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Driving in Namibia

Introduction: You are on this page to find information about driving in Namibia. Please take a bit of friendly advice and do some homework before you begin your adventuring. It’s worth the time and effort. Watching a constant trail of self drive tourists wandering haphazardly across Namibia, missing most of what there was to see, or not knowing what they’d seen was the motivating force for the development of the Namibia-1on1 group of sites.

1. Cross Border Fees
2. Insurance
3. Rules of the Road
4. Use of Headlights During Daylight Hours
5. Touring by Car or 4X4 Vehicle
6. Costs involved when renting vehicles in Namibia
7. Animal Warning Road Signs
8. Tarred Roads
9. Gravel Roads
10. Salt Roads
11. Beware of Super-Links
12. Dry Season Bush Fires
13. Supplies For The Journey
14. About 4×4 Driving
15. One For The Road

Driving in Namibia:
Foreign registered vehicles: You Must be in possession of Proof of Ownership of The Vehicle Owner / License / Plus Police Clearance Certificate. The Chassis, Engine Number, Trailer Number, and License Details will be checked by the Police from the country you are leaving and also by the Namibian Police on Entry into Namibia and Departure. If your vehicle / Trailer documents are not in order they will not be allowed to enter Namibia.

1. A Cross Border Entry Fee. 

Is payable when entering Namibia .  Fees >>
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2. Insurance:

You should consult with your insurers before commencing your journey and ensure that you have adequate insurance cover for your vehicle, loss or theft of belongings and medical health including medi-vac.

3. Namibia – Rules of the Road:

In Namibia driving is on the Left Hand side of the road.
The maximum speed limit on open roads is 120 km/hr (75 mile/hr)
The maximum speed limit in towns is 60-80 km/hr ( 37-50 mile/hr)
Documentary proof of ownership of the vehicle along with a police clearance certificate are required if your are driving to or from Angola or Zambia.
Car hire companies will provide the necessary documentation if the vehicle is rented on the basis for cross border use.
All passengers are required to wear seat belts
Drivers must be in possession of a valid driving license at all times
The use of cellular phones when driving is illegal

4. Use of Headlights During Daylight Hours:

The Road Traffic And Transport Regulations states that head lights of a vehicle must be switched on between sunset and sunrise. However, during day-light hours when the visibility is poor, such as fog, mist, smoke, sandstorms, rain and other poor weather conditions you are required by law to drive with your headlights on as a warning to on-coming traffic.. You will see many Namibian vehicles using their headlights in the day time, particularly when crossing the desert. This is done as a safety precaution.

5. Touring By Car or 4×4 Vehicle:

Namibia is a big country with its major tourist attractions positioned far from each other, so your self drive tour of Namibia will entail a lot of time behind the wheel, much of which will be spent on gravel roads. You must choose the places and sites that you want to visit and also decide on the most suitable vehicle for your purposes and budget. Namibia’s tarred roads are among the best in Africa. The Namibia gravel road system is extensive and usually of a good surface. Many self-drivers rent sedan cars which are less expensive on charges than pick-up trucks and 4 x 4s. It should be understood that a 4×4 vehicle is only as good as the driver’s experience and even the best of off road drivers can get stuck in sand or meet some other obstacle that requires an amount of hard labour to get the truck back on track. Driving in soft sand requires a good amount of experience plus the truck must be equipped with the necessary recovery tackle. Most of your driving time will be spent on roads, and the larger diameter wheels of a 4×4 or pick-up truck will help to ‘smooth out’ road corrugations and the many ‘bumps’ that you will encounter in the roads. Your ride will be more comfortable than in small car and you will have plenty of luggage space. You will be driving on commercial tyres which less susceptible to blow-outs than the average small car tyre. Several of the 4×4 rental companies do offer vehicles along with the camping equipment that you would need for a holiday ‘in the bush’. These advantages and extras all come at a cost, so it’s up to you to decide how much you want to spend on vehicle rental.

Please Note:
You cannot just drive off road anywhere in Namibia. Many of the areas that you will be passing through while driving on gravel roads will be in National Parks and you may not leave the road for eco reasons.
The coastal gravel desert is home to delicate lichens which are protected by law. Should you drive off road in these areas you will damage the gravel surface and will leave ugly vehicle tracks that will remain visible for hundreds of years. It is an offence to drive in these areas.
Should you plan to drive into off-road areas you should make arrangements to make a contact person or authority aware of your planned route along with stop over places and time table. The have been cases where tourists have become disorientated or ran low on fuel and or water and have died as a result before the alarm that they were considered to be lost had been raised.
Whatever vehicle you choose, if you are planning to drive on gravel roads you should ask the rental company to provide you with 2 spare wheels. Plus you should carry an amount of emergency supplies.
During the rainy season (November to April) you will find that certain gravel roads may have suffered from wash-away caused by flash flooding.

