When visiting Namibia, planning in advance is essential. This Namibia travel guide will help you with the planning essentials by giving you the inspiration for road trip itineraries; where to stay, what to pack and everything you need to know before visiting Namibia.
We have visited Namibia many times over the last few years. We’ve worked together as overland safari guides for a number of overland companies and the Namibia route was by far our favourite. We’ve also been back with our own Landrover Defender, on our own schedule, and have managed to discover the more offbeat highlights of Namibia which we never got to visit with our groups of tourists.
Namibia travel guide
Where is Namibia located?
Namibia is located in south western Africa, bordering South Africa to the south, Botswana to the east, Angola in the north, Zambia to the north east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. With a land surface of 824.292 km2 (comparable with twice the size of Germany) and with only a population of around 2,5 million, Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia. When driving around Namibia, it will become clear immediately how scarcely populated it is, especially in the southern part where most of the land surface consists of desert and national park. If you’re interested in more information about the country, read our guide with interesting facts about Namibia.
Quick practical information for visiting Namibia
Currency: The Namibian Dollar (NAD) is the official currency. The NAD is pegged 1:1 to the South African Rand (ZAR) and both currencies are used freely in Namibia. Check the current exchange rate with other currencies here. Just keep in mind that even though ZAR is widely accepted throughout southern Africa, NAD is not. So if you have any NAD currency left over when leaving the country, just ask any shop in Namibia to change it to ZAR, which they will do for no extra commission charge, but only if they actually have any ZAR.
Credit cards and ATM: ATM’s can be found in most major cities and towns around Namibia and will give you Namibian Dollars only. Payment with credit card is also widely accepted, however, some of the more remote places still can’t accept credit cards due to connectivity. So always carry cash with you just in case.
Language: English is the official language. Other languages that are widely spoken are German, Afrikaans and Oshiwambo.
Time in Namibia: Time zone is GMT +2. Namibia does not have daylight saving time anymore.
Internet and mobile phones: As big and sparsely populated as Namibia is, they have surprisingly good cellular network coverage. While you may have just enough signal almost anywhere to make a standard call for emergencies or otherwise, there is 3 & 4G in the bigger cities. As of writing this, there is still no 5G, yet. There are a few networks in Namibia, but the one with the best coverage is MTC. Have a look at their website to see what they offer. You will also find WiFi at most hotels and at some campsites, but don’t get your hopes up about either internet options in extremely remote areas. To be honest though, we love Namibia primarily because we go there to disconnect.
Best time to visit Namibia
Namibia has 2 seasons, summer (wet and warm) and winter (cold and dry). The best time to visit Namibia is between June and October. The nights will be cold and day time will be warm and pleasant. Consider Namibia however to be a year-round destination, with each month having its own charm and providing different experiences. If you are still deciding which month would be the best to visit regarding the weather in Namibia, discover all you need to know in our best time to visit Namibia guide, where we explain the advantages and disadvantages to travel to Namibia per season.
Best things to do in Namibia
If you are still not sure what to put on your list of places to visit in Namibia, you can read through these guides for more info:
In order to make the most of your Namibian adventure, here are even more of the highlights of Namibia you should consider visiting:
Sossusvlei: If there is one thing that should be on your Namibia bucket list, it should be visiting the spectacular red dunes of Sossusvlei. If possible, try to climb up dune 45 at sunrise and you will see some of the most amazing landscapes come to life in a gorgeous orange red light. And don’t miss out on walking amongst the eerie forest of dead trees in Deadvlei.
Spitzkoppe: Spitzkoppe is also called the Matterhorn of Namibia due to its granite outcrops over the area. The best way to visit Spitzkoppe is to stay overnight at the campsite and you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful African sunsets of your trip.
Epupa Falls: It’s a 40 metre waterfall of the Kunene river which runs along the border between Namibia and Angola to the north. The Kunene region is a challenge to get to, along rocky and dusty gravel roads, but once you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by a lush, green oasis type landscape. Bear in mind though that due to a hydro electric power station upstream, the river flow might be lower than usual.
Fish River Canyon: Located in the far south of Namibia, The Fish River Canyon is the oldest and second largest canyon in the world. The view of the canyon and the surrounding area will positively overwhelm you.
Adventure in Namibia
Adrenaline in Swakopmund: Swakopmund is also known as the adventure capital of Namibia. A whole range of sport and adventure activities can be done there, like sand boarding on the dunes, quad biking and skydiving. Read more about our fantastic skydive in Swakopmund. Make the most of your time in Swakopmund and book some activities in advance. We recommend to stay at least 2 days and to have at least 1 full day for activities. Click here for an overview of the activities in Swakopmund.
Walvis Bay: A visit to Sandwich Harbour is a dream for any 4×4 lover, with rolling sand dunes that run straight into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s best to enjoy this unique experience with a local tour guide.
Orange or Gariep river: The Orange river forms the southern border between Namibia and South Africa and is unfortunately an area that is often skipped by tourists due to time constraints and its remoteness. We really love this green and lush oasis along the river banks intercepting the desert. It’s the place to be for a 1 or multi-day kayak / river rafting adventure.
