Namibia is a wild country. Many people could think that traveling to Namibia is not safe. And that doing it without a travel agency could be worse… but this is not the case. Maybe you will think that the biggest dangers are the lions, elephants, hyenas, hypos or cheetahs but reality is far more different. The biggest danger in Namibia is…
The roads. Namibia is 1.5 times bigger than France and it has only around 2 million inhabitants. Touristic spots are widely far away from each other, hundreds of kilometers sometimes.
We did 5,400 km in just two weeks, most of them in bad maintained gravel and dusty roads, which are most of the time heavily corrugated. Gravel roads are often wide, like a 4-lane highway but with just 2 lanes. This wideness makes you feel comfortable and reliant if the gravel road is in good condition for maybe 200km, then you drive at between 80 – 100 km/h which is the maximum allowed speed and suddenly you find a big hole in the road, a rock, a bump, an animal or a turn after a camelback. For this reason, don’t try to do Namibia without a 4×4 car. That would be crazy!
If you join this with the fact that they drive on the left side and you want to enjoy the landscape and maybe spot some wild animals while driving, then you have the perfect receipt for having an accident. We saw many cars and trucks stopped at the margin of the road, waiting for assistance, which could take more than 1 day to arrive. We also saw an overturned tourist car and an overturned truck. But we lost count about the number of vehicles with a flat tire. This is so common in Namibia that we don’t understand how we didn’t have a flat tire in 5,400 km. We were lucky and we had a 4×4.
Driving in Namibia is one of the most beautiful activities you can do there. Driving among those virgin and desert landscapes is just an unforgettable experience. You will drive hundreds of kilometers without spotting any car or any kind of civilization, just desert. Enjoy it but respect it. And if you want to overtake another vehicle, don’t get into the dust, you will lose 100% visibility of the road and the car in front of you. As I said, the roads are wide, you could be driving at 80 – 100 km/h, so start your overtake dozens of meters before. You need to have a full view of the road all the time.
Don’t drive after the sunset. In the sunset and at night wildlife is active and you can jump into a big mammal. Also at night is not possible to distinguish big holes from small holes in a gravel road. Unfortunately we had to drive for some minutes at night in our first day. We had to go to the Kalahari desert, in the Panama Campsite, and due to long queues in the passport control in the airport we were delayed. When we arrived at the entrance we still had to go for around 4 km through a red sand track. There, we got stuck in the sand. First day, night, stuck and… we took the shovel and started to remove the sand in front of the wheels. We are not experienced in driving in sand, so this was the first amateur learning. The same happened to us in Sossusvlei! For this reason too, take a 4×4! You will have a solution.
We don’t recommend you to try to drive in the dunes. For example, there are some places around the Namib Desert where you could drive on the dunes with your private car. However, this is one of the most dangerous things you can do. We booked a 4×4 ride in Walvis Bay to go to Sandwich Harbour, where you can feel what is riding dunes more than 100 metres high. You will be able also to feel how is to drive where the sea meets the dunes, a narrow and risky line where only high experienced and talented drivers can go.
Once you know that this is the most dangerous activity in Namibia, then don’t forget to fire a bonfire before sunset, and sleep at the top of your car. We don’t recommend a normal tent. But this is only if you are thinking of doing free camping. If this is the case, neither leave food or drinks outside, this could attract wildlife.
And finally, when you are in the cities never forget to have with you the most valuable goods, lock the car and pay a tip to a car keeper. They are always waiting for tourists, so they may try to cheat you. Tips between 10 and 20 N$ are good. Consider this in your budget before traveling. Said this, we didn’t feel unsecure in the cities. We walked around with no issues and we bought our groceries in local supermarkets. Just make sure you pay the tip if you want to have the car full when coming back for it.