A journey through Southern Africa reveals its otherworldly nature when you cross the border into the vast reaches of Namibia. The combination of space and landscape ensures that a trip through this country is one of the great road adventures of the region. Natural wonders such as the mighty gash in the earth at Fish River Canyon and Etosha National Park enthrall, but it’s the lonely roads cutting through swirling desert sands that will stay with you. Here, sand dunes in the world’s oldest desert, the Namib, meet the crashing rollers along the wild Atlantic Coast and among this is a German legacy evident in the cuisine, art nouveau architecture and festivals.
Namibia is also the headquarters of adventure activities in Southern Africa, so whether you’re a dreamer or love hearing the crunch of earth under your boots, travel in the country will sear itself in your mind long after the desert vistas fade.
Official name. Republic of Namibia[show]
Capital and largest city. Windhoek 22°34.2′S 17°5.167′E
Languages. Official: English. Recognised regional languages: Afrikaans, German, Ju’hoansi, Khoekhoegowab, Oshikwanyama, Oshindonga, Otjiherero, Rukwangali, Rumanyo, Setswana, Silozi, Thimbukushu
Ethnic groups. Ovambo: 49.5%, Kavango: 9.2%, coloured (including basters): 8%, Herero: 7%, Damara: 7%, Namibian whites: 7.0%, Nama: 4.7%, Lozi (Caprivian): 3.5%, San: 3%, Tswana: 0.6%, others: 0.5%
Government. Unitary semi-presidential republic. President Hage Geingob
Independence from South Africa 21 March 1990
Area. Total 825,615 km2 (34th). Water (%) negligible
Population. 2011 census 2,113,077. Density 2.54/km2 (235th)
GDP (PPP) 2016 estimate Total $26.399 billion. Per capita $11,786
GDP (nominal) 2016 estimate Total $13.703 billion. Per capita $6,118
When to Go. May–Oct: Best time for wildlife viewing; animals congregate around remaining waterholes. Jun–Aug: Coastal town such as Swakopmund are subject to miserable sandstorm conditions. Nov–Apr: The off-season as the wet gets into full swing – downpours from January to April.
MONEY. Namibian dollar (NAD) subdivided into 100 cents. Namibia (along with Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland) is a member of the Southern African Common Monetary Area, and as such the Namibian Dollar is pegged 1:1 to the South African Rand (ZAR). Both the Namibian Dollar and South African Rand are legal tender in Namibia, though change will usually be given in Namibian Dollars. This can be confusing, given that there are three sets of coins and notes in use, all with different sizes: old South African, new South African and Namibian. Namibian notes come in denominations of N$10, N$20, N$50, N$100 and N$200, and coins in values of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and N$1 and N$5.
Banks in Namibia will convert Namibian Dollars and South African Rand without charge. Exchange outside Namibia will charge a substantial service fee to change currency, it is advisable to make use of a Namibian Bank before leaving the country.
ATMs are available in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Luderitz, Tsumeb, and other towns and cities. It is best to use only teller machines that are inside a mall or other building. Many machines have guards in the larger centres. Be vigilant about typical scams (e.g. machines that seem to eat your card and won’t give it back after you enter the PIN).
Credit and debit card fraud is a major problem. Make sure you get a receipt for all processed and cancelled transactions.
VISAS. Nationals of Angola, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, United States of America, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe may enter Namibia visa-free for up to 90 days.
Visitors not from the above countries need to apply for a visa from the Namibian consulate in their country of origin or the Ministry of Home Affairs, Windhoek.
Apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no Namibian diplomatic post. British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a Namibian visa application and an extra £70 if the authorities in Namibia require the visa application to be referred to them. The authorities in Namibia can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
Always verify the dates stamped into your passport, because there have been cases where corrupt officers stamp wrong dates to fine people for overstaying when they leave, and these fines are huge.
Visas for Onward Travel can be obtained in Windhoek.
Angola – Apply in their home country or attempt an overland visa from the Angolan consulate in Oshakati, northern Namibia.
Botswana – Visas on arrival are valid for 30 days and are available for free to passport holders from most Commonwealth countries (but not Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), all EU countries, the USA, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.
South Africa – No visa for Commonwealth countries (including Australia and the UK), most Western European countries, Japan and the USA.
Zambia – Tourist visas are available at major borders, but should have a Zambian visa before arrival if travelling by train or boat from Tanzania.
Namibia (nəˈmɪbiə) is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, a part of less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River (essentially a small bulge in Botswana to achieve a Botswana/Zambia micro-border) separates it from that country. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek, and it is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations.
The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by the San, Damara, and Namaqua peoples. Since about the 14th century AD, immigrating Bantu arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then the Bantu groups in total, known as the Ambo people, have dominated the population of the country and since the late 19th century, have constituted a large majority.
In the late 19th century during European colonization, the German Empire established rule over most of the territory as a protectorate in 1884. It began to develop infrastructure and farming, and maintained this German colony until 1915, when South African forces defeated its military. After the end of World War I, in 1920 the League of Nations mandated the country to the United Kingdom, under administration by South Africa. It imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules. From 1948, with the National Party elected to power, South Africa applied its apartheid policy also to what was known as South West Africa. In 1878 the British Cape Colony had annexed the port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands; these became an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910.
In the later 20th century, uprisings and demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, but South Africa maintained de facto rule. In 1973 the UN recognised the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people; the party is dominated by the Ambo people, who are a large majority in the territory. Following continued guerrilla warfare, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990. But Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994.
Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the basis of its economy. The large, arid Namib Desert has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Namibia enjoys high political, economic and social stability.
The name of the country is derived from the Namib Desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world. Before its independence in 1990, the area was known first as German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika), then as South-West Africa, reflecting the colonial occupation by the Germans and the South Africans (technically on behalf of the British crown reflecting South Africa’s dominion status within the British Empire).
Pre-colonial period. The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by San, Damara, Nama. From about the 14th century AD, immigrating Bantu arrived with the Bantu expansion from central Africa. From the late 18th century onwards, Orlam clans from the Cape Colony crossed the Orange River and moved into the area that today is southern Namibia. Their encounters with the nomadic Nama tribes were largely peaceful. The missionaries accompanying the Orlam were well received by them, the right to use waterholes and grazing was granted against an annual payment. On their way further northwards, however, the Orlam encountered clans of the Herero tribe at Windhoek, Gobabis, and Okahandja, who resisted their encroachment. The Nama-Herero War broke out in 1880, with hostilities ebbing only after Imperial Germany deployed troops to the contested places and cemented the status quo among the Nama, Orlam, and Herero.
