|Currency||Namibian dollar (NAD); South African rand (ZAR)|
|Population||2,030,692 (July 2006 est.)|
|Time zone||UTC +1|
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 and gained independence in 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. 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)
The panhandle in the north-east of the country. With two major rivers, the Caprivi is one of the few areas of Namibia that has water.
North of the Ugab river mouth to the border with Angola.
Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Ugab river mouth.
South of the Tropic of Capricorn.
- 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.
- 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.
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, ☎ , fax: +264 (0)61 22-3817.
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 Southern 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, London, 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), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)65 26-4616.
- Ruacana, ☎ , fax: +264 (0)65 27-0010.
- Buitepos (Mamuno), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)62 56-0418. On the Trans-Kalahari-Highway, connecting the B6 and A2 between Gobabis and Ghanzi
- Mhembo (Shakawe), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)66 25-9902.
- Araimsvlei (Naroegas), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)63 28-0058. Connecting the B3 and N14 between Karasburg and Upington
- Verloorsdrift (Onseepkaans), ☎ . Connecting the C10 and R358 between Karasburg and Pofadder
- Noordoewer (Vioolsdrift), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)63 29-7021. Connecting the B1 and N7 between Keetmanshoop and Springbok
- Oranjemund (Alexander Bay), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)63 23-3483.
- Wenela (Sesheke), ☎ , fax: +264 (0)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.
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.
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 its 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), ☎ (00264) 61-227103, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Car rentals in Namibia.
- Kalahari car hire (Car hire Windhoek), 109 Daan Bekker Street, Windhoek, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- CABS Car hire Namibia (Car hire Windhoek), 282 Independence Ave, Windhoek, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Windhoek Car Hire (Windhoek Car hire), 124 Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo Street, Windhoek, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Thrifty Car Rental, ☎ . Offers 24 hour car rental service for a scenic drive through Namibia
- AAA Car Hire, ☎ , fax: +264 61 244558, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sedan, 4WD and bus rentals in Namibia.
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). Do good research before hand about what the different pricing is, as taxi drivers might overcharge tourists who do not know what the standard fares are between and in towns. Bargaining is standard practice. Care must be taken when taking the taxi's, especially long distance drivers as they are involved in a lot of accidents on the longer roads. Allot of companies offer affordable shuttle services between most towns like Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Tsumeb, Otjiwarongo etc.
- 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-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 (0)61 298-2032, fax: +264 (0)61 298-2495, e-mail: paxservices@transNamib.com.na.
Other rail services operating in the country are:
- Desert Express, ☎ , fax: +264 (0)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 Bay, Swakopmund and Etosha National Park. Buses are used to transport visitors from train stations to the various sights.
- Westwing, ☎ , fax: +264 (61) 232778, e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
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 Windhoek, Swakopmund and various farms scattered through the country. German is one of the leading commercial languages as well. Portuguese is spoken by immigrants from Angola.
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.
Namibia (along with Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland) is a member of the Southern African Common Monetary Area and as such the Namibian Dollar (NAD) is pegged 1:1 to the South African Rand (ZAR). Both the Namibian Dollar and South African Rand is 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 Windhoek, Swakopmund, Luderitz, Tsumeb, and other towns and cities. 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).
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.
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 no Western Union Money Transfer offices in Namibia.
Namibians have a very high intake of meat.
- Fruits and vegetables that you will find in Namibia include avocados, bananas, onions, oranges, pineapples, kiwi fruit, potatoes, and celery. Also fairly common are peanuts, beans, rice, couscous, millet, tomatoes, corn, bread, and pasta. Many of these foods are imported and therefore relatively expensive, in addition to being limited due to seasonal availability.
- 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 here.
Namibia's nightclubs are always happening and always open late (pretty much until the last person leaves). They are mostly located in bigger cities: Windhoek, Swakopmund 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.
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. Its Capital city, Windhoek is currently ranked 150 overall, most expensive place in the world for expatriates to live.
Namibia is a peaceful country and is not involved in any wars. With 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 men, it is not prudent to walk or ride taxis alone in Windhoek or Oshakati after midnight. For women, it is not prudent after 9PM Pickpockets can be a problem. Lately, there are many armed robberies reported; in most cases, tourists get robbed of belongings carried with them in a bag. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well.