Namibia is in Southern Africa, bordering South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and the Atlantic Ocean. Formerly a colony of Germany, Namibia was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate after WWI, and annexed as a province of South Africa after WWII. The South-West African People's Organization (SWAPO) launched a guerrilla war for independence in 1966, but did not gain independence until 1990.
Namibia boasts remarkable natural attractions such as the Namib desert, the Fish River Canyon Park, Etosha National Park and the Kalahari desert. Its people speak nine different languages, including some of the Khoisan languages which include the 'clicks' that present an enigma to most native English-speakers. Namibia produces some of the world's highest quality diamonds.
Inhabited from the dawn of time by the San, also known as the "Bushmen", invaded by the Bantu, colonized by the Germans (who called it "South West Africa") and taken over by South Africa after WWI, Namibia is in many ways quite similar to South Africa. Since it was ruled under the apartheid system, Namibia also has many of the problems resulting from that system.
It is important to be aware that race is a common part of Namibian discourse. Namibians will refer to the race of others more frequently than travellers from places where race is typically not an issue. Because of apartheid, race is an issue in many spheres of life, so it comes up a lot. In spite of this, the various races do get along well in Namibia, and it is fairly uncommon to find racial tensions flaring. Apartheid was never implemented as strictly in Namibia as in South Africa, so racial tensions are generally lower.
Namibia is similar to South Africa, and if you're used to travelling in one country, travelling in the other country is quite easy. There are some subtle differences. For example, in South Africa a non-white person may choose to speak English rather than Afrikaans (as a political choice) whereas among Namibia's mixed-race population (who call themselves 'colored' in Namibia and South Africa) Afrikaans is a proud part of their culture, and many people still speak German. Overlooking these differences isn't going to cause offence, but they're handy to know.
Tourists may enter Namibia for up to 90 days.
Foreign nationals from the following countries/territories do not require a visa to visit Namibia: Angola, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Visitors not from the above countries need to apply for a visa from the Namibian consulate in their country of origin or the Ministry of Home Affairs, Private Bag 13200, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 292-2111 (fax: +264 61 223-817).
If you require a visa to enter Namibia, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Namibian diplomatic post. For example, the British embassies/consulates in Al Khobar, Jeddah and Riyadh accept Namibian visa applications (this list is not exhaustive). British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Namibian visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Namibia require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Namibia can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
All visitors require a passport valid for at least 6 months after date of entry into Namibia.
You need a return or onward AIRticket when you fly to Namibia; if you don't have one the airline will not take you there (Air Berlin will inform you about this at check in time!). Saying you will take the bus to South Africa will not do. They will not let you in if you don't have an address where you are going, so be sure to have one.
Always verify the dates stamped into your passport, because there have been cases where corrupt officers stamp wrong dates to fine people for overstaying when they leave, and these fines are huge.
Hosea Kutako International Airport, located 45 minutes east of Windhoek, is the main entry point for air traffic. Air Namibia operates flights from Frankfurt, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Victoria Falls and Maun to the international airport. Flights between the smaller Eros Airport and Cape Town are also available. South African Airways and no-frills Kulula.com operate flights from South Africa, too. See Discount airlines in Africa for more options.
There are 9 commonly used border posts with neighbouring counties:
Oshikango (Santa Clara), ☎ +264 (0)65 26-4615 (fax: +264 65 26616).
Ruacana, ☎ +264 65 270290 (fax: +264 65 270=010).
Buitepos (Mamuno), ☎ +264 62 56-0404 (fax: +264 62 56-0418). On the Trans-Kalahari-Highway, connecting the B6 and A2 between Gobabis and Ghanzi.
Mhembo (Shakawe), ☎ +264 66 25-9900 (fax: +264 66 25-9902).
Araimsvlei (Naroegas), ☎ +264 63 28-0057 (fax: +264 63 28-0058). Connecting the B3 and N14 between Karasburg and Upington.
Verloorsdrift (Onseepkaans), ☎ +264 63 26-9134. Connecting the C10 and R358 between Karasburg and Pofadder.
Noordoewer (Vioolsdrift ), ☎ +264 63 29-7122 (fax: +264 63 29-7021). Connecting the B1 and N7 between Keetmanshoop and Springbok.
