Namibia’s wide open roads, stunning scenery and astonishing wildlife encounters make this southwest African country one of the best places in the world for a self-drive holiday. Having a car gives you the freedom to visit the places you choose at your own pace. Whether you opt for the staggering dunes of Sossusvlei, the haunting beauty of the Skeleton Coast or one of the country’s wildlife-filled national parks, there are a few things to consider when planning a self-drive safari in Namibia; here are our top ten tips to help with your planning.
Hire a 4x4 and bring all necessary paperwork
Most of the roads in Namibia can be navigated in a 2x4. However, a 4x4 gives a more comfortable ride on unsealed roads – not only does it give you a higher ground clearance, but it also handles the gravel roads better. Consider opting for a four-wheel drive if you’re after the most comfortable self-drive safari in Namibia.
For most self-drive trips to Namibia, there will be no need to obtain any official paperwork beforehand. However, you do of course need a driving license, so don’t forget to add this to your packing list. If it’s in English and you’re staying in Namibia for less than 90 days, you won’t need an international driving license. If it’s in another language, you will need to get an international one.
Slow down when passing other vehicles on gravel roads
Slow and steady wins the race during self-drive holidays in Namibia. Driving at speed along gravel roads can cause stones and small rocks to be flung up into the air, so be sure to kill your speed when approaching other vehicles, to avoid damage to their vehicle (as well as your own) and prevent harm to any pedestrians. It’s also best practice to check on anyone who has stopped on the side of the road, as they may be in need of assistance (although be sure to check for nearby wildlife before getting out of your car to help them!).
Don’t venture off-road
While roads are graded regularly, there is very rarely a wide shoulder. Sides of the roads can be very sandy, or rocky, making it easy to get stuck or to damage your tyres.
Keep an eye on your tyres and know how to change them
The roads in Namibia are not very tyre friendly, meaning unfortunately punctures are not uncommon. It’s wise to check your tyres when you stop and know how to change them in case you have cause to. Carrying a second spare wheel is also not a bad idea.
Look out for animals on the road
Despite its harsh climate, Namibia is home to an abundance of both free-ranging wildlife and domestic animals, such as sheep, donkeys and goats. Always remain alert during your self-drive safari in Namibia and slow right down if there are any animals in the road; some animals may be oblivious to oncoming traffic and take their time to cross the road (especially donkeys and goats).
Don’t drive at night
Roads in Namibia are often poorly lit, while those outside of cities and towns are rarely lit at all. To add to these already not ideal driving conditions, many animals are active at night – particularly during the balmy summer months – and are difficult to spot in the dark. For example, kudu have a habit of jumping into headlights. So for these reasons, we strongly advise to not drive at night and to plan a trip of daytime drives.
Hire a GPS
Most car hire companies in Namibia will include a GPS as standard, but be sure to check that the rental agreement you’re signing does contain one. Mobile phone reception can be patchy in more remote areas, so a GPS will act as a much more reliable tool for getting you from A to B.
Allow plenty of time between destinations
Distances may seem doable when planning your trip – but you need to ensure you allow ample time for getting between places. If Google Maps estimates that a journey will take five hours, we suggest factoring in seven. Road conditions can be unpredictable; some parts may be smooth and easy going, allowing for decent speeds, while other sections could be badly corrugated and you’ll have to halve your speed. You’ll also want to leave time for photo stops and loo and lunch breaks along the way.
Have a large stash of snacks and loads of water in the car
One of the beautiful things about Namibia is the lack of human habitation; the country is a patchwork of wide open spaces, far-reaching landscapes and uninterrupted natural beauty. Towns and villages are few and far between. Hence, you will often find yourself in the middle of nowhere without any access to food or drink. To combat this, make sure to pack plenty of water and food to snack on while you’re on the road.
Always have enough petrol in the tank
As well as ensuring you keep yourselves fuelled with snacks, it’s also vital to make sure that the petrol tank of your car is always topped up. As a general rule, don’t let your tank drop below half full and fill up whenever you have the chance. Running out of fuel can really scupper your plans during self-drive safaris in Namibia; it could result in you having to drive to your next destination in the dark, which, as we mentioned, is something you should avoid.
Written by Luisa Watts