Namibia

City Slicker’s Guide to Road Trip in Namibia

Hello City Slickers. Thinking of getting out of town and getting north? Great idea! We’ve just returned from a 2 week road trip to the land of the brave and can’t wait for you to visit yourself.

Namibia is a tough country. The landscape is tough, the animals are tough, the people are tough. But do you know who isn’t tough? Us! We drove from Cape Town to Etosha over a 2 week period and these are the things we learnt. We hope it helps any other soft city slicker’s like ourselves:

Border Stuff

There’s no point talking about anything else if you can’t actually get into Namibia! So let’s start there…

1. Compulsory Cross Border Charge Permit

When crossing into Namibia, the Road Fund Administration requires you to buy a vehicle permit. Called the “Republic of Namibia Cross Border Charge Permit”, you fill out a simple form (car reg., make, plate number, destination, chassis number), which is then printed onto a permit for the duration of your trip. It cost us R371.00 in our Nissan X Trail and is valid for 3 months from time of entry or expires the day you exit Namibia.

2. Vehicle Letter of Permission & Insurance

If you’re borrowing a car (for example, we used my Mom’s car) then you will need a letter of permission from the vehicle owner. If you you are not the owner of the car, you will be required to supply this letter in order to bring the vehicle into Namibia.

3. Letter of Insurance

You will also be required to prove the car is insured so ask the owner for the confirmation of insurance cover as well.

4. Compulsory ZA Sticker

If you’re travelling from South Africa to Namibia, it’s compulsory to have a ZA sticker on your car to prove you’re not importing the car into Namibia. Namibian residents are required to have a NAM sticker and South Africans are required to have a ZA sticker on their car. These can be purchased at your local travel shop or online at TakeaLot or Outdoor Warehouse for under R100.

5. What Can You Bring Over the Border?

Unfortunately, the Spar in Rosh Pinah has gone into liquidation so most residents are now shopping at the Shoprite in town. If you are wanting to bring items with you, please keep in mind:

  • Unlimited beer/ciders and wine
  • 2 liter spirits per person in vehicle.
  • No chicken, fish, milk, citrus/most fruits.

Car Stuff

1. 4×4 or Sedan

It’s not compulsory to have a 4×4 to road trip Namibia, however, we strongly recommend it. Not to actually use the 4×4 capabilities (although obviously some more experienced driver’s do), but for height (better game viewing) and comfort (lots of dirt roads).

We did do a road trip in our Corsa in 2018, check out the disaster that it was here. This time, we stuck to tar as much as possible. Here are a few places to visit that don’t require a bakkie:

  • Oranjemund
  • Luderitz
  • Mariental
  • Grootfontein
  • Waterberg
  • Windhoek
  • Omaruru
  • Okaukuejo in Etosha only (unless you get to Namutoni through the east gate).
  • Swakopmund and Walvis Bay
  • Tsumeb

2. Prepping the Car for a Comfortable Journey

Whenever we visit Namibia, we try to go as far north as quickly as possible as you spend a LOT of time driving north and directly into the sun. At our most northern part, we were about 3000 kms from Cape Town, so pretty far! It can get a bit tiring constantly sitting in the sun or dealing with the glare. To make your trip more comfortable, have this in the car:

  • Sunglasses with UV protection to cut down that insane glare.
  • A cap in case you want to actually block the light while napping.
  • A tube of tissues in the door’s cup holder – this was super handy!
  • Masking tape – to help stick your action camera to the windshield.
  • Cooler box – we brought sparkling water with us and also used it for cooldrinks.
  • Woolies bags – plastic bags aren’t allowed in the National parks so these were a good substitute.
  • Wet wipes – good to disinfect as you go along.

3. Drive With Your Headlights On

It’s Namibian law to have your headlights on while road tripping – even during the day. There are a number of road blocks on the way in and out of Windhoek and they will be checking this.

4. Where To Fill Up with Petrol

The petrol is Namibia is more affordable than in South Africa. Petrol is around R24 per litre in South Africa at the moment and R20 in Namibia. So use as little petrol in South Africa that you can, and fill up in Namibia as much as you can.

We use the Oranjemund or Noordoewer borders, which both have petrol stations nearby. Oranjemund has a brand new Fresh Shop petrol station on Industrial road, just after the road split into town. This is 9kms from the border. Noordoewer has both an Engen and a Shell garage just 3 kms from the Vioolsdrift borders.