The first Europeans to disembark and explore the region were the Portuguese navigators Diogo Cão in 1485 and Bartolomeu Dias in 1486, but the Portuguese crown did not try to claim the area. Like most of interior Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia was not extensively explored by Europeans until the 19th century. At that time traders and settlers came principally from Germany and Sweden. In the late 19th century Dorsland trekkers crossed the area on their way from the Transvaal to Angola. Some of them settled in Namibia instead of continuing their journey.
German rule. Namibia became a German colony in 1884 under Otto von Bismarck to forestall British encroachment and was known as German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). However, the Palgrave mission by the British governor in Cape Town had determined that only the natural deep-water harbour of Walvis Bay was worth occupying – and this was annexed to the Cape province of British South Africa.
From 1904 to 1907, the Herero and the Namaqua took up arms against the Germans. In calculated punitive action by the German occupiers, what has been called the ‘first genocide of the Twentieth Century’ was committed, as government officials ordered extinction of the natives. In the Herero and Namaqua genocide, the Germans systematically killed 10,000 Nama (half the population) and approximately 65,000 Herero (about 80% of the population). The survivors, when finally released from detention, were subjected to a policy of dispossession, deportation, forced labour, racial segregation, and discrimination in a system that in many ways anticipated the apartheid established by South Africa in 1948.
Most Africans were confined to so-called native territories, which later under South African rule post-1949 were turned into “homelands” (Bantustans). Indeed, some historians have speculated that the German genocide in Namibia was a model used by Nazis in the Holocaust. The memory of genocide remains relevant to ethnic identity in independent Namibia and to relations with Germany. The German government formally apologized for the Namibian genocide in 2004.
South African rule. South Africa occupied the colony in 1915 after defeating the German forces during World War I. It administered it from 1919 onward as a League of Nations mandate territory (nominally under the British Crown). Although the South African government wanted to annex ‘South-West Africa’ into its official territory, it never did so. But, it administered the territory as its de facto ‘fifth province.’ The white minority of South-West Africa elected representatives to the whites-only Parliament of South Africa. They also elected their own local administration, the SWA Legislative Assembly. The South African government appointed the SWA administrator, who had extensive executive powers.
Following the League’s replacement by the United Nations in 1946, South Africa refused to surrender its earlier mandate. The UN intended that it be replaced by a United Nations Trusteeship agreement, requiring closer international monitoring of the territory’s administration and a definite schedule to achieve independence of Namibia. After the rise of the National Party in South Africa, it established apartheid in both areas. The Herero Chief’s Council submitted a number of petitions to the UN in the 1950s calling for it to grant Namibia independence but was not successful. During the 1960s, as European powers such as France and the United Kingdom granted independence to some colonies and trust territories in Africa, pressure mounted on South Africa to do so in Namibia.
In 1966 the International Court of Justice dismissed a complaint brought by Ethiopia and Liberia against South Africa’s continued presence in the territory, but the U.N. General Assembly subsequently revoked South Africa’s mandate. South Africa continued to exercise de facto rule while SWAPO expanded its guerrilla efforts to end that. In 1971 the International Court of Justice issued an “advisory opinion” declaring South Africa’s continued administration to be illegal.
In response to the 1966 ruling by the International Court of Justice, South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) military wing, People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, a guerrilla group began their armed struggle for independence. It was not until 1988 that South Africa agreed to end its occupation of Namibia, in accordance with a UN peace plan for the entire region.
Land issues. During the decades of German and South African occupation of Namibia, white commercial farmers, most of whom came as settlers from South Africa and represented 0.2% of the national population, came to own 74% of the arable land. Outside the central-southern area of Namibia (known as the “Police Zone” since the German era), which contained the main towns, industries, mines and best arable land, South Africa designated areas of the country as “homelands” for various tribes, including the mixed-race Basters, who had occupied the Rehoboth District since the late 19th century. It was an attempt to establish the bantustans, but most indigenous Namibian tribes did not cooperate.
Independence. South West Africa was formally recognised as Namibia by the UN. Attempts to persuade South Africa to agree to the plan’s implementation were not successful until 1988, after years of warfare. The transition to independence finally started under a diplomatic agreement between South Africa, Angola and Cuba, with the USSR and the USA as observers. Under this, South Africa agreed to withdraw and demobilise its forces in Namibia. As a result, Cuba agreed to pull back its troops in southern Angola, who were sent to support the MPLA in its war for control of Angola against UNITA. Angola also resolved its civil war.
A combined UN civilian and peace-keeping force called UNTAG (United Nations Transition Assistance Group), was deployed from April 1989 to March 1990 to monitor the peace process and elections, and to supervise military withdrawals. After the return of more than 46,000 SWAPO exiles, Namibia’s first one-person one-vote elections for the constitutional assembly took place in November 1989. The official election slogan was “Free and Fair Elections”. This was won by SWAPO although it did not gain the two-thirds majority it had hoped for; the South African-backed Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) became the official opposition. The elections were peaceful and declared free and fair.
The country officially became independent on 21 March 1990. Sam Nujoma was sworn in as the first President of Namibia at a ceremony attended by Nelson Mandela of South Africa (who had been released from prison the previous month) and representatives from 147 countries, including 20 heads of state. Upon the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994, the nation ceded Walvis Bay to Namibia.
After independence. Since independence Namibia has successfully completed the transition from white minority apartheid rule to parliamentary democracy. Multiparty democracy was introduced and has been maintained, with local, regional and national elections held regularly. Several registered political parties are active and represented in the National Assembly, although the SWAPO has won every election since independence. The transition from the 15-year rule of President Sam Nujoma to his successor Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2005 went smoothly.
Since independence, the Namibian government has promoted a policy of national reconciliation. It issued an amnesty for those who had fought on either side during the liberation war. The civil war in Angola spilled over and adversely affected Namibians living in the north of the country. In 1998, Namibia Defence Force (NDF) troops were sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) contingent.
