Guest Post: Namibia hitchhiking essentials
Today we join Simon from The Nomadic Diaries, our expert on hitchhiking in Africa, who has written this handy post about all you need to know to start hitchhiking in Namibia.
Advantages of hitchhiking in Namibia
If you enter from South Africa, once you’ve cleared customs and immigration, ask the officer at the gate to help you find a ride as he stops every car/truck leaving the border (again, make sure you explain whether you can pay or not). This goes for most of the border crossings around the continent.
A lot of folk are willing to go out of their way to help you get to your next best spot for hitching, will give you tips on what to look out for or even, if it’s getting late, host you with a promise to take you to a hitching spot.
Waiting times vary on how lucky you get with hitching. Some waits are less than 10 minutes. Some can be a few hours. Although hitchhiking is very common, so the concept is understood throughout Africa, but mostly done amongst the locals.
English is the official language of the country, so communicating with drivers is easy.
Visas are easy to get and Namibia is very cheap when compared to Western Europe, so ideal for the budget traveller.
Disadvantages of hitchhiking in Namibia
Namibia is home to the oldest and driest desert in the world – The Namib. If you get dropped off in the middle of nowhere, carry plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.And unlike South Africa, there are wild animals that roam freely – hyena, springbok, gemsbok (oryx), ostriches, baboons (along the rivers) warthogs and wild horses. Do not approach any of them. Especially warthogs.
As in South Africa, sometimes you might be dropped in areas where local folk will be waving money to persuade drivers to stop for them. If you’re on a budget and someone stops for you, you must clear the air and explain that you can’t afford to pay for a ride.
Namibia has vast open spaces so if you hitch, prepare for long hours in a car (the nearest town from the Voolskrop border crossing is 4 hours away) so have some topics for discussion ready to pass the time (if you feel like you’re about to doze off, ask the driver if it’s cool).
If you do get a ride, you might be crammed in a car that is overloaded with baggage and people. And it’s not uncommon to sit in the back of a pick-up truck (just have something warm cause the wind is cold).
As for police corruption I have yet to encounter any corruption with police but I’ve heard stories. I don’t doubt that there is corruption though.
Communicating can be frustrating at times as the locals speak what is known as Nam-lish. It’s a form of English where, grammatically, things are mixed around. Also, they tend to repeat your question before responding. Word for word.
Hitching from Windhoek, the capital city: There are more taxis in Windhoek than there are elephants in Chobe, Botswana (there’s over a hundred thousand elephants in Chobe). The thing is, not all of them have the taxi hat on and only when they pull over do you see the sign on the side of the car that says they are a taxi. It took me 4 hours to get out of Windhoek.
Types of roads
The road system in Namibia is regarded as amongst the very best in Africa and contains more than 44,500 kilometres of roads, of which 6,664 km is paved.
Due to powerful winds and shifting sand dunes, some of the roads can get sandy patches. Some drivers see these patches a little too late going a little too fast. Keep your eyes open. Because of the vast open spaces, Namibians love to floor it.
The main dangers are wild horses, that can linger around and on the main highways, and misjudging an overtake on the highway as it’s single lane both ways. Most cars in Namibia automatically lock after a few feet of driving. Most Namibians won’t drive at night due to the wild animals that can cause major accidents.
① Motorways (B roads): There are 6 major highways in Namibia of which the most important is the north-south running B1 which runs from Noordoewer on the South African border to Oshikango on the Angolan border travelling 1694 km. The other highways: B2 from Walvis Bay to Okahandja, (285 km), B3 from Nakop (South African border: 324 km) to Grünau,, B4 from Lüderitz to Keetmanshoop, (351 km), B6 from Windhoek to Buitepos (Botswana border: 335 km), B8 from Otavi to Katima Mulilo (Zambian border: 837 km) nearly all run east-west dissecting the B1 at various points. The speed limit is 120 km/h (74 mp/h).
There are four general speed limits in Namibia:
60 km/h (37 mp/h) within an urban area
80 km/h (49 mp/h) on some major urban roads
110 km/h (68 mp/h) on non-tarmac freeway
120 km/h (74 mp/h) on tarmac motorways
Road map of Namibia
Handy Hitchhiker’s Phrases
As in South Africa, 99% of Namibians speak English, about 98% speak German and almost everyone speaks Afrikaans.
‘Lekker’ – Awesome. Like no worries, you can answer it to anything really.
‘Bukky’ – A pick-up truck \ ute
‘Mora-mora’ – Good morning
‘Lekker shlop’ – Good night
‘Baai’ is like ‘very’. So you if something was really good, you can say, ‘Baai lekker’.
‘Danki’ – Thank you
‘Aweh’ (pronounced: ‘Ah-wee’) – is slang for ‘hello’ (Usually between the younger generations)
‘Braai’ – Barbecue (and they love to barbecue)
‘Yessis’ – It’s used like ‘Oh my god’ or ‘Holy spaghetti, Batman’. i.e: Yessis, the surf was lekker.
Namibia Border Crossings
Namibia neighbours 4 different countries: Angola & Zambia (to the north), Botswana (east), South Africa (south & east). Always check the opening times of borders as they vary. Some are 24 hours; some are only open for a few hours.
Namibia – Angola
There are four border crossings between Namibia & Angola
- The busiest crossing can be found at Oshikango (Namibia) – Santa Clara (Angola) which is located in the very centre of both countries and is the only border crossing comprising of a main road.
Namibia – Zambia
There is one border crossings between Namibia & Zambia
- The only border crossing is the Zambezi ferry at Katima Mulilo (Namibia) – Sesheke (Zambia). The ferry costs $12 for a car but is free for pedestrians.
Namibia – Botswana
There are four border crossings between Namibia & Botswana
- The main border crossing connects the Namibian capital Windhoek to its Batswana counterpart Gabarone and is located on the B6 / A2 main road at Buitepos (Namibia) – Mamuno (Botswana).
Namibia – South Africa
There are six border crossings between Namibia & South Africa
- The principle border crossings are located at Noordoewer (Namibia) – Vioolsdrift (South Africa) which connects Namibia to the South African city of Cape Town and Ariamsvlei (Namibia) – Nakop (South Africa) which links Namibia to eastern South Africa, I came through Vioolsdrift on the N7 on the SA side. In Namibia it becomes the B1 the main highway of that country. But it seems that that is where all the trucks come through.
map of Namibia border crossings
written by: Simon (The Nomadic Diaries)
Tired of society’s rinse ‘n’ repeat lifestyle, Simon has decided to dedicate the rest of his life to hitch-hiking the globe without flying or using money. Instead, he barters for food and board and adventures. Life is one shot. Go live it.
Check out his blog at: thenomadicdiaries.wordpress.com