Driving in Namibia
The most important tips for self-drive
After the first few kilometers of our rental car trip, it is clear to us that driving a car in Namibia is very difficult to compare with driving in German traffic. We are traveling on dusty gravel roads, meet a few animals here and there, but generally tend to move through no man’s land. Somehow strange, but with a roof tent on the jeep it is also the perfect opportunity to explore Namibia individually.
After initial – let’s call it technical – difficulties, driving in Namibia is slowly going smoothly and we can enjoy our road trip to the fullest. What you should pay attention to when driving in Namibia, I’ll tell you here.
Welcome to left-hand traffic
The most obvious difference becomes clear as soon as you get into the rental car, because there is a high probability that you are like me and you are at the wrong door. Once around the car – in Namibia people drive on the left – start the engine, switch on the lights and then the adventurous drive can begin! As soon as I sit behind the steering wheel on the wrong side for me, it actually feels completely normal and I bravely jump into traffic. A couple of times I use the windscreen wiper instead of the indicator when turning, but after a few crossings my windscreen is clean enough and I get the hang of it. Once you’ve made it out of Windhoek, Namibia opens its gates to a seemingly endless desert landscape and the road signs and crossings literally run into the sand.
Tarred roads are rather a rarity in Namibia and so I mainly drive through the country on sandy gravel roads. The Namibian roads are provided with letters that tell drivers what type of road to expect. On A and B roads, you can look forward to some very well-developed tar roads. C-roads are very good gravel roads and D-roads are passable. I strongly advise you not to use e-roads, because these are mostly simple dirt roads that tend to lead into no man’s land and on which you drive for days through loneliness – without knowing exactly where you are.
With a lot of sensitivity over gravel roads
Driving in Namibia requires a lot of attention from the driver, especially on the gravel roads, because the changing surface can sometimes cause surprises. Even on C-roads, dangerous bumps can suddenly appear, which justify the top speed of 80 kilometers per hour. You should really stick to the speed limit not only for safety reasons, but also because of the increased police checks.
Particularly when driving on the closely spaced gullies, also known as “corrugated iron surface”, the driver needs a lot of feeling. The tires can hardly get a grip on the grooves and, especially in corners, it can be a bit slippery if the speed is too high. However, you are not allowed to drive too slowly, otherwise you will be shaken like on a rodeo horse. But don’t worry, over time you will find out how your jeep behaves on the ground and you will float smoothly over the streets of Namibia.
If there is no other car to be seen on the gravel road and you have a good view, you can switch to the middle of the lane. At the edge of the gravel roads there are sometimes holes that you can easily drive around in this way. In addition, in the middle of the road you have a better chance of avoiding wild animals that cross the lane at the last second. Before going uphill, however, you should quickly switch to the left lane again, as the oncoming cars can only be seen late.
If a car approaches you, it is advisable to drive as far to the left as possible and a little slower. On the one hand, you can avoid stone chips on the windshield and avoid the dust cloud of the oncoming car as much as possible. In any case, it will briefly take your view off the dusty paths. But as quickly as the cloud appears, it is gone again and with the appropriate speed, situations like this were never a problem for me.
Off-road adventure for the brave
Of course, driving off-road is also great fun! Many farms have built extra roads for four-wheel drive vehicles to test your driving skills on. It is important that there are two of you traveling and that you have enough gasoline and water on board. In the event of a breakdown, it is also advisable to inform the lodge or campsite where you are staying about where you are going and what time you want to be back. Most of the time you have cell phone reception in Namibia, but on off-road adventures this can be sparse and then you are prepared for any eventuality.
If you are not quite sure yet, I recommend the book: “‘On Pad’ in a 4×4 camper – Camping in Namibia: Tips and tricks for self-drive trips in Southern Africa”. The book really is a practical travel companion.
As you can see, driving in Namibia can hardly be compared to driving in Germany. It’s neither better nor worse – just different. If you ask me about my personal conclusion, I can only tell you that it is always great fun to explore this beautiful country and the unbelievable vastness of Namibia on four wheels alone and independently. Maneuvering a jeep through the sand is definitely my highlight when driving a car in Namibia. Apart from driving the off-road vehicle, sleeping in the roof tent is awesome. When the sun rises on the horizon, you open your tent zipper and watch a herd of elephants in the immediate vicinity, that’s just amazing! I can only recommend this type of vacation to everyone.