6. The Costs Involved When Renting A Vehicle In Namibia:

Below is an indication of the costs you will have to make when renting a vehicle in Namibia. The insurance excesses can be quite high owing to the amount of tourists who crash or damage their vehicles. Your chosen rental company will explain exactly what is involved and the detailed costs involved.
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)
Theft Loss Waiver (TLW)
Additional Collision Damage Waiver ACDW)
Excess – The Deposit Required For (CDW)
Reduced Excess – The Deposit Required for CDW+TLW+ACDW
Rental Charge -Rates vary depending on duration of rental

7. Animal Warning Signs:

The road in Namibia are well signed. Here are a few you may not be familiar with.

 Sign-Eleph-90  Sign-Hippo-90 Sign-Kudu-90 Sign-Oryx-90 Sign-WHog-90 Sign-Horse-90
 Elephant  Hippo  Kudu  Oryx Warthog Wild Horse

Animals on the roads present a major danger to drivers. The areas in which the particular species of wild animals are liable to be are well signed with warnings. When driving in the South of the country you are likely to find Wild Desert Horses crossing the main B2 road to Luderitz, just west of Aus. Throughout the south you may also find Oryx on the roads, especially during hours of darkness. In the central and northern areas of the country you may find Kudu and Warthogs grazing alongside the road. You can also find domestic Livestock grazing alongside the roads where there are small villages and settlements. Driving at night in areas where animals are to be found on the road is dangerous. Avoid driving after dark. Certain species are confused by oncoming headlamps and will run head on into the vehicle.

 Sign-Nostop This is the road-sign that I get the most questions about from overseas visitors.”Do not stop the vehicle on a roadway or hard-shoulder of a road where this sign is displayed.”
8. Tarred road surfaces

are quite well maintained and one can cruise along at 120km/hr. The distances between towns in Namibia are lengthy. The roads have a low traffic density and driving can become monotonous. Falling asleep while driving is one of the main causes of tourist accidents on Namibian roads. You may find the main roads in Namibia narrow compared to the road system in your home country. Beware of Heavy vehicles.

9. The gravel road system

in Namibia  is considered to be of a high standard. Driving on gravel roads requires constant concentration. One has to be on the look-out for sharp stones on the road surface that may cause impact fractures to tires. These usually result in a blow-out, and often cause the driver to lose control resulting in a roll over. Beware of fast driving vehicles as these can throw stones onto your windscreen. If the conditions are dusty switch on your headlights in order to make oncoming vehicle that bit more aware of you. Beware when driving on a corrugated road surface. When approaching bends you can literally be bounced across the road.
If you intend to drive on gravel roads in Namibia during the rainy season you would be wise to consult with locals or the Automobile Association Office for a road report.
Driving on gravel roads during rains, or following a downpour of rain can be tricky. The road surface can, in areas, become extremely slippery owing to a soap like mud. When encountering this condition please drive accordingly. When encountering normally dry rivers that are in flood and cross the road be extremely cautious. Fast flowing water across a gravel road carries small stones along the river bed which act like small ball bearings. Your vehicle could lose traction with the road surface and could be swept along with the river, usually with fatal results. When crossing mountain passes you may find that heavy rains have washed the road binding away and that the surface is just a gravel or boulder bed. You should drive carefully in order to avoid damage to your vehicle. Rental companies will charge you for any damage to the vehicle.You will see plenty of cars being driven on gravel roads in Namibia. However, 4 x 4 vehicles or 2 x 4 pick-up trucks are more suitable for this type of road surface. Their tire size is greater thus giving a more comfortable ride.

10. The C34 Salt Road

along the Skeleton Coast from Swakopmund north is made of a mixture of compacted sand and salt. There are no centre of road markings. Head on collisions are not uncommon. You are requested to drive, even in daylight, using your headlights to alert oncoming vehicle of your presence. At certain times of the day reflections on the road surface give the impression of it being water. Mirage effect along this coast is common.

Following a heavy mist the salt road becomes extremely slippery. Please drive accordingly.

