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Namibia

Namibia is in Southern Africa, bordering South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and the Atlantic Ocean. Namibia boasts remarkable natural attractions such as the Namib desert, the Fish River Canyon Park, Etosha National Park and the Kalahari desert. Thanks to both a wealth of indigenous cultures and a tumultuous colonial history, 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. It is also one of the few places in Africa where German, although not official, remains a commonly spoken language, while Afrikaans, shared with its southern neighbour, is also prevalent.

Blending German, Boer and indigenous heritage in their surprisingly European-looking cities, unique desert landscapes, rich wildlife and a relatively high standard of living, resulting in part from abundant natural resources (for example, Namibia produces the world's highest-quality diamonds), Namibia is today a peaceful country, welcoming to visitors and offering unforgettable experiences.

Regions

Cities

  • Windhoek—Namibia's capital and largest city.
  • Keetmanshoop—Small town on the rail lines and highway, jumping off point for treks in the Fish River Canyon Park.
  • Lüderitz—Colonial-era German coastal town.
  • Ondangwa and Oshakati—Twin towns in the heart of Owamboland, northern Namibia.
  • Outjo—Gateway to the Etosha National Park, Koakoveld and Damaraland.
  • Swakopmund—Coastal town, a mecca for Namibians on holiday.
  • Tsumeb—Mining town east of Etosha.
  • Tsumkwe—rural desert town surrounded by San (Bushmen) villages.
  • Walvis Bay—Desert sports.

Other destinations

  • Brandberg Mountains -- The highest mountain in Namibia at 2 573 m.
  • Etosha National Park
  • Kolmanskop -- A ghost town just outside Lüderitz.
  • Waterberg Plateau Park—Another good place to watch wildlife.
  • Sossusvlei—The most popular entry point for people wanting to visit the Namib desert.
  • Skeleton Coast—The northern coastal part of the Namib desert, named for the dozens of ships that were beached in the thick fog that is frequent where the desert meets the Atlantic.
  • Spitzkoppe—the Matterhorn of Namibia.
  • Fish River Canyon Park—The second largest canyon in the world.
  • Opuwo—capital of Kunene Region and an ideal starting point for stocking up before venturing further into Kaokoland and the rest of NW Kunene.
  • Kaokoland - home to the Himba tribe, desert elephants, desert lions, Epupa Waterfalls and many more attractions in this north-western corner of Namibia.

Understand

Namibia was colonized by Germany in the late 19th century. Colonial control was established by private interests before the German Reich itself got involved as Bismarck was rather skeptical of colonial endeavors. German business and colonial interests, among them Adolf Lüderitz, tried to co-opt local rulers into their schemes and to that end signed treaties of varying honesty and even-handedness. One treaty famously mentioned a strip of land from the coast several "miles" inland to be handed over to the colonizers. What the treaty failed to mention was that the British miles of roughly 1.6km wasn't what the Germans meant - they insisted upon much larger "Prussian miles" that were obscure even then and entirely unknown to the locals. Needless to say conflict broke out, but the colonizers had the better weapons and ultimately also backing from Berlin so the locals stood no chance. By 1884 "Deutsch Südwestafrika" had officially become a colony and unlike Germany's other colonies, it did attract significant settlement from the mother country, soon leading to serious debates in the Reichstag about the "problem" of "mixed" descendants of settlers and locals. Another problem were local uprisings and when the Herero rose up in 1904 the Germans under general Lothar von Trotha responded with an amount of genocidal cruelty that shocked even contemporary advocates of colonialism. Von Trotha issued an order to shoot on unarmed civilians including women and children and had them driven into the desert. Low estimates put the death toll at 40 000 bur numbers as high as 70 000 have been put forth for this first genocide perpetrated by Germany. Both descendants of von Trotha and the German government have since asked for forgiveness but no formal restitution was ever paid. During World War I Africa also became a front but by 1915 Namibia had fallen to the Entente. It was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate after World War I, and administered as if it were a province of South Africa after World War II. The South-West African People's Organization (SWAPO) launched a guerrilla war for independence in 1966 and gained independence in 1990. 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. That is to say, Namibians will refer to the race of others more frequently than travellers from places where race is typically not an issue, would expect. 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.

