Facts for the Visitor
Visas, Climate, Currency, Driving - all you need to know for your holiday in Namibia
Namibia is BIG and sparsely populated - only 1.5 million people live in an area which is 4 times larger than the UK (or bigger than France and Germany combined). Whilst it is generally a very easy and safe place to travel around, the vast distances, poor gravel roads in more remote places and the unforgiving desert heat do need to be respected and precautions taken.
Holders of the following passports do not require a visa to enter Namibia when travelling as a tourist for stays up to 3 months:
United Kingdom; United States of America; Canada; Australia; New Zealand; Ireland; Belgium; Netherlands; Italy; France; Germany; Spain; South Africa.
If you are a passport holder from another country, please contact your local Namibia High Commission or Embassy for up-to-date visa requirements, as citizens of certain countries are required to obtain visas before travelling. Please note that if you are applying to the Embassy for your visa, some visas can take a long time to be processed so please do take this into consideration, as it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa in place before you travel.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Namibia and have sufficient blank pages for entry/exit stamps - the Namibian Government are currently stating that you need at least 6.
If you are planning to enter South Africa before or after you visit Namibia, you should be aware that while South African authorities state officially that only one blank passport page is required for entry, some officials insist on 2 blank pages. Please therefore make sure you have an additional 2 blank pages in your passport if you are travelling through South Africa.
PLEASE NOTE: Travel Butlers have made every effort to ensure that the information displayed here is correct and accurate, but the onus still remains with the traveller to verify the information with their local Namibia High Commission or Embassy.
Malaria is prevalent through the Caprivi Strip. If you intend travelling to this area we recommend that you take precautions against malaria and also use an insect repellent at all times. You should also ensure your vaccinations are up to date.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Namibia, so a yellow fever vaccination is NOT required for travellers whose sole destination is Namibia. However, in accordance with International Health Reguations, Nambia requires all travellers over one year of age arriving from a yellow fever risk country, or having been in transit longer than 12 hours at the airport of such a country, to have a yellow fever certificate. These countries include Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
AIDS and HIV is a problem in Namibia, with statistics showing that over 15% of Namibians are infected. It is advisable to take your own set of 'single use' sterile medical equipment with you - small travel kits can be bought from all good chemists and camping outlets. Don't be afraid of asking to use them if you have to visit a dentist or doctor, especially in more remote areas - people do understand tourists' concerns over this matter, and are not easily offended.
Driving in Namibia
Driving in Namibia can be a real joy as the roads are pretty empty and the scenery is spectacular. Having said this, you need to be aware that the distances between destinations in this country are vast, and in many cases you may find that you do not pass a single person or car, let alone a town or petrol station, for a couple of hours at a time. The road conditions vary from pristine tarmac on a handful of the major highways and routes around Windhoek and Swakopmund, to perfectly drivable gravel tracks, and numerous rough trails that require a 4x4 and an experienced driver. You can plan your trip to stay on the tarmac and good quality gravel roads, and this will mean you can get by with a 2 wheel drive car in the dry season - if you are travelling in the wet season or going a long way opff the beaten track you will need a 4x4. You can read more in our guide to driving in Namibia.
language and people
Over half of the population of Namibia belong to the Ovambo tribe, who occupy the northern part of the country. Other ethnic groups include the Kavango, Herero, Himba, Damara, Nama, Caprivian, San (or Bushman), Baster and Tswana. The Tswanas are the smallest ethnic group, with only 0.5% of the population. The minority white population are mostly of Afrikaans, German, British or Portuguese descent, and make up nearly 7% of the total population. Over 80% of the population are Christian, many of whom are Lutheran. The remaining 20% follow indigenous religions.
English is the official language of Namibia, although it is only the first language of a small percentage of the population, about 7%. Afrikaans is the most widely spoken first language for most Namibians, and around 30% of the population also speak German. Different tribes throughout the country speak either a Bantu dialect (including Owambo, Caprivian and Herero) or a Khoisan dialect (including Nama, Damara and San). The Khoisan dialects are characterised by a 'clicking' sound.
Namibia's currency is the Namibian Dollar (N$), and does not float on the currency markets, but is tied to the South African Rand (R) at a rate of 1:1. The Rand is widely accepted throughout the country, and even if you pay using all Namibian notes you will often get a mixture of N$ and Rand in your change. Namibian bank notes come in N$10, N$20, N$50, N$100 and N$200 denominations. There are 100 cents to N$1. Coin values are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, N$1 and N$5.
Much of Namibia is part of the great dry deserts of the Namib, which runs along the entire western coastline, and the Kalahari in the east. Contrasting with these huge deserts is the sub tropical rainforest area of the far north-east around the Caprivi Strip, and the inland plateau of Central Namibia is characterised by mountains and rocky outcrops. Because of these wide geographic variations, the climatic conditions differ immensely as you travel through Namibia.
The central area around Windhoek is generally cooler, partly due to its elevation at just over 1,600m. The rainy season is January to March, and is accompanied by violent thunderstorms and heavy downpours. Average summer temperatures are around 30°C, but coupled with the high humidity levels summer in the capital city can be almost unbearable. The winter months are more pleasant and comfortable.
In the arid desert regions, daytime temperatures in the summer months can reach over 40°C, and drop rapidly to below freezing at night. Most of the rain falls during these months, but being a desert the average annual rainfall is only about 50mm.
Summer temperatures in Etosha average just over 30°C, and January and March are also the wettest months, which although great for the green vegetation, can make game viewing more difficult. The Winter months between May and August are much cooler and there is little or no rain. The bush is drier, making for better viewing both in the bush and around the many waterholes, where the animals will more frequently gather to drink.
The best climate is found on the coast around the towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, where a cooling sea breeze eases the harshness of the desert sun. The downsides, however, are frequent morning coastal fogs.
mobile phone coverage
Despite Namibia being such a vast and sparsely populated country, the mobile phone coverage is surprisingly good. Certainly around towns and along parts of major tarred highways you should not encounter any problems, but in the more remote places, such as Etosha, you may find yourself with weak or even no signal strength.
Overseas visitors can use their own mobile phone with 'international roaming' enabled (remember to activate this, however, before leaving home), but this can be extremely expensive. A much cheaper (and easier) option is to switch to using the local provider (MTC) during your stay in the country by purchasing a local prepaid SIM card from MTC and inserting it into your phone.
It is worth noting that in Namibia, a mobile phone is referred to as a 'cell' or 'cell phone'.
The Namibian power is 220 volts, 15 amps, which is delivered through either a 2 or 3 pin round socket. Although the socket is 3 pin, it is not the same as a UK socket, so an adaptor will be needed. Most airport shops sell adapters for foreign plugs, or they can be bought in selected hardware shops in larger towns. Electricity supply is reliable in cities and towns, but you may experience problems in more remote areas, especially during heavy thunderstorms, and you should be prepared for sudden power failures!
Namibia Standard Time is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1) and does operate Daylight-Saving Time. Winter time (one hour in advance of Greenwich Mean Time) applies from the first Sunday of April through May, June, July, and August to the first Sunday in September. Summer time (2 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time), or Central African Time, applies from the first Sunday in September to the first Sunday of April.