In Namibia, we spent 3 weeks on quite a substantial road trip with two small children. Below, I’ve gathered information that seems important to me when planning a trip.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO READ A DAY-BY-DAY JOURNAL FROM NAMIBIA?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
/Click on the title below to go to the relevant section in the text/
- Flights – How to get to Namibia
- When to go – Is there a better or worse time of year?
- Visa for Namibia
- Internet in Namibia
- Car rental in Namibia – What to pay attention to
- Road trip in Namibia – Expectations vs. reality
- What to do when you get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere
- GPS and Maps – What to use in Namibia
- Namibia – where to stay – recommended lodges, apartments & camping sites
- Why we didn’t camp as much as we had planned
- What to do in case of an accident or serious illness?
- Namibia – is it safe?
- Namibia with kids – what to pack
- Itinerary – day by day route
- Map of Namibia
- Estimated costs
- Facts about Namibia
How to get to Namibia
To get to Namibia from Poland, you can only fly with a layover.
Since Namibia was once a German colony, the best (direct) flights from Europe come from Germany. We flew with Lufthansa from Frankfurt. It’s a direct flight that takes about 10 hours. Of course, you first need to get from Poland to Frankfurt.
Namibia – When to go
Namibia is located in the southern hemisphere, so when it’s summer for us, it’s winter there. African winter means around 25-30 degrees Celsius during the day and even 0 degrees at night, with a significant drop in temperature right after sunset, which is around 18:00.
During our stay (3 weeks in July), it was warm (above 20 degrees with sunshine), but still too cold for swimming in pools. Even when the temperature rose above 25 degrees, the pool water was cold because the nighttime temperature can drop to 5 or 0 degrees, and the water doesn’t have time to warm up. Our kids went into the pool only once for a few minutes.
Namibia doesn’t have a typical rainy season because it’s a desert country. Therefore, theoretically, you can visit all year round. However, our winter can be scorching hot there. But, on the other hand, it’s probably pleasant to sit by the campfire in the evenings.
Some friends visited in January and didn’t complain much about the heat. During that time, the colors are more intense, the earth is more orange, and there’s a chance to see water in the rivers.
Visa for Namibia – in Berlin or on arrival
Polish citizens can obtain a visa for Namibia on arrival, meaning after landing at Windhoek Airport. It turns out that you don’t need a photo for this. You only need to fill out a lengthy form. The cost is around N$1200, which is roughly 260-270 PLN, and it’s valid for 90 days.
Unfortunately, getting the visa takes a long time. After entering the building, don’t make the same mistake as we did and don’t queue for passport control right away. First, you need to get this visa, which is in a small room on the left. When you enter with a crowd of people, some of whom are locals and the other half are Germans (who obtain their visa before arrival), you might miss this window.
Generally, we were the only ones on the entire plane who needed to get a visa. And it took so long that everyone had already gone, and another plane from Frankfurt had landed, which was departing after ours. We were in a hurry to make it to passport control before another long queue formed. And by the time we managed to pass (because there were more visa formalities after passports), quite a few people from that second plane had already gone and collected their luggage.
So, if possible, we recommend obtaining the visa in advance, but unfortunately, it’s not possible in Poland. The nearest place to do this is Berlin.
Internet in Namibia and SIM card
To have internet in Namibia, it’s best to buy a SIM card right at the airport.
There are two companies available, but everyone recommends and apparently it’s better to get MTC. When you enter the arrivals hall, you’ll first see the stand for the other, less recommended network. MTC is closer to the exit outside, on the right side.
Please note, there will be a queue! We bought prepaid cards valid for 30 days for about 20 euros. Considering how weak the signal is in Namibia, there’s hardly a chance to use it all up, although I managed to do so, but only because I was posting stories on Instagram, which used up my internet.
In lodges, we used Wi-Fi, which was decent but nothing extraordinary. It’s more for checking emails or social media rather than work.
Car rental in Namibia
Namibia is best explored with a 4×4 off-road vehicle. You can opt for guided tours, rent a car with a driver, or rent a car and drive yourself. We chose the latter option.
In Namibia, only the main roads are paved, the secondary ones are gravel, and it’s better not to even consider the less important ones. Therefore, the drives are long, bumpy, and it’s advisable to have a vehicle with a sturdy chassis.
For our entire stay – nearly 3 weeks – we rented a car from a local rental company: Safari Car Rental.
