- 1 Visas
- 2 Advantages of hitchhiking in Namibia
- 3 Disadvantages of hitchhiking in Namibia
- 4 Food & Drink
- 5 Accommodation
- 6 Weather
- 7 Culture & traditions
- 8 Money & Costs
- 9 Health & Safety
- 10 Types of roads
- 11 Road map of Namibia
- 12 Handy Hitchhiker’s Phrases
- 13 Namibia Border Crossings
- 14 10 Namibia Top Destinations
- 15 Simon’s experience of hitchhiking in Namibia
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
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.
Food & Drink
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
10 Namibia Top Destinations
① Dune 45
The desert. Oh my god, the desert. You’ll never see dunes as red or as big as the ones here. I didn’t get a chance to go but check out Sousvlei and Dune 45 (the biggest in the world).
Luderitz looks like a town plucked out of Germany and planted in Africa. While there, check out the harbour and Diaz Point (a 20 K hike if you don’t have a car). And oysters. I’m not big on them but I’m told Luderitz is the place to have them.
Kolmanskop is an abandoned ghost town about 10 K’s outside of Luderitz. The desert dunes are taking over the buildings. You have to pay 75 Namibian dollars (about $7.50 USD) to go but it’s worth it. It’s like walking through a Salvador Dali painting.
④ Skeleton Bay
If you surf, and the time is right, Skeleton Bay (also known as Donkey Bay) is one of the longest left barrels in the world that breaks on sand. It’s a steep and fast wave so know your ability. The current is very powerful and you could get swept all the way to Cape Town. You do need a 4×4 to access the area south of Walvis Bay.
I’m told the Skeleton Coast is unlike any other in the world. So called due to the bones of elephants who go to die there, there are also abandoned cargo ships swallowed up by the desert sands.
In Swakopmund you have to do the living desert tours. I recommend Charly’s Desert Tours. Also, sandboarding with Alter-Action (they pick and drop-off and provide lunch and drinks). The beach area is nice and the lighthouse and old state buildings are beautiful.
Village Café is an awesome family-run restaurant that does all-day breakfast. I dare you to try any of the Terminator sandwiches.
⑥ Moon Landscape
Horse-riding to the Moon Landscape with Okahambe Trails. If you can afford it (and have the experience), do the 2 day ride or the sunset rides.
Three museums in Windhoek are the culture museum by the library, the new museum (which looks like a building from North Korea and tells the story of the battle to freedom and independence. A bit depressing but an eye-opener) and the historic museum (it was closed for renovations at the time I was there). All the museums are free entry. The Parliament gardens are beautiful to walk through (right by the new museum).
⑧ Etosha Pan
Etosha Pan is one of the biggest national parks in Africa covering 20,000 square kilometres. It’s also one of the oldest. You can see all the big 5 there but there’s a lot of traffic going through (and nothing is funnier than seeing a giraffe drinking).
⑨ Katima Mulilo
In the Zambezi Region, go Katima Mulilo and stay at the Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge. Go fishing, do a sunset cruise or a 4-day trip to Chobe on the Zambezi River. You won’t regret it.
⑩ And what would you recommend?
What should be our number 10 in your opinion? We are very curious to hear where you’ve been and what you liked, so please share your knowledge and experience in the comments!
We will add the best recommendations to our map!
Namibia Top Destinations Map
Simon’s experience of hitchhiking in Namibia
Namibians, like South Africans, are very outgoing and very outdoors. They love a good braai and can party harder than you think. They are a proud nation and a drinking nation (Luderitz’s town slogan is: A small drinking town with a fishing problem). The people are always smiling and willing to help, the food and drinks are cheap and the scenery I ever changing and breath-taking.
You don’t really need signs as most people don’t read them. They’ll stop and ask where you’re headed.
If you hitch through the Zambezi Region, take note: it’s through a national park and they have wild elephants and lions.
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