Crime is a serious concern in Namibia, but visitors who employ common-sense preventive measures normally enjoy an incident-free stay. Incidents of violent crime directed specifically against U.S. citizens or other foreigners are rare. The most common crimes are property-motivated crimes of opportunity, including pick-pocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-ins. Such crimes most commonly occur in the central business districts of cities, or other areas frequently visited by foreign tourists, both at night and during the day.
Basic precautions remain the best deterrents against becoming a victim. Be alert to your surroundings, avoid dark or isolated areas, don’t leave valuables in parked cars, and keep car doors locked and windows up while driving. Safeguard purses, wallets, and cellular phones while in public. Drivers should also exercise caution at rest stops between towns; whenever possible, avoid driving or making rest stops by the road at night.
Take special care when utilizing a taxi or other transportation service. Criminals posing as taxi drivers have occasionally robbed passengers in the past. The Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (NABTA) has taken steps to regulate taxi drivers by allocating registration numbers (one alphabetical designation followed by a two-digit number), which are prominently pasted on the doors and rear windscreens of legitimate taxis. Generally, travelers are more likely to find a legitimate taxi service if booked through a hotel rather than by flagging down a driver randomly on the street. Whatever your circumstance, be cautious and aware of your surroundings when utilizing taxi services; take note of the vehicle license and taxi registration numbers, as well as the name of your driver.
ATM and Credit Card Fraud is becoming more sophisticated and more common in Namibia. ATM users should be suspicious of any unknown person approaching while at an ATM, even if that person appears to be offering assistance. A variety of distraction schemes have been used to steal money or information from tourists at ATMs. Perpetrators may also use card-reading or card-trapping devices attached to ATMs to procure PIN codes or other important personal information. Carefully inspect an ATM before using it and, whenever possible, try to use ATMs which are enclosed and/or under guard.
While most business establishments deal honestly, some may have individual employees who use card-reading machines to steal information when patrons pay with a credit card. This can be done with hand-held devices in a matter of seconds. Whenever possible, pay with cash. If you must use a credit card, then it is best to observe the transaction closely as it is processed, and to ensure that the card is not taken out of your sight. Many banks and credit card companies have the capacity to send automatic “alerts” by e-mail or text message when a card has been used. Before traveling, inquire whether your bank or credit card issuer will provide such services.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
The government has also begun to establish “Tourist Protection Units” (TPUs) which are mandated to carefully monitor criminal activity in areas frequented by tourists and to assist tourists victimized by crime. TPUs exist in Windhoek and in Swakopmund. If you are a victim of crime in one of these cities, please contact:
Windhoek Main Police Station
Swakopmund Police Station
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