In Namibia, you drive on the left side of the road. You need to have a valid driver’s license (get your international license before leaving home) and ensure you have it on you at all times when driving. Always ensure you have a thorough check done on your entire vehicle – tires, brakes & spare (perhaps even two spare tires). Ensure that you have the correct tire pressure when driving offroad routes (eg anything between 1.8 and 2 bar), depending on the vehicle and the road. The softer the sand, the lower your tire pressure has to be. Never exceed 80 km/hour on gravel roads. 4 x 4 Vehicles are recommended when driving through rugged terrain.
A good idea is to hand your itinerary to someone so that your intended route is known to others. Always aim to reach your destination before nightfall as it is dangerous to travel at night, especially in areas with a lot of wildlife. Namibia’s roads are long and distances far, thus plan your route carefully and try not to travel longer than 4-6 hours per day. When traveling to remote areas, make sure that you carry sufficient cash as not all petrol stations can process credit cards. A good idea is to carry extra petrol/diesel in jerry cans, just to be safe.
An updated map of the area you plan to visit is always helpful. A First Aid kit is advisable, especially when traveling through remote areas. Please do not litter, but dispose of your litter when facilities are available to you. It is also advisable to carry sufficient water in your vehicle for consumption and possible emergencies.
Take the same precautions you would when in any other country. Ensure your valuables are locked away when possible and that your hotel room/car is locked when leaving. Avoid flashing your expensive jewelry. Do not pick up hitchhikers. The wearing of safety belts is compulsory in Namibia and it is forbidden to use one’s cell phone whilst driving.
Towns in Namibia have become particular targets for snatch-and-grab incidents.
Here are a few precautionary tips to at best avoid such incidents.
- Keep all your vehicle doors locked when driving.
- If you wish to drive with your windows open, do not open them all the way, only a quarter of the way. This makes it more difficult to grab a bag and pull it out.
- Be alert when approaching a four-way stop and/or traffic intersection. Do not pay attention to anyone who tries to indicate that your tires are flat or that there is a problem with your vehicle. This is to attract your attention and to make you leave the safety of your vehicle, to snatch and grab the contents of your vehicle. It is advisable to rather find a fuelling station or public area to check tire pressure or to inspect your vehicle.
- It is advisable to not carry your passport in a rucksack or handbag but rather in a document body pouch. In the event of your bag being snatched, you are then still in possession of your passport. Keep your handbag, purse, or electronic device out of sight, and never leave them in your vehicle, even if you lock them. Not even for five minutes.
- Do not stop and do not leave your vehicle if you come across any obstacles on a road, including a human being. We advise that you rather report this to the front desk of your destination establishment so that they can notify the relevant police department for investigation. Regrettably, this is a modus operandi used to rob people.
- Don’t use your cell phone, unless necessary, while walking in the streets or on the beach, and even in shopping malls. Keep your camera safely in a bag and out of sight when not used.
- Always keep your cash hidden. Rather carry cash in smaller amounts during your journey. Most towns have banks for withdrawal purposes. It is highly recommended to withdraw cash within a bank and during banking hours.
- Always use a secured ATM with a lockable cubicle or inside a Shopping Mall than an open, exposed ATM.
- Do not accept help from any bystander at an ATM, rather approach a bank official.
- Do not allow your bank card to be taken out of sight. Always ensure you see your card at all times and be aware to not enter your PIN with onlookers present.
- Always ask for a recommended taxi service from your front desk. It is not safe to walk alone, especially after sunset. When leaving restaurants at night, always make sure that you are safe in numbers and be aware of your surroundings.
Chief Inspector Jona is the unit commander of the Tourist Protection Unit in Nampol. His contact numbers are: 081 615 4401 or 081 259 6425