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Namibia - Travel Essentials

 

Type of Holiday

Deciding what to include on a visit to Namibia will depend on your interests, time and budget. We can tailor make any itinerary to suit your exact requirements. We can also arrange for privately driven guided tours part mixed with private arrangements or even help you join a small group tour should you prefer not to remain independent whilst on holiday in this magnificent country.

The best way to explore Namibia is to self-drive. Hiring a car is really easy and the rates are fantastic! Petrol is cheap to the Pound, you drive on the same side of the road as you do in the UK and the roads are good conditions!

If you are short on time, and wish to pack as many different experiences or sights into your time, then the only option is to fly.

There are regular shared “seat in charter” flights linking the major sightseeing destinations, so this can easily be arranged, though it will have a big influence on the cost of your holidays. The advantage to flying is that you get to see some incredible landscapes from the air, with the most beautiful scenic flights being those along the Skeleton Coast.

Namibia is much bigger than people realise. Ideally, if electing to self-drive, you should set aside minimum 2 weeks on the ground and maybe even longer if you wish to include some more special extra’s into your trip.

Family Holidays to Namibia

Namibia offers plenty of options for exciting Family Holidays. Safari and exploring Namibia is a very visually stimulating country with spectacular landscapes, some amazing wildlife viewing and some diverse array of activities on offer for families which are fabulous fun.

A family driving around and exploring this incredible country is drawn closer together with the variety of amazing experiences possible for all ages to share: horse riding safari with sleep out, quad biking, exploring the worlds’ most incredible sand dunes, safari game drives, identifying ancient San (Bushman) rock art, kayaking, coastal exploratory drives, visit AfriCat Foundation which educates the visitor on the plight of the Cheetah and other wonderful experiences.

One thing you should however bear in mind is that given the driving distances and time spent travelling between places, for the uninitiated and younger members of the family, it can be quite arduous. Therefore I would say that it’s arguably more suitable for children 8yrs and older.

Wildlife & Nature

Whilst there are other countries in the region whom offer more intensive Big 5 game viewing, Namibia is still able to offer some wonderful wildlife experiences plus some highly specialised game viewing experiences found nowhere else in the world. The three most amazing wildlife experiences which puts Namibia near the top of the game viewing list is it’ desert safari experiences as well as opportunities to track on foot the endangered Black Rhino and also to search and follow the uniquely adapted Desert Elephant.

Etosha National Park offers you your classic game viewing experience where you may see a whole array of species close to and nearby to its waterholes. If you have never been on safari before, a visit to Etosha should be a priority, so you can get to see a wide range of beautiful creatures.

Following from that, in the dry Palmwag area which borders the Skeleton Coast Park, Kunene, Grootberg and Damaraland region will give you rare insights into the life of the rare Desert Elephants and endangered Black Rhino, the stunning Oryx antelope as well as Hyena, Lions and other uniquely adapted game to these dry conditions.

Further south in the region of the famous Sossusvlei dunes and Namib Nauklift Park and Namibrand Nature Reserve, you can again find some amazingly adapted species like the Oryx, various lizards as well as plant life who have adapted to the extreme environment in order to survive. These are your primary areas for viewing wildlife.

Apart from the wildlife on the land, the nutrient waters off the coast bring in seals, dolphins and whales at different times of year, and Swakopmund is your launch pad for such marine experiences.

Then finally, up in the far eastern section of the Caprivi Strip, you will find the Chobe River which acts as a natural boundary between Namibia and Botswana. You have some beautiful lodges along the river which can provide you with some wonderful wildlife encounters.

Culture & Heritage

The earliest inhabitants of Namibia were the San, also known as bushmen, a small number of whose descendants still survive in remote areas of the country living a traditional, nomadic lifestyle.

Initially the San lived in widespread groups of low population density, moving around frequently. They were always incredibly well adapted to their harsh environment, and the many skills which have been passed down through the generations are still relied upon today in a few of their remote settlements.

