Everything You Need to Know Before Renting a Car in Namibia

Namibia is located in Southern Africa and is considered by many to be “Africa for beginners”. It is safe, the locals are friendly, and it is easy to access the most popular destinations by car.

And considering that Namibia is twice the size of California but with a population of only about 2.5 million (the population of California is around 40 million), you’ll have a huge expanse of land and plenty of amazing destinations all to yourself.

The must-visit highlights of Namibia are spread out all over the country but the public transportation infrastructure is not set-up to get visitors to the popular attractions. So most tourists choose to rent a car. And since the roads can be incredibly rough, it is highly recommended that tourists rent a 4×4 vehicle.

Driving in Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

There are many rental car companies in Namibia that provide 4×4 vehicles that include a fold-up tent attached to the roof. This is an ideal way to travel as so much of the country is remote but campsites are conveniently located throughout. This is also the best way to see Namibia if you’re on a budget.

Aside from the fact that you’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the road, driving in Namibia is fairly simple. People generally obey the rules, the road signs are in English, and you’ll only encounter traffic in the cities (even that is minor). You’re guaranteed to have an unbelievable time road tripping around this spectacular country!

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Driving a Car in Namibia

Rules of the Road

  • In Namibia you’ll be driving on the left side of the road. If you’re not used to it just know that you’ll regularly mistake your windshield wipers for your turn signal.
  • Drivers are required by law to keep their headlights on at all hours of the day. This is a new law so not everyone complies currently. But if you are caught with your headlights off, you’ll likely face a 350 NAD (~$29 USD) fine.
  • All passengers must wear seatbelts.
  • Check whether your car takes diesel or unleaded gas before you get to the gas station.
  • Visitors are advised not to drive at night as many animals cross the road or rest on the warm pavement and can be difficult to spot.
  • Expect everything to take longer than you expect it to. And expect everything in your truck to be covered in dust all of the time.

Elephant Crossing in Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

Speed Limits

  • Speed limits are clearly marked on most roads throughout the country.
  • 60 kilometers/hour is the standard in most towns.
  • 120 kilometers/hour on highways unless signed otherwise.
  • 100 kilometers/hour on gravel roads although most rental car agencies would prefer that you stay under 70.

Road Signs

Most of the highways in Namibia are clearly signed and easy to read. English is the official language in the country so their road signs are in English as well. Most of what you’ll see are animal crossing and speed limit signs. But you’ll also see the occasional sign of an “S” with a slash through it (which means no stopping), or signs announcing a curved road or “no passing”.

Check Points

You’ll pass through several check points along your Namibian road trip. Most just want to know where you’ve been and where you’re going. Others want to check your refrigerator and will make you toss your meat and eggs (there are outbreaks of hand, foot, and mouth disease in some areas of the country).

Road Conditions

Driving in Sossusvlei, Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

Many of the roads in Namibia are unpaved so expect a very bumpy ride. Especially in Etosha National Park and along the Skeleton Coast. A 4×4 vehicle is highly recommended.

Check your lug nuts and tent bolts every morning as it is common for the rattling to cause them to loosen.

When driving over sand, be sure to deflate your tires prior to getting started. 1.5 bars is standard for driving over most areas of soft sand. If you decide to drive out to Deadvlei your shovel may come in handy as the sand is quite deep and it’s easy to get stuck. Deflate your tires and use your 4-wheel drive.

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Gas Stations

The distances that you’ll be traveling in Namibia are quite far and the areas are very remote. For that reason most of the trucks that you can rent have been modified to include two gas tanks. Gas stations can be few and far between so it’s better to stop and fill up often, just in case.

Our tanks together totaled 145 liters and the car came empty. We had to immediately head to the gas station to fill up. The cost from zero to full was approximately 1,700 NAD (~145 USD). You should be able to go about 1,200 kilometers with both tanks full.

You’ll want to tip your gas station attendant 5-10 NAD (less than $1 USD) to account for the fill-up and for anyone who washes your windows.

Safety

Namibia is an incredibly safe country although the increase in tourism over the years has also brought an increase in car theft. Rental car smash and grabs can be common when tourists leave valuables in plain sight. Don’t leave any of your valuables in the front seats and be sure your doors are locked at all times, even while driving.

Many young entrepreneurs wait in busy parking lots with an offer to watch your car for a small tip which is worth paying for added security. Expect to give a ‘car guard’ 2-3 NAD (less than $.50 USD) if you are making a quick trip or 5 NAD if you plan on being away from your car for an hour or more.

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Hitchhikers and Flaggers

Hitchhiking is a fairly common means of traveling around Namibia, for both locals and foreigners. Don’t feel obliged to pick anyone up unless you feel 100% comfortable.

You’re also likely to encounter many people on the side of the road trying to flag you down. They’re looking for food, water, or money. Keep some extra fruit and bottles of water in your car so you can hand them out to anyone who looks like they really need it (we prefer fruit over other food items so we’re not also leaving them with trash to dispose of).

Renting a Car in Namibia

Rental Car Companies

Most of the rental cars that you’ll see foreigners driving in Namibia are white Helix trucks with tents on top. The white color keeps the interior from getting too hot and the tents are easy to put together in the evening and then take down in the morning.

We chose Advanced Car Hire as they have reliable cars and fantastic customer service. They also have cars and insurance packages at various price points to suit any budget. Plus they’ll even pick you up from the airport!

Rules of the Rental Agencies

Most of the rental car agencies have their own rules of the road to ensure that both you and their vehicle remain intact during your tour of Namibia. Our rental car had a buzzer that would sound if we exceeded their recommended speed limits on the type of road we were driving on.

