Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
The information below concerning Namibia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
In Namibia, driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Many of Namibia's rural roads are gravel. Although these roads are generally well maintained, controlling a vehicle on gravel is significantly more difficult than on pavement. Drivers should not drive in excess of 80km per hour (45 mph) on gravel roads, should reduce speed significantly for curves or turns, and should heed all warning signs. Hitting a sand patch or driving around a curve too fast can easily result in a rollover or spinout. Many accidents on gravel roads occur when tourists exceed safe speeds on corners or in areas recently damaged by rains. Visitors are reminded that motor vehicle accidents – often, single car accidents – are one of the primary causes of injury and death in Namibia, and drivers are therefore strongly urged to drive with caution.
For those driving outside the capital, distances between cities can be considerable, and often gasoline is only available at a few service stations along a route. Fuel availability can be affected by power outages as well. All travelers are encouraged to plan their route to ensure a sufficient supply of fuel, and to carry five liters of water per person when traveling on dirt roads to guard against dehydration if an accident should occur.
Turning at a red traffic light is not permitted in Namibia. Seat belts are required for all vehicle occupants. Motorcyclists are required by law to wear protective helmets. While child car seats are not required, they are recommended.It is an offense to use a mobile phone while driving. The traffic fine is the equivalent of approximately U.S. $200.
To drive legally while in Namibia, visitors staying more than 90 days need an international driving permit. International driving permits must be obtained prior to leaving the United States and are available from either the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Short-term visitors do not need an international driving permit; a valid U.S. driver's license is sufficient.
Roads in Namibia are generally well maintained. However, few have shoulders or “pull-off” lanes for broken down vehicles. Wildlife wandering on roads is a special driving hazard in Namibia, especially at night. An encounter at high speeds with antelope or cattle can be fatal. The salt-surfaced roads at the coast can also be deceptively dangerous, especially when they have been made slick by morning or evening mist. Robberies have occurred at roadside "rest stops," so motorists are advised to take rest breaks in towns and/or at gasoline stations. Embassy Windhoek has a policy against its staff members driving after dark outside Windhoek. This is due to the dangers of other vehicles, gravel roads, intermittent flooding, crime, and animals on the main highways. U.S. citizen visitors to Namibia are encouraged to drive only during daylight hours.
Most major roads are undivided with one lane in each direction. Drivers should remain alert for passing vehicles and exercise caution when passing slow moving vehicles. Accidents involving drunk drivers are an increasing problem on major roads where there are high speed limits. Driving under the influence is illegal in Namibia. A charge of culpable homicide can be made against a driver involved in an accident resulting in death.
Roadside assistance and emergency medical services outside Windhoek may be unreliable or non-existent. Assistance on main roads that link Namibia's larger towns, however, is generally good due to high quality cell phone networks. Travelers with mobile phones may call 112 in an emergency and will be connected to the appropriate service (e.g. police, hospital etc.). Public transportation is not widely available outside the capital. Taxis and municipal buses are the only forms of public transportation in Windhoek. Schedules and routes are limited. Car rentals or radio taxis are generally the best means of transport but may be relatively expensive. The Embassy has received reports of foreign citizens being robbed by drivers of taxis hailed on the streets of Windhoek. The Embassy has not received any such reports regarding radio taxis.
Flashing of high beams and similar signals could mean anything from a friendly greeting to a warning. When encountering a motorcade, motorists are encouraged to make way immediately and follow promptly any instructions given by the officials present.
Because of the possibility of intoxicated and/or reckless drivers, sexual assault and/or robbery, the poor mechanical condition of some motor vehicles, and the high incidence of single-vehicle rollover accidents, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid hitchhiking in Namibia.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.