Travel Namibia without a car, is it possible?
Namibia is considered the greatest country in the world for a road trip. Rightly so. It is one of the safest countries in Africa, has an amazing road infrastructure both asphalt and gravel, and a diverse landscape worthy of exploration. Road tripping offers the excitement of hiring a big 4×4 truck, the exhilaration of hitting the open road into the unknown and delight of discovering new places and people. There is, in my opinion, no better way to explore the country. But does this imply the country cannot be explored and appreciated without a vehicle?
Unfortunately, this is mostly the case. Except for Swakopmund all major attractions in Namibia are located away from towns and major roads. There are many flights, trains, buses and local taxis that connect all towns in Namibia. Some of these options are extremely convenient, reliable and cheap, but this is not the challenge.
The challenge is to get to the attraction usually situated well away from these well-connected towns. You’ll either end up paying for a costly transfer or spend hours alongside the road attempting to hitch a ride. Don’t forget the colossal distances between places in Namibia. For a Namibian to wake up in the morning, drive 150 km to meet a friend for lunch and return home later in the day is considered normal.
If I channel the budget backpacker inside of me I can offer a glimmer of hope. All is not lost and you can get by, however all of it involves reliance on some form of transport. Your first option is to tag along with another group. Scour travel forums (I have seen many on TripAdvisor) prior to arrival and attempt to convince someone to join you or them. Or once you arrive in Windhoek go around to the various backpackers and actively seek fellow travelers out. Many have notice boards, so check those out or post your own notice. The downside being you’ll end up having to fork out for rental and gas and will now have to share an itinerary.
The other option is to book a local or overland tour. I don’t like making this recommendation. For personal reason I don’t enjoy this type of travel, but many enjoy it and it remains an option. I know that a lot of single female travelers prefer this as they consider safety in numbers. These will get you where you need to be, but I guarantee you they are severely overpriced, and you are now obviously bound by the itinerary on offer. You’ll eat when we say you eat, you’ll sleep when we say you sleep. Reminds me to much of my days in boarding school and the military.
A revelation has been the introduction of the Suzuki Jimny into Namibia2Go’s fleet. This is a nifty little 4×4 that will make exploring Namibia both easy and fun. I am planning to hire one for a few days and explore all six of the camps at Etosha National Park (I’ll do a post). For N$900 (between US$50-55) per day, you can rent what is considered one of the best off-road vehicles available. It does not come with all the bells and whistles, but all you need is a cheap tent and your backpack.
So yes, renting a well-equipped 4×4 off road vehicle is your best option to explore Namibia. Who does not enjoy a good road trip? It is not impossible to get by without one, but extremely difficult and time consuming. I would prefer to spend my time enjoying Namibia and not alongside the road pleading for rides. Your other options include sharing a vehicle, or a local or overland tour. Then there is the new Jimny option from Namibia2Go, which allows you to rent a capable 4×4 at an extremely affordable price. I consider this a revelation in the Namibian rental market. No, I am not getting paid to say this, I probably should be, but I am not. I simply consider this a practical solution for those with a backpack and a budget.