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 offense, but they're handy to know.

The public holidays in Namibia are:

  • January 1. New Year's Day
  • March 21. Independence Day
  • Easter weekend. ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
  • May 1. Workers Day
  • May 4. Cassinga Day
  • May 25. Africa Day
  • August 26. Heroes' Day
  • December 10. Human Rights Day
  • December 25. Christmas Day
  • December 26. Day of Goodwill (Family Day)

Get in

Visas

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, Macao, Malaysia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, 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 61 292-9111, fax: +264 61 22-3817.

To apply for a visa from a Namibian embassy or consulate, you will need a visa application form (this is one from the Namibian High Comission in London ), a document confirming your address in Namibia (such as a hotel booking), a passport with three blank pages and a colour passport photo.

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. See the UK government website about applying for Commonwealth visas. 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 air or bus ticket when you fly to Namibia; if you don't have one the airline will not take you there (Air Namibia will inform you about this at check in time! you can book a Intercape bus ticket online. Intercape have buses from Namibia to South Africa and Zambia.

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.

By plane

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, Maun, Harare, Lusaka, Luanda. South African Airways British Airways, Airlink, South African Express and no-frills Kulula.com operate flights to and from South Africa. TAAG Angola Airlines operates flights to Luanda.

By car

There are 9 commonly used border posts with neighbouring counties:

Angola

  • Oshikango (Santa Clara), ☎ +264 65 26-4615, fax: +264 65 26-4616.
  • Ruacana, ☎ +264 65 27-0290, fax: +264 65 27-0010.

Botswana

  • 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.

South Africa

  • 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.

Zambia

  • Wenela (Sesheke), ☎ +264 66 25-3430, fax: +264 66 25-2293.

By international bus

The most convenient international bus services into Namibia run from Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg and Gaborone.

  • Intercape Minaliner [1] have buses from Windhoek to Victoria Falls, Capetown, and the Angola border.
  • Monnakgotla travel have a bus two times a week from Windhoek Namibia to Gaborone Botswana.
  • Insight Luxury Coaches have a bus two times a week from Windhoek to Livingstone Zambia. fares are from N$450. which is less than the fare with Intercape

By train

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.

Get around

By plane

  • Westair Aviation (ex Westwing), ☎ +264 61 372 300, fax: +264 61 232 402, e-mail: info@westair.com.na. Offers both scheduled and charter flights throughout the country.

By train

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-Otjiwarongo-Tsumeb
  • Windhoek-Gobabis
  • Windhoek-Swakopmund-Walvis Bay
  • Windhoek-Keetmanshoop (formerly also to Upington in South Africa but not any more)
  • Walvis Bay-Swakopmund-Tsumeb

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 61 298-2032, fax: +264 61 298-2495, e-mail: paxservices@transNamib.com.na.

Other rail services operating in the country are:

  • Desert Express, ☎ +264 61 298-2600, fax: +264 61 298-2601, e-mail: dx@transNamib.com.na. The Desert Express is a luxury tourist train that traverses Namibia regularly, taking tourists to such destinations as Walvis BaySwakopmund and Etosha National Park. Buses are used to transport visitors from train stations to the various sights.

By car

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.

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.

Namibia has some of the worst road accident statistics per head of population. Self-driving tourists "score" in the 'no other party involved' accident category, losing control of their cars for no apparent reason but speed. Driving on dirt roads is unlike any other driving experience that Europeans or North Americans can gain at home, and the 100km/h speed limit does not mean you should, or even can, drive safely at that speed.

Namibians often estimate the time to drive between places according to their own vast experience driving quickly on dirt (untarred) roads. Add a third and you will arrive alive with kidneys intact! Keep in mind that this farmer overtaking you at breakneck speed knows every rock and every puddle on this road, has a better suitable car, less load, and likely a few hundred thousand kilometers of experience on his belt.

Before you reserve a car let the rental company send you a copy of its rental agreement. Most of them have many (and sometimes absolutely ridiculous) restrictions. Take your time to compare them according to your needs.

