Namibia travel guide
From the seemingly endless sand dunes of the Namib Desert to the tropical wetlands of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia is a country of epic landscapes, bountiful wildlife and few people. Its greatest assets are the rugged Namib and Kalahari deserts, which support a surprising diversity of fauna including rare black rhinos, cheetahs, elephants, springbok and vast flocks of ostriches.
Namibia can be a harsh and unforgiving land, and nowhere is this more evident than along the Skeleton Coast. A windswept wasteland of dark green scrub and calcified sand dunes, it is littered with the rusting carcases of ships washed ashore by the merciless Atlantic Ocean.
It’s not all hostile. The area is also home to the colourful Himba people whose love of elaborate hairdos and jewellery have made them one of the most photographed tribes in the world. Their home overlaps another of Namibia’s natural marvels, Etosha National Park, which boasts an abundance of wildlife: everything from the tiny Cape sparrow to the magnificent African elephant can be found here.
Towns and cities are few and far between in Namibia, thanks to its low population. Even the capital, Windhoek, is not much larger than a medium-sized British settlement. But the city’s lively nightlife, colonial architecture, thriving culinary scene and excellent beer make it a pleasant place to while away a few days – even if the town planners did make a habit of naming roads after dictators. Anyone fancy a stroll down Robert Mugabe Drive?
Namibia’s second city, Swakopmund, is lighter on the dictator nomenclature, but none the worse for it. The coastal town has a sunny charm that is all its own. Appearing like a mirage in the desert, the city is home to palm-fringed beaches, a gorgeous collection of colonial buildings and a sizeable German-speaking population.
And just outside the city lie the rusting remains of the Martin Luther, an abandoned steam locomotive that tried to tame this wild land and failed – a metaphor, surely.
824,292 sq km (318,261 sq miles).
2,513,981 (UN estimate 2016).
2.7 per sq km.
President Hage Geingob since 2015.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila since 2015.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Outlets are of the South African three-pin type (two small round pins over one larger round pin).
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Avoid driving outside towns at night as wildlife and stray livestock pose a serious hazard.
There is a growing level of violent street crime affecting foreign tourists, particularly in Windhoek.
If travelling along the Zambezi region, stick to the well-travelled routes.
You should carry identification with you at all times. Unless you need to have your passport with you for immigration purposes or passing through security checkpoints, leave it in your hotel safe and carry a photocopy for ID.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Namibia, attacks can’t be ruled out.
Most visits to Namibia are trouble-free.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Namibia, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Safety and security
Muggers in Windhoek often target foreign tourists. Attacks can take place even in busy city centre locations in broad daylight. Be alert to your surroundings if you are returning to your guest house or hotel, especially after dark.
Keep car doors locked and windows shut, especially in heavy traffic. Keep valuables off the seats and out of sight. Gangs sometimes try to gain entry to vehicles at busy intersections in Windhoek, including during the day. Theft from vehicles, particularly at service stations, is common. If possible don’t leave your vehicle unattended at fuel stops.
There have been reports of thefts from mail by Post Office workers in Namibia. Any valuable parcels or documents (eg bank and credit cards) should be sent by registered mail, and preferably by a reputable commercial courier company.
Don’t hail taxis from the street, particularly in Windhoek, as these have been involved in thefts from foreign tourists. Ask your hotel, guest house or tour operator to recommend a reputable taxi company. Don’t enter townships at night unless you are accompanied by someone with local knowledge.
Safeguard your valuables and cash. Use a hotel safe if possible. Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and cell phones out of sight. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place. Beware of pickpockets in town centres.
There have been cases of credit card skimming at some hotels and lodges around the country. When paying by credit card, keep the card in full view at all times and always check your statement carefully.
