Travelling to Namibia
· Getting there
From Cape Town
The best route to Namibia from Cape Town is along the N7 highway via Springbok. Following this route one crosses the border between South Africa and Namibia at the Vioolsdrif border post.
Petrol and Diesel are available at most if not all towns along this route.
The most convenient spot to overnight on the route between Cape Town and Vioolsdrif is Springbok. There is accommodation available at the Springbok Lodge, The Springbok Hotel and the Masonic Hotel amongst others. There are also a couple of campsites both in Springbok and on its outskirts. Having investigated the campsite and caravan park on the N7 we found that it was just a glorified dust bowl and so opted to stay in the Springbok Hotel for the evening. A double room with on suite bathroom costs R202.00 for the evening (bed only) and is more than adequate. We have since been told that there is another campsite in Springbok which is much better situated. We did however not stay there and have no further details about it.
There is a new Travel and Visitors Centre in Springbok which has opened on its main road. The centre is a good place to stop on the way in to Springbok and provides excellent information about accommodation, camping and youth hostels. The Centre also serves light meals and breakfast and offers Internet and email facilities.
Good Places to dine in Springbok include Titbits (which serves great pizza) and the Springbok Lodge. There are also a whole host of take away places including Steers and KFC. Breakfast at the Springbok Hotel is a rather dismal affair so we tried the Travel Centre. We were very pleasantly surprised! We were treated to the most magnificent English breakfast for under R30.00 each.
The Trans Kalahari Highway has now been completed and provides a fully tarred route from South Africa to Namibia via Botswana. If one chooses to follow this route it is necessary to check on the entry requirements for Botswana.
It is necessary, on entry into Botswana, to pay a road levy at the South Africa / Botswana border. This levy costs 5 Botswana Pula or 10 South African Rand. Make sure that you have the correct amount available in either currency, as change may not be available. We made the mistake of obtaining our Botswana currency in 100 Pula denominations and the border officials were unable to provide us with change. As a result we had to scratch around for our last Rands to pay for the insurance. Once the insurance has been purchased a token is issued which must be retained as proof of purchase of the third party insurance.
Petrol and diesel would appear to be less readily available on this route. It is therefore necessary to obtain reliable information about the availability of fuel before setting out. We did not travel on this route and so cannot provide accurate information however we were warned that there is no fuel between Kang (Botswana) and the Buitepos border post a distance of about 400kms. The stretch between Kang and Gabarone is also about 350 kms and it is necessary to ensure that you have sufficient fuel before attempting the stretch.
· Travel Documents
South Africans travelling to Namibia must be in possession of valid passports. Citizens of South Africa do not require visas for entry into Namibia.
· Points of Entry / Border Posts
There are about 30 border posts operational in Namibia. They include the following:
Namibia / South Africa
Ariamsvlei /Naroegas 24 hours
Hohlweg / Noenieput 08:00 22:00
Klein Menasse / Rietfontein 08:00 18:00
Noordoewer / Vioolsdrif 24 hours
Oranjemund / Alexander Bay 08:00 17:00
Velloorsdrif / Onseepkans 08:00 22:00
Buitepos 07:00 19:00
Mohembo 06:00 18:00
Ngoma 07:00 18:00
There are also three border posts between Namibia and Angola and one between Namibia and Zambia.
It is not possible to cross the border between South Africa and Namibia through the Kalahari Gemsbok Park despite the fact that there is a road through the park that crosses the border at Mata Mata. The nearest border post on the South African side is the Klein Menasse post.
Namibia is in the Common Customs Area with South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. Vehicles and personal effects such as jewellery, clothes, binoculars, cameras and camping equipment may be imported temporarily into countries within the Common Customs Area without formality. There is consequently no need to obtain a transit permit or carnet before travelling by road into Namibia.