Wildlife in Namibia
If you want to see wildlife you will not be disappointed. With over 200 species of mammals, 640 species of birds and 250 species of reptiles, Namibia has an abundance of wildlife which can be seen either in or outside the national parks.
Etosha National Park: Etosha is the place to be to see most of the wildlife, however, it only has 4 of the Big Five since there are no buffalo in the park. You will be able to see African elephants, lion, leopard and black rhino. Visiting the park during the dry season will give you the best chance of seeing lots of wildlife since they all gather around the waterholes in Etosha.
Caprivi Strip: This 450 km long narrow corridor in the north east of the country connects Namibia with Botswana. While driving, you may see various wildlife like the rare sable and roan antelopes. Just be aware that while on the main public paved road it may be tempting to put your foot down, but that it is in fact quite bushy on either side and is unfenced, so animals can cross the road by surprise.
Coastal area: Cape Cross on the Skeleton coast is the main breeding area for the Cape fur seal and is home to at least 100 000 seals at any given time. If you don’t want to drive as far as Cape Cross or you don’t like really strong bad smells (depending on which way the wind is blowing), you can also see some seals in Walvis Bay, as well as flamingoes, whales and dolphins. A great way to see them is by catamaran or with a kayak tour in the bay.
Kolmanskop: Did you know that Namibia has its own ghost town? Kolmanskop went into decline when the diamond industry crashed and people abandoned their houses. Now, the desert is slowly claiming back the area and while visiting you can see how the sand got into the houses, which makes it a great photographic opportunity. Read more about Kolmanskop ghost town and how it went from diamonds to dust.
Himba village: The Himba are one of 13 ethnic tribes in Namibia and are by far the most well known. If you want to learn more or plan to visit a village, read our guide about the Himba people in Namibia.
Go on a township tour: In order to get to know more about local lifestyle and traditions, a township tour with a professional guide is recommended. A guide will take you to the most interesting places, will explain about their culture and it will be easier to talk to the people. It’s best not to go venturing into a township alone. For more info, here is a list of tours in townships in both Swakopmund and Windhoek.
Where to stay in Namibia
Namibia has a wide range of accommodation, ranging from backpackers hostels to B&B’s, to 5 star luxury lodges and rustic campsites. Depending on what type of accommodation you choose to stay at, you can make your Namibia holiday as budget friendly or as expensive as you wish. Also keep in mind that some tourist attractions in Namibia will receive lots of visitors during peak season so it will be necessary to book accommodations and campsites well in advance.
Camping in Namibia
Going camping in Namibia is a wonderful experience and in our opinion is the best way to explore the country. With hardly any noise or light pollution, you will be sleeping under a roof full of stars, next to a crackling campfire. Read through these camping quotes for some further inspiration. To find some of the best campsites to stay at, make sure to read this guide and discover some of our favourite gems:
If you are travelling on a budget you have the possibility to stay in a hostel, but only in the larger cities like Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. So take advantage of booking a dorm room in the city to save up for staying in a nice accommodation in the desert.
Hotels and Lodges
The accommodation in hotels and lodges can range from very affordable to extremely expensive. It all depends what type of luxury you wish for during your travels and also how close the accommodation is to one of the main Namibia tourist attractions. Most of the accommodations can be found and booked via booking.com
Namibia packing tips
Namibia is mostly semi-desert, so during the dry winter season from March through to November the nights can get freezing cold, but the days can be nice and warm. During the wet season, be prepared for some heavy rainfall. Packing the right clothes and essentials will make your Namibia trip so much more comfortable and easy. Seeing as most of the country is desert with just a handful of cities and towns, you won’t be able to buy much in the form of clothing while out in these remote areas if you have forgotten something essential. One of the biggest mistakes people make when visiting Namibia is to not bring enough warm clothes for the cold evenings because so many people seem to think Africa is only hot and humid, all the time. It isn’t. Temperatures can indeed drop well below freezing, which you will certainly feel when sleeping in a tent with a cheap summer sleeping bag. Read through our ultimate safari packing list to find all the essentials you will need for your Namibian road trip.
Photography in Namibia
With jaw-dropping scenery, abundant wildlife and colourful tribes, Namibia is any photographer’s paradise. Also places like Kolmanskop are in high demand by a lot of photographers. Even while driving through the open desert, you can find some unusual but photogenic items. So if you are into photography, make sure to bring the right photography gear with you. Here is a photo collection from one of our visits to Namibia for some inspiration: Photos to inspire you to visit Namibia.
I use the Canon EOS 650D (or Rebel T4i) in combination with these lenses: Canon 50mm, which is great for portrait photography, Canon 15-85mm, where the wide angle is just perfect to capture the amazing Namibian scenery, Canon 70-300mm zoom lens for wildlife photography.
You will notice that the dust and the sand in Namibia is very fine and gets into almost everything, so it’s important to properly protect your photography gear. I use the Lowepro sling bag and you can read my review here: Lowepro Passport Sling Bag.
Inspired to travel to Namibia? Pin these images to your Pinterest boards to save for later:
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