In 1999, the national government successfully quashed a secessionist attempt in the northeastern Caprivi Strip. The Caprivi conflict was initiated by the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA), a rebel group led by Mishake Muyongo. It wanted the Caprivi Strip to secede in order to form its own society.
At 825,615 km2, Namibia is the world’s thirty-fourth largest country (after Venezuela). It lies mostly between latitudes 17° and 29°S (a small area is north of 17°), and longitudes 11° and 26°E.
Being situated between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, Namibia has the least rainfall of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. The Namibian landscape consists generally of five geographical areas, each with characteristic abiotic conditions and vegetation, with some variation within and overlap between them: the Central Plateau, the Namib Desert, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, and the Kalahari Desert.
Central Plateau – runs from north to south, bordered by the Skeleton Coast to the northwest, the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the southwest, the Orange River to the south, and the Kalahari Desert to the east. The Central Plateau is home to the highest point in Namibia at Königstein elevation 2,606 metres (8,550 ft).
Namib Desert – a broad expanse of hyper-arid gravel plains and dunes that stretches along Namibia’s entire coastline. It varies between 100 and many hundreds of kilometres in width. Areas within the Namib include the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveld in the north and the extensive Namib Sand Sea along the central coast.
Great Escarpment – swiftly rises to over 2,000 metres (6,562 ft). Average temperatures and temperature ranges increase further inland from the cold Atlantic waters, while the lingering coastal fogs slowly diminish. Although the area is rocky with poorly developed soils, it is significantly more productive than the Namib Desert. As summer winds are forced over the Escarpment, moisture is extracted as precipitation.
Bushveld – found in north-eastern Namibia along the Angolan border and in the Caprivi Strip. The area receives a significantly greater amount of precipitation than the rest of the country, averaging around 400 mm (15.7 in) per year. The area is generally flat and the soils sandy, limiting their ability to retain water and support agriculture.
Kalahari Desert – arid region that extends into South Africa and Botswana, is one of Namibia’s well-known geographical features. The Kalahari, while popularly known as a desert, has a variety of localised environments, including some verdant and technically non-desert areas. The Succulent Karoo is home to over 5,000 species of plants, nearly half of them endemic; approximately 10 percent of the world’s succulents are found in the Karoo. The reason behind this high productivity and endemism may be the relatively stable nature of precipitation.
Coastal Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world. Its sand dunes, created by the strong onshore winds, are the highest in the world. Because of the location of the shoreline, at the point where the Atlantic’s cold water reaches Africa’s hot climate, often extremely dense fog forms along the coast. Near the coast there are areas where the dunes are vegetated with hammocks. Namibia has rich coastal and marine resources that remain largely unexplored.
Climate. Namibia is primarily a large desert and semi-desert plateau
Namibia extends from 17°S to 25°S: climatically the range of the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt. Its overall climate description is arid, descending from the Sub-Humid (mean rain above 500 mm) through Semi-Arid between 300 and 500 mm (embracing most of the waterless Kalahari) and Arid from 150 to 300 mm (these three regions are inland from the western escarpment) to the Hyper-Arid coastal plain with less than a 100 mm mean. Temperature maxima are limited by the overall elevation of the entire region: only in the far south, Warmbad for instance, are mid-40 °C maxima recorded.
Typically the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt, with frequent clear skies, provides more than 300 days of sunshine per year. It is situated at the southern edge of the tropics; the Tropic of Capricorn cuts the country about in half. The winter (June – August) is generally dry. Both rainy seasons occur in summer: the small rainy season between September and November, the big one between February and April. Humidity is low, and average rainfall varies from almost zero in the coastal desert to more than 600 mm in the Caprivi Strip. Rainfall is highly variable, and droughts are common. The last bad rainy season with rainfall far below the annual average occurred in summer 2006/07.
Weather and climate in the coastal area are dominated by the cold, north-flowing Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean, which accounts for very low precipitation (50 mm per year or less), frequent dense fog, and overall lower temperatures than in the rest of the country. In Winter, occasionally a condition known as Bergwind (German: Mountain breeze) or Oosweer (Afrikaans: East weather) occurs, a hot dry wind blowing from the inland to the coast. As the area behind the coast is a desert, these winds can develop into sand storms, leaving sand deposits in the Atlantic Ocean that are visible on satellite images. The Central Plateau and Kalahari areas have wide diurnal temperature ranges of up to 30 °C.
Efundja, the annual seasonal flooding of the northern parts of the country, often causes not only damage to infrastructure but loss of life. The rains that cause these floods originate in Angola, flow into Namibia’s Cuvelai basin, and fill the oshanas (Oshiwambo: flood plains) there. The worst floods so far occurred in March 2011 and displaced 21,000 people.
Water sources. Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa and depends largely on groundwater. With an average rainfall of about 350 mm per annum, the highest rainfall occurs in the Caprivi in the northeast (about 600 mm per annum) and decreases in a westerly and southwesterly direction to as little as 50 mm and less per annum at the coast. The only perennial rivers are found on the national borders with South Africa, Angola, Zambia, and the short border with Botswana in the Caprivi. In the interior of the country, surface water is available only in the summer months when rivers are in flood after exceptional rainfalls. Otherwise, surface water is restricted to a few large storage dams retaining and damming up these seasonal floods and their runoff. Where people do not live near perennial rivers or make use of the storage dams, they are dependent on groundwater. Even isolated communities and those economic activities located far from good surface water sources, such as mining, agriculture, and tourism, can be supplied from groundwater over nearly 80% of the country.
More than 100,000 boreholes have been drilled in Namibia over the past century. One third of these boreholes have been drilled dry.
Communal Wildlife Conservancies. Namibia is one of few countries in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution. Article 95 states, “The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting international policies aimed at the following: maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity of Namibia, and utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.”
In 1993, the newly formed government received funding to form a Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) support structure. The main goal of this project is promote sustainable natural resource management by giving local communities rights to wildlife management and tourism.