Visitors into the Common Customs Area are required to pay General Sales Tax (GST) and import duty on all items permanently imported into the area with the exception of the following:
· Wine to a maximum of 1 litre
· Spirits and other alcoholic beverages to a maximum of 1 litre
· Perfume to a maximum of 300 ml
· 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 250g of cigarettes or pipe tobacco
· Other new or used goods to the value of N$500.00
The border between Namibia and South Africa is actually one of the easiest to cross, as the officials seem quite unconcerned with customs formalities. Our vehicle was not inspected in any great detail save for a cursory investigation by a customs official into the back of our Land Rover to establish that the gear that we were carrying was no more than our personal camping gear.
For more information about Namibian customs regulations contact Customs and Excise, Private Bag 13185, Windhoek, Namibia. Tel (061) 209 9111 or Fax (061) 23 6454.
The Namibian national currency is the Namibian Dollar (N$) with 100 cents to the dollar. N$1 is equal to R1. The South African Rand is however still legal tender in Namibia. There is therefore no need to obtain Namibian Dollars before entering Namibia and it is possible to pay for everything in Rand.
· Third Party Insurance
The Namibian Third Party Insurance premium is built into the cost of fuel and so no additional charges are payable.
· Driving in Namibia
- The speed limit in Namibia is 120 kms per hour and traffic is left hand driven.
- The major routes are tarred these routes are usually designated with the letter B for instance the B1 route runs from the Vioolsdrif / Noordoewer border post via Keetmanshoop to Windhoek and then on as far as the Etosha National Park. The B2 route runs from Swakopmund to Okahandja and the B3 route from the Ariamsvlei border post to Grunau. These routes are in good condition.
- Most other roads are gravel of varying standards. Those designated with the letter C are usually gravel which is in relatively good condition. Roads designated with the letter D are district roads and are usually minor roads. These roads should be avoided as the gravel is not in good condition and driving is slow and taxing.
- The wearing of seatbelts in Namibia is compulsory.
- Driving at night should be avoided, as there may be animals both wild animals and farm animals on the roads.
- Because Namibia has experienced a lot of rain in recent months some of the gravel roads have been damaged and in some cases completely washed away. As a result, additional care needs to be taken on gravel and dirt roads and enquiries as to the condition of the roads need to be made before travelling into remote areas. Although it is recommended that you make enquiries before visiting remote areas the information obtained from officials of the Ministry of the Environment and Tourism offices (MET offices) is not always reliable. For instance, we were assured that Ai-Ais was open only to discover when we arrived there that it had been badly flooded and would, in all likelihood, be closed for the remainder of the season. We were also advised in Swakopmund that the Skeleton Coast National Park was open only to arrive there and to find that the Ugab river had flooded making access to the park impossible. We found that the most reliable source of travel information was other travellers.
- In the desert areas, especially near Luderitz, we found that there is quite a lot of fine, white sand that drifts over the road from the surrounding dunes. This makes driving hazardous and we found that we needed to put on our headlights and slow down quite considerably.
· Basic Break down and Repair Kit
We carry a lot of recovery gear, as we have to plan for every eventuality. Most of the kit is not necessary for a trip to Namibia, however, as the roads are in relatively good condition. The following are necessary however:
· Spare tyres we carry two properly inflated;
· A compressor this is particularly necessary in Namibia as there may be times that you need to travel through thick sand and will need to deflate and re-inflate your tyres;
· A tyre pressure gauge;
· A jack or high lift jack depending on the type of vehicle you are travelling in. Also make sure that your vehicle has a proper jacking point otherwise your high lift jack will not be much use;
· Correct size wheel spanners;
· Additional water both for you and your vehicle especially in the desert regions of Namibia where it can become very hot.
For more detail about kit see our kit list.
· Health Requirements
As from November 1997 the Minister of Health declared the areas of Grootfontein, Otijinene and Gobabis as high-risk malaria areas. In addition, northern Namibia including Etosha is a malaria endemic area. The Namibian government recommends that travellers to these areas take anti-malarial measures. There are various options in this regard. It is advisable that you consult your pharmacist or doctor in relation to the prophylactic options available as well as the dosage and side effects of such options. We would recommend that you contact one of the South African or British Airways Travel Clinics as they often have the most up to date information. They can be found in most of the larger centres. Some of the prophylactic measures on the market include the following:
· Larium a strong anti malarial drug that is estimated to be about 90% effective. Larium is taken once every 7 days and should be commenced well prior to entering a malaria area and for some time after returning from a malaria area. Larium is known to have some quite dire side effects including insomnia, paranoia, weird dreams etc and so is not for everyone! We would recommend that you do a trial run before purchasing the drug to see whether it produces any side effects. Larium is relatively inexpensive and is also known as Mefloquine.