You can drive in Namibia using a UK photo driving licence. You must carry your licence at all times and produce it on request at the police check points leading in and out of Windhoek and other major towns and cities. If you hire a car, pay particular attention to the insurance cover provided. Most policies will not cover accidents that do not involve other vehicles or animals. Given the higher than normal probability of an accident on a gravel road because of its condition, you should take out fully comprehensive insurance on any hired vehicle. You are not allowed to use a mobile phone whilst driving.
There have been a number of fatal accidents on gravel/dirt roads. Don’t exceed 80kmh on gravel. Punctures are common. If possible, carry 2 spare tyres and plenty of water.
During the rainy season (normally January to April) many gravel roads deteriorate. Check with your destination on the local road conditions before setting off. Avoid driving at night outside towns as wildlife and stray livestock pose a serious hazard.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any adventure activities you plan to undertake (eg quad biking, dune boarding and hot air ballooning).
Local laws and customs
Drug taking and smuggling is an offence. Punishments can be severe.
It’s illegal to buy, sell, kill or capture any protected wild animal or trade its parts without a licence. Namibia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which bans trade in ivory and rhino horn. Anyone caught buying or trafficking these goods will be prosecuted and could receive a prison sentence or fine.
Homosexuality is tolerated but Windhoek’s only openly gay bar is regularly shut down by drug squad raids.
There are no formal rules limiting photography by tourists in Namibia, but some people have been detained for taking pictures of State House and properties where the President is residing. Parts of Namibia require a permit to enter (eg the Cape Cross Seal Colony) and you should check about photography when applying for permits. If the army or police are protecting a building or place, check before taking any photographs. If in doubt, don’t take pictures.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Although British nationals can enter Namibia for a holiday or private visit of up to 90 days without a visa, there have been cases where visitors have only been given permission to stay for periods much shorter than 90 days, sometimes as short as only 7 or 10 days. Before leaving the immigration desk in the airport arrivals hall, check that you have been given permission to stay in Namibia for the duration of your intended visit up to the maximum allowable of 90 days and that you have been given a correctly dated entry stamp by Namibian Immigration officials, as this will be checked on departure.
Overstaying the time granted or an incorrect or missing entry stamp could lead to detention, arrest and a fine.
If you intend to work (which includes volunteering) or stay in Namibia for a period of more than 90 days, you must get a visa from the Namibian High Commission in London before you travel.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Namibia and have at least 1 completely blank page for Namibian immigration to use. If you are also going to travel in South Africa, you should be aware that although South African authorities state they require 1 blank passport page for entry, some officials insist on 2 blank pages. If you plan to take this route, make sure you have a total of 3 blank pages.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK ETDs are valid for entry into, transit and exit from Namibia. Your ETD should be valid for a period of at least 6 months from the date of entry into Namibia.
Travelling with children via a South African airport
If you’re transiting through a South African airport with children, see our South Africa travel advice page for information and advice about the documents you’ll need to carry.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
There are good medical facilities in Windhoek. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Even with fully comprehensive travel insurance, private hospitals in Namibia may insist on proof of payment (cash or credit card) before starting treatment. They may also insist you pay up front, reclaiming from your insurer at a later date. Some travel insurance policies are not recognised by some Namibian hospitals, you should check with your provider if their product is accepted in Namibia before you travel and seek alternative coverage where necessary. Medical evacuation from remote areas can take time.
Cholera is known to occur in Namibia and an outbreak has been reported in the Kunene Region with additional cases reported in the Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, and Khomas Regions, including a small number of cases in the capital, Windhoek. For further information see NaTHNaC’s Information sheet.
Some people suffer skin problems and/or dehydration due to Namibia’s hot and dry climate. Make sure you carry a good supply of drinkable water.
The 2013 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimated that around 200,000 adults aged 15 or over in Namibia were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 13.3% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 211111 (in Windhoek) or 10111 (elsewhere) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Credit cards and Cirrus bankcards can be used in some Namibian cash machines although the charges for withdrawing cash can be expensive. The Namibian Dollar is tied to the South African Rand, which is also legal tender in Namibia.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.