renting a car in Namibia

7 tips for renting a car in Namibia

The must-visit highlights of Namibia are spread out all over the country but the public transportation infrastructure is not set-up to get visitors to the popular attractions.

Namibia is located in Southern Africa and is considered by many to be “Africa for beginners”. Considering that Namibia is twice the size of California but with a population of only about 2.5 million, you’ll have a huge expanse of land and plenty of amazing destinations all to yourself. It is safe, the locals are friendly, and it is easy to access the most popular destinations by car.

The must-visit highlights of Namibia are spread out all over the country but the public transportation infrastructure is not set-up to get visitors to the popular attractions.

So most tourists choose to rent a car. The roads can be incredibly rough, it is highly recommended that tourists rent a 4×4 vehicle.

Should You drive in Namibia?

Aside from the fact that you’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the road, driving in Namibia is fairly simple, safe, fun and sometimes challenging but not nearly as stressful as many other countries. If you are comfortable with the prospect of driving on the gravel roads then self-driving is a great option to travel – it’s an incredible way to see the country at your own pace.

Type of Roads and Speed Limits in Namibia

There are three road types in Namibia: tarred roads, gravel roads and off road.
The tarred roads are typically in good condition and are very easy to drive on.
The gravel roads are manageable and vary in their condition and get easier to navigate with experience.
The off road driving is generally an optional part and the conditions tend to include very deep sand or rocky roads which require slow and careful driving to avoid a puncture or getting stuck.

Driving in Namibia

Rules of the Road
  • Driving is on the left hand side in Namibia.
  • The general speed limits are 120 km/h pm tarred roads, 80 km/h on gravel hours and 60 km/h in urban areas. Watch your speed
  • It’s required by law to keep your headlights on at all times. This is a new law and if you are caught with your headlights off, you’ll likely face a 350 NAD (~$29 USD) fine.
  • All passengers must wear seatbelts.
  • Check whether your car takes diesel or unleaded gas before you get to the gas station.
  • Visitors are advised not to drive at night as many animals cross the road or rest on the warm pavement and can be difficult to spot.
  • Expect everything to take longer than you expect it to. And expect everything in your car to be covered in dust all of the time.
  • Namibian drivers to be very courteous on the road.
  • Once you pass another driver a flash of the hazard lights suffices as a thank you.

Road Signs
Most of the highways in Namibia are clearly signed and easy to read. People generally obey the rules, the road signs are in English /English is the official language in the country/, and you’ll only encounter traffic in the cities.

Check Points
You’ll pass through several check points along your Namibian road trip. They just want to know where you’ve been and where you’re going. 4

Here’re our Tips for Renting a Car in Namibia:

Rent a 4×4

Do I need a 4×4 for Namibia? Namibian roads are not built for 2x4s. They’re hardly passable for 4x4s! You’ll likely be driving on gravel, dirt, or sand and it could make a road trip a very long if you don’t have the right car.

Namibia in Africa
Many of the roads in Namibia are unpaved so expect a very bumpy ride. Especially in Etosha National Park and along the Skeleton Coast. A 4×4 vehicle is highly recommended.
If you are renting a 4×4 ensure you have the proper off-road tires and understand the tire pressure. Generally, you’ll need lower tire pressure on sand and gravel roads which improves traction and reduce the chances of a puncture. Before you leave the rental office, check your tires and make sure you have the proper off-road tires.

Check your lug nuts and tent bolts every morning as it is common for the rattling to cause them to loosen.

Driving tip: Off road tires have thicker walls which vastly reduces the chance of a flat tire while on the 4×4 roads and tracks.

Pick an International Rental Company

There are many small cheap rental companies, but make yourself a favor and pick an international rental company. Most of the rental car agencies have their own rules of the road to ensure that both you and their vehicle remain intact during your tour of Namibia.

Many rentals are equipped with black boxes which track the movement and speed of the vehicle during the rental. Stick to the speed limit and rental rules!

