5 things I wish I'd known before driving in Namibia

The roads are good. The scenery is spectacular. But there are some idiosyncratic things you need to take into account when driving in Namibia

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With it's vast distances and isolated sites, Namibia is the perfect self-drive destination. While the roads are generally good, Margo Bishop, from ATI Holidays, warns that there are some distinctly Namibian quirks to take into account.

1. Mind the bump

Watch out for animals crossing your path, especially warthogs and kudus. And never drive after dark outside of a town or city. Animals often sleep on the roads at night.

2. Cash is king

Petrol stations only accept cash, so make sure you bring enough for your trip.  Just to be on the safe side, we recommend that you fill up whenever you pass a petrol station.  Petrol stations in Namibia are also all full-service, and it’s common to tip the attendant around 5 Namibian dollars. 

3. Licence to thrill

If your driver’s license has a photo and is written in English, you can use it in Namibia. Otherwise, you will need to apply for an international driving license or an official translation, which could take a few weeks.

4. Safety first

Overall, crime rates are very low along all routes in Namibia. However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you want to stop and walk around a town along the way, it’s best to park at a petrol station as most will have 24-hour security cameras

5. When four wheels are better than two 

For most tourist sites around the country you don’t need a 4x4 vehicle, but they do offer a lot more comfort, safety, versatility, and reliability.  If you do use a 4x4, keep these points in mind:

– For the vast majority of the journey, you will only need to use 2x4 (2H) rear-wheel drive.

– On more difficult, unstable, or steep terrain, you may need to switch to 4x4 high (4H), but keep in mind this uses more fuel.

– If you feel like you need some help getting through something, switch on the diff lock, which makes sure all the wheels spin together.

– If you’re really stuck in soft sand, mud, or going over a very steep pass, switch to 4x4 low (4L), which uses a lower gear ratio.

– Keep in mind that you can only use the diff lock and/or 4L for a very short time!  Once you are through the obstacle, switch back to 4H or 2H with the diff lock off to avoid causing damage to the car

Planning a trip to Namibia? Don't forget to check out the fantastic Namibia destination guide in the April 2014 issue of Wanderlust.

ATI Holidays is a completely independent, owner-managed inbound tour operator to Namibia and Botswana, focusing on self-drive, fly-in, guided and special interest tours. You'll find more information about their Best of Namibia Self-Drive trip here.

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