With its well-developed infrastructure, some of the best tourist facilities in Africa and an impressive list of breathtaking natural wonders, touring Namibia is truly a pleasure. Visit the capital of Windhoek and the lovely coastal town of Swakopmund to discover remnants of the country’s German influence, reflected in the architecture, culture, cuisine and the annual Oktoberfest celebrations. To properly appreciate this extraordinary country, you will have to venture out of the cities to explore the remarkable natural landscapes Namibia has to offer. These include: the impressive Fish River Canyon Park; the vast Etosha National Park teeming with local subspecies, such as desert lions, desert elephants and the Hartmann's Mountain Zebra; the hauntingly beautiful Kalahari Desert; and of course the Namib Desert stretching for nearly 1000 km along the magnificent Atlantic coastline. Namibia is an ideal destination for travellers seeking an unforgettable African experience in a uniquely beautiful untamed wilderness.
• Only single entry visas can be obtained from an embassy. Multiple entry visas must be applied for at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
• Visas are valid up to three months from date of issue for stays of up to three months from date of entry. Extensions for a further three months are available from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Windhoek.
• Passport valid for more than six months after departure from Namibia
• Two passport-size colour photographs
• Completed visa application form
• Return or onward ticket, or proof of accommodation
Visas are NOT required for nationals of the following countries:
• New Zealand
• Russian Federation
• South Africa
• United Kingdom
The vaccinations you need depend on which country you are travelling to. You should make an appointment with your GP or practice nurse to discuss where you are travelling to, when (what season) and for how long.
The government of Namibia requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.
While every effort has been made to ensure that the visa and vaccination information is correct, we will not be held liable for any incorrect information outlined; please consult the relevant authorities.
Banking and Currency
Namibia uses the Namibian Dollar (N$) this is linked on a one to one exchange with the South African Rand. The Rand is legal tender in Namibia, but the N$ cannot be used in South Africa.
If you are wishing to purchase currency before arriving in Namibia, it is easiest to buy Rand as the Namibian Dollar is seldom available in banks outside of Namibia.
Banks are found in most towns, and are generally open from 09h00 to 15h30 on weekdays and 08h30 to 11h00 on Saturdays. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. Most of them offer foreign exchange services - with cash, bank and credit cards.
You can also obtain cash from many of the ATMs. Several international banks have branches in main city centres. Always advise your bank that you are travelling outside of the country as they might block your purchases if they have not been informed.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Public transport in Namibia is geared towards the needs of the local populace, and is confined to main roads between major population centres. Although cheap and reliable, it is of little use to the traveller as most of Namibia’s tourist attractions lie off the beaten track.
It is easy to travel around Namibia by car, and a 2WD vehicle is perfectly adaquate for most journeys. Although, we strongly recommend a vehicle with high ground clearance. However, long distances, poor mobile phone coverage outside of main towns and infrequent petrol stations that only accept cash mean that planning ahead is vital.
There are major airlines that fly into Windhoek and Swakopmund. Other destinations are reachable by car or charter flight.
Namibians drive on the left and all signposts are in English. Seat belts must be worn at all times and talking in a mobile phone while driving is prohibited. The general speed limit is 120km/h on tarred roads outside of towns and 100km/h on gravel roads. In built up areas, the speed limit is 60km/h.
Health and Medical Information
Due to the hot dry climate Namibia is virtually free of tropical diseases. Visitors should however take care of the following:
A bite from an infected Anopheles mosquito can transmit microscopic blood parasites resulting in malaria. While malaria is found mainly in the north of the country, cases have been reported in the central region and occasionally in the south. Malaria can be a serious and fatal disease without prompt treatment. You can reduce the risk of malaria by using prophylactics (which should be started before arriving in Namibia and under your doctor’s guidance) and by following these simple procedures:
Wear long sleeves and long trousers. Avoid wearing dark colours, which attract mosquitoes
Apply mosquito repellents to exposed skin. Remember that repellents must be reapplied on a regular basis to offer optimum protection.
