Namibia is a vast and beautiful country that is easily accessed via South Africa. It’s also a quiet and calm country – until the sun sets and the party animals come out! (I know – I grew up there!)
But before you can enjoy your first sundowner it’s important to get to your destination safely and it’s not always easy to do that without a decent Namibian road map.
1. Get an Old School Paper Map
“Why not use Google maps?” you may ask? Well – because there is no, to extremely poor, internet coverage for 80% of the country.
Data reception is good within the larger towns, however, once you’re 10kms out, it disappears to an unusable level; even if you’re using a Namibian SIM card. This means you’ll need to rely on preparation over modern convenience. This means a good, old fashioned paper map.
I recommend getting one in your home city at a travel shop, at the Springbok cafe in Springbok or at your lodge’s curio shop. We bought ours from the AA in Cavendish in May 2023. It was from 2018 though so if you can get a map POST pandemic, do that.
If you’re handling with satellite navigation, that’s great. We had a Garmin in our car as well, but the paper map is the most reliable.
2. Don’t Rely on Lodge Internet
Most lodges have wifi for their guests to use, however, they tend to be in the general reception or dining area and not in your hotel rooms. The amount of data is also heavily limited per day (100mb) and low speed. In June 2023, my iPhone didn’t sync for 2 weeks even though I had wifi as most accommodation areas and a Namibian SIM card.
It’s also common for foreign guests to FaceTime home which “sucks up” all the bandwidth. This means accessing maps is usually only possible late at night once everyone has gone to bed (after 10pm).
3. Road Type (B, C or D) and Condition is Vital
Namibia’s general rule of thumb is for roads labelled B – it’s a highway. C is likely a smaller tarred or gravel road in good condition. And if it’s a D road, expect the worst!
Google maps do NOT currently indicate road type, which is an issue due to:
- Restricted areas – not all roads are accessible to the public, such as the Sperregebiet.
- Sand roads – Some roads can only be used by highly experienced off-road drivers.
- Untarred roads – Many roads are not tarred so you want to know ahead of time how much gravel driving you will need to do (clue: a lot!).
Most of the time Google suggests gravel roads as they’re the quickest. However, if you’re visiting in a car that is not a 4×4, we suggest taking the tarred roads as it’s far more comfortable, safer, takes nearly the same amount of time and it’s what the locals do too.
In June 2023 we followed Google maps and took less safe and rougher roads than if we’d had gone to the same destination on a tarred road.
4. Check The Direction After Every Stop
We missed an exit due to a number of factors and only realised 80kms later! Be sure to double check you’re going in the right directly shortly after every stop as the road signs are small and can be easily missed.
5. Trust Local Knowledge
Relying on local knowledge, once you get to your lodges, can be really helpful. We had an instant where our road of choice was far shorter (according to the map), but when we asked the local guide he said it was an incredibly quiet road – which isn’t recommended due to breakdowns.
The B1 from Noordower to Etosha
If you’re staying on the B1 all the way from Cape Town to Windhoek, you mostly won’t go wrong as it’s a straight road. But if you’re taking ANY other turn offs to other locations, it’s best to prepare yourself with a decent road map.
We hope that you have the most amazing road trip to Namibia! If you’re looking for a road map idea, check out our Namibia self-drive tour map from 2018. Happy travels and before you leave, “Got the passports?”