We recently visited this Southern African country and did spend quite a few days on its roads. It was the first time for me driving outside the Northern European countries and consequently it was also the first time for me driving on the “wrong” side of the road. It really did take some time getting used to driving on the left side. Driving in Namibia turned out to be an adventure in many different aspects.
Driving in Namibia
So for anyone planning a trip to Namibia here are our five tips for what to consider when hitting the roads.
1. Driving on the Left Side of the Road
I was quite happy with our choice of starting our vacation in Namibia instead of South Africa. Having a population of around 2 milion people spread out over a large area, there really was no dense traffic. This meant that I had more time to get used to driving on what is for me the wrong side of the road.
Driving on the opposite side of the road compared to what you are used to comes with a few hazards. The risk of looking in the wrong direction in a crossing is obvious, but not always so easy in practice. We were told by a guy at the guest house where we were staying that there had been people arriving at the airport, renting their car and getting hit in the side at once when driving out from the parking lot.
Our advice would be to take your time before driving out in a crossing. There really is no reason to stress, so it is better to look in both directions instead of stressing to get out on the road. When we exited the parking lot at the airport we made sure that the road ahead was completly empty before going out in the crossing. Why be in a hurry when there are no other cars behind you?
2. Stop Signs at Crossings
This was something that took us some time to understand. When arriving at a crossing, instead of traffic lights as in Sweden there was a stop sign with a number below it. We of course stopped at these, but I had to google the rules at once the first evening.
It turns out that the crossings have stop signs from all connecting roads. The rule is that the first one to stop is the first one to go. The number below the signs gives you the information about how many roads go into the crossing, usually three or four.
So the second tip is to read up on the traffic rules and signs before arriving in Namibia. Driving in Namibia was not the same as driving in Sweden. There are new signs to learn and as with the crossings, the need to understand the new rules.
3. Speed Limits
The speed limit could be considered normal. A bit slower in the towns and villages and faster along the main roads outside the towns. The top speed allowed is 120 kilometers per hour and the roads are not like highways in Europe. It is small narrow roads between the towns and when meeting other cars and lorries it does feel like they get a bit too close. There is also the risk of potholes, which in that speed would give you a very short time to react. Not to mention all the animals that walk along the roads, I would not like to hit a warthog, that is for sure.
Our recommendation is to really take your time and keep a speed that you are comfortable with. The roads are so straight that it is possible to see far in the distance, so you will eventually be going faster than you think.
4. The Distances
It is hard to imagine the distances in Namibia. I have always considered the distances here in Sweden to be something to consider when hitting the road. What struck us while driving in Namibia was how much longer the distances between towns were. During the drive from Okahandja to Otjiwarongo, a distance of 180 kilomteres, we noticed one thing. There really is nothing in between the towns except wilderness. That does include a lack of gas stations and lunch restaurants.
I cannot say this clearly enough. Make sure to stock up on enough gas, food and water for a long drive. You never know how far it is to the next gas station and you do not want to have a forced stop along the road without any water with you in the car.
Driving in Namibia did offer quite amazing views, but the distances gave a few thoughts about our planning.
5. Gravel Roads
This was a surprise for us. We knew that there was going to be a lot of gravel roads in the country and our thought was that those might have a few more potholes in comparison with gravel roads in Sweden. It took some time of driving in Namibia before we encountered our first gravel road. We gave it a try, but after just a few hundred meters we gave up. The road was so corrugated that it was impossible to drive there with our small rental car.
So, make sure to plan where you want to go and check the status of the roads ahead. In case you need or want to go on long gravel roads, make sure to rent a car that is able to handle it.