The car came equipped with all the camping gear and other essentials needed for such a trip (compressor, 2 spare tires, water and fuel cans, etc.).
Of course, it also had a rooftop tent for sleeping. We initially planned to spend 8 nights out of 19 in the tent, but in the end, we only spent 2 nights, as explained below.
Things to consider when renting a car in Namibia:
Before heading to Namibia, I made a checklist:
- Zero-excess insurance – came in handy because a rock hit the front windshield and we had a flat tire.
- Car equipment – check the mattresses, blankets, utensils, stove, gas, etc. We received the gas bottle already filled.
- International driver’s license – Geneva Convention – it wasn’t needed; the police stopped us for a routine check and said a regular Polish EU license was sufficient.
- Check if the fridge is working – we used the fridge the whole time, and it was genuinely useful during long drives.
- Find out where the key for changing the tire is and how to change it – came in handy when we had a flat tire.
- Ensure the compressor works – we used it when transitioning from gravel roads back to asphalt.
- Ask about tire pressures for driving on sand dunes – we had stickers on the car indicating the right tire pressure for asphalt and gravel.
- Refuel at every gas station – definitely do this, as the distances between gas stations can be quite long, especially in remote areas.
Picking up the car took us about 3 hours, but that’s because we preferred to ask about tire changes, deflating and inflating tires for gravel roads, and other similar matters. If someone is familiar with these things, they can pick up the car and go.
The company we rented from seems very professional. It’s not an international chain but a local company, and they have everything well-organized. You can call them anytime if you have a problem, and they will either provide a replacement car or send someone to help. The cars also have trackers, so they can locate you in remote areas.
We highly recommend them! Here’s a link to their website, and the exact car we rented: Safari Car Rental.
To add a bit of excitement, on the second day, we had to visit a Toyota service center because a warning light wouldn’t go off. And by the end of the day, a stone from a passing car hit our windshield, leaving a few centimeters of damage in the middle of the front windshield. We also had a flat tire (its condition didn’t allow us to simply call it a “flat tire”). So, the zero-excess insurance definitely came in handy – we didn’t have to pay for these incidents.
Road trip in Namibia – expectations vs. reality
Our trip to Namibia revealed real needs, and in practice, our road trip in Namibia looked quite different from what we initially expected.
First of all, when doing a classic route (like ours), you don’t really need a fully equipped 4×4 vehicle and all the extra gear. Let’s break it down:
- The roads are gravel, but they are mostly flat and even. It’s not extreme off-roading. A 4×4 drive helps because it reduces the shaking, and it’s worth driving at around 70-80 km/h. If you drive slower, it can be quite bumpy. Many gravel roads have a speed limit of 100 km/h, but rental companies don’t allow you to exceed 80 km/h. We actually stuck to these recommendations.
- We only used the capabilities of our well-equipped 4×4 vehicle once when driving on sand to Dead Vlei. Without the high ground clearance, 4×4, and sand driving mode, we wouldn’t have dared to go on our own. But don’t worry, you don’t have to drive your own vehicle there. There is a parking lot where a regular “train” shuttles tourists a few kilometers. So, you drive your own car on the asphalt to the parking lot, and from there, you don’t need to worry.
- Two spare tires are definitely necessary. We had a flat tire, and we could only replace it with a new one the next day. In such terrain, any tire can blow at any moment.
- Our car came with a bunch of tools and equipment – shovels, pickaxes, ropes, and a compressor. This wasn’t our choice; it’s just what was available when we booked the car about three months before our trip. When you’re doing the classic route, there’s no risk of getting stuck in the sand or a river.
So, in reality, you can get by with a less rugged vehicle and equipment for a typical Namibian road trip.
What to do when you get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere
During our 3-week stay, we had a flat tire once, and it happened about 10 kilometers from the campsite we were planning to reach that day.
When you get a flat tire or experience any other breakdown, the first step is to set up a warning triangle and then flag down the nearest passing car. You don’t even have to flag them down because they will likely slow down to ask if everything is okay and if they can help. In Namibia, it’s a common practice to slow down near vehicles parked on the side of the road and check if everything is fine. When traveling with two small children, this can be very reassuring.
In our case, Danish travelers came to our aid. As it turned out, they had quite a bit of experience with changing tires, and they also had a car from the same rental company, so they knew what to do.