Foreign relations. Namibia follows a largely independent foreign policy, with persisting affiliations with states that aided the independence struggle, including Cuba. With a small army and a fragile economy, the Namibian Government’s principal foreign policy concern is developing strengthened ties within the Southern African region. A dynamic member of the Southern African Development Community, Namibia is a vocal advocate for greater regional integration. Namibia became the 160th member of the UN on 23 April 1990. On its independence it became the fiftieth member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Military. Namibia does not have any enemies in the region but consistently spends more as a percentage of GDP on its military than all of its neighbours, except Angola. Military expenditure rose from 2.7% of GDP in 2000 to 3.7% in 2009, and the arrival of 12 Chengdu J-7 Airguard jets in 2006 and 2008 made Namibia for a short time one of the top arms importers in Sub-Saharan Africa. By 2015, military expenditure was estimated at between 4% and 5% of GDP.
Namibia’s economy is tied closely to South Africa’s due to their shared history. The largest economic sectors are mining (10.4% of the gross domestic product in 2009), agriculture (5.0%), manufacturing (13.5%), and tourism.
Namibia has a highly developed banking sector with modern infrastructure, such as online banking and cellphone banking.
In 2012, the unemployment rate is 27.4%. In 2004 a labour act was passed to protect people from job discrimination stemming from pregnancy and HIV/AIDS status. In early 2010 the Government tender board announced that “henceforth 100 per cent of all unskilled and semi-skilled labour must be sourced, without exception, from within Namibia”.
In 2013, global business and financial news provider, Bloomberg, named Namibia the top emerging market economy in Africa and the 13th best in the world. Only four African countries made the Top 20 Emerging Markets list in the March 2013 issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine, and Namibia was rated ahead of Morocco (19th), South Africa (15th) and Zambia (14th). Worldwide, Namibia also fared better than Hungary, Brazil and Mexico. The countries were also rated on areas of particular interest to foreign investors: the ease of doing business, the perceived level of corruption and economic freedom. In order to attract foreign investment, the government has made improvement in reducing red tape resulted from excessive government regulations making the country one of the least bureaucratic places to do business in the region. However, facilitation payments are occasionally demanded by customs due to cumbersome and costly customs procedures. Namibia is also classified as an Upper Middle Income country by the World Bank, and ranks 87th out of 185 economies in terms of ease of doing business.
The cost of living in Namibia is relatively high because most of the goods including cereals need to be imported. Business monopoly in some sectors causes higher profit bookings and further raising of prices. Its capital city, Windhoek is currently ranked as the 150th most expensive place in the world for expatriates to live.
Despite the remote nature of much of the country, Namibia has seaports, airports, highways, and railways (narrow-gauge). The country seeks to become a regional transportation hub; it has an important seaport and several landlocked neighbours. The Central Plateau already serves as a transportation corridor from the more densely populated north to South Africa, the source of four-fifths of Namibia’s imports.
Agriculture. Although arable land accounts for only 1% of Namibia about half of the population depends on agriculture (largely subsistence agriculture) for its livelihood, but Namibia must still import some of its food. Although per capita GDP is five times the per capita GDP of Africa’s poorest countries, the majority of Namibia’s people live in rural areas and exist on a subsistence way of life. Namibia has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world, due in part to the fact that there is an urban economy and a more rural cash-less economy. The inequality figures thus take into account people who do not actually rely on the formal economy for their survival.
About 4,000, mostly white, commercial farmers own almost half of Namibia’s arable land. The governments of Germany and Britain will finance Namibia’s land reform process, as Namibia plans to start expropriating land from white farmers to resettle landless black Namibians.
Agreement has been reached on the privatisation of several more enterprises in coming years, with hopes that this will stimulate much needed foreign investment. However, reinvestment of environmentally derived capital has hobbled Namibian per capita income. One of the fastest growing areas of economic development in Namibia is the growth of wildlife conservancies. These conservancies are particularly important to the rural, generally unemployed, population.
An aquifer called “Ohangwena II” has been discovered, capable of supplying the 800,000 people in the North for 400 years. Experts estimate that Namibia has 7720 km3 of underground water.
Mining and electricity. Providing 25% of Namibia’s revenue, mining is the single most important contributor to the economy. Namibia is the fourth largest exporter of non-fuel minerals in Africa and the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium. There has been significant investment in uranium mining and Namibia is set to become the largest exporter of uranium by 2015. Rich alluvial diamond deposits make Namibia a primary source for gem-quality diamonds. a number of other minerals are extracted industrially such as lead, tungsten, gold, tin, fluorspar, manganese, marble, copper and zinc. There are offshore gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean that are planned to be extracted in the future. According to “The Diamond Investigation”, a book about the global diamond market, from 1978, De Beers, the largest diamond company, bought most of the Namibian diamonds, and would continue to do so, because “whatever government eventually comes to power they will need this revenue to survive”.
Electricity is generated mainly by thermal and hydroelectric power plants. The Namibian government plans to erect its first nuclear power station by 2018, also uranium enrichment is envisaged to happen locally.
Tourism is a major contributor (14.5%) to Namibia’s GDP, creating tens of thousands of jobs (18.2% of all employment) directly or indirectly and servicing over a million tourists per year. The country is a prime destination in Africa and is known for ecotourism which features Namibia’s extensive wildlife.
There are many lodges and reserves to accommodate eco-tourists. Sport hunting is also a large, and growing component of the Namibian economy, accounting for 14% of total tourism in the year 2000, or $19.6 million US dollars, with Namibia boasting numerous species sought after by international sport hunters. In addition, extreme sports such as sandboarding, skydiving and 4x4ing have become popular, and many cities have companies that provide tours. The most visited places include the capital city of Windhoek, Caprivi Strip, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast Park, Sesriem, Etosha Pan and the coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.
The capital city of Windhoek plays a very important role in Namibia’s tourism due to its central location and close proximity to Hosea Kutako International Airport. 56% of all tourists visiting Namibia visit Windhoek.
Namibia’s primary tourism related governing body, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), was established by an Act of Parliament: the Namibia Tourism Board Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000). Its primary objectives are to regulate the tourism industry and to market Namibia as a tourist destination. There are also a number of trade associations that represent the tourism sector in Namibia, such as the Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (the umbrella body for all tourism associations in Namibia), the Hospitality Association of Namibia, the Association of Namibian Travel Agents, Car Rental Association of Namibia and the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia.
Water supply and sanitation. Namibia is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide water through municipal departments.
