Guest Post: 13 Things to be aware of when backpacking and hitchhiking in Namibia
Today we join Simon from The Nomadic Diaries, our expert on hitchhiking in Africa, who will tell you all you need to keep in mind before you set off on your adventure of backpacking and hitchhiking in Namibia.
1) Pretty easy-going
Like South Africa, Namibia is a pretty easy-going country. Visa entries are free for most of the world and are granted for 3 months at any border control – land, sea (although there are only two port of entry by sea) or air.
ⓐ No visa – 90 days
Citizens of the following countries do not requite a visa to enter for up to 90 days:
Angola, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malawi, Mauritius, Moldova, Mozambique, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe
ⓑ All other countries
Food & Drink
2) What food to expect
You’ll never know where you’ll end up. Food wise, I’d buy biltong (smoked meat, like jerky) or fruit – mainly carrots because they don’t squash like bananas.
There’s a lot of German cuisine as it used to be a German colony. It also has some South African dishes as it also used to be a South African colony. The most common way of cooking is a Braai which is the word for barbecue. They’ll barbecue any time anywhere. It’s a national past time. The most common meals are Standard German dishes, western world breakfasts. Local food is called pap which is maize porridge.
3) When and where to eat?
The locals tend to eat three meals a day. In the morning when they get up, break for lunch and then dinner is usually around 6 p.m. True locals eat pap three times a day with different gravy sauce. The Afrikaans will eat like westerners. There isn’t really any street food although in some places they barbecue skewers on the street. I never tried it though.
4) Short on cash?
I’ve found most drivers, if you spend long enough time with them, will stop for a break and buy you something to snack on. Most restaurants cater for Afrikaans and tourists. If you can find it, true local food will be cheaper by about 60% and more filling. If not, buy food from the supermarket.
5) What to drink?
Namibia is a desert country. A very dry desert country. So make sure you always carry water. The preferred alcoholic drink is brandy and coke. They love jagermiester shots as well so prepare your liver.
6) Where to sleep?
Most towns will have a guesthouse or as the majority of them call themselves – lodges. I only managed to secure two Couch Surfers throughout the whole country (I stayed in lodges in exchange for work and some gigs). In Luderitz, Kretz Pletz is a funky guesthouse that has an awesome bar with live music and all-you-can-eat buffet dinners for $12 USD. The Bay View Hotel is pretty good too. In Swakopmund, Amanpuri Lodge is pretty affordable and there are some other backpacker’s/guesthouses in range.
Wild camping is, I believe, possible. But as stated, always ask locals in the area if its cool to pitch a tent. If there’s no one around then just pitch. Person’s gotta sleep in comfort and safety, right?
7) Local police stations and ask your driver
If you’re stuck for a place to stay (arrived late in the evening or every place is booked) go to the local police station. They’ll accommodate you as it happened to me in Aus. The cops even took me out to the local bar (boy, were they hung over the next morning). Most of the time, if you’re friendly and outgoing and can hold a friendly conversation with your driver, they’ll more than likely invite you to crash at theirs. Even if they don’t, don’t be shy to ask (if you have a tent, ask if you can pitch in their yard. Most of the time they’ll invite you in). I hitched a ride on a truck for 10 hours from Rundu in the north to Katima Mulilo in the far eastern end of the Zambezi Region (used to be called the Caprivi Strip). The driver bought beers and as we arrived in Katima at 21:30, I asked if it would be alright to crash in his cab on the seat.
He said it was fine and even offered me to share his single bunk bed which I kindly passed. But do have ear plugs. Some truckers snore. Some talk Zulu in their sleep. Some do both.
8) The deserts surprise – hot in the day, freezing at night
Don’t let the desert fool you. It’s blitzing hot in the day and freezing at night. Especially on the coast like in Luderitz (the windiest spot in Namibia) and Swakopmund (the foggiest). The temperature in the capital, Windhoek, can drop to -4 in winter – May-September. The further north you go, the hotter it’ll get. Tsumeb was lovely in the day but had Arctic conditions at night. Even in the Zambezi Region it was cold enough at night to justify a hoody.
Culture & traditions
9) Any cultural customs to remember
When shaking hands, there is a 3-shake procedure. You start with the standard, move your hands to the hi-five position without breaking contact and then end with touch with your free hand to your shaking hand’s elbow. Rugby is the favoured sport. Personally, I don’t know anything about it. Or most sports for that matter but it’s big here so it helps to have a little basic knowledge about the games. They call traffic lights ‘robots’.
Money & Costs
10) What are the costs?
The South African Rand can be used as currency in Namibia (but in South Africa, you can’t use Namibian dollars). They are equal in balance i.e: 10 ND = 10 R. Compared to Australia it’s pretty cheap. Compared to bordering countries? Angola is regarded as the second most expensive country in the world. I’ve heard Botswana isn’t so cheap and Zambia appears to be cheaper.
Health & Safety
11) Being animal-wise
People look at me like I’m insane when I casually tell them that I’m hitch-hiking my way to the Middle East.
“But it’s so dangerous! How brave of you!”
I hate being called ‘brave’. There’s nothing brave about using your common sense, wits and life experience to know when a situation is dangerous or not. I’m a big believer in Karma and the whole the energy you project is the energy you attract. I’ve been hitching now for 15 months from south-east Asia to and now across Africa. I’ve never been in a situation that has left feeling, ‘Ooh, that was a bit close.’
Use that thing called a brain, follow the news so you know where not to go and you’ll be fine.
Don’t forget that you’re in Africa. Be animal-wise. It’s not just the predators you should be wary of. It’s everything. More people are killed each year by hippos than any other animal. It’s not that they roam the streets or road freely but you never know where you might end up so here are some safety notes:
Never EVER turn your back on a predator. They will automatically register you as prey if you do.
Never EVER run from a predator. Even Usian Bolt can’t outrun a lion (except with crocodiles. Run like hell and in a zigzag. They are very fast with short bursts of speed but only in a straight line).
Never EVER make eye-contact. They see at as a challenge and will call your bluff. Stare at their nose.
If a predator charges at you – and you’re gonna think I’m crazy here but this is standard practice – charge back. Last thing it’s gonna expect is a two-legged upright animal heading for it. Flail your arms about and make a lot of noise.
Most non-predators (elephants, hippos, buffalo, rhino) are temperamental and unpredictable. Run like hell and in zigzags. If there’s bushland around, go through it. The animal will eventually tire and lay off.
12) Health issues
Namibia is a desert country. A very dry desert country. So make sure you always carry water. You’ll never know where you’ll end up. Most tap water is safe to drink but always ask the locals You’ll be asked about Yellow Fever vaccinations at the border crossings so defiantly get that. And your standard Hepatitis and tetanus shots.
13) Crime issues
Namibia is a lot safer than South Africa. I had no fear of walking the streets of Luderitz, Swakopmund and Tsumeb at night. I have heard that Windhoek is a little more dangerous and some taxi drivers will have a friend riding with them who will then rob you.
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