Here is an example of some of the rules of the rental car company that, if violated, would void insurance coverage:

  • Not to exceed 70 km/hour on a gravel or salt road.
  • Not to exceed 30 km/hour when 4×4 is engaged.
  • Not to drive between towns after sunset unless granted permission.
  • Under no circumstance drive on the D3700 and D3701 along the Kunene River or on the Van Zyls Pass.

Rental Car Insurance

Your rental car agency will offer you different levels of insurance options to choose from. Regardless of the one you choose, you’ll find that they usually don’t cover everything:

  • Tires and windows are generally not covered by the standard insurance options and must be purchased separately.
  • The underbody and clutch are generally not included by any insurance options through the rental car agency.
  • The front and rear bumpers are generally not included by any insurance options through the rental car agency.

Rusting Car in Solitaire, Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

Your insurance also will not cover you if you are found to be engaging in negligent activities while driving. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Driving while talking on your cell phone
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Driving on a main road before sunrise or after sunset without permission
  • Driving on unmarked or forbidden roads
  • Exceeding the speed limits designated by the rental car company

Protecting Yourself

Advanced Car Hire, Windhoek, Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

You’ll be expected to sign several long and complicated-looking rental agreements prior to departing with your car. Be sure that you protect yourself and your pocketbook by doing the following:

  • Use a credit card for your deposit that has it’s own car rental agency coverage in case of an accident. We like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card because it provides coverage for car rentals, has zero international fees, and has an awesome rewards program!
  • Take photos and videos of the truck and note any significant dings or scratches.
  • Carefully mark down each and every scuff, scratch, and ding on the rental agreement and make sure that you get a copy.
  • Thoroughly check all of your camping equipment to ensure that it is there and that it is clean and in proper working condition. Check that your bedding and cookware have been washed. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t seem right.

Camping in Namibia

There are many campsites in Namibia and the infrastructure of the country is set-up well to accommodate campers. You’ll find that most of the campsites in Namibia have plenty of shade, well-maintained bathrooms, water and electricity at each site, and often they even offer WiFi.

Milky Way in Solitaire, Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

The price you pay for a campsite will be per person and often you’ll also be charged a fee to enter the park. So once you add up what you’re spending on a rental car plus the campsite and park fees, you may be spending more than you budgeted for.

Expect to pay around 150-230 NAD per person per night (~$13-20 USD). Read all about our favorite campsites in Namibia here!

Rental Car Company Tent and Equipment

If you rent a truck with a rooftop tent, the following equipment will likely be included:

  • Water resistant rooftop tent with mattress.
  • Cookware – stove, pots, pans, plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery, knives, cutting board, tea kettle, wine/bottle opener.
  • Propane tank – ours came full and was plenty of propane for us to cook dinner and make coffee every day for 3 weeks.
  • Camp chairs, camp table, lantern, spade, axe.
  • First aid kit and maps of Namibia.
  • Car equipment – jack, jumper cables, air compressor, and tools.
  • At least 1 spare tire (we paid a small fee to have 3 spares included but luckily we never needed them).
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For an additional daily fee you can include the following:

  • Electric cooler box – having one of these was an absolute necessity so that we could keep our food cold in the hot arid climate of Namibia. It runs off of a second car battery so you don’t have to worry about it draining your main battery.
  • Bedding
  • Child seat
  • GPS

Driving in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia by Wandering Wheatleys

Things to Bring From Home

Don’t forget to bring along some key road trip camping supplies when packing for your trip:

  • FM Transmitter. The truck we rented only had a radio and a CD player. Check with the rental car agency and if your vehicle doesn’t come with Bluetooth or an AUX input make sure you pick up a Bluetooth FM Transmitter. That way you can listen to your own tunes or podcasts on the road. Most also include a USB charging port as well so you can keep you devices charged on the road.
  • USB Car Charger. With all the long drives ahead of you in Namibia, you’ll find this is the easiest way to keep your electronics charged. We like this multi-USB car charger because it can charge so many devices simultaneously!
  • Travel Towel. Towels are not included in your rental camping gear and campsites don’t provide them. Be sure to bring a quick-dry towel that is large enough for both showering and lounging by the pool.
  • Headlamp. Most campgrounds offer some kind of lighting, but you’ll still want one of these for setting up your tent after dark, cooking, and finding your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. We think Petzel makes the highest quality headlamps at a reasonable price.
  • Luci Lights. We love these little inflatable solar-power lanterns and take them on all of our camping adventures. They are easy to charge on your dash and can be strung from trees around camp.
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Shopping for Supplies

While the rental car agency will provide you with pretty much everything you’ll need, other than food, there are a few things you’ll likely need to pick up prior to setting off on your adventure:

  • Tupperware container to keep the dust out of any luggage or clothing that you’d like to keep clean.
  • Salt and pepper grinders, other spices or seasonings, and oil for cooking.
  • Dish soap, a sponge and paper towels for clean-up after meals
  • A lighter for lighting your stove and starting a fire at your campsite (many campgrounds around Namibia allow fires in designated areas and some even provide firewood)
  • Bedding. If you’re going to be camping in Namibia for more than a couple of weeks, the price to purchase a few pillows, a sheet, and a comforter will be almost equal to the price you’ll pay to rent used bedding.

Any other questions about renting a car in Namibia? Comment below! 

Looking for more details on what to see and do in Namibia? Check out our favorite books!


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