A large part of the population can not, however, make use of these resources due to the prohibitively high consumption cost and the long distance between residences and water points in rural areas. As a result, many Namibians prefer the traditional wells over the available water points far away.
Namibia is lagging behind in the provision of adequate sanitation. This includes 298 schools that have no toilet facilities. Over 50% of child deaths are related to lack of water, sanitation, or hygiene; 23% are due to diarrhea alone. The UN has identified a “sanitation crisis” in the country.
Apart from residences for upper and middle class households, sanitation is insufficient in most residential areas. Private flush toilets are too expensive for virtually all residents in townships due to their water consumption and installation cost. Many of Namibia’s inhabitants have to resort to “flying toilets”, plastic bags to defecate which after use are flung into the bush. The use of open areas close to residential land to urinate and defecate is very common and has been identified as a major health hazard.
Namibia has the second-lowest population density of any sovereign country, after Mongolia. The majority of the Namibian population is of Bantu-speaking origin – mostly of the Ovambo ethnicity, which forms about half of the population – residing mainly in the north of the country, although many are now resident in towns throughout Namibia. Other ethnic groups are the Herero and Himba people, who speak a similar language, and the Damara, who speak the same “click” language as the Nama.
Khoisan (such as Nama and San), who are descendants of the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. The country also contains some descendants of refugees from Angola. There are also two smaller groups of people with mixed racial origins, called “Coloureds” and “Basters”, who together make up 8.0%. There is a large Chinese minority in Namibia.
Whites (mainly of Afrikaner, German, British and Portuguese origin) make up between 4.0 and 7.0% of the population. Although their percentage of population is decreasing due to emigration and lower birth rates they still form the second-largest population of European ancestry, both in terms of percentage and actual numbers, in Sub-Saharan Africa (after South Africa). The majority of Namibian whites and nearly all those who are mixed race speak Afrikaans and share similar origins, culture, and religion as the white and coloured populations of South Africa. A large minority of whites (around 30,000) trace their family origins back to the German settlers who colonized Namibia prior to the British confiscation of German lands after World War One, and they maintain German cultural and educational institutions. Nearly all Portuguese settlers came to the country from the former Portuguese colony of Angola. The 1960 census reported 526,004 persons in what was then South-West Africa, including 73,464 whites (14%).
The 2011 Census counted 2,113,077 inhabitants of Namibia. Between 2001 and 2011 the annual population growth was 1.4%, down from 2.6% in the previous ten–year period.
Religion. Christian 80%–90% – 75% being Protestant (50% Lutheran, the largest religious group – a legacy of the German and Finnish missionary work during the country’s colonial times. 10%–20% of the population hold indigenous beliefs.
Missionary activities during the second half of the 19th century resulted in many Namibians converting to Christianity. Also Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal, Dutch Reformed and Mormons.
Namibia is home to a small Jewish community of about 100 members.
Language. Although its official language is English, Namibia is a multilingual country as it is illustrated on these examples in English, German, Afrikaans and Oshiwambo.
Up to 1990, English, German and Afrikaans were official languages. SWAPO was of the opinion that the country should become officially monolingual, choosing this approach in contrast to that of its neighbour South Africa (which granted all 11 of its major languages official status) and SWAPO instituted English as the sole official language of Namibia though only about 3% of the population speaks it as a home language. Its implementation is focused on the civil service, education and the broadcasting system. Some other languages have received semi-official recognition by being allowed as medium of instruction in primary schools. English is a compulsory subject. As in other postcolonial African societies, the push for monolingual instruction and policy has resulted in a high rate of school drop-outs and of individuals whose academic competence in any language is low.
According to the 2011 census, the most common languages are Oshiwambo (the most spoken language for 49% of households), Nama/Damara (11.3%), Afrikaans (10.4%), Kavango (9%), Otjiherero (9%). The most widely understood and spoken language is English. Both Afrikaans and English are used primarily as a second language reserved for public communication.
Most of the white population speaks either German or Afrikaans. Even today, 101 years after the end of the German colonial era, the German language plays a role as a commercial language. Afrikaans is spoken by 60% of the white community, German is spoken by 32%, English is spoken by 7% and Portuguese by 1%. Geographical proximity to Portuguese-speaking Angola explains the relatively high number of Portuguese speakers; in 2011 these were estimated to be 100,000, or 4–5% of the total population.
Sport. The most popular sport in Namibia is association football. The Namibia national football team qualified for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations but has yet to qualify for any World Cups. The most successful national team is the Namibian rugby team, having competed in five separate World Cups. Cricket is also popular, with the national side having played in the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Netball is popular as well.
Inline hockey was first played in 1995 and has also become more and more popular in the last years. Namibia is the home for one of the toughest footraces in the world, the Namibian ultra marathon. The most famous athlete from Namibia is Frankie Fredericks, sprinter (100 and 200 m). He won four Olympic silver medals (1992, 1996) and also has medals from several World Athletics Championships. He is also known for humanitarian activities in Namibia and beyond.
Golfer Trevor Dodds won on the PGA Tour in 1998 (The Greater Greensborough Open) and won 15 tournaments in his career. He achieved a career high world ranking of 78 in 1998.
The Swakopmund Skydiving Club in Swakopmund was founded in 1974, and operates still today from Swakopmund Airport.
Professional cyclist and Namibian Road Race Champion Dan Craven represented Namibia at the 2016 Summer Olympics in both the road race and individual time trial.
Media. Although Namibia’s population is fairly small, the country has a diverse choice of media; two TV stations, 19 radio stations , 5 daily newspapers, several weeklies. During German rule, the newspapers mainly reflected the living reality and the view of the white German-speaking minority. The black majority was ignored or depicted as a threat. During South African rule, the white bias continued, with mentionable influence of the Pretoria government on the “South West African” media system. Independent newspapers were seen as a menace to the existing order, critical journalists threatened.
Compared to neighbouring countries, Namibia has a large degree of media freedom. Over the past years, the country usually ranked in the upper quarter of the Press Freedom Index of Reporters without Borders, reaching position 21 in 2010, being on par with Canada and the best-positioned African country, 36 in 2009, 19 in 2013 and 22 in 2014.