Other places we used to fill up:

  • New Engen in Keetmanshoop (on the B1, not the old Engen in town).
  • Luderitz Engen (Shell currently being upgraded, use the Engen on the town entry road).
  • Shell at Mariental (has a Spur so you can get food and fill up).
  • Shell at Okahandja (We uses the Engen, but you have to pay R2 to use the loo and it’s not great, a lot of people loitering outside, but it’s there).
  • Engen Outjio (we filled up here to avoid filling up in Okaukuejo in Etosha).
  • Engen Tsumeb (we stopped for KFC at the mall as well).
  • Shell Rehoboth, however, the Shell Eco down the road has a Spar, may be better.

Technology Stuff

Where do we begin!! We’ll try to keep this short and purposeful…

1. Backing Up Your iPhone (iCloud)

Namibia’s internet reception is very poor, even if you have a Namibian SIM card. When in small towns or the city, it’s fine, however, there’s no 4G or 5G. LTE is their “best” speed. Long story short – my iPhone didn’t sync for 2 weeks even though I had a local SIM card. Bring your iPhone cable and laptop so you can dump your content (if you shoot on iPhone like I do) in the evening.

2. How To Get a Local Sim Card

In previous years I would buy a SIM from the Engen as soon as I crossed the border at Noordoewer. This is no longer possible as all SIM cards need to be registered in order to be activated.

We tried at the MTC at Keetmanshoop but the shop is tiny and queue is literally out the door. Our next attempt was at MTC Grove Mall in Windhoek where we had great help from the clerk.

All you need is your passport (any nationality) and to fill out their form. They will then issue your SIM cards and away you go. (I bought 2 x Aweh oh year 18 gigs, so 36 in total as I like to Instagram story.)

3. Drones (licenced and unlicenced)

It’s illegal to fly a drone anywhere in Namibia, even if you have a DJI that’s under the “licence requirement” level. No drones can be flown anywhere – without a permit. Unfortunately, getting a permit is difficult and we didn’t get it right.

It only costs R300 (non-refundable), but they require you to include a flight path which is obviously difficult to do if you’ve never been to the locations you want to visit. For example, we went to Hardap dam. We didn’t know what chalet number we would be in so how could we draw a flight path?

We saw lots of people flying drones and we’re pretty sure none of them have permits. I do find it upsetting as Europeans have a general “they’ll never catch me” attitude, which I don’t appreciate. (I say Europeans as the 2 occasions I confronted men about flying, they were Austrian and Dutch.)

If you do want to give it a go, head to the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority and scroll to the bottom of the page to “Our Top Downloads” and click on the RPAS link. This folder has 10 forms with instructions.

4. Spotify, Apps and Working Remotely

Spotify worked quite well once we’d inserted our Namibian SIM cards, however, it’s best to download playlists as it did go on and off quite a bit between towns.

This is the same for Google maps – don’t rely on it as it doesn’t work the whole way and definitely doesn’t work when you need it most! Instagram, also very sketchy due to how data heavy it is.

If you’re considering working remotely, be warned! The wifi at lodges isn’t good enough for you to sustain a proper working day, particularly if you have a lot of meetings, streaming or files to upload/download. If you’re working only on Google cloud, then you should be ok.

5. Sleep Apnea Machines

We lugged our EcoFlow all the way to Namibia and back and didn’t use it ONCE due to Namibia not having load shedding! Load shedding is the term for when the South African government turns of electricity each day due to a lack of supply. As long as you have a plug next to your bed, you will be absolutely fine to run your sleep apnea machine all night. If, however, you are planning on camping anywhere, definitely bring along your EcoFlow to ensure a perfect night’s sleep.

6. Extension cords or Multi plugs

We always travel with a multiplug with a slightly longer cable as most accommodation offerings do have plugs but not often enough to charge everything we need to charge (iPhones, cameras, drones, action cameras, laptops, smart watches, etc.). So bring a multiplug along for faster charging.

7. Apple Watch Cover

I bought an Apple Watch Cover the week before we left and I smashed my watch at the very first location. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea how it happened! But the cover saved me so I kept it on for the rest of the trip. Do not go to Namibia without a smart watch cover or protector!