Before the Danes stopped by, several other cars had already slowed down to inquire if they could help. We were on the phone with the campsite at that point, discussing whether they could send someone to assist us. However, when the Danes insisted on helping, we decided not to call the campsite anymore. Later on, more cars slowed down to ask if everything was okay.
GPS and maps
Based on various online recommendations before our trip, we purchased a paper map of Namibia from Tracks4Africa. Apparently, Google Maps might not be entirely reliable in this region. Our car was equipped with a Garmin GPS with Tracks4Africa maps preloaded, which is considered the best option.
We also used Google Maps as a backup (we had the map downloaded on our phones and used it offline). However, at times, Google Maps showed different distances than Garmin and didn’t provide information about road conditions, such as gravel or sand. In these cases, we relied on the descriptions in the paper map. Google Maps sometimes showed turns 10 kilometers ahead of the actual location on both Tracks4Africa and reality.
The map we had can be purchased in Poland on Allegro: Map of Namibia Tracks4Africa.
Where to Stay in Namibia The most popular option for accommodation in Namibia is camping, often with a rooftop tent on a 4×4 vehicle. It’s the cheapest option and offers a unique experience. Many camping sites in Namibia seem well-equipped and are often located within lodges, allowing campers to use the same facilities (including the pool) as lodge guests. You can also stay in lodges and roadhouses, which are located outside cities, or in regular hotels or apartments in cities.
During our 3-week stay in Namibia, we initially planned for 8 nights of camping and the rest in lodges. However, we ended up spending only two nights in rooftop tents. Why did this happen? It was due to logistical reasons we realized on-site.
Why we didn’t camp as planned:
At the Palmwag campsite, it was so windy at night that we could only sleep for a few hours with interruptions. This wasn’t unique to that location; it was just unfortunate weather conditions, and strong winds persisted for several days. It was so windy that when we stopped the car for a quick break, I couldn’t open the car door. We decided not to get out of the car because we were afraid that if we managed to open the doors, the wind would literally rip them off. We couldn’t imagine sleeping in a rooftop tent in such windy conditions.
This experience made us realize another important point: we had planned to camp at Etosha (and previously at the dunes in Sesriem). To make a safari worthwhile, you need to start it early in the morning, so you can be near waterholes at sunrise when the animals gather. This means setting up the campsite and tents at 5:00 in the morning, in total darkness and cold (it was around 5 degrees at that time in Namibia). This was impractical with two small children. It would have been challenging even without children.
We hadn’t thought this through earlier, probably because there are very few travel accounts online about visiting Namibia with small children, and those that exist don’t emphasize this aspect. So, I would like to caution anyone planning a safari in Namibia with small children to think twice about camping in Etosha and at the dunes, where you need to wake up very early and pack up all your belongings before setting off.
Additionally, we read very negative reviews about the camping sites inside the park. We didn’t have a chance to verify this because we ended up staying at Toshari Lodge near the park entrance. However, we visited all the camping sites: Okaukuejo, Halali, and Namutoni, and the service there was terrible. To the point that we couldn’t even get served dinner because no one wanted to attend to us. We didn’t expect a relaxing experience.
So, is it really worth the hassle of camping and sleeping in those tents inside the park? In my opinion, not at all. The confusion arises because the park entrance gate opens at 7:00 a.m. Afterward, there’s a bit of driving to reach the waterholes, so by the time you arrive, it’s not that early. But… we entered the park right when they opened the gate, and I genuinely don’t know what we would have seen there earlier. It’s not as though you need to arrive there at the crack of dawn. The animals roam freely, and you can encounter lions 5 km from the gate. Our favorite waterhole was right there, and every morning, we saw herds of zebras in the rising sun.
OUR ACCOMMODATIONS IN NAMIBIA
MARIENTAL: En route from Windhoek to Fish River Canyon: Camelthorn Kalahari Lodge
Charming cottages, located in a private reserve, so right after the gate, on your way to the reception, you can see antelopes, zebras, giraffes. Very friendly staff and delicious food.
FISH RIVER CANYON: Canyon Roadhouse Lodge
This place is probably “cult” among tourists heading to southern Namibia. The decor is meticulously done, with delicious food, but it can get crowded during the day – which doesn’t bother you at all when you want to relax in the middle of nowhere. It’s definitely worth stopping by for at least a coffee and seeing what it looks like.
