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Planning a Namibia road trip? Here’s everything you need to know to make it special.
Is Namibia the coolest destination ever for a road trip? Maybe. And if it’s not quite number one, it’s definitely up there near the top. Whether it takes the top spot or not, you can be sure it will be a road trip unlike any you’ve taken before.
Namibia is… quirky. Its main attractions are as eclectic as its few inhabitants and its landscapes are just as impressive as they are photogenic. Every place you visit will feel like a totally different country in the strangest way, but it’s an endearing trait that will only make you fall more in love. I’ll leave it at that for now.
There’s plenty to see in Namibia but it’s all spread out across the country’s vast landscape. The best – and pretty much only – way to explore is by road. So get ready to buckle up – here’s everything you need to know to plan a memorable Namibia road trip.
Why take a road trip in Namibia?
The second least densely populated country in the world, Namibia is a vast, open country with miles upon miles of desert and open plains. You can travel for hours without seeing another car or sign of life.
Driving in Namibia is a bit like being on a treadmill for cars, with nothing but a long straight road ahead of you most of the time. But despite the unchanging landscape, driving in Namibia is about as far from a boring gym workout as you can be.
You’re still probably going to sweat – the weather in Namibia can be incredibly unforgiving during the middle of the day. But you’re also going to have an adventure you’ll never forget (for both the right and wrong reasons).
How long you need
To see the best bits of Namibia, you’re going to need to do a loop of the country. That means long drives between palm-sized towns, with few vehicles to pass on the way. As I said, it’ll be like no other road trip you’ve taken before.
Before you do anything else, take a look at the map and think about where you really want to go. To get a taste of Namibia, you’ll need at least 5-7 days. To see all the main sites, you’ll want around 7-10 days. And if you want to see all of the good stuff and really get to know Namibia, allow yourself two weeks or more to explore.
Namibia is the kind of place where you’ll want to leave some room for spontaneity. There’s a good chance you’ll want some extra time in at least one of the places you stay, whether it’s to climb a few more dunes, try to spot the animal you haven’t yet seen or to take a second shot at the best photo you’ve ever taken. If you can, keep this in mind when planning your trip and don’t tie yourself down with a strict itinerary.
If time is pretty tight, don’t underestimate how long the distances are between places. It doesn’t look like far on the map – especially when there’s nothing in between – but you can be driving for hours between towns and rest stops. It won’t take long before you begin to feel just how huge Namibia is!
Planning a Namibia road trip itinerary
Despite the lack of life and civilisation in the majority of the country, there’s no shortage of things to see in Namibia. It’s one of the most eclectic countries in the world, with a huge variety of landscapes, attractions and memories waiting to be made.
You’re going to be partly restricted by the roads and places to spend the night, but it’s not hard to prioritise the things that interest you most. Namibia’s most popular tourist attractions are scattered across the north of the country. Most travellers will want to focus on these, but there are some truly unique spots in the south if you have time.
Here are the places you shouldn’t miss:
Etosha National Park: The best place in Namibia to see everything from elephants to antelopes, Etosha is home to three of the big five. If you’re as lucky as we were, you may even spot all three at once!
Sossusvlei: The famous red dunes are the highlight of many people’s Namibia trip, including my own. It gets really hot during the day in Sossusvlei, so most of your exploring will be restricted to the morning or late afternoon. Make sure you factor in enough time to see everything, including Dune 45 and Deadvlei.
Kolmanskop: A former diamond town, Kolmanskop is now just a ghost of what once was. Its skeletal buildings are being taken over by sand dunes, making for an eerie experience and beautiful photos.
Namibia road trip tips
Namibia may be one of the best road trips you ever take, but it’s also one you’ll need to be prepared for. The Namibian roads are unpredictable, the climate is harsh and you could go hours without seeing another sign of human life. Make sure you’re clued up on these tips for driving in Namibia before you go to make sure you’re as well-prepared as possible.
Renting a car in Namibia
Despite what the internet would have you believe, there’s no real need to rent a 4×4 in Namibia. Unless you know you’ll be hitting certain roads, a standard 2-wheel drive will be more than enough for your road trip. The one thing you definitely will need is a spare tyre – it’s almost impossible to complete a Namibia road trip without a single flat.
If you have some extra days on your hands, it may be cheaper to rent a car from outside Namibia. We rented in Cape Town and drove up, and it cost less than it would have to rent from Windhoek, even with the extra days. If you’re going to rent from outside the country, just make sure you ask for a certificate showing permission to cross the border.
Check car rental prices:
What to take on your road trip
Don’t overlook this part! Being prepared is everything in Namibia, and that includes what you load the car up with.
Before you even put the key in the ignition, make sure you have a spare tyre, jack and any tools you’ll need to change a flat. There’s a very good chance you’ll need them at least once during your trip.
Stock up on snacks and water (especially the water!) and prepare for the long, straight roads ahead. There’s nowhere else like it in the world and it’s surprisingly therapeutic, but it’s a lot less enjoyable when you’re hungry and thirsty.
When it comes to clothing, you’ll need all the usual things you’d pack for an African safari, plus extra layers. The weather in Namibia is as diverse as its attractions, so layering is the easiest way to make sure you’re always prepared.
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