  • Drive South Africa (Car and 4X4 Hire), ☎ +27 21 423 6957, e-mail: info@drivesouthafrica.co.za. Rental branches' pick-up and drop-off locations are offered in eight locations throughout the country, including Namibia’s airports and major cities.
  • Europcar Car Hire (Car Hire), ☎ +264 61-227103, e-mail: info@europcar.co.za. Car rentals in Namibia.
  • Kalahari car hire (Car hire Windhoek), 109 Daan Bekker Street, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 252 690, e-mail: iti07553@mweb.com.na.
  • CABS Car hire Namibia (Car hire Windhoek), 282 Independence Ave, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 305 912, e-mail: info@cabs.com.na.
  • Windhoek Car Hire (Windhoek Car hire), 124 Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo Street, Windhoek, ☎ +264 61 306 553, e-mail: info@windhoekcarhire.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, fax: +264 61 244558, e-mail: info@namibweb.com. Sedan, 4WD and bus rentals in Namibia.

By taxi

There are two types of taxi services in Namibia: shared taxis and dedicated taxis, often called "radio taxis" or "call-a cab". The shared taxis have a license restricting their movement, either to within a town, or between a set of towns. Taxi fares of shared taxis are regulated by government and cannot be bargained on. However, taxi drivers might nevertheless overcharge tourists who do not know what the standard fares are. Radio taxis have no such restriction but charge between 5 and 10 times for the same ride.

Shared taxis are seldom roadworthy - any car in Namibia must pass the roadworthy test only upon change of ownership. It is not uncommon to see bonnets tied by steel wire, emergency spare tyres, broken screens, and the like. Drivers habitually jump red lights (in Namibia: "robots") and stop signs and will let passengers embark wherever they find them, including on highways and in the middle of an intersection. Be considerate to other drivers by not waving at a taxi where it is not safe to stop.

It is quite easy to get around towns by long-distance shared taxis. They are fast, sometimes scarily so, and they are cheap. 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). None of these will take you to tourist destinations, though, as those are almost always away from the larger settlements. For taxis that operate within a town it is expected that you, instead of waving at them, point into the direction you wish to travel.

A lot of companies offer affordable shuttle services between most towns like WindhoekSwakopmundWalvis BayTsumebOtjiwarongo etc. These services are perfectly safe but more expensive than taxis.

By bus

  • TransNamib. Operates air-conditioned buses (and trains) to destinations all over Namibia via their StarLine service.

By tour

Several tour companies operate in Namibia. Each is unique in services offered but most operate with safety in mind.

Talk

Major Indigenous languages include Oshiwambo, Herrero, Nama, Damara, various San languages, and Silozi.

English is the official language and is widely spoken. However, the majority of older Namibians (those educated before independence) speak English only as a third language; therefore, the standard is fairly poor. English is more widely spoken in the north, as it was adopted as a medium of instruction earlier than in the south. Older Namibians in the South are more likely to speak Afrikaans or German.

Afrikaans is spoken by many and is the first language of the Coloureds as well as the Afrikaners. English is spoken as a first language by the remaining English families, and German is spoken by the Namibians of German descent, who tend to be in WindhoekSwakopmund and various farms scattered through the country. German is one of the leading commercial languages as well. Portuguese is spoken by immigrants from Angola.

See

Namibia is a land of much natural beauty. To truly appreciate the country, you need to get out in the countryside, either on a tour or by renting a car, and take in the deserts, the mountains, the villages and all that that Namibia has to offer.

One of its most dominant features, and the one for which the country is named, is the Namib Desert that stretches for nearly a 1000 km along the Atlantic coast. As one of the oldest deserts in the world, its sand takes on a distinctive rust colour and it has some of the highest sand dunes in the world. Sossusvlei is the most accessible part of the desert and is a magical place with its towering dunes that shift hues as the sun rises and sets. Further south, near the South African border, is Fish River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world. Stretching for 160 km, it is reaches 27 km across at its widest and nearly 550 m down at its deepest. In the north of the country is the empty and mostly inaccessible Skeleton Coast National Park. It's a seemingly barren expanse of stone and sand famous for its fog and the number of shipwrecks along the coast.