Over time the San came under pressure from Khoi-Khoi (Hottentot) groups, ancestors of the present day Nama tribes, who are thought to have moved into Namibia from the south.

The Khoi-Khoi relied on raising cattle rather than hunting for survival, and they were probably responsible for making the oldest pottery fragments found in the archaeological record. Many of the San were absorbed into the Khoi-Khoi way of life, and latter references are made to the 'KhoiSan' people, an amalgamation of the two original tribes.

There are opportunities in to visit and experience local San people and the colourful Himba tribe in action.

Self-Drive Namibia Holidays

Self-drive holidays to Namibia are a very popular, easy and affordable way to discover the natural beauty of Namibia.

Booking your self-drive Namibia holiday with us allows you the freedom to enjoy the open road and immerse yourself in this vast and remarkable country.

Depart at your leisure, stop when photo opportunities arise and meet the local people on a one to one basis.

Booking your Namibia self-dirve holiday with us means that you have the back-up and support of the most innovative and attentive 24/7 fly-drive & self-drive operator in the country.

With safety and comfort a priority on a self-drive in Namibia, we will always recommend a 4x4 vehicle. This gives you more ground clearance and is a tougher build of vehicle more suitable and practical for the terrain in Namibia.

Planning

The lodges you will stay in and the route you take will all be part of a carefully prepared and planned itinerary.

Drawing on our expertise, combined with your personal interests, preferences and budget, we can together plan the perfect Namibia self-drive itinerary to suit your interests and budget.

Support

Namibia, more than any other African nation, lends itself to self-drive holidays.

Namibia's roads, even the gravel ones, are well maintained and easy to navigate.

Our expert ground operator’s staff, based in Windhoek spend quality time with each of our guests, talking over the route, providing marked road maps, further information, advice and necessary vouchers.

We insist that clients take delivery of the hire vehicle in the presence of their staff, to double check everything and ensure the vehicles' perfect condition.

Also included are two spare tyres as standard and rentals incorporate the most inclusive insurance cover available.

Safety

To ensure peace of mind, our partner in Namibia will advise all lodges of our client's routing and estimated arrival time.

Should you be running late, the lodges immediately inform us.

Our specialist ground handler are also the only company to supply all our clients with a mobile phone pre-programmed with the direct number of each lodge plus our 24-emergency contact details.

Safety is at the fore of all our planning, but should something untowards happen, you'll find that your inclusive, first call EVAC medical evacuation and treatment policy will be there to help you.

Child Seats and Baby booster seat regulations do not meet the same strict criteria as they do here in the UK.

Sizes vary enormously according to demand and it may be that you are given a child seat that may be too small or too big for your child. If in doubt and you plan a lot of travelling, it may be worth considering bringing your own seats where you know your children may feel most comfortable and secure.

Top Tips for Self-Driving:

SPEED:

On any road surface other than tar, never exceed 80km/hour. Normal range is 60km – 80km/h

BREAKING ON DIRT ROADS:

Never break hard, especially going into a corner

SALT ROADS:

North of Swakop tend to dissolve in mist and get slippery

DUST:

It is advisable to always drive with your headlights on

DUSK/NIGHT:

Never drive on unlit gravel roads after dark

SAND ROADS:

Stop the car, engage 4x4, drive. Disengage after crossing.

ROAD SIGNS:

Observe road traffic signs, particularly those that indicate gentle or sharp curve ahead.

ANIMALS:

Always look out for animals, especially warthog on the side of the road

LIGHTS:

Always drive with your lights on.

TROPICAL DOWNPOURS:

Pull well off the road, keep lights on and wait.

RIVERS:

Ephemeral rivers spring up quickly, wait until the flow subsides.

TYRE PRESSURE:

Toyota 4x4 hi-lux double cab: Tar roads 2.2 bar, gravel roads 1.8 bar.

PUNCTURES:

Always use the safety triangle provided and find a flat place to change a tyre.

LEFT HAND SIDE:

We drive on the left hand side of the road.