Where possible sleep under a mosquito net
Insect repellents of high quality can be purchased in Namibia. Should any of the symptoms of malaria, such as fever, rigours (shaking), headaches, backache, diarrhoea and/or vomiting be experienced, it is extremely important to obtain professional help as soon as possible for proper diagnosis (a blood test) and prompt treatment. Symptoms can surface as soon as ten days and as long as eight weeks after being bitten. If any flu like symptoms are experienced once you return home seek immediate medical attention and advise your doctor that you have recently visited a malaria area.
This disease is caused by a parasite, which lives in slow flowing water. Fortunately, it is only travellers to the Caprivi and Kavango, who need be aware of bilharzia. Avoid drinking, swimming or washing in rivers in the extreme north, especially in areas, where there is a lot of human habitation.
This is one of the most common problems in Namibia, especially in the hot summer months. Because of the high evaporation rate one seldom notices water loss – your sweat evaporates almost immediately! To avoid dehydration, try to drink three litres of water a day. Fizzy drinks (eg: Coca Cola) and beer DO NOT re-hydrate you! Early warning signs are a dull, throbbing headache and unusual tiredness.
Tap water is safe to drink throughout the country, except for isolated rural areas, where the consumption of filtered or bottled water is recommended.
The dry climate and the height above sea level often cause nose bleeds for the first few days after arrival.
SNAKES, SCORPIONS & SPIDERS
Although we have many different snakes in Namibia, they are seldom seen. The great majority of snakes are timid and move out of your path long before you see them. When walking in the bush wear good walking boots, preferable with thick socks covering the ankles. When walking in long grass be sure to check your legs and clothes for grass ticks – especially in the rainy season
Scorpions and spiders are also seldom seen. They are more active in the rainy season, during the cooler evening and early morning hours. The best way to avoid being stung is to wear shoes. If by chance you encounter a scorpion or spider in your room, please ask your host to have it removed. Do not leave your shoes/boots outside at night – these provide convenient places for scorpions and spiders to hole up in – not to mention the fact that Jackals have an insatiable appetite for shoes of all makes and sizes!
Wear a hat and sunscreen at all times. Never go walking without a supply of water – even if on a short walk. Keep a supply of water and some fruit or biscuits in your vehicle at all times.
Namibia is a peaceful, democratic country and it is safe to travel throughout the country.
Generally Namibia is relatively crime free. However, as in any other place in the world, there are undesirable elements. The following precautions can be taken to ensure a safe and pleasant stay:
- Always keep your vehicle locked and the alarm system activated.
- Do not leave valuables in your car, especially not in full view. If need be, lock your bags out of sight in the boot.
- Be on the alert for handbag snatchers and pick pockets.
- Make sure that the numbers of your travellers cheques are on your receipt and that this is kept in a safe place – separate from your cheques.
- Make copies of your travel documents and keep these in a safe place - separate from the original documents.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Traditional Namibian cuisine is rarely served and so the food at restaurants tends to be European in style and is, generally, of a very high standard.
Namibia is very meat-orientated, and many menu options will feature steaks from various animals. However, there is usually a vegetarian and seafood section offered by most camps and restaurants.
In the supermarkets you'll find pre-wrapped fresh fruit and vegetables (though the more remote the areas you visit, the smaller your choice), and plenty of canned foods, pasta, rice, bread, etc. Most of this is imported from South Africa.
The water in Namibia's main towns is generally safe to drink, though it may taste a little metallic if it has been piped for miles. Natural sources should usually be purified, though water from underground springs and dry riverbeds seldom causes any problems. However, filtered and bottled water are readily available in most towns and all camps, lodges and hotels.
Climate and Weather
Partially covered by the Namib Desert, one of the world's driest deserts, Namibia's climate is generally very dry and pleasant – it's fine to visit all year round. Namibia only receives a fraction of the rain experienced by countries further east. Between about December to March some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localised, afternoon thunderstorms. These are more common in the centre and east of the country, and more unusual in the desert.
April and especially May are often lovely months in Namibia. Increasingly dry, with a real freshness in the air, and much greenery in the landscape; at this time the air is clear and largely free from dust.