Perhaps not as plentiful as neighbouring Botswana or South Africa, Namibia still has plenty of African wildlife to see. This includes some local subspecies, such as desert lions, desert elephants and the Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, which are adapted to the harsh desert climate. Grazing animals like gemsbok, ostrich and springbok are also common. Namibia's national parks are an excellent place to start and one of the most famous is Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia. The park surrounds the Etosha salt pan, which attracts animals, particularly in the drier winter months, because it is a source of water in a very dry land. Other notable spots to view wildlife are Waterberg Plateau Park, the parks of the Caprivi and the remote Kaokoland.

Namibia has a German influence from colonial times that is still reflected in some of its buildings. Windhoek has a number of interesting buildings like the Christuskirche, the train station and the castle-like Heinitzburg Hotel. Lüderitz is a colonial-era town with distinctive German Imperial and Art Nouveau styles. Nearby is the abandoned mining town of Kolmanskop. Once a thriving center for diamonds, the miners moved on and the sand dunes have moved in, but tours are still available.

Do

Buy

Money

The currency of the country is the Namibian dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" or "N$" (ISO currency code: NAD). It is divided into 100 cents.

Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland form the Southern African Common Monetary Area through which each country's currency is pegged 1:1 to the South African Rand (ZAR). Both the Namibian dollar and South African rand are legal tender in Namibia though change will usually be given in Namibian dollars.

Banks in Namibia will convert Namibian dollars for South African rand and vice versa without charge or paperwork. Since any bank or currency exchange outside Namibia (including other members of the Common Monetary Area) will charge a substantial service fee to change currency, it is advisable to make use of a Namibian Bank before leaving the country.

It is also advisable to carry proof (for example, ATM receipts) that money you are taking out of the country is money that you brought into the country in the first place.

Current official exchange rates are available from the Namibian Central Bank

Automated teller machines are available in all towns and villages. Be advised, though, that not everything on the Namibian map is a settlement. "Red drum" in Kunene Region is just that, a red drum, and "Sossusvlei" is a clay pan, not a village. And has no ATM, of course. It is best to use only teller machines that are inside a mall or other building. Always be careful to make sure no one is watching you enter your PIN, and be vigilant about typical scams (e.g. machines that seem to eat your card and won't give it back after you enter the PIN).

The cross-border money transfer facilities are limited and expensive, with one of the poorest currency buying-and-selling rates, because government does not want the money to be sent out of the country. There are only a few Western Union Money Transfer offices in Namibia.

Shopping

Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to bargain.

In most towns you will be approached by many locals to buy souvenirs, when this happens a 'no thanks' will usually suffice and they will leave you alone. It is common to haggle. Try to buy as much as possible from small shops instead of bigger ones—it's the best way to help the poor local population. Please do not buy high-quality ware like cell phones or safari gear from mobile vendors. They often trade in contraband, and obtaining such goods may get you into trouble.

Diamonds

Namibia is home to some of the most productive diamond mines in the world, and since all mines are owned by a government-de Beers partnership, prices in Namibia are generally quite lower than in the Western world, where monopolies control the prices. Most large towns in Namibia have stores that sell diamonds.

Eat

Namibians have a very high intake of meat.

  • If visiting Windhoek, you will find local and international cuisine in the many diverse restaurants and cafes. Pretty much anything you want, you will find there.
  • Fruits and vegetables that you will find across Namibia include apples, oranges, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and spinach. Also fairly common are peanuts, beans, rice, millet, corn, bread, and pasta. Many of these foods are imported and therefore relatively expensive, in addition to being limited due to seasonal availability.

Drink

Namibia's nightclubs are always happening and always open late (pretty much until the last person leaves). They are mostly located in bigger cities: WindhoekSwakopmund and Oshakati. There are not many bars, though there is very good beer, and there are a lot of shebeens. The flagship beer of Namibia is Windhoek Lager, an easy-drinking filtered beer, not dissimilar to many German brews.

