GETTING AROUND

Visitors can travel through NAMIBIA by means of scheduled tours in luxury coaches or microbuses, fly-in safaris, self-drive tours, off-the-beaten-track camping trips in 4x4 vehicles,OR BY specialised tailor-made tours,

The easiest way to get around Namibia is in your own car, and an excellent system of sealed roads runs the length of the country, from the South African border at Noordoewer to Ngoma Bridge on the Botswana border and Ruacana in the northwest. Similarly, sealed spur roads connect the main north–south routes to Buitepos, Lüderitz, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Elsewhere, towns and most sights of interest are accessible on fairly good gravel roads. Most C-numbered highways are maintained and passable to all vehicles, and D-numbered roads, although a bit rougher, are mostly passable to 2WD vehicles. In the Kaokoveld, however, most D-numbered roads can only be negotiated with a 4WD.

Driving licence

Foreigners can drive in Namibia on their home driving licence for up to 90 days, and most (if not all) car-rental companies will accept foreign driving licences for car hire. If your home licence is not written in English, it is better to have requested for an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you arrive in Namibia.

INSURANCE

No matter who you hire your car from, make sure you understand what is included in the price (unlimited kilometres, tax, insurance, collision waiver) and what your liabilities are. Most local insurance policies do not cover damage to windscreens and tyres.

FUEL

The network of petrol stations in Namibia is good, and most small towns have a station. Mostly diesel, unleaded and super (leaded) are available, and prices vary according to the remoteness of the petrol station. Although the odd petrol station is open 24 hours, most are open 7am to 7pm.

All stations are fully serviced (there is no self-service), and a small tip of a couple of Namibian dollars is appropriate, especially if the attendant has washed your windscreen.

As a general road-safety rule, you should never pass a service station without filling up, and it is advisable to carry an additional 100L of fuel (either in long-range tanks or jerrycans) if you’re planning on driving in more remote areas. Petrol stations do run out of fuel in Namibia, so you can’t always drain the tank and expect a fill-up at the next station. In more remote areas, payment may only be possible in cash.

HOW TO CHOOSE A VEHICLE

CARAN, the Car Rental Association of Namibia, is a non-profit association of 18 members that was established to protect tourists and the car-rental industry against sub-standard service.

Car-rental companies must subscribe to minimum standards before they are accepted as members of the association. Below are some important factors to consider when renting a vehicle:

• 4WD vehicles cost more to hire and run, but have good ground clearance and are normally fitted with tyres that are better suited to Namibia’s roads.

• 2WD vehicles have less ground clearance and carry less.

• 2WD camping cars come equipped with everything you’ll need.

• 4WD camping cars come equipped with everything you’ll need and are more versatile than normal sedans or other two-wheel-drive vehicles equipped for camping.

• Motor homes are usually better suited to tarred roads as they tend to be top heavy and have poor ground clearance.

ROAD RULES

To drive a car in Namibia, you must be at least 21 years old. Like most other Southern African countries, traffic keeps to the left side of the road. The national speed limit is 120km/h on sealed roads out of settlements, 80km/h on gravel roads and 40km/h to 60km/h in all national parks and reserves. When passing through towns and villages, assume a speed limit of 60km/h, even in the absence of any signs.

ROAD HAZARS

Namibia has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world – always drive within speed limits, take account of road conditions and be prepared for other vehicles travelling at high speed.

Avoid driving at night when speeding vehicles and faulty headlights can make things perilous. Both domestic and wild animals can also be a hazard, even along the main highways. And remember that the chances of hitting a wild or domestic animal is far, far greater after dark.

In addition to its good system of sealed roads, Namibia has everything from high-speed gravel roads to badly maintained secondary routes, farm roads, bush tracks, sand tracks, salt roads and challenging 4WD routes. Driving under these conditions requires special techniques, appropriate vehicle preparation, a bit of practice and a heavy dose of caution.

Around Swakopmund and Lüderitz, watch out for sand on the road. It’s very slippery and can easily cause a car to flip over if you’re driving too fast. Early-morning fog along Skeleton Coast roads is also a hazard, so keep within the prescribed speed limits.

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