Education. The pupil-teacher ratio in 1999 was estimated at 32:1, with about 8% of the GDP being spent on education. Most schools in Namibia are state-run, but there are quite a few private schools also part of the country’s education system. There are four teacher training universities, three colleges of agriculture, a police training college, and two universities: University of Namibia (UNAM) and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).
Health. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 52.2 years in 2012 – among the lowest in the world.
AIDS is a large problem in Namibia. Though its rate of infection is substantially lower than that of its eastern neighbour, Botswana, approximately 13.1% of the adult population is infected with HIV. In 2001, there were an estimated 210,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, and the estimated death toll in 2003 was 16,000. According to the 2011 UNAIDS Report, the epidemic in Namibia “appears to be leveling off.” As the HIV/AIDS epidemic has reduced the working-aged population, the number of orphans has increased. It falls to the government to provide education, food, shelter and clothing for these orphans.
Malaria seems to be compounded by the AIDS epidemic. Research has shown the risk of contracting malaria is 14.5% greater if a person is also infected with HIV. The risk of death from malaria is also raised by approximately 50% with a concurrent HIV infection. Given infection rates this large, as well as a looming malaria problem, it may be very difficult for the government to deal with both the medical and economic impacts of this epidemic. The country had only 598 physicians in 2002.
Air. Hosea Kutako International Airport, located 45 minutes east of Windhoek, is the main entry point for air traffic.
Air Namibia operates flights from Frankfurt, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Victoria Falls and Maun. Flights between the smaller Eros Airport and Cape Town are also available.
South African Airways and no-frills Kulula.com operate flights from South Africa.
Car. There are 9 commonly used border posts with neighbouring counties:
Angola – Oshikango (Santa Clara), Ruacana, ☎ +264 65 270290 (fax: +264 65 270=010). edit
Botswana – Buitepos (Mamuno), Mhembo (Shakawe)
South Africa – Araimsvlei (Naroegas), Verloorsdrift (Onseepkaans), Noordoewer (Vioolsdrift), Oranjemund (Alexander Bay)
Zambia – Wenela (Sesheke)
Bus. The most convenient international bus service into Namibia runs from Cape Town and Victoria Falls. There is also service from Johannesburg. See Intercape Mainliner. Using a combination of buses, hitchhiking and kombis you can also get to Namibia from anywhere in Botswana.
Train. The regular overnight train from Upington in South Africa to Windhoek, operated by TransNamib, has been discontinued. It is no longer possible to get into or out of Namibia by train.
Car. Despite the vast distances in Namibia, most people get around by land, and not air. If renting a car, plan to have plenty of cash on hand to fill the tank with petrol. Petrol stations typically do not accept any form of payment except cash. A small tip for the attendant pumping your petrol. If you are on the back roads of Namibia, it’s always wise to stop and top-off your tank when you see a service station. Fuel shortages are also common so always be prepared for the possibility of not being able to buy as much petrol as you may like.
Namibia’s roads are very good, with primary routes paved, and secondary routes of well-graded gravel. An all-wheel drive vehicle is not necessary except on tertiary roads and the Skeleton Coast. Driving at night is very dangerous because there is a lot of wildlife on the roads. Traffic drives on the left. Namibian roads eat tires. Always check your spare and inspect your tires often. It’s a good idea to purchase the tire insurance that your rental car company might offer, too.
Namibians often estimate the time to drive between places according to their experience driving quickly on dirt (untarred) roads. Add a third and you will arrive alive with kidneys intact!
Before you reserve a car let the rental company send you a copy of it’s rental agreement. Most of them have many (and sometimes absolutely ridiculous) restrictions. Take your time to compare them according to your needs.
Minibus taxi. It is quite easy to get around using combies (shared or long-distance taxis). Just ask around to find out where the taxi rank is (sometimes there are several taxi ranks, each one with departures to different areas of the country). Drivers are not in the habit of overcharging foreigners.
Bus. TransNamib. Operates air-conditioned buses (and trains) to destinations all over Namibia via their StarLine service.
Train. The national railway company of Namibia, TransNamib, operates trains (and buses) to destinations all over Namibia via their StarLine passenger service. Some routes available are Windhoek-Otjiwarongo-Tsumeb, Windhoek-Gobabis, Windhoek-Swakopmund-Walvis Bay
Windhoek-Keetmanshoop, Walvis Bay-Swakopmund-Tsumeb
The StarLine scheduled service conveys passengers via special coaches hooked on the back of freight trains. These passenger coaches offer comfortable airline-style seating with air-conditioning and (sometimes) video entertainment.
Desert Express – a luxury tourist train that traverses Namibia regularly, taking tourists to such destinations as Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Etosha National Park. Buses are used to transport visitors from train stations to the various sights.
Air. Westwing. Offers both scheduled and charter flights throughout the country edit
Tour. Several tour companies operate in Namibia. Each is unique in services offered but most operate with safety in mind.
Motorcycle. For experienced off road drivers, with extensive gravel and sand long distance experience, there is one motorcycle rental company in Windhoek – NamiBIke Adventure, 17 Parsival Street, Academia, Windhoek.
Talk. English is the official language and is widely spoken. However, the majority of older Namibians (those educated before independence) speak English only as a third language; therefore, the standard is fairly poor. English is more widely spoken in the north, as it was adopted as a medium of instruction earlier than in the south. Older Namibians in the South are more likely to speak Afrikaans or German.
Afrikaans is spoken by many and is the first language of the Afrikaners. English is spoken as a first language by the remaining English families, and German is spoken by the Namibians of German descent, who tend to be in Windhoek, Swakopmund and various farms scattered through the country. German is one of the leading commercial languages as well. Portuguese is spoken by immigrants from Angola.
Namibia is in Southern Africa, bordering South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and the Atlantic Ocean. Formerly a colony of Germany, Namibia was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate after WWI, and annexed as a province of South Africa after WWII. The South-West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) launched a guerrilla war for independence in 1966, but did not gain independence until 1990.
Namibia boasts remarkable natural attractions such as the Namib desert, the Fish River Canyon Park, Etosha National Park and the Kalahari desert. Its people speak nine different languages, including some of the Khoisan languages which include the ‘clicks’ that present an enigma to most native English-speakers. Namibia produces some of the world’s highest quality diamonds.
