What makes Namibia a unique country to travel to?
Namibia is a southern African country with a moderately developed economy. Facilities for tourism are good and generally improving in quality. The capital is Windhoek.
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
While you are traveling in Namibia, you are subject to its laws. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Namibia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
U.S. citizens should avoid purchasing diamonds and other protected resources outside of licensed retail establishments. The penalty for illegal dealing in diamonds in Namibia is stiff – up to U.S. $20,000 in fines or five years in prison – and the courts generally impose the maximum sentence. The purchase and exportation of other protected resources (for example, elephant ivory or hunting trophies from certain endangered species) may also be prohibited by Namibian, international, and/or U.S. law.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Namibia, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. Embassy.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Windhoek has a small number of private medical hospitals and clinics capable of providing emergency care and performing many routine procedures. Doctors – both general practitioners and specialists – as well as dentists generally have training and facilities that are comparable to U.S. standards. Facilities outside the capital vary widely. Several large towns have well-equipped facilities similar to those available in Windhoek, while smaller towns generally do not. Malaria is prevalent only in the north of the country. Malaria prophylaxis is not required in Windhoek, but is suggested for travel to the north.
Safety and Security
U.S. citizens wishing to cross into neighboring countries (Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia) from Namibia should do so only at official border crossing areas and should consult the State Department's Country Specific Information for information about entrance requirements for these countries.
Though street demonstrations are rare in Namibia, U.S. citizens should avoid them when they occur. U.S. citizens traveling in Namibia are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy’s consular section in Windhoek for the latest safety and security information.
Stay up to date by bookmarking our Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well, or you can download our free Smart Traveler App from iTunes or the Android market for travel information at your fingertips.
You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
There is nobody better at protecting you than yourself. Take some time before travel to improve your personal security—things are not always as they are in the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
Cell phone coverage in Namibia is generally good in areas near main roads. Mobile phone users may call 112 in an emergency and will be connected to the appropriate service (e.g., police, hospital, etc.) It is not necessary to dial an area code when calling this number.
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.