In the rare event of it raining you are advised not to make use of the road. (1) There is little traction on the surface making driving , even for a 4 x 4 difficult. (2) The salt- mud accumulates on the vehicle and is costly to remove. (3) Your usage of the road when it has been softened by rains will damage the existing structure of the road making it a longer and more costly for the Roads Authority to repair the road for service-able use.  more >>

 Road-T1 Road-T2 Road-T3 Road-T5
 Long Empty Roads Beware of Super-Links Gravel Road, Damaraland The C34 Salt Road

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11. Beware of Super-links: 

these are 26 wheelers,  22 meters in length and having a gross vehicle mass of up to 56 tons and are quite common on Southern African roads. They are legally limited to a maximum speed of 80km/hr. However, you might encounter one cruising along in comfort on the open roads at speeds of over 120km/hr. Be careful when overtaking or passing these long heavy vehicles. You can experience air-blast which has the effect of either sucking you into the oncoming traffic lane, or blowing you off the road. Drive defensively and hold your steering wheel firmly.

12. DRY SEASON BUSH FIRES. A danger to farmlands, wildlife and humans.
Please take care when driving off-road where there is GRASS during the dry season. Your vehicle exhaust  system can become hot. What can happen?
 Road-VeldFire
  • Grass can accumulate around the exhaust systems of certain vehicles. It then ignites and sets the vehicle on fire.
  • The hot exhaust systems can cause the grass that you drive over to catch on fire which then causes a bush fire.

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13. Supplies For The Journey:

Tires: Check tire pressures regularly, and if you have been driving on gravel roads check the tire condition for stone cuts etc. Make sure that the vehicle has the necessary tools for tire changes etc. Some car hire companies may supply you with two spare wheels, and I strongly recommend that you carry 2 spare wheels

Food and Water: You MUST carry a sufficient amount of emergency drinking water with you at all times. You may also want to carry your own food for on the road picnics. You will find picnic areas along side the main roads. However, if you intend to make use of these please keep alert. It is not common, but there have been cases of people being hi-jacked at such places.

Medical Supplies: A well equipped First Aid Kit is essential. If touring during or following the wet season you should seek advice from a chemist regarding Malaria Prophylaxes.

Fuel: You must always carry enough fuel to get there and back, plus extra, in the event of you taking the wrong path. This is important info. There have been cases in Namibia where tourists have met with fatal consequences when having failed to adhere to this rule. I always carry 2 x 20liter Jerry Cans. There are times when you will find fuel stations in remote locations in Namibia having allowed their tanks to run empty. It’s not common, but does happen, so be warned.

14. A Few Words About 4 X 4 Driving

Serious off road 4 x 4 driving requires a considerable amount of hard earned and costly experience. If you intend to go off-road in Namibia you should be aware of what you are in for. You are advised to plan your journey carefully. There are many areas of Namibia where there is a great and lonely emptiness out there, and you should be well prepared for it. Many of the areas that you will be driving through have no mobile phone coverage, so you are literally ‘incommunicado’ and thus must be prepared for any emergency that may present itself. You must always have more than enough fuel to get you, not only to your planned destination, but also to get you back to base should you experience problems along the way. You must always have more than enough drinking water with you. Plus an adequate supply of food and equipment to see you through an emergency. An emergency medical kit is also a wise thing to carry. We also recommend you have two spare wheels. It’s a long way between fully equipped tire depots. ‘Hear’ this warning loud and clear. There are recorded cases of tourists getting lost, running out of fuel and water with fatal results.

Leave a record of your planned journey with somebody reliable so that if you don’t arrive at you planned destination on time they will know you have run into trouble.

15. One For The Road: 

The famous explorer Sir Francis Galton (Fellow of the Royal Society) trekked around the northern area of South West Africa in 1851-52. Galton first arrived by ship at Walvis Bay and, being an Englishman – from England, his choice of transport was a horse. However within a couple of days, he noted in his journal that his experienced Africa travelling companion named Stewardson preferred a trained riding-ox, “He showed me all the points of an ox; explaining how immeasurably superior that beast was in every respect to a horse…” At that time the most reliable and popular transport animal for African ‘self-drive’ explorers was not the horse, but the trained African-Riding-Ox. The sturdy ox could carry a heavier load than a horse, could go for longer periods without food or water and did not suffer from the seasonal sicknesses that horses succumbed to in the tropics. Galton was soon converted and later wrote affectionately of his trusty riding ox.

 2P-Ox-Rider2 The rifles of those days were flint-lock operated and the picture shows the gun nestled stock-down in the gun bag. In this way the lead ball along with wadding and black-powder charge stayed firmly packed in the firing chamber section of the gun-barrel. The charged weapon could be quickly drawn from its holster, cocked and was ready to fire. To avoid injury that may be caused by accidental discharge the rider safely tucked the gun barrel under his arm.
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