Inhabited from the dawn of time by the San, also known as the “Bushmen”, invaded by the Bantu, colonized by the Germans (who called it “South West Africa”) and taken over by South Africa after WWI, Namibia is in many ways quite similar to South Africa. Since it was ruled under the apartheid system, Namibia also has many of the problems resulting from that system.
Race is a common part of Namibian discourse. Namibians will refer to the race of others more frequently than travellers from places where race is typically not an issue. Because of apartheid, race is an issue in many spheres of life, so it comes up a lot. In spite of this, the various races do get along well in Namibia, and it is fairly uncommon to find racial tensions flaring. Apartheid was never implemented as strictly in Namibia as in South Africa, so racial tensions are generally lower.
Namibia is similar to South Africa, and if you’re used to travelling in one country, travelling in the other country is quite easy. There are some subtle differences. For example, in South Africa a non-white person may choose to speak English rather than Afrikaans (as a political choice) whereas among Namibia’s mixed-race population (who call themselves ‘colored’ in Namibia and South Africa) Afrikaans is a proud part of their culture, and many people still speak German. Overlooking these differences isn’t going to cause offence, but they’re handy to know.
Namibia is a land of much natural beauty. To truly appreciate the country, you need to get out in the countryside, either on a tour or by renting a car, and take in the deserts, the mountains, the villages and all that Namibia has to offer.
Perhaps not as plentiful as neighbouring Botswana or South Africa, Namibia still has plenty of African wildlife to see. This includes some local subspecies, such as desert lions, desert elephants and the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, which are adapted to the harsh desert climate. Grazing animals like gemsbok, ostrich and springbok are also common. Namibia’s national parks are an excellent place to start and one of the most famous is Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia. Other notable spots to view wildlife are Waterberg Plateau Park, the parks of the Caprivi and the remote Kaokoland.
Namibia has a German influence from colonial times that is still reflected in some of its buildings. Windhoek has a number of interesting buildings like the Christuskirche, the train station and the castle-like Heinitzburg Hotel. Lüderitz is a colonial-era town with distinctive German Imperial and Art Nouveau styles. Nearby is the abandoned mining town of Kolmanskop. Once a thriving center for diamonds, the miners moved on and the sand dunes have moved in, but tours are still available.
Caprivi – The panhandle in the north-east of the country. With two major rivers, the Caprivi is one of the few areas of Namibia that have water.
Northern Namibia – North of the Ugab river mouth to the border with Angola.
Central Namibia – Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Ugab river mouth.
Southern Namibia – South of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Windhoek — Namibia’s capital and largest city.
Keetmanshoop — Small town on the rail lines and highway, jumping off point for treks in the Fish River Canyon Park.
Lüderitz — Colonial-era German coastal town.
Ondangwa and Oshakati — Twin towns in the heart of Owamboland, northern Namibia.
Outjo — Gateway to the Etosha National Park, Koakoveld and Damaraland.
Swakopmund — Coastal town, a mecca for Namibians on holiday.
Tsumeb — Mining town east of Etosha.
Tsumkwe — rural desert town surrounded by San (Bushmen) villages.
Walvis Bay — Desert sports.
Unesco World Heritage Site: Twyfelfontein or /ui-//oes – or Doubtful Spring, at the head of the grassy Aba Huab Valley, is one of the most extensive rock-art galleries on the African continent. To date more than 2500 engravings have been discovered, and Twyfelfontein became a national monument in 1952. In 2007 Twyfelfontein was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, the first such distinction in the whole of Namibia.
Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet Africa.” iBooks.
Brandberg Mountains — The highest mountain in Namibia at 2 573 m.
Etosha National Park – In north, semiarid grassland 10 times the size of Luxembourg, third largest game reserve in the world. 144 species animals, 300 of birds. The park surrounds the Etosha Pan, a flat depression at the heart of the park with seasonal water. which attracts animals, particularly in the drier winter months, because it is a source of water in a very dry land. Incredible variety animals at water holes: elephants, zegras, giraffes, blue wildebeests, springboks, black rhino, flamingos, pelicans when pan fills with water. Huab Lodge is a private game reserve next to Etosha.
Kolmanskop — A ghost town just outside Lüderitz.
Waterberg Plateau Park — Another good place to watch wildlife.
Namib Desert – stretches for nearly a 1000 km along the Atlantic coast. Distinctive rust colour sand. World’s oldest and driest with 1,000′-high sand dunes especially good at dusk and dawn. Best Apr-Nov.
Sossusvlei — The most popular entry point for people wanting to visit the Namib desert. Magical place with its towering dunes that shift hues as the sun rises and sets.
Skeleton Coast — The northern coastal part of the Namib desert, named for the dozens of ships that were beached in the thick fog that is frequent where the desert meets the Atlantic. Remote, little explored, solitude, treacherous shoreline with shipwrecks and whale bones littering the fog-shrouded beaches. Empty and mostly inaccessible Skeleton Coast National Park is a seemingly barren expanse of stone and sand. Highest sand dunes on earth at 1000′. Safaris depart Windhoek.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Kunene – breeding ground for tens of thousands of Cape fur seals on rocks and beaches. Pups arrive late Nov or early Dec. Best visited by aircraft
Spitzkoppe, Otjozondjupa — the Matterhorn of Namibia.
Fish River Canyon Park–Located in the south of Namibia, it is the largest canyon in Africa (and second largest canyon in the world) with a gigantic ravine– about 160 km long, up to 27 km wide and 550 meters deep. The canyon is known for its immense scale, rugged terrain and deeply twisting, meandering lower canyon. The river cuts deep into a dry, stony plateau and flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. Fish River Canyon is part of the |Ai- |Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park . Straddling southern Namibia and South Africa (and measuring 6045 sq km) it boasts one of the most species-rich, arid zones in the world. It also encompasses Richtersveld National Park and the Senqu (Orange) River valley in South Africa.
The 90km long trail drops 620m to end at the hot springs resort of Ai-Aisthe. Most people do it in five days but the 100km ultra marathon held here each year has been done in 8 hours. The trail is only open from May 1 to September 15 because of extreme summer heat and flood danger. The more than 20 river crossings may become a major consideration when water levels are high.