Here is a short example of some of the rules of the rental car company that, if violated, would void insurance coverage:

  • Not to exceed 70 km/hour on a gravel or salt road.
  • Not to exceed 30 km/hour when 4×4 is engaged.
  • Not to drive between towns after sunset unless granted permission.

Each rental car agency will offer different levels of insurance options to choose from.
You’ll find that they usually don’t cover everything:

  • Tires and windows are generally not covered by the standard insurance options and it is an upgraded option.
  • The front and rear bumpers are generally not included by any insurance options.
  • The underbody and clutch are generally not included by any insurance options.

Other examples when your insurance will not cover you if you are found to be:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Driving on a main road before sunrise or after sunset without permission
  • Driving while talking on your cell phone
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Exceeding the speed limits designated by the rental car company

You can expect to sign several long rental agreements prior to departing with your car. Be sure that you protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Use a credit card for your deposit that has it’s own car rental agency coverage in case of an accident.
  • Take photos and videos of the truck and note any scratches.
  • Mark down any scratch or ding on the rental agreement get a copy.
  • Thoroughly check all of your camping equipment to ensure that it is there and that it is clean and in proper working condition.

Most car rental company include the following equipment:

  • Cookware – pots, pans, plates, bowls, mugs, knives, tea kettle, wine/bottle opener.
  • Propane tank
  • Camp chairs, camp table, lantern, spade (shovel), hatchet.
  • First aid kit
  • Maps of Namibia.
  • Car equipment – jack, jumper cables, air compressor, and tools.
  • At least 1 spare tire.

For an additional daily fee, you can include the following:

  • Electric cooler box
  • Bedding
  • Child seat
  • GPS

Tips for traveling in Namibia

Automatic vs. Manual Transmissions

You’ll be in big trouble here if you can’t drive a manual on the left-hand side of the road.

Rental companies the world over are almost exclusively manual. You can get automatics but you have to either book really far in advance or pay much more.

Supplies

Always carry water! Temperatures are extreme and water is essential. Keep always with you in the trunk 2-3 5-liter water bottles filled with water, in case if you get stuck in the sand or if you need to change a tire, you’ll need plenty fluids.

Make sure you have plenty of snacks for the road, too, it could be hours before you get to the next place with a restaurant or convenience store.

When you arrive in Namibia, purchase a SIM that can make calls or use the data on the sims for GPS. But it could be USELESS outside of the villages and towns (and that’s about 90% of Namibia).

A good GPS is essential. You can download ahead of time on your phones and use an offline GPS app, on occasion, used the data on the sims we purchased at the beginning of our trip. It’s always worth carrying a paper map in case technology fails.

Set out at sunrise for long drives and avoid the extreme temperatures at midday. Double-check your route before you start and have a general idea of the route before you set out each day. This is especially important in where you are journeying on gravel roads. Due to gravel roads, your drive times will be longer than the GPS says!

Fuel stops

Gas stations are few and far between in Namibia; make sure you top up as often as you can. Towns can be few and far between in the more remote areas so ensure you map out your fuel stops along with the route and fill up frequently.

There are petrol attendants at all the fuel stops. They’ll clean your windows, pump your gas, check your oil, water and tire pressure! Be sure you have some change handy so you can tip them – a small tip amount such as 10 or 20 Namibian rand for the service.

Driving at night

Don’t! Most of the roads do not have fluorescent line markings or cats-eyes. This makes driving after dark particularly difficult as it can be difficult to see the road! In some areas, there are lots of people walking on the hard shoulder after dark and it is almost impossible to see them with the headlamps.

Avoid driving near the edge where the road is not as graded and beware of sudden dips in the road. Make use of previous tracks and follow the tire tracks of previous drivers as this tends to be the best route. Always make sure to stay on your own side on corners or the brow of a hill.

Things to Bring From Home

  • FM Transmitter.
  • USB Car Charger.
  • Travel Towel.
  • Headlamp.

You can read more about travel tips abroad here.
Photo credits: kapicor.pw, lemonsoda.be, pennshutter.com