Namibia is a place you should consider for your next African adventure. If you plan to go on an Africa Safari, Namibia is the prime location we absolutely recommend you to visit. With the Atlantic Ocean to one side and the world’s oldest desert on the other side, Namibia is home to natural wonders waiting to be discovered. From the Etosha National Park, Fish River Canyon to the breathtaking sand dunes of Sossusvlei and many more, Namibia has a lot to offer to travellers and photographers. We also invite the travellers to Namibia to learn more about its history as many don’t know at all of the terrible genocide of the natives of Namibia during the colonial era by Germany.
In Namibia, you will have to be driving in the middle of the Namib desert, sand dunes and mountains surrounding the gravel roads throughout the country to truly immerse in the beauty that it has to offer. Visiting Namibia felt like having a whole country to ourselves to visit since the country is so vast.
If you don’t feel as adventurous to self-drive, there are numbers of tours you can take where a driver/guide can drive you around. You can also join bigger groups, which we personally do not recommend to really enjoy this journey in Namibia.
Places to see in Namibia
Namibia is vast, wild and dramatic. You will find wineries, dunes, canyons, desert, lakes, etc. This results in a lot of places to go and check out and many different types of attractions for you to choose from. We will categorize them to make it easier for you to plan your journey.
Wildlife in Namibia
Etosha National Park
The Etosha National Park is a must if you love animals and want plenty of animals to photograph. It is heaven to visit during the dry season and chase water holes to see the animals.
The Skeleton Coast is where the desert meets the sea. Stop by Cape Coast to photograph beautiful landscapes but also the seal colony. There will be a WHOLE lot!
Outdoor landscapes of Namibia
More on the Northern part of Namibia, the landscape at Caprivi will be different because of the high amount of water coming from the Okavango River, Chobe River, and the Zambezi river. If you are driving towards Zambia, like us, it is worth a stop.
Spitzkoppe is another great destination for photographers. It is a mountain range in Damaraland also called ‘Matterhorn of Africa’ because of the dramatic shape. Spitzkoppe is the remaining of a 700 million-year-old ancient volcano. It is worth it to find a campsite and stay the night.
This place is known for Deadvlei, the 900-year-old fossilised Acacia trees creating beautiful shadows with the sun, the orange dune and white floor creates a wonderful effect for unique photography. Sossusvlei also has beautiful red sand dunes and is among the oldest desert in the world. Dune 45 is popular to trek, which we skipped to go up to because, well, when you are from Dubai, climbing a dune isn’t that spectacular anymore haha.
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If you want to see beautiful pink salt lakes, come to Walvis Bay. It is another photographer’s dream landscape to spend time on shooting. If you are a drone photographer, you will absolutely love it.
Fish River Canyon
It is the 2nd largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. We drove the other way of it completely as we didn’t have time but if you do, there is a five-day hike you can do as well. Some people stay there to go on kayaking experiences, etc. You can also visit the hot springs of Ai-Ais.
Adrenaline Stop in Namibia
It is no a must stop in our opinion unless you have many days in Namibia but indeed, you red in right, this place is the adrenaline stop in Africa! Swakopmund is a coastal town with many active activities at the best costs you can get in Africa! You can do everything from skydiving to sandboarding and 4×4 buggy excursions.
Namibia Culture and History
Windhoek is the capital of Namibia. There you can visit the museum right by the main church where you can learn all about the colonization, liberation and a whole lot more about Namibia. The city is a mix of colonial history and African urban vibes. We recommend you to book a city tour with your hotel to be able to have a guide driving you around to places and the market to get some local “kapana”, which is cut braii (BBQ) meat, SO GOOD. It is best found at Oshetu Community Market.
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Luderitz is a little township that looks like it has been stuck in the 20th century feel to it. It has a lot of colourful colonial art nouveau architecture and has a cute little port. You can drive all the way to Shark Island to have a nice view of the ocean, where a campsite is situated. Shark Island used to be called back in the day, Shark Island Concentration Camp or “Death Island”. It was one of the five Namibian concentration camps used by the German empire during the Herero and Namaqua genocide of 1904–1908. We recommend you to learn more about this genocide by watching this BBC documentary.
Kolmanskop is a must if you are in Namibia. It is a ghost town formerly a diamond mining town that by 1956 was completed deserted and left to the Namib sands taking over its houses’ walls. It is a photographer’s dream spot and you can spend hours exploring these houses invaded by sand dunes.