SEAT BELTS:

The driver, as well as all passengers in the vehicle need to wear their seat belts.

DRIVE TIMES:

Ensure that daily average drive time don't exceed 5 hours.

FUEL:

Please carry enough cash to pay for your fuel as credit card payments are not accepted.

POLICE ROAD BLOCK:

Always stop. If fined for any offence, insist on a receipt.

Extra drivers, Tom-Toms/Sat Navs, Child Seats / Baby booster seats are not included in the car rental agreement and will need to be paid for.

Clothing

Neutral, muted colours such as khaki, dark green or beige ensure as little disturbance to wildlife as possible whilst on game drives or walks. White or bright colours are not advised and army camouflage uniforms or army hats are not recommended.

Photography & Binoculars

Bring plenty of memory cards and a spare camera battery as these items may not be available in some of the more remote areas of Namibia. A good zoom lens (minimum 200 mm) is essential for wildlife photography.

A good pair of binoculars will make all the difference to your safari. As a minimum I would recommend a 8 x 40 or 10 x 42 pair of binoculars and it is best if each person had their own pair so there are no arguments over whose turn it is to use them!

Recommended Packing

Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/shirts) for everyday wear, stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking), light waterproof jacket for summer, warm jumper/ fleece for winter, warm long trousers for winter, two sets of good casual clothes for evening dining where appropriate, towel, broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, plenty of memory cards & spare battery, binoculars, reliable torch, sleeping bag if camping. It is also worth noting that if you are travelling by light aircraft or as part of a guided safari, you should carry no more than 10-15kg of luggage in a soft bag for ease of packing.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory, it remains at your discretion, but it is always gratefully received. Here is a proposed recommended guide for you re tipping in South Africa:

Specialist guides and rangers – N$150.00 per guest per day. Given in one sum at the end of your safari on departure.

Trackers (if you have one when on safari) – N$100.00 per guest per day. Given in one sum at the end of your safari on departure.

Camp/Lodge staff – N$50.00 per guest per day. Usually there is a tip box in the main public areas, otherwise hand to the lodge management to distribute between staff members. Given at the end of your stay.

Drivers for transfers – N$25.00 per guest per day.

Porters – N$10.00 per porterage

Restaurant staff – usually the bill shows a service fee of 10% included. This is an acceptable amount.

Should you believe anyone has gone out their way to help you, or you have found them outstanding, then feel free to supplement their tip. The tipping they receive supplements their income enormously and is therefore always gratefully received. If you do decide to tip someone on the side, do this with some discretion.

Getting There

The best way to Windhoek, Namibia is to fly Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa. Options also exist via Frankfurt.

British Airways and South African Airways have direct non-stop services into Johannesburg from London Heathrow, most of them being overnight flights with an average flying time of 10½ hrs.

British Airways offer direct non-stop services into Cape Town with a flying time of 11½ hrs from London Heathrow.

From Johannesburg and Cape Town there are onward flights available on regional airlines, BA/Comair and South African Airways as well as their national carrier, Air Namibia.

If, you are travelling in neighbouring Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe there are flights on certain days a week between Maun and Windhoek and also between Victoria Falls and Windhoek, which opens up some wonderful multi centre holidays incorporating visits to Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana as well as

 Visas

Visitors from the UK, European Union and the USA can obtain tourist visas for up to 3 months at the border. Please contact us for details regarding your personal visa requirements.

Currency

The Namibian currency is linked one to one with the South African Rand. Each dollar is divided into 100 cents. The South Africa Rand (ZAR) is interchangeable with the Namibia dollar in Namibia and all Rand notes and coins are accepted.

However, the Namibia dollar is not accepted in South Africa! Namibian dollars are difficult to get hold of outside the country and it is easier to purchase cash in South African Rand before travelling.

US$ can be easily exchanged throughout the country, as can Euro and pounds sterling. Traveller’s cheques can also be changed in banks and most accommodation establishments accept credit cards, mainly Visa or Mastercard, although this should be checked before arrival.

