, the wildlife enthusiast, the star-gazer, the camper, the explorer and even the lazy. Etosha National park boasts elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras and much more. You can go to the desert to climb sand dunes at sunrise. There are incredible dark skies to watch the stars. Rivers to swim in that are full of hippos and crocs! You can check out massive canyons and empty parks that will stretch on into the horizon. Truly, this country feels untouched, pristine, and away from everything. It’s perfect.
Namibia is not Well-Known.
Very few people know about Namibia (even the president of the USA, for that matter!) Because this is so not well-known (outside of Germany that is) you will not be competing with hordes of tourists. In fact, you’ll likely be the only person on that canyon ledge or driving along that gravel road in the middle of the beautiful park you’ll be cruising through.
It Feels Like No One Lives Here.
Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries on the planet. As a result: it’ll be empty road for hours. No cars. No people. No houses. Well, maybe a zebra.
It’s Not Cheap.
I hate to tell you this, but Namibia is not for the shoe-string traveler. We did our damn best to keep our travel expenses to a minimum while traveling around for a month and it was hard. There are precious few hostels (and you’ll only find them in city centers), lodges are mighty expensive, and gas will really start to add up.
If you’re not willing to part with the $100-200 dollars per night to stay in a lodge, prepare thyself for camping.
Generally, camping will cost between $20-50 dollars per night for a couple.
Renting a car will cost about $30-50 bucks a day for an SUV, about $100 for a fully loaded 4×4 camper van. Entrance fees will run you between $5-20 bucks, depending on the park.
Dinner will cost about $10-15 dollars per person in a restaurant.
You’ll Need to Rely on Yourself.
There is no public transportation easily accessible to tourists. Other than an overland tour, you’re going to have to rent a car and do A LOT of driving.
Renting a car is your best option, but if you can’t drive stick shift on the right side of the road (they drive the same side as the British!) you’ll need to get on a tour.
Most travelers will opt for the loaded 4×4 (did I mention it was $100 bucks a day!?!). We tried to do the trip in a 2-wheeler which turned out disastrous for us, and eventually swapped up for an SUV which made the travel SO MUCH BETTER. (Here are some tips about renting a car in Namibia.)
The Internet is Almost Non-Existent.
Sorry, but if you like connecting to Facebook at the end of the day you’re gonna be very sad. There were precious few times we could connect to the internet or even get data on our phones. Jackson got a Namibian SIM card which only worked in the towns and cities (that made getting stuck in sand in the desert for a few hours REALLY fun because our phones didn’t work…). WiFi is slow and expensive at camps. Bring a lot of books or a kindle.
You Can’t Trust what Google Says.
Don’t rely on google to help you. It is surprisingly out of date about what roads exist, padstals (farm-to-table restaurants) you can get food in or even what towns exist on the map. We used the “MapFactor Navigator” App (free!) which was invaluable to us. You can download the map beforehand and it acts like a GPS even when you don’t get signal (which is most of the time!).
You’ll likely get free Namibian maps at the borders and in the cities, which can also be a big help.
Namibia’s Pixelated Unless you have a Zoom Lens.
iPhone pictures will not do your trip justice. Zebras will cross the roads and get close sometimes, but usually hang out in watering holes way over *there* and your only hope of capturing that is with a zoom lens. If you’re gonna come down here, come prepared!
This Place is Impossible Unless you get Yourself Some Comprehensive Travel and Car Insurance.
You will get a flat tire. You will crack your windshield. You will need insurance to help you out. Just accept it and enjoy yourself.
Namibia’s Full of Varying Weather.
We visited in the shoulder season of March (the rainy season). In the desert that means a whole lot of nothing because you’ll have blue skies and hot hot sun no matter what time of year you’re there.
In Caprivi, in the North, it meant tons of thunderstorms.
On the coast, it meant a lot of wind and mist.
In the rest of the country it was hot, dry and beautiful.
Rainy season also means a lot of green growth, plentiful watering holes and fat animals. You won’t see as many animals as you would if you were to go during the dry season, but you will see lush forests, full rivers, and tons of birds.
What’s Namibia Like?
In one word: Awesome.
I hope you are. So many people will overlook Namibia simply because they’ve never heard of it. Botswana has got Prince Harry’s approval, so it’s overrun with tourists and is very expensive. I’ve got so many stories to share of how wonderful this country is. I hope one day you get a chance to see it for yourself.