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Best time to travel to Namibia
We believe April and May are the best time to go before the crazy peak season from June to August. During that period, it is European summer and the place can be more packed. It is indeed the winter time in Namibia with cooler temperatures but if you go April/May, it will be just perfect and you won’t freeze if camping at night.
For animal lovers, the dry seasons are the best time to visit the Etosha National Park as animals all gather around water sources and you can hit jackpot to see everything!
Costs of a trip in Namibia
Namibia is an affordable destination, using the Namibian dollar, which is pegged to the South African Rand. If you’re looking at enjoying a safari, Namibia is one of the most affordable destinations in southern Africa for it. If you like more action, Swakopmund has some of the cheapest prices in the world. Hot air balloon remains quite pricey like anywhere else around the world.
The exchange rate is around 1 USD = 14.43 Namibian Dollars, which you should check using XE App to check the live rate.
ATMs, credit cards and cash
ATM’s and Banks can be found in every big town. You might struggle in tiny townships. It is advised to be careful when using your credit card as fraud is common in this part of the world.
Food and drinks pricing in Namibia
Food can be quite cheap in Namibia. Although anything else than meat (fresh veggies, fruits) will be more expensive than what you can find in South Africa. Unless you are really on a crazy tight budget, you can stock up in SA before entering to Namibia. Here is an approximate of the cost of things:
Inexpensive meal: N$30-150 per person (We had our best braii meat with buns and butter at N$35 in Aus, beat that!)
Soft Drinks: N$10
Accommodation pricing in Namibia
Prices have started to hike from 2015 to 2019, even for campsites. Find here a range of prices based on our experience in Namibian dollars.
Campsites: N$50-250 per person
Guest house/Bed and Breakfast/AirBnB: N$300-600
3-star double room: N$200-400
Middle-range double room: N$400-1000
Upper-range accommodation: N$1000+
Cost of car rentals in Namibia
Prices can change a lot from one rental place to another. We always make sure internet prices can beat what you can get once you arrive in Windhoek. In our case, we rented our car in Cape Town, SA with a one-way drop-off fee in Johannesburg. Here is a list of pricing based on a rental in Namibia only.
Small car: N$600-800/day
Medium 4×4: N$1000-1500/day
Large 4×4: N$1500+/day
Getting around in Namibia
Travel around Namibia by car
Namibia is one of the world’s great road trip destinations we recommend to self-drive. This means the best way we recommend to get around Namibia is by car, a 4×4 or AWD to be precise as you will absolutely drive off-road and there are some quite some dirt roads if you want to see the scenic routes. You can hire a car in Namibia using your home driving licence. Some hire companies require the driver license to be in English so make sure to verify in advance in case you do not have an international driver’s license. Others also have minimum age requirements you need to verify as well.
You can do like us and start your trip from South Africa or simply get a car in Namibia itself and roam around.
To cross the border to Namibia from South Africa you will need:
– Vehicle registration documents*
– Insurance documents for the car *
– Letter from car hire company with permission to cross borders*
– Pay the road charge of around N$140-200 based on the vehicle you have.
*provided by the rental company
Namibia is huge compared to what you think and you will have long days of driving if you don’t have two weeks to visit (exactly our case, we had about 9 days). The distance between townships can be considerable so always fuel when you see a petrol station. Read our guide for a perfect Road trip in Namibia and driving tips in Namibia.
Namibia by air
Most travellers play it safe and fly in Windhoek to start their trips. Most airlines fly through South Africa. To avoid crazy prices, we recommend you to book way in advance.
There are domestic flights from Windhoek’s Eros airport to Walvis Bay daily, six flights per week to Rundu, Katima Mulilo and Ondangwa and three flights per week to Luderitz and Oranjemund. Although, Namibia is really meant to be visited by car as the landscapes are what you want to see while driving the whole country.
Travel around Namibia by bus
Travelling by bus in Namibia is meh. The network isn’t too extensive. There is the Intercape Mainliner which operates luxury buses on long-distance routes covering most of the main towns. They are comfortable, with refreshments available, music, videos, toilets and air conditioning that operates to Windhoek from Cape Town in the south, and to Zambia/Victoria Falls in the north, which is not bad at all if you really don’t want to drive. But then, you will barely see anything unless you book tours. You can visit their website for all routes.