· Doxycycline an anti malarial antibiotic which is estimated to be 90% effective. Doxycycline is taken every day and once again should be commenced well prior to entering a malaria area and should be continued after departure from a malaria area. Doxycycline does not have the same side effects as Larium but has been known to cause very sensitive skin. Also, as it is an antibiotic it counteracts the effect of oral contraceptives such as the Pill. Doxycycline is fairly expensive and comes in various forms. Should you wish to take Doxycycline we would recommend that you consult your doctor.
· Chloroquine and Proquanil a combination of anti malarial drugs which is estimated to be about 60% effective. One of the pills is taken weekly and the other daily. Neither of us opted for this combination Penny took Larium and Neville took Doxycycline so we do not have much personal experience of these drugs and would recommend that you consult your doctor. This is however the prophylactic combination that is recommended by both the Namibian and Botswanan governments,
Aside from anti malarial drugs you need to take plenty of tabard to try and avoid as many bites as possible. We used a couple of things that worked really well. They include the following:
· Tabard and Peaceful Sleep (only those lotions and insect repellents that contain Deet are recommended by the Travel Clinics);
· Citronella soap, candles and washing powder available at Outdoor Warehouse and Cape Union Mart;
· Baygon coils burned in a Coleman coil holder which prevents fire in your tent;
· Periphel available at Outdoor Warehouse or at Cape Union Mart a treatment which is sprayed onto your tent to keep the mozzies away;
· Bug ban(s) literally a type of flea collar for humans you wear it around your ankle or wrist to keep away the blood suckers;
It is also necessary to ensure that you wear long sleeves and long pants at dusk and dawn which are apparently the high-risk time for bites.
I must say that despite all our attempts to avoid being bitten we still picked up quite a number of bites! We had contemplated not taking anti malarial drugs but were happy that we had decided to do so as there was no way to successfully prevent being bitten. We also took along malaria pre-testing kits so that we could test ourselves regularly to check that we did not have malaria. These kits are manufactured by Macromed and can be obtained from a pharmacy or doctor. This brand of test kits is useful, as they do not have to be refrigerated. We also took a supply of the first treatment for malaria, Fansidar, so that we could dose ourselves if we got malaria. Fansidar must be obtained on prescription from your doctor.
It is important that if you have malaria that you take Fansidar and ensure that you are transported to a medical facility within 24 hours. This is relatively easy in Namibia as there are medical facilities in most of the larger centres. Some of the symptoms of malaria include flue symptoms, headaches, body aches and fever.
For more information on Malaria see our Medical Supplies section.
Swimming in Namibian rivers is not recommended. Not only is there a risk of being attacked by a hippo or croc but the rivers may contain bilharzias.
No other specific inoculations are necessary for entry into Namibia; however, vaccinations against cholera and yellow fever are at times required for Ovambo. We were vaccinated against both cholera and yellow fever, as we would be visiting other countries where these vaccinations are required.
Namibia has introduced daylight saving. Summer time (from the first Sunday in September until first Sunday in April) is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and Winter time is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
· Crayfish and Lobster Fishing/Angling
The Crayfish season is closed between 1 April and 31 October each year. Crayfishing during this period can lead to serious fines!
Fishing is good between Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour. Many of the fishing spots can however only be reached by driving the myriad of sand tracks along the beach and are accessible by 4-wheel drive only. Permits are necessary in some areas.
· General Tips
- Petrol Stations are available throughout Namibia. Both petrol and diesel is readily available at most petrol stations and most petrol stations are open 24 hours a day. Unleaded petrol is available in major towns. Most petrol stations accept Petro and Garage cards and cash but do not accept credit cards.