Fuel can be purchased with credit cards, but cash is still the preferred method of payment. In the more remote areas they might not have credit card machines either.

Health & Safety

South Africa is a safe country for travelling if you follow the usual precautions and follow common sense. To see the latest travel advice we recommend the Foreign Office Travel Advisory website. Bear in mind that the FCO advice does tend to err on the side of caution, but nevertheless is a good guide to health and safety considerations if taken within context. For current information, please refer to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

South Africa is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your valuables unattended in the vehicles and always maintain eye contact and a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags.

In the major tourist areas, like any other country, there are pick-pockets whom operate so keep a lookout around you and never stay close to the road’s edge with a bag.

Keep any valuables home or if they do travel with you, keep them in a safe. If out and about with your camera, etc, try not to make yourself look like a target by showing your wealth and flashing any jewelry about the place.

Make sure you have travel insurance which covers the value of any personal items of real value.

In the cities, it is fine to drink tap water but when out in rural areas or on safari, you should ask first and if in doubt drink bottled mineral water where the seal is not broken. This is safe and available everywhere.

Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. In general, the biggest cause for upset tummy is dehydration, so please ensure you drink plenty of water each day. Up to 2 litres per person per day if the temperatures are in the 30’s or above.

Vaccinations

We aren't medical experts and prefer to leave medical advice to those more qualified. Some GP's will offer very good advice, but many will not be as up to date on travel health issues. The main vaccinations for travellers are usually available at GP surgeries.

We find MASTA Travel Clinic extremely good and very thorough and those looking at doing any amount of travelling in Southern Africa would do very well to contact the nearest MASTA clinic.

Bear in mind that many vaccinations need to be planned well in advance of travel.

As a general rule of thumb, anyone visiting Namibia should be up to date with their Hepatitis A and Typhoid jabs. If visiting a malaria area, we do recommend you take anti-malarial precautions.

Namibia is not a country which has Yellow Fever, however, should you be visiting any other neighbouring country or East African country where Yellow Fever is endemic, and then travel back to Namibia, even if only in transit, you will be required to show proof of you having a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Please check the Foreign Office for the latest requirements.

Tetanus and Rabies and Hepatitis B are recommended if you intend spending a prolonged period of time in the rural and wilderness areas where health and safety standards may not meet the standards you have at home.

The north of Namibia (Etosha National Park and the Caprivi Strip) is a malaria area and recommended prophylaxis should be taken. The remainder of the country poses practically no risk.

Your doctor can advise you on the best type for the area of travel and your personal requirements. However, taking prophylaxis will not guarantee that you will not contract malaria!

The best way to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry the parasite. Only the females of one species of mosquito (Anopheles) carry the tiny parasite, and the greatest incidence of malaria is in areas of high population where there are many people for the mosquito to bite and pass the parasite between.

Mosquitoes usually bite between sunset and sunrise, so make sure that you are covered up during this time! Wear loose fitting, long sleeved shirts and trousers, use a good insect repellent and sleep underneath a mosquito net or in a tent/ room sealed with netting.

If you do develop flu-like symptoms, or feel at all unwell, during your holiday or after your return home, you must make sure that your doctor knows that you have recently travelled in a malaria area.

Namibia's major private hospitals are of a good standard with clean and safe facilities. However, serious medical cases will be evacuated by air to South Africa where further facilities are available.

For this reason you must make sure that comprehensive travel insurance is taken out before you travel, this insurance should cover any medical expenses, air evacuation and repatriation if necessary.

Water

The water is safe to drink throughout the majority of Namibia. When visiting the remote areas purification tablets should be used, or bottled mineral water bought en-route.

Plenty of water must be drunk to prevent dehydration. We recommend 2-3 litres minimum, excluding beverages such as tea, coffee, juice and alcohol.

Dehydration is responsible for many emergency evacuations and can cause very serious problems, it is totally avoidable, so don't let this spoil your holiday!