Sleep

Work

It is extremely difficult for foreigners to get work permits in Namibia. With over 51% unemployment, the government is not enthusiastic about letting people in who would take jobs from Namibians. All semi-skilled and unskilled positions must be unconditionally filled by local Namibians. It is possible to get a work permit to volunteer, though this requires going through the same drawn out process as the normal work permit.

An employee's salary is normally paid in Namibian dollars and income tax (maximum rate is 37% and is based on different income slabs) is deducted by the employer. The capital city of Windhoek is ranked 150th overall among the most expensive places in the world for expatriates to live.

Stay safe

Namibia is a peaceful country and is not involved in any wars. Since the end of the Angolan civil war in May 2002, the violence that spilled over into northeastern Namibia is no longer an issue.

Namibia does, however, have a relatively high crime rate. Be careful around ATMs. For foreigners, it is not prudent to walk or ride taxis alone after sunset. Pickpockets can be a problem. No local will carry a bag while walking, and for thieves the bag is the token to make out who is a tourist and who isn't. Stuff all possessions into your trousers' pockets. Lately, there are many armed robberies reported. For home security, electric fences are installed in almost every house in Windhoek.

Most reported robberies take place just outside of the city centre. The police report that taxi drivers are often involved: they spot vulnerable tourists and coordinate by cell phoning the robbers. Take these warnings in context; if you are alert and take some common sense precautions, you should have no problems. Never be specific when asked where you stay; "in town" or "at some B&B" is sufficient for all good-faith conversations and doesn't disclose your intended route.

Travellers should have no problem visiting the townships, but do not visit the townships alone unless you are familiar with the area. If you have been travelling in Southern Africa for a few months, you probably know what you are doing.

Namibia has a serious problem with driving under the influence of alcohol. The problem is aggravated because most people consider it no problem. When driving or walking on weekend evenings, be especially alert.

Stay healthy

The HIV infection rate in Namibia is about 25%.

Namibia's medical system is modern and capable of attending to whatever needs you may have. Staff are well trained and so HIV transmission in hospitals is not an issue. This applies to government and private hospitals alike, though line-ups are often shorter at private hospitals, and there have been cases of incorrect diagnosis in government hospitals.

The northern part of Namibia is in a malaria-risk zone, so consult a doctor before leaving, and take appropriate malaria precautions when travelling in these areas.

Namibia's water supply is usually safe to drink, except where labelled otherwise. Campsites next to rivers often get their water directly from the river, so do not drink it!

Having said all this, make sure you consult a physician specializing in health issues of Southern Africa, as well as things like the Centre for Disease Control web page. Make sure you satisfy yourself of the safety of anything you're getting into.

Respect

Namibians are very proud of their country. It is a well developed country (albeit still a developing nation) with all the modern amenities and technologies. Namibians have been exposed to a surprisingly wide variety of peoples during the United Nations supervising of the elections, as well as from various volunteer organizations. They are not offended by Westerners wearing shorts, nor by women wearing pants. It is not uncommon to see Afrikaners with thick, knee-high socks (keeps snakes from getting a good bite) and shorts walking about. It is customary when greeting someone to ask them how they're doing. It's a simple exchange where each person asks "How are you?" (or the local version "Howzit?") and responds with a correspondingly short answer, and then proceed with whatever your business is about. It's a good idea to do this at tourist info booths, in markets, when getting into taxis, even in shops in Windhoek (though it's normally not done in some of the bigger stores in the malls).

Connect

By phone

Namibia's country code is 264. Each city or region has a two-digit area code. When calling long distance within Namibia, prefix the area code with a '0'. Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa. There are Internet cafes in all major towns, and hostels often have access as well.

Go next

South Africa and Botswana are two obvious places to consider going next.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Peace in Angola has improved the security situation along the Namibia-Angola border. However, you should exercise caution when travelling to this area (including the region of Kavango in the northeast and the western half of the Caprivi region) due to the risk of banditry. If you intend to cross into Angola, only do so at official border crossing areas.

You should contact the Consulate of Canada in Windhoek for the latest security information.

Crime

Petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse snatching is prevalent. Vehicle theft and break-ins occur. Violent crime such as muggings and robberies targeting foreigners has increased, particularly in Windhoek. Remain alert to your surroundings, ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure, and avoid the townships and remote areas after dark. Vehicle doors should be kept locked and windows shut to deter carjackings and theft. Keep valuables out of sight. There have been reports of thefts from vehicles at service stations.