Accommodation in Namibia
Namibia, like many other neighbouring countries, has many accommodation options for many budget types. We highly recommend booking ahead during peak season, even for a campsite.
Camping in Namibia
Camping is popular, especially those like us with a tent on our car. You can pretty much do bush camping if you are comfortable but recommended to find a campsite for safety but also some showers and facilities to refreshen up! Namibia is blessed with nature and camping is among our top recommendation. We chose a perfect car rental that also comes with all the braai (BBQ) stuff, chairs, blankets, tents, etc. In a nutshell, we are quite decked out,
Guesthouses in Namibia
Guesthouses and B&B’s are scattered along the tourist routes. They are quite cost-effective and great ways to meet locals. Airbnb is more common in big cities like Windhoek.
Hotels in Namibia
Hotels are mainly in cities and towns and are perfect if you need to be comfortable for a few nights.
Budget stays in Namibia
You can find hostels and backpacker accommodation. These sometimes also provide a campsite for safe parking for you to sleep in your tent instead of parking randomly in the city or outside of it.
Safari lodges in Namibia
We did not stay in one since we had our awesome setup, but Safari Lodges in Namibia can offer quite luxurious accommodation for rates much more reasonable than other neighbouring countries.
Things you should know about travelling to Namibia
Visa requirements to visit Namibia
Like most countries, your passport has to have one blank page available and 6 months of validity left. Most nationalities can enter Namibia without visa hassles. This includes Canada, Australia, USA, UK, South Africa and many EU countries. Unfortunately, many Eastern European countries do need to apply for a visa for entry so make sure you verify your passport status before you book your travels to Namibia.
Namibian border crossings
Border crossing in Namibia is very simple and quick. You first go to immigration, fill up the form, scan your fingerprints and take your photo. Once you are done you go to the car tax counter where you will need to pay a fee for the road. The car rental you go for must’ve given you all the paperwork for seamless border crossings. This second step applies only if you have your own vehicle.
Namibia Safety Advice
Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa and perfect for self-drive road trips. As usual, it is important to travel with travel insurance for your trip to Namibia but in general, you will be completely fine! Here is the usual list of bad experiences you should be aware of but many of these are common sense:
– Touristy Scams in Windhoek
– Credit card skimming
– Petty theft (don’t leave your valuables in your car)
– Walking around at night
– Staying clear of Townships
Packing list for a trip to Namibia
1) Your camera is number one and MUST for a trip to Namibia. Landscapes in Namibia are incredible and if you are a photographer, make sure you bring all the lenses you need. You can read our photography gear for our Namibia and Southern Africa trip.
2) Warm clothes: Mostly if you are camping, you will want some comfortable warm clothes for all those potential windy nights. Don’t underestimate the fact that you can get cold in Namibia!
3) Sun protection: hats, scarves and sunscreen, bring it all! Apply even in the car as you can actually tan in it!
4) Navigation: Having a Garmin is quite handy. If your rental or yourself don’t have one, you can get a paper map, old school style. Namibian roads are so simple, you will actually survive with a paper map. Then, of course, we recommend you to download:
– Google Maps
– Maps.me+ Download the Namibia map
– iOverlander, very useful to find camping spots etc.
Getting a SIM card in Namibia
As soon as we crossed from South Africa to Namibia, we went to fill our tank and Shell and got 2 SIM cards. Not the cheapest to get them there but we honestly couldn’t be bothered and decided to get them right away. It is recommended to go with MTC for the best coverage in the country.
Phone reception is not too bad throughout the entire country but obviously stronger when you are close to townships. In the middle of nowhere, you will get a lot of no reception. LTE reception is available in main cities and 3G is the most common in smaller townships.
Wi-fi Speed in Namibia
You can find wi-fi in most accommodation where you will book but it won’t be very fast. So if you need to download big files, really recommend you to get all of them before entering the country. Then of course, if you go to a higher end accommodation or business hotel as we did in Windhoek, chances are that the internet is better than other places.
You can use the Lonely Planet Southern Africa but just like we always do, we rather read travel blogs, use the iOverlander app and rely a lot on Google reviews. This is why it’s important for you to contribute if you travel around to help upcoming travellers! We can’t insist on this enough.
Hope you are excited about your Namibia trip and that our comprehensive Namibia travel guide will provide you with all the information you will need to plan and have a memorable trip. Let us know in the comments below how has been your journey, your alternate routes or ever advice. Sure, let us know if we’ve missed anything. Safe trip!