Tech Things to Pack

  • iPhone cable to backup content onto Macbook Air/Pro.
  • Metal pin to open iPhone and switch out SIMs.
  • Smart watch cover.
  • PEN! We didn’t have one and it was a pain trying to resolve. Just carry a pen.
  • Action camera.
  • Masking tape – helps to stick the camera down since the car rattles a lot.
  • Tripods for time lapses – you’re gonna wanna shoot those stars!
  • PopSockets or a way to keep your phone on the dash.
  • Multiplug & multiple cables so you can charge quickly and in time for the next adventure.
  • Spare tripod camera clip – we lost ours which made our tripod redundant. Pack two!

Money Stuff

Apple Pay, SnapScan or Bank Cards?

We use Apple Pay everywhere we are in South Africa. From tapping at petrol stations to bars to restaurants, the less we can carry with us – the better. Unfortunately, apple pay doesn’t seem available in Namibia. We required a physical card to be slot into the machines quite often so be sure to bring a physical bank card.

Card Charges

Discovery Bank said we didn’t need to inform them that we would be travelling, which is great – until we got home and saw all the high bank charges for tapping our cards! We spent R180 on 6 transactions. FNB was a bit better but be warned, tapping isn’t for free in Namibia.

Banks

Banks are closed on Sundays across the country. We didn’t need a bank but if you do – don’t try a Sunday.

International Bank Payments Ahead of Time

Because I was wary about having banking issues, I paid for all our accommodation ahead of time via FNB’s international payments on their app. This cost R30 per transaction and may add up to be more cost effective than tapping.

Cash Withdrawals

We withdrew cash at Springbok FNB in order to have Rands, instead of withdrawing in Namibia for Namibian dollars. This is because Rands can be used in Namibia, but Namibian dollars can’t be used in South Africa (so we didn’t want to have a lot of N$ on us).

SADC Discount Cards

To date, we’ve used 2 discount cards. Being South African, both NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) and Gondwana have membership cards that offer huge discounts. (NWR also extends this to international residents.)

For NWR, the discounts for a couple (NamLeisure Plus) include:

Namibians (Fee: R400)

  • Accommodation Discount: 50%
  • Meal & Activity Discounts: 25%

SADC (Fee: R800)

  • Accommodation Discount: 25%
  • Meal & Activity Discounts: 25%

International Guests (R1600)

  • Accommodation Discount: 10%
  • Meal and Activity Discounts: 25%

For Gondwana Cards, discounts include:

Namibians (R300 per adult, R150 per child)

  • Accommodation Discount: 50% (bed and breakfast); excl. Geisterschlucht Cabin
  • Camping Discount: 50%; excl. Klein-Aus Vista campsite. 50% Discount on Camping2Go
  • Meal and Activity Discount: 25%

South Africans (Fee: R300 per adult, R150 per child)

  • Accommodation Discount: 40% (bed and breakfast); excl. Geisterschlucht Cabin
  • Camping Discount: 40%; excl. Klein-Aus Vista campsite. 40% Discount on Camping2Go
  • Meal and Activity Discount: 25%

The Gondwana Cards last up to 5 years while the NWR cards only last 1 year.

Medical Stuff

From what we’ve gathered, Namibia seems to be great in an emergency, but not much more than that. In saying that, I’m referring to car crash emergency, not allergic reaction emergency. Most places to stay do not have 24 hour reception and you’re pretty remote even if they do.

We absolutely recommend travelling with an Epipen if you have any mild allergic reactions. This is also because allergic reactions tend to increase in severity over time. Be prepared as you will not have access to emergency medical care in most locations.

We also packed the following meds, which are all available over the counter in South Africa:

  • Iliadin Nasal Spray (this was a life saver with all the dust!).
  • Allergex (to stop any potential post nasal drip from allergies).
  • GenPain or Myprodol (hangovers and the glare from driving).
  • Imodium (upset tummy).
  • ACC 200 (good for coughs).
  • Corenza C (good for flu).
  • Peaceful Sleep (we didn’t really have any mozzie problems but always good to have).
  • Berocca (good to keep the vitamins up in a veggie low country).
  • Gaviscon sachets (didn’t use, but good to have).
  • Cataflam or Dictaflam (period cramps).

