Getting around Namibia
Thanks to the vast distances involved, travelling by air is often the most practical way to get around. Air Namibia (www.airnamibia.com.na) offers flights between Windhoek and most major centres from Hosea Kutako and Eros Airports. Companies offering charter flights to Namibian cities as well as safari destinations such as Sossusvlei and Damaraland include Skeleton Coast Fly-in Safaris (www.skeletoncoastsafaris.com), Wilderness Air (www.wilderness-air.com), Desert Air (www.desertair.com.na) and African Profile Safaris (www.profilenamibia.com).
Namibia boasts some of the best roads in Africa, and many are tarmac. Distance presents the main challenge with as much as three hours between towns on main roads and more when you venture further into the wilderness. Petrol stations are few and far between, so top up on fuel whenever possible and keep a large bottle of emergency water in the car in case of breakdown. Always keep a charged mobile phone handy. Bush roads are either gravel or dirt and require a 4x4 vehicle. Some bisect Namibia’s network of dried out rivers and as a result, flood during the rainy season. If travelling along the Caprivi Strip, stay on the tarred road and avoid travelling at night.
Roads are generally well maintained but away from the main highways surfaces are gravel or dirt, not tarmac.
There are 64,799km (40,266 miles) of road, of which 7,841km (4,872 miles) are tarred.
Most vehicles can use Namibia’s C classified roads, the majority of which are tarmac. Those which aren’t are known as D roads and will require a 4WD.
Cars and 4x4 vehicles, with or without camping equipment, can be hired for pick-up at Windhoek Airport. Vehicles can also be hired in Windhoek city centre and some other cities. Both major international and local firms are available.
Taxis are only commonly found in Windhoek. Most are ‘shared taxies’, which operate more like buses with multiple pick up and drop off points. Several private taxi companies operate in Windhoek and include Express Radio Taxis (tel: 239 739) and Swartz CA Taxi (tel: 215 412).
The Intercape Mainliner (www.intercape.co.za) operates scheduled services between Windhoek and Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Grootfontein, Rundu and Katima Mulilo. Only two items of baggage are allowed per person and fares include meals.
The minimum driving age is 23 years. The speed limit is 60kph (50mph) in built up areas (although it does go up to 80kph on some public roads), 100kph (62mph) on gravel roads and 120kph (75mph) on tarmac roads. Seat belts are compulsory, and the use of mobile phones when driving is illegal.
AAN (Automobile Association of Nambia) (061 224 201) is part of the international AA network.
A valid European, Australian or US driving licence is acceptable for up to 90 days but you will require an International Driving Permit for longer stays.
With the exception of its dedicated luxury services, rail travel in Namibia is not geared towards tourism: progress is slow, the network is limited and most trains run overnight. The main routes on the TransNamib passenger network (061 298 2032; www.transnamib.com.na) are between Windhoek and Keetmanshoop, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Tsumeb. First- and second-class carriages are available and light refreshments are offered on some services. On overnight voyages, seats in first-class compartments convert to four couchettes and those in second class to six couchettes. The luxury Desert Express (061 298 2600; www.desertexpress.com.na) runs between Swakopmund and Windhoek, a 20 hour journey which includes several stops to give travellers the opportunity to go on safari, see the Namib Desert, walk in the dunes and admire the stars. A three-course dinner is included, as well as overnight accommodation with ensuite showers.
The Northern Desert Express is a luxury service to Etosha National Park. Other tourist rail services include Rovos Rail (012 315 8242; www.rovos.co.za) which runs seven days trips each May from Pretoria to Swakopmund or vice versa, stopping at the Fish River Canyon and Etosha National Park en route.