Namibia is comprised of 11 major ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Ovambo. Other groups include the Kavango, Herero, Himba, Damara, Nama, Basters, Caprivians, and Bushmen (San), among others. Each group has its own traditions and customs. The San, or Bushmen, the country's oldest resident tribe, are best known for their legendary storytelling, love for music, mimicry and dance. The Nama are known for their natural talent in music, poetry and writing style. Every culture offers its own insight into and influence on Namibian life.
Each ethnic group also has its own staple food. For example, the Ovambo people enjoy mielie pap, a cornmeal porridge and mahango (millet), which they eat with fish, goat, lamb or beef stew. The Nama prefer the spiky inara melon, while the Herero mainly eat milk products, including curds and butters. Pumpkins, peppers and onions are also widely consumed. Game, like biltong (air-dried meat) and rauchfleisch (smoked meat) are also a Namibian specialty.
The official language of Namibia is English, but knowledge of Afrikaans and other local languages will prove useful.
Though several flights enter Namibia from points abroad, flying in via South Africa is often the most economical option. Additionally, land travel into Namibia is possible from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Angola. It is possible to drive or take inexpensive buses that operate on these routes.
Namibia car rentals offer a good blend of price and convenience. A chauffeured rental is recommended, as some international roads are un-tarred. An international railway network links most towns in Namibia to Windhoek, which then connects to Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa.
Citizens of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and many European nations do not require a visa to enter Namibia; passport holders from other countries, however, will need to obtain a Namibian visa. All visitors, regardless of nationality, must hold passport valid for at least six months following their date of arrival. These requirements are subject to change, and should be verified prior to travel.
Namibia offers a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly camps to upscale hotels and safari lodges. Generally speaking, Namibia tours patronize accommodations that meet Western standards for amenities and services. Due to limited supply and availability, travellers are advised to book all Namibia hotels well in advance.
Local flights and charter planes link Namibia's major towns and cities, and are a popular choice for Namibia tours. Thrifty travellers often choose luxury rail or road, which both offer convenience at a good price.
Namibia car rentals offer self-drive and chauffeured services. Self-drive rentals are popular, as most roads are tarred. Traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road. Note that an international driver's license is required.
Check with your local health insurance provider to determine whether your coverage extends to Namibia; if not, purchase travel health insurance. We also recommend purchasing a travel insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation.
Namibia's climate includes arid, semi-arid and subtropical regions. In the central region, the nation's most arid, temperatures can eclipse 40º C (104º F) during the day and then plummet below freezing at night.
Namibia has two rain seasons: short rains occur from October to December, while long rains fall between January and April (summer). Summers are hot by day and cool by night. During the winter (May-September), warm days cool to cold nights and much of Namibia is covered in frost. The Benguela cold current keeps the coast of the Namib Desert cool and free from rain for most of the year, and also creates thick fog.
Before you leave for a Namibia tour, check with your doctor to verify you are up-to-date on all routine vaccinations, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and the yearly flu vaccine. You should also discuss whether you should receive additional vaccines, such as the recommended hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies. Malaria preventions, such as anti-malarial pills, should also be taken. If applicable, pack to protect yourself against STIs like HIV-AIDS.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Namibia. Please note, however, that travellers (age 1+) who have visited a yellow fever country will be asked to show their international certificate of vaccination, before they are granted entry to Namibia. Citizens of non-endemic nations, for example the United States and members of the European Union, may be exempt from this requirement.
Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is present in some lakes and rivers, especially those in eastern Namibia, so it is considered unsafe to swim or paddle in freshwater. Chlorinated pools are generally safe. Travellers on Namibia safaris are advised to carry anti-bite serums for snakes and scorpions. Additionally, if you have serious allergies or a significant medical condition, always wear your medical alert bracelet. Major hospitals and chemists (pharmacies) are located in many towns and cities.
Namibia's official currency is the Namibian Dollar, but the South African Rand is also widely accepted. Travellers cheques may be exchanged at local banks, bureaus, and some hotels; cheques in U.S. Dollars and South African Rand receive the best exchange rates. Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club, are widely accepted throughout Namibia, especially at hotels and other tourist establishments.
The import/export of foreign currency is not limited, but must be declared. The import/export of local currency is legally restricted to N$50,000 (Namibian Dollars).