From June to August Namibia cools down and dries out more; nights can become cold, dropping below freezing in some desert areas. As the landscape dries so the game in the north of the country gravitates more to waterholes, and is more easily seen by visitors. By September and October it warms up again; game-viewing in most areas is at its best, although there's often a lot of dust around and the vegetation has lost its vibrancy.
November is a highly variable month. Sometimes the hot, dry weather will continue, at other times the sky will fill with clouds and threaten to rain – but if you're lucky enough to witness the first rains of the season, you'll never forget the drama.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Namibians have a somewhat relaxed attitude to dress codes. A jacket and tie is very unusual. In fact, long trousers and a shirt with buttons are often quite adequate for a formal occasion or work wear. A pair of sensible shoes, jeans and a t-shirt is recommended.
During the day it is generally hot, so pack light weight loose fitting clothes in natural fabrics, such linen or cotton, that will keep you cool and are easy to wash and dry.
Long sleeved shirts and long trousers will protect your against mosquitoes at night.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Current is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles per second. A three-point round-pin adapter plug should be brought for your electrical appliances. Such adapters are also available at major airports.
The National Flag is a symbol of our struggle for national unity.
It symbolises peace, unity and a common loyalty to Namibia.
The SUN symbolises life and energy.
The GOLD represents warmth and the colour of our plains and the Namib Desert.
The BLUE symbolises the Namibia sky, the Atlantic Ocean, our marine resources and the importance of rain and water.
The RED represents the Namibian people, their heroism and their determination to build a future of equal opportunity for all.
The WHITE refers to peace and unity.
The GREEN symbolises Namibia’s vegetation and agricultural.
NAMIBIA land of the brave
Freedom fight we have won
Glory to their bravery
Whose blood waters our freedom
We give our love and loyalty
Together in unity
Contrasting beautiful Namibia
Namibia our country
Beloved land of savannahs
Hold high the banner of liberty
Namibia our country
We love thee
THE PEOPLE OF NAMIBIA
THE BUSHMEN (SAN)
There are approximately 35 000 Bushmen in Namibia. Also referred to as the San, these hunter-gatherers are the earliest known inhabitants of Namibia. The Bushmen occupy only remote areas in eastern Namibia and the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. The wealth of Bushmen rock paintings and engravings found in mountains and hills throughout Namibia are proof of their former habitation of many parts of the country, the oldest of which dates back 28 000 years. Examples are the famous White Lady painting of the Brandberg and the rich treasure house of rock engravings at Twyfelfontein.
Approximately 86 000 people live in the Caprivi (known as Caprivians), on the north-eastern extension of Namibia which borders on Angola, Zambia and Botswana. Most Caprivians are subsistence farmers who make their living on the banks of the Zambezi, Kwando, Linyanti and Chobe rivers. In addition to fishing and hunting, they keep cattle and cultivate the land. When the Zambezi and Chobe rivers come down in flood, more than half of Eastern Caprivi may be under water. During this period the Caprivians use their mokoros (dugout canoes) to traverse the routes normally utilised by trucks and pedestrians.
Like the Basters, Namibia's Coloured community has its origins in the Cape Province of South Africa, although a large percentage of descendants are from local intermixing. The Coloureds are genetically very similar to the Basters and they also speak Afrikaans as a home language. While a small group of Coloureds practise stock farming in the south of the country, most of them live in towns such as Windhoek, Keetmanshoop, Lüderitz, Kalkveld and Karasburg. A fairly large community lives in Walvis Bay, where they are fishermen. The Coloureds are relatively well educated and are found in a wide range of professions such as the civil service, education and the building trade.
While there are only about 117 000 Damara in Namibia, they belong to one of the oldest cultural groups in the country. Today many Damara work as farm workers, in mines or as teachers, clerics and officials in urban centres. Some of Namibia's most eloquent politicians are Damara. In 1973 an area of approximately 4.7 million hectares was proclaimed as Damaraland, with Khorixas as the administrative capital. Today only a quarter of the total Damara population lives within the boundaries of this region, which became part of the Erongo Region after independence.