The weather is usually mild with typical temperatures between 5°C and 30°C with little humidity. Water is safe to drink. There are no amenities on the trail. Open fires are not allowed. A medical certificate of fitness is required.. Stretching for 160 km, it is reaches 27 km across at its widest and nearly 550 m down at its deepest. Further south, near the South African border
Opuwo– capital of Kunene Region and an ideal starting point for stocking up before venturing further into Kaokoland and the rest of NW Kunene.
Kaokoland – home to the Himba tribe, desert elephants, desert lions, Epupa Waterfalls and many more attractions in this north-western corner of Namibia.
Erongo – Bull’s Party Rocks, Moon Valley, Brandberg – A conservancyFire Mountain is named for the effect created by the setting sun on its western face, which causes the granite massif to resemble a burning slag heap. Its summit, Königstein, is Namibia’s highest peak at 2573m. Its best-known attraction, the gallery of rock art in Tsisab Ravine, features the White Lady of the Brandberg. Compulsory guide included in price – you cannot just walk around these fragile treasures by yourself. It’s good to tip the guide afterwards if you’re happy with their service.
Hardap – Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon, The Fish River Canyon, Naukluft Natural Reservoirs
Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to bargaining. In most towns you will be approached by many locals to buy souvenirs. When this happens a ‘no thanks’ will usually suffice and they will leave you alone. It is common to haggle. Try to buy as much as possible from small shops instead of bigger ones — it’s the best way to help the poor local population.
The cross-border money transfer facilities are limited and expensive, with one of the poorest currency buying-and-selling rates, because government does not want the money to be sent out of the country. There’s a western union office across the street from the US embassy in Windhoek.
Namibians have a very high intake of meat. It is possible to be a vegetarian there.
Fruits and vegetables that you will find include avocados, bananas, onions, oranges, pineapples, kiwi fruit, potatoes, and celery. Also fairly common are peanuts, beans, rice, couscous, millet, tomatoes, corn, bread, and pasta. Many of these foods are imported and therefore relatively expensive, in addition to being limited due to seasonal availability.
If visiting Windhoek, you will find local and international cuisine in the many diverse restaurants and cafes. Pretty much anything you want, you will find here.
Drink. Namibia’s nightclubs are always happening and always open late (pretty much until the last person leaves). They are mostly located in bigger cities: Windhoek, Swakopmund and Oshakati. There are not many bars, though there is very good beer, and there are a lot of shebeens. The flagship beer of Namibia is Windhoek Lager, an easy-drinking filtered beer, not dissimilar to many German brews.
Namibia is well equipped for travellers wanting accommodation of all price ranges – you can find backpacker accommodation in most places, camping areas throughout the country, midrange hotels and a healthy smattering of posh safari lodges. Quality is extremely high, and even budget lodges usually provide internet access, a pool, a bar and laundry facilities. Many hotels also serve meals and run travel centres.
There are a number of Hotel chains that operate nationally. There are also a number of notable hotels in Windhoek such as Windhoek Country Club Resort and some international hotel chains also operate in Windhoek, such as Avani Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
Big Sky Lodges operate 5 establishments in strategic areas of Namibia. Each is unique to their environment but all offer the same distinctive attention to service
It is extremely difficult for foreigners to get work permits in Namibia. With over 51% unemployment, the government is not enthusiastic about letting people in who would take jobs from Namibians. All semi-skilled and unskilled positions must be unconditionally filled by local Namibians. It is possible to get a work permit to volunteer, though this requires going through the same drawn out process as the normal work permit.
Windhoek is currently ranked 150 overall, most expensive place in the world for expatriates to live.
Namibia is a peaceful country and is not involved in any wars. With the end of the Angolan civil war in May 2002, the violence that spilled over into northeastern Namibia is no longer an issue.
Namibia does, however, have a relatively high crime rate. Be careful around ATMs. For men, it is not prudent to walk or ride taxis alone in Windhoek or Oshakati after midnight. For women, it is not prudent after 9 p.m. Pickpockets can be a problem. Lately, there are many armed robberies reported; in most cases, tourists get robbed of belongings carried with them in a bag. For home security, electric fences are installed in almost every house in Windhoek.
Most reported robberies take place just outside of the city centre. The police report that taxi drivers are often involved: they spot vulnerable tourists and coordinate by cell phoning the robbers. Take these warnings in context; if you are alert and take some common sense precautions, you should have no problems. Be aware of tourist robbery in the Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay areas. This problem is larger than commonly reported in the media.
Travellers should have no problem visiting the townships, but do not visit the townships alone unless you are familiar with the area. If you have been travelling in Southern Africa for a few months, you probably know what you are doing.
Namibia has a serious problem with driving under the influence of alcohol. The problem is aggravated because most people consider it no problem. When driving or walking on weekend evenings, be especially alert.
The HIV infection rate in Namibia is about 25%.
Namibia’s medical system is modern and capable of attending to whatever needs you may have. Staff are well trained and so HIV transmission in hospitals is not an issue. This applies to government and private hospitals alike, though line-ups are often shorter at private hospitals, and there have been cases of incorrect diagnosis in government hospitals.
The northern part of Namibia is in a malaria-risk zone, so consult a doctor before leaving, and take appropriate malaria precautions when travelling in these areas.
Namibia’s water supply is usually safe to drink, except where labelled otherwise. Campsites next to rivers often get their water directly from the river, so do not drink it.
Namibians are very proud of their country. It is a well developed country (albeit still a developing nation) with all the modern amenities and technologies. Namibians have been exposed to a surprisingly wide variety of peoples during the United Nations supervising of the elections, as well as from various volunteer organizations. They are not offended by Westerners wearing shorts, nor by women wearing pants. It is not uncommon to see Afrikaners with thick, knee-high socks (keeps snakes from getting a good bite) and shorts walking about. It is customary when greeting someone to ask them how they’re doing. It’s a simple exchange where each person asks “How are you?” (or the local version “Howzit?”) and responds with a correspondingly short answer, and then proceed with whatever your business is about. It’s a good idea to do this at tourist info booths, in markets, when getting into taxis, even in shops in Windhoek (though it’s normally not done in some of the bigger stores in the malls).
Telephone. Namibia’s country code is 264. Each city or region has a two-digit area code. When calling long distance within Namibia, prefix the area code with a ‘0’. There are Internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well.