Oranjemund (Alexander Bay), ☎ +264 63 23-2756 (fax: +264 63 23-3483).
Wenela (Sesheke), ☎ +264 66 25-3430 (fax: +264 66 25-2293).
The most convenient international bus service into Namibia runs from Cape Town and Victoria Falls. There is also service from Johannesburg. See Intercape Mainliner for schedules and fares. Using a combination of buses, hitchhiking and kombis you can also get to Namibia from anywhere in Botswana.
The regular overnight train from Upington in South Africa to Windhoek, operated by TransNamib, has been discontinued. It is no longer possible to get into or out of Namibia by train.
Despite the vast distances in Namibia, most people get around by land, and not air. If renting a car, plan to have plenty of cash on hand to fill the tank with gasoline. Gas stations typically do not accept any form of payment except cash. A small tip for the attendant pumping your gasoline of NAD 3-5 is quite common. If you are on the back roads of Namibia, it's always wise to stop and top-off your tank when you see a service station. Fuel shortages are also common so always be prepared for the possibility of not being able to buy as much gasoline as you may like.
Namibia's roads are very good, with primary routes paved, and secondary routes of well-graded gravel. An all-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary except on tertiary roads and the Skeleton Coast. Driving at night is very dangerous because there is a lot of wildlife on the roads. Traffic drives on the left. Namibian roads eat tires. Always check your spare and inspect your tires often. Its a good idea to purchase the tire insurance that your rental car company might offer, too.
Namibians often estimate the time to drive between places according to their experience driving quickly on dirt (untarred) roads. Add a third and you will arrive alive with kidneys intact!
Before you reserve a car let the rental company send you a copy of it's rental agreement. Most of them have many (and sometimes absolutely ridiculous) restrictions. Take your time to compare them according to your needs.
Europcar Car Hire (Car Hire), ☎ +264 61-227103 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Car rentals in Namibia.
Kalahari car hire (Car hire Windhoek), 109 Daan Bekker Street, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 252 690 (email@example.com).
CABS Car hire Namibia (Car hire Windhoek), 282 Independence Ave, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 305 912 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Windhoek Car Hire (Windhoek Car hire), 124 Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo Street, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 306 553 (email@example.com).
Thrifty Car Rental, ☎ +264 61 220 738, . Offers 24 hour car rental service for a scenic drive through Namibia.
AAA Car Hire, ☎ +264 811 246 286 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +264 61 244558). Sedan, 4WD and bus rentals in Namibia.
Dial A Cab (Taxi Service in Windhoek), ☎ +264 811270557 (email@example.com). 24 hours a day. N$70.
By minibus taxi
It is quite easy to get around using combies (shared or long-distance taxis). Just ask around to find out where the taxi rank is (sometimes there are several taxi ranks, each one with departures to different areas of the country). Drivers are not in the habit of overcharging foreigners.
TransNamib. Operates air-conditioned buses (and trains) to destinations all over Namibia via their StarLine service.
The national railway company of Namibia, TransNamib, operates trains (and buses) to destinations all over Namibia via their StarLine passenger service. Some routes available are:
Windhoek-Keetmanshoop (formerly also to Upington in South Africa but not any more)
The StarLine scheduled service conveys passengers via special coaches hooked on the back of freight trains. These passenger coaches offer comfortable airline-style seating with air-conditioning and (sometimes) video entertainment. Vending machines provide refreshments on long journeys. StarLine, +264 (0)61 298-2032, (paxservices@transNamib.com.na, fax: +264 (0)61 298-2495).
Other rail services operating in the country are:
Desert Express, ☎ +264 (0)61 298-2600 (dx@transNamib.com.na, fax: +264 (0)61 298-2601), . The Desert Express is a luxury tourist train that traverses Namibia regularly, taking tourists to such destinations as Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Etosha National Park. Buses are used to transport visitors from train stations to the various sights.
Westwing, ☎ +264 (61) 221091 (westair.com.na, fax: +264 (61) 232778). Offers both scheduled and charter flights throughout the country.
Several tour companies operate in Namibia. Each is unique in services offered but most operate with safety in mind.