An ancient tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralists, many of whom still live and dress according to ancient traditions, the Himba live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are tall, slender and statuesque people, characterised especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The homes of the Himba are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung.
The Herero are pastoral cattle-breeding people who migrated to Namibia several centuries ago. After inhabiting Kaokoland for some 200 years, a large number of Herero migrated further south and then eastwards, eventually establishing themselves in the northern-central areas of the country. Today the Herero numbers over 130 000. Despite the suppression of their traditional culture, confiscation of tribal lands and the restrictions of labour laws, the remaining Herero have managed to keep their bonds of family life, tribal solidarity and national consciousness alive. The annual Herero Festival demonstrates this on Maharero Day in August when various units of paramilitary organisations parade before their leaders in full dress through the streets of Okahandja.
Forming the border between Namibia and Angola for more than 400 km is the Okavango River, lifeline of the Kavango people. An estimated 183 000 Kavango make a living from fishing, tending their cattle and cultivating sorghum, millet and maize. Closely related to the Owambo, the Kavango also originate from the large lakes of East Africa. The traditional economy in Kavango is based on a combination of horticulture and animal husbandry. Today thousands of young Kavangos work as migratory labourers on farms, in mines and in urban centres.
The only true descendants of the Khoikhoi in Namibia are the Nama, whose ancestors originally lived north and south of the Orange River. The Nama have much in common with the Bushmen, sharing their linguistic roots and to some extent their features. Numbering approximately 117 000, the Nama consist of thirteen Nama tribes or groups. Nama have a natural talent for music, poetry and prose. Nama women are highly skilled in sewing of which Kaross floor rugs or blankets of sewn skins of domestic animals or antelopes are a speciality.
Owambo is a collective name for a number of tribes living in central northern Namibia and southern Angola. Four of the tribes live in the Kunene Province in southern Angola and eight in northern Namibia. The latter form the largest language group in the country.
Numbering approximately 913 000, they represent just under 51% of Namibia's population. The Owambo practise a mixed economy of agriculture and animal husbandry and today’s workforces in the mining and fishing industries consist primarily of Owambo. The Owambo have always played an active role in politics and Namibia's ruling party, SWAPO is led President Sam Nujoma, the first president of independent Namibia.
THE REHOBOTH BASTERS
The Rehoboth Basters originate from the first European settlers to the Cape, who came into contact with the indigenous Khoisan people and bore children with mixed blood origins called "coloureds" or "bastards". In 1868 a group of some 90 Baster families moved to Namibia from the Cape, eventually settling at the hot-water springs called Rehoboth. Today the Baster community consists of approximately 72 000 people. Their home language is Afrikaans and at their own request they are registered as Rehoboth Basters. While they are traditionally stock and crop farmers, today many of them are involved in other sectors of the community, especially the building trade.
Described by anthropologists as the modern descendants of the oldest population group in Namibia, the Topnaars are a hardy group of Nama people who have lived on the banks of the Kuiseb River for many years. Belonging to the Khoikhoi people, they speak the Nama language with its guttural clicks and high musical pitch.
NewNumbering approximately 7 800, the Tswana are the smallest cultural group in Namibia. They are related to the Tswana of Botswana and the northern Cape Province. Namibia's Tswana live in a triangle, with a line between Epukiro and Aminuis in the east as its base and extending to Walvis Bay, its vertex, in the west. Most Tswana, however, live in the Gobabis district, where they are involved in farming, many of them having bought farms north and south of the town.
About 98 000 Namibians of European descent currently live in Namibia, of whom approximately two-thirds speak Afrikaans, one quarter German and the rest mostly English and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese. The majority of Whites live in the urban, central and southern parts of the country. English was selected as Namibia's official language and Afrikaans, the common vernacular language, was retired to a secondary position after serving with German as one of three official languages for some 60 years. Most of Namibia's Whites are involved in commerce, manufacturing, farming, professional services and, to a diminishing extent, the civil service.