- Cell phone coverage is erratic but can be found in most major towns. We understand that the network only stretches as far as Rundu and is not in Katima Mullilo. The Namibian cell phone provider is known as MTC.
- Although we were advised that Namibian tap water was drinkable we filtered all our water through our British Birkfield water filter.
- Ice and firewood are available at most petrol stations and in most towns.
- We struggled to find fresh produce and bread in outlying areas although consumer goods such as canned goods and sugar etc were readily available.
- In both Windhoek and Swakopmund (and presumably other towns) the shops are closed between 13h00 and 14h00 for lunch hour.
- We were able to draw cash from Namibian ATM machines some of which were even connected to the Saswich network.
- Only rands and Namibian dollars are accepted - no foreign currency. We had no difficulty using our credit cards or finding Bureaux de Change to change currency and travellers cheques.
- No firearms other than hunting rifles with magazines exceeding a five round capacity may be brought into Namibia tourists arriving at border posts with revolvers or pistols will be required to leave them there.
- Vehicle Registration and licensing documents issued in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland are recognised in Namibia. Tourists must carry their vehicle registration documents proving ownership of the vehicle for production to authorities.
- A Police Clearance Certificate is required if a South African registered vehicle is taken via Namibia into Botswana this document can only be obtained in SA so dont leave home without it! We did and had to scrabble around in Springbok trying to convince the police there to issue us with one! Also if you intend selling your vehicle in Namibia you will require a police clearance certificate.
- We did not book any accommodation prior to our departure and found accommodation at all the national parks quite easily. We were however travelling out of season and were camping. Should you wish to stay in bungalows or rondavels it would be advisable to book. Bookings can be made through the Central Reservations Office (details below). There are various rules about cancellations etc but these can best be obtained from the Central Reservations Office.
· Important Telephone Numbers and Addresses
- To dial Namibia from South Africa the international code is 09264
- Central Reservations Office
Private Bag 13267, Windhoek
Tel (061) 236975/6/7/8 Fax (061) 224 900
Physical Address: Kaiserliches Landesvermessung, cnr John Meinert and Moltke Streets, Windhoek
- Namibian Wildlife Resorts Ltd
Private Bag 13378, Windhoek
Tel (061) 256446/7/8 Fax (061) 61 256715
- AA Namibia
P O Box 61, Windhoek, Namibia
Tel (061) 22 4201 and Fax (061) 22 2446
· Reliable Sources of Information
· AA South Africa we got excellent maps and brochures from the AA in South Africa. These are supplied free of charge to members of the AA.
· The Namibian Tourist Board
· Africa on a Shoestring, Lonely Planet
· Willie and Sandra Oliviers Guide to Namibia
The Caprivi Strip and Northern Namibia
We were advised by the Nambian Tourist Authorities not to visit the Caprivi Strip. We had originally thought that we would travel north from Etosha to the Caprivi strip, Popa Falls and the Kaudum National Park crossing into Botswana at Katima Mulilo. This is an established overland route as, aside from the fact that it is stunningly beautiful, it allows tourists to visit the Okovango Delta, the Caprivi and Etosha without having to travel great distances. When we enquired about the viability of this route however, we were advised not to venture along the route as it was unstable and unpredictable and there was a danger of being attacked by soldiers in the area. Late last year a French family that was on holiday in the area was attacked by unidentified soldiers carrying AK47 rifles. Their vehicle was stolen and looted, two members of the family were killed and two others badly injured. There have also been various raids on villages in the area. The problems would seem to have started when the Namibian Government allowed Jonas Savimbi to station troops on the Namibian side of the Namibian / Angolan border in order to continue their fight for independence against the Angolan Government. It would appear that these troops are undisciplined and opportunistic and since they have moved into the area a whole host of problems have arisen including attacks on tourists and raids on villages. Rather than risk our safety and losing our vehicle at such an early stage of the trip we elected to avoid the area and to travel south the Windhoek and to enter Botswana at the Mamuno / Buitepos border post.