What you should know when visiting Namibia
You must be in possession of a valid passport (valid for at least six months after the date of entry) – A return return bus or plane ticket may also be required. Entry for tourists is permitted for a maximum of 90 days. Business visitors can stay for up to 30 days, with a possible extension on application to the Ministry of Home Affairs in Windhoek.
Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Namibia: Angola, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Citizens of countries not on the list, should contact their local Namibian embassy or consulate. The Ministry of Home Affairs in Windhoek can be contacted about visas or health certificates (only an issue if you come from or have recently visited a country where yellow fever is endemic).
Visitors are not required to pay import duty on personal effects, such as clothing, sports equipment, cameras and jewellery. Trophy hunters are required to obtain a temporary import permit for their rifles. Handguns and rifles with magazines exceeding a 5-round capacity are not allowed to be imported.
Travelling to Namibia:
Visitors are entitled to a VAT refund for goods purchased for over N$250. Keep the tax invoices for goods you wish to claim for and present them at the relevant office at the border post. Only the Ariamsvlei and Noordoewer, as well as Hosea Katako International Airport have these facilities. A refund cheque will be issued in South Africa Rands.
There is no longer a passenger rail service between Namibia and South Africa.
By Air: Walvis Bay Airport is located 15km east of the town and 45km North-East of Swakopmund. Hosea Katako International Airport is situated about 40 km outside of Windhoek. International flights are available between Windhoek and Frankfurt, London, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Maun and Luanda. Contact your local travel advisor for the best way to reach Namibia.
By Road: It is easy to drive yourself into Namibia from South Africa, or any one of it’s other neighbors. The most convenient international bus service into Namibia runs from Cape Town and Victoria Falls. There is also service from Johannesburg. A valid driving license from any country is accepted, as long as it is easily legible to the English speaking authorities.
Namibia’s roads are very good, with primary routes paved, and secondary routes of well-graded gravel. An all-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary except on tertiary roads and the Skeleton Coast. Driving at night is very dangerous because there is a lot of wildlife on the roads. Traffic drives on the left and seat belts should be worn. The speed limits are 60 km/h in towns and cities, 120 km/h on the main, tarred roads between towns and 80 km/h on gravel roads.
Summer time: GMT + 2 hours from the 1st Sunday in September to the 1st Sunday in April. Winter time: GMT + 1 hour from the 1st Sunday in April to the 1st Sunday in September.
220 volts AC, 50hz. Outlets are of the round three-pin type.
The Namibian sun can be deadly (literally). Wear a hat, sunglasses and copious amounts of sunblock. Red tourists are a common site in Namibia! This is especially important at the coastal areas, where the sun is much fiercer than it seems – even when it’s overcast. You have been warned.
Practice common sense and good hygiene and you should be fine. Never drink water from rivers or pools unless its an emergency – and even then only after it has been boiled or purified (tap water is safe to drink). Namibia has good doctors and intensive care facilities, as well as rescue and evacuation services. It is recommended that visitors obtain insurance cover before they arrive.
The Namibian Dollar is permanently pegged at 1:1 with the SA Rand. Rands are also legal tender anywhere in Namibia. N$10, N$20, N$50, N$100 and N$200 banknotes are issued, as well as 5c, 10c, 50c, N$1 and N$5 coins.
Foreign Currency can be converted into Namibian dollars at commercial banks and at bureau de change. Banking hours are from 09:00 to 15:30 on weekdays and from 08:30 until 11:00 on Saturdays. Travellers’ cheques are easily exchanged for cash at any bank.
Banks in Namibia will convert Namibian Dollars for South African Rands and vice versa without charge or paperwork. Since any bank or currency exchange outside Namibia (including other members of the Common Monetary Area) will charge a substantial service fee to change currency, it is advisable to make use of a Namibian bank if you are leaving Namibia for South Africa.
Major credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club) are accepted for most goods and services. They can also be used to withdraw cash from ATMs, which are available in most towns. Credit Cards are not accepted at fuel stations – only Petrocard and Autocard. Some only accept cash.
It is also advisable to carry proof (for example ATM receipts) that money you are taking out of the country is money that you brought into the country in the first place.
Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to barter.
Namibia’s climatic variations correspond roughly to its geographical subdivisions. In the arid central Namib Desert, summer daytime temperatures may climb to over 40°C, but can fall to below freezing during the night. Rainfall is heaviest in the north-east, which enjoys a subtropical climate, and reaches over 600mm annually along the Okavango River. The northern and interior regions experience ‘little rains’ between October and December, while the main stormy period occurs from January to April.
The weather is pleasant for most of the year, though visitors from colder countries may find the heat in the summer very uncomfortable (the coast is cooler than the interior in the summer and warmer in the winter). Namibia receives an average of about 300 days of sunshine per year. Swakopmund generally experience cooler weather in September and October, remember to pack enough warm clothes.
English is the official language and is widely spoken. However the majority of older Namibians (those educated before independence) only speak English as a third language, and therefore the standard is fairly poor.
Afrikaans is spoken by many. German is also spoken by a large number of people of German descent, though they tend to be mostly in Windhoek, Swakopmund and various farms scattered through the country. There are also eleven ‘recognized’ languages in Namibia, as well as others that have too few speakers to be officially recognized.
Staying in touch:
Namibia’s country code is +264. Each city or region has a three-digit area code, the area code for Swakopmund is (0)64. Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa.
There are Internet cafés in most towns. Most accommodation will have an Internet service as well. There is also a high speed mobile Internet service in the larger cities and towns. The local cellphone operators will be able to help you with this.
Namibia has two GSM cellular phone operators, MTC and Cell One and both offer prepaid options. Starter packs and airtime vouchers are readily available at most stores. They have international agreements with most countries.
You will find many different and interesting cuisine on your Namibian trip. Except for at a few specialty establishments, most restaurants in Namibia tend to lean towards the European pallet, with a slight bias towards German dishes and seafood. Most people will find something that they like on any restaurant menu and kitchens are at least as hygienic as your average European establishment, so you do not have to worry about food poisoning when eating out. Prices are also very usually very reasonable compared to most western nations. There are also many local delicacies which are worth trying, the favorite being biltong, a kind of dried, preserved meat.
Namibian biltong is considered to be the best in the world.
Namibians love meat, and most dishes will include meat. Namibian beef is considered to be some of the best in the world, with many other interesting meats also available in some restaurants, such as game (usually kudu or oryx), ostrich and crocodile, together with the usual mutton and pork. There is also usually a vegetarian section on the menu as well as several seafood dishes.
Most towns have large, modern and well stocked supermarkets where you will find fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of canned foods, pasta, rice, bread, etc. Most of this is imported from South Africa and prices are reasonable. There are also many excellent fast food places (though mostly in the larger cities).
Namibia’s tap water is generally safe to drink, although it may taste a bit metallic if it has been piped from far away. Natural sources should be purified, though water from underground springs and dry riverbeds seldom causes any problems.
A reasonable amount of vigilance should ensure that your trip goes smoothly. Crime is not unknown in Namibia, but to a large extent, it is nowhere as big a problem as in, for example, any big city in Europe or the United States. Murder and other forms of violent crime is relatively rare and the biggest thing one should be on the look-out for is simple and unsophisticated theft (smash-and-grab, etc). Try not to look too much like a tourist or a soft target and don’t carry too much cash on you.