You should be alert when travelling in Namibia and be cautious of persons ostensibly looking for assistance next to roads in remote areas. Unsuspecting tourists have been victims of armed attacks.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations are rare and are concentrated in Windhoek. They can disrupt traffic and business. You should exercise caution and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.

Landmines

Be aware of the presence of landmines in the border area from Katwitwi (a village on the Okavango River in western Kavango region) to Kongola town (Caprivi region).

Road travel

Traffic drives on the left. Careful driving is particularly important at night and on rural roads, many of which are gravel with sloping sand shoulders.  Road conditions are generally good, but much of the country is desert and overland travel takes considerable time. Sand roads become very slippery when wet. Turning right on a red light is not permitted. Excessive speeds and animals on the roadway pose hazards. Emergency and roadside assistance is unreliable or non-existent outside Windhoek. Overland travel via the Trans-Caprivi Highway between Rundu and Katima Mulilo should be undertaken during daylight hours only.

Road travel to desert areas should be undertaken with sufficient water and fuel supplies and two spare tires. Travel by convoy if you plan to go to the desert.

Avoid hitchhiking, as drivers may be intoxicated or reckless, vehicles may be poorly maintained, and the incidence of single-vehicle rollover accidents is high. Avoid stopping at roadside rest stops, where robberies have been known to occur.

Public transportation

Buses and taxis operate in the capital. Public transportation is limited outside Windhoek. There have been reports of foreigners being robbed by taxi drivers. The Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (NABTA) has taken steps to regulate taxi drivers by allocating registration numbers (one letter of the alphabet followed by a two-digit number). Use registered taxis only, displaying the NABTA logo, or arrange for a taxi through a reputable hotel.

Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Fraud

Cases of attempted fraud are frequently reported in this country. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Since 2008, there have been reports of credit card copying in some hotels and lodges. When paying by credit card, keep your card in view at all times. Be extra vigilant at automated banking machines (ABMs), as criminals may attempt to distract you or offer assistance with the aim of stealing your money. Don’t accept any offers of assistance and cancel your transaction if you become suspicious.

General safety information

When visiting parks and game reserves, remain with your group and observe all local or park regulations and instructions given by tour guides, as wild animals pose risks. Potentially dangerous areas may lack fences and warning signs.

You should dress conservatively.

Carry a copy of your identification and your visa with you at all times.

Emergency services

The emergency number in Windhoek is 211 111. If calling from a mobile phone, dial 061 211 111.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Southern Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southern Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Southern Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, chikungunya, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Southern Africa, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are relatively modern, particularly in the capital. However, well-equipped facilities are rarely available in smaller towns. Upfront payment is generally required, even if you have medical insurance. Ensure that your insurance policy covers all the activities that you plan to undertake, particularly in the case of extreme sports.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Diamonds and other protected resources should be purchased from licensed shops. If you are convicted of illegal dealings in diamonds, you could face heavy fines, up to US$20,000, or five years in prison. The purchase and export of other protected resources, such as elephant ivory, may be subject to restrictions.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences.

Do not photograph military sites or government buildings. Ask permission before taking photographs.

Original Canadian driver’s licences in English are accepted. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended. If hiring a car, pay particular attention to the insurance coverage provided. Take out fully comprehensive insurance on any hired vehicle.

It is against the law to use a cellular telephone while driving or to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A charge of culpable homicide can be made against a driver involved in an accident resulting in death.

Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation standards very different from those in Canada. The Government of Namibia does not require that public buildings be accessible, and some ministries are not wheelchair accessible. The government does require that all new government buildings include ramps. Some street corners in Windhoek have special signal crossings for the visually impaired.

Money

The currency is the Namibian dollar (NAD). The South African rand (ZAR) is also accepted. Major credit cards are accepted and most ABMs are linked to international networks.

Climate

The dry season extends from March to October, and the rainy season extends from November to February. Unpaved roads may become impassable during the rainy season. You should follow regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

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