What to Wear in Namibia

I can whole-heartedly say that I TOTALLY overpacked on this last trip and it was a real pain! I packed way too many shoes, way too many jackets, way too many swimming costumes, the list goes on. So here’s what I’d recommend you bring along if you’re averaging a 2 week trip:

  • One Warm Jacket. I packed a big and a small jacket and I only ended up using the small one as my hoodies were enough to keep me warm. Check the season but one is enough.
  • 3 Pairs of Shoes: 1 x plakkies (Birkenstocks for breakfast and chilling) 1 x pair of takkies (for hiking or adventuring) and 1 x “city shoes” (I brought white sneakers for dinners and I also packed black boots that I never used once).
  • 2 Hoodies & 4 jerseys: I packed a lot of hoodies as Cape Town was freezing, but actually ended up using my light weight jersey’s more. So I’d go for 4 jerseys and 2 hoodies at most.
  • 1 Swimming Costume: I packed about 4 because I thought I was an influencer for a second and lost my mind. 1 is fine.
  • 1 Hat & 1 Beanie: I packed a cap for game drives and I packed a beanie for game watching at night. (In truth I packed like 5 beanies and again, they were never used.)
  • 3 x Trousers: 1 x jeans/smart pants for dinner, 2 x tracksuit pants. I like to be comfortable when I drive so I wore a lot of tracksuit pants. Then I like to wear something “decent” for dinner to make it feel a bit more special.
  • 3 x Pairs of Shorts: These are so you can alternate between locations as you’ll likely wear this while driving.
  • 1 x Dress & 1 x Skirt: I just need a chance of pace from time to time so I wore a skirt for lunch and a dress in Luderitz. Neither are really required, if I’m honest, but don’t pack more than this.
  • 6 x Tops: This is the best way to keep things fresh. 1 top for every 2 or days or so is fine. I actually bought a vest in Ai-Ais as I didn’t pack enough tops to alternate.
  • Socks: I packed a LOT of socks, as I left stormy Cape Town, and then barely used them! 1 pair (for dinner) every 2 days should suffice.
  • Underwear for each day: If you’re not lazy you can pack less but I did 1 load of laundry mid way and never ran out.
  • 3 Bras: Minimum of 3 bras: one for light colours, one for dark colours, one for exercising.

Service in Namibia

I absolutely love the Namibian people. They are so polite, humble and peaceful. They are not, however, forthcoming. This is a major cultural difference between South Africans and Namibians. I have seen this difference mentioned on various forums – and often misunderstood as a lack of willingness.

In South Africa, general service peoples will always offer to go the extra mile. Can they wash your window? Check your tyre pressure? Carry your bags? Buy cigarettes for you across the road. It’s very normal and common for South Africans to go the extra mile to earn a tip.

This isn’t common in Namibia. In Namibia, service peoples are happy to fulfill their mandate, but the “hustle” culture isn’t prevalent. Often they are quite nonchalant about even receiving a tip at petrol stations, etc. which visitors can find frustrating or seen as a lack of willingness to help.

On the contrary, if you do have extra requests, they will quietly fulfill your request. Never have I had a “no” from a Namibian and, in fact, they are often happy to talk about themselves if you enquire.

Leaving Namibia and Re-Entering South Africa

1. How Much Biltong Can You Export to South Africa?

If you don’t have the Closwa Factory Shop on your to-do list, add it now! Namibia’s tasty dried meats are the perfect road trip snack and you don’t want to miss grabbing some on your way through – particularly at the low prices the factory shop offers.

But how much can you bring back home? It’s obviously limitless while in Namibia but you need to be mindful of bringing back meat into South Africa. Here are the legal limits:

Without a Permit

  • Fresh meat: 25kgs per person
  • Maximum Weight: 75 kgs per car
  • Plus 10kgs of biltong/droewors per car

With a Permit

As per the permit specifications.

Our Favourite Places To Stop in Namibia

Whenever we go to Namibia, we always include these 3 places to stop:

  • Barrells in Luderitz. Icon restaurant and pub.
  • Closwa biltong shop in Okahandja. Hugely discounted biltong.

Bonus Posts

If you’re looking for more detailed information, try our other posts:

We really hope this helps you prepare for the phenomenally beautiful country that Namibia is. As we said, it’s a tough country, but worth every bumpy road. Have fun!

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  1. […] I only used it for WhatsApp (don’t watch any videos) and to use online banking to buy more airtime so that my roaming would work. On how to get a SIM card, check out our City Slicker’s Guide to Road Trip Namibia. […]

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