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Our advice for self-driving holidays in Namibia

When planning a trip to Namibia, a country that is approximately 825,000 sq. kms in size and where the scenic highlights are significant distances from each other, an immediate question that arises is how to travel between the various destinations?

The options are generally flying, guided (by road) or self-drive and there are pros and cons to each, depending on your particular preferences and requirements. Here, we’re going to focus on self-driving. Namibia offers wonderful opportunities for self-driving holidays, and this is the most common way to explore its incredible landscapes.

Why self-drive in Namibia

Good Value

– self-driving is generally a cost-effective means of exploring Namibia, both in terms of actual travel costs (compared to flying or fully guided safaris) and in terms of being able to pick and choose the accommodation to suit your budget.

Sense of freedom and adventure

– when self-driving, the journey becomes as much a part of the experience as the destination itself. Some of the drives can be long (usually three to six hours), but time doesn’t drag as you pass through ever-changing landscapes and being under your own steam allows you to travel at your own pace and stop to admire the scenery at will.


– the ability to combine different styles of accommodation, whether it be a luxury lodge or simple guest house, and to include both guided and self-guided excursions, allows you to experience the full diversity of what Namibia has to offer.


– it is possible to comfortably reach the main highlights of Namibia by self-drive, including the iconic Namib Desert, remote wilds of Fish River Canyon, the coastal experience around Swakopmund, the rugged mountains of Damaraland and the big game of Etosha National Park.

Tips for self-driving in Namibia

Is self-driving in Namibia safe?

Whilst we are likely to recommend a 4×4 vehicle and you will be driving mainly on gravel roads, driving in Namibia should not be viewed as difficult. The roads are both well-maintained and well sign-posted – it would be difficult to get lost!

The biggest consideration is driving large distances through remote regions and so it is vital to be prepared and have solid back up in case of the unexpected. The weather in Namibia can also quickly change road conditions so checking routes and the weather before you set off is important. However, most of the main highlights of Namibia can be reached without needing serious off-roading skills and with careful planning, self-driving is a straightforward and enjoyable experience. We equip our clients with a comprehensive checklist of do’s, don’ts and important advice before travel.

Top 10 Tips for self-driving in Namibia

Our team of specialist consultants have explored Namibia in depth, regularly travelling with friends and family on self-drive research trips and personal holidays. Here are their top tips for a safe and successful self-drive holiday in Namibia:

1. Check your car thoroughly before leaving the car hire depot, including the spare wheel.
2. Check and maintain the car tyre pressures regularly – driving over different terrain requires different pressures for safe travel.
3. Follow the directions given to you, do not rely on Google maps.
4. Allow more time than you need for your journeys – you’ll want to stop to take photos, have a leg stretch and still have contingency time if the unexpected arises.
5. Familiarise yourself on Namibia’s driving laws – they will likely differ from regulations in your own country and police actively enforce them. Keeping headlights on at all times is one example.
6. Stick to the speed limit – most road accidents in Namibia happen because of complacency at the wheel and driving too fast for the road conditions. There are also speed cameras in force.
7. Don’t drive at night, other than in the major towns – the risk of domestic livestock and/or wildlife wandering on to the road is high.
8. Refuel whenever you see a petrol station.
9. Keep water and snacks in the car.
10. Stop at McGregor’s Bakery in Solitaire and try their famous apple pie!

Vehicle options for self-driving in Namibia

The most important thing is to choose a vehicle with high ground clearance. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a 4×4 vehicle – a two-wheel drive can suffice for the majority of self-driving holidays in Namibia – however we do often recommend 4×4 for extensive trips that include game-viewing areas like Etosha and more remote regions. The ground clearance is especially important both for handling the rougher roads and also for general space and comfort when driving long distances. Sitting a little higher will also give better visibility when game viewing.

Self-driving and game viewing in Namibia

Self-driving does not mean dispensing with the services of an expert guide completely. Many camps and lodges allow you to self-drive there, and then offer a more traditional guided activity experience using the lodge’s own vehicles. Whether tracking rhino on foot, seeking out desert adapted elephant, or simply learning about the fascinating landscape, self-driving does not mean missing out on the insight gained from spending time with a knowledgeable local guide.

That being said, Etosha National Park is very rewarding to self-drive with generally good road surfaces and a simple road network. You can stay in the park at the rest camps, and the best way to game view through the park is to spend time visiting the various waterholes. These attract a wide range of wildlife species, and having the freedom to explore at your own pace (together with a certain amount of patience) means you can really make the most of viewing opportunities. For a more exclusive experience, private game reserves border the National Park and offer a more traditional safari experience with game drives hosted by their own guides both on the reserves and in the park. We often find that a combination of self-driving and private reserves works well in Etosha.

Guided driving holidays in Namibia

If you love the idea of the freedom and flexible pace of road travel, but are less keen to do the driving yourself, then a guided driving holiday may be the perfect option. An experienced guide would simply join you in your vehicle and take the strain of the driving, leaving you to enjoy the scenery with peace of mind that everything is being taken care of.

For the more adventurous and for those keen to truly escape into the wilds of Namibia, an exclusive guided wild camping experience is highly recommended. This can easily be threaded into a standard self-drive holiday and is a fabulous way to explore some of Namibia’s most remote and beautiful landscape without having to worry about negotiating off-road terrain yourself.


If you’d like to find out more about self-driving in Namibia, our team would be delighted to discuss options to suit your personal preferences and requirements. Please call us on +44 (0) 1787 888590, or email us via our Contact Us page.

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