LUDERITZ: Apartment with a view of Shark Island
A small room, but with a separate entrance and a beautiful ocean view. It’s more for a one-night stay on the road, but it’s worth considering because the price is very attractive and the conditions are good enough.
SESRIEM: Desert Camp
Cottages with a beautiful view of the savannah, oryxes – truly African vibes, and very close to the entrance gate to the dunes. Just remember that there is no restaurant on the premises of this lodge – the cottages have kitchenettes and barbecue spots – you can cook for yourself or drive to another lodge for lunch, and there are plenty of them nearby. There’s a bar by the pool that serves drinks, including non-alcoholic ones.
Very comfortable conditions, and importantly, it’s equipped with a washing machine and dryer… We strategically planned our stay here after a week in Namibia, knowing that we would need laundry facilities by then. Another advantage is the location – it’s very close to a pleasant oceanfront promenade with good restaurants and a shopping center where you can buy everything you need.
TWYFELFONTEIN: Twyfelfontein Country Lodge
Absolutely beautiful place – located among the reddish rocks, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and it works wonders. If possible, I recommend planning a day of relaxation here to enjoy drinks by the pool.
PALMAWG: Palmwag Campsite
An incredibly well-equipped campsite – each spot has a roof, a sink with running water, power outlets. In addition, the toilets and showers are new, clean, and inviting. Guests also have access to a pool, restaurants, and a small playground for children.
ETOSHA: Toshari Lodge
The lodge was booked on the day of arrival, necessitating a change in plans. It’s close to the Anderson Gate. Pleasant rooms, a pool, very friendly staff, and good food. It’s a good idea to take a packed lunch from them for your day in Etosha because the food at the campsites in the park isn’t great.
OHANGE: En route from Etosha to the south – Ohange Namibia Lodge
A lodge with a different atmosphere than the others – locals also stayed here, not just tourists. A nice place to rest on the way with animals, birds, and a pool. The lodge is run by the owners, not hired employees.
OKONJIMA/AFRICAT: Otjibamba Lodge
An amazing end to our stay in Namibia – a cottage with a view of the animals. Sitting on the terrace and sipping non-alcoholic drinks, we enjoyed the sight of giraffes, ostriches, and antelopes that constantly gathered at the waterhole right in front of us.
*** The links to the places where we stayed are affiliate links. This means that if you book from them, we will receive a small commission. The price for you remains unchanged – you won’t pay more. ***
What to do in case of an accident or serious illness?
What to do in such a remote place in case of sudden serious illness? Our strategy was as follows:
>> Have good travel insurance – considering the cost of such a trip, the cost of good insurance is really minimal.
>> Travel first aid kit – Namibia is not a country where you can just go to a store in case of need and buy what you need. A pharmacy or a store with less common products may be a week away. So you need to have basic medicines, bandages, something for diarrhea, burns, cuts, and bruises. Extra plasters, small scissors, a simple bandage, a thermometer, and syrups for children’s fever are a must.
>> In case of illness and the need for rapid transport to the hospital – apparently, in Namibia, you go to the nearest farm or lodge, ask for help in calling an ambulance from the hospital in Windhoek. Namibia is a large and empty country, and landing an ambulance at a lodge or farm is common. So, you can be in a modern hospital in the capital within an hour. That’s very reassuring.
>> Namibia doesn’t have malaria (except in very northern areas where we didn’t plan to go). So we didn’t bring anti-malaria drugs with us. However, we had mosquito repellents (without deet – safe for children). They didn’t come in handy – we didn’t see any mosquitoes.
Namibia – is it safe?
Namibia is an incredibly safe country. There are hardly any reports of attacks on tourists, and during our stay, we never felt threatened in any way.
First and foremost, there are very few people in Namibia – only 2 million in a vast country. You simply don’t come across people. Those you do meet are not hostile in any way. Nobody walks around with guns or machetes – just to be clear.
It’s completely safe at the campsites, except for the lions, elephants, and rhinos, which can come quite close – we were warned several times not to let the children run around on their own in the bushes.
Namibia with kids – what to pack
Our children were almost 6 years old (Nella) and 3.5 years old (Nikodem) at the time of our trip. Below, I’ve listed what we brought to keep them from getting bored during long drives and, most importantly, to keep them safe.
Binoculars for children – highly useful, I recommend them, not only for trips to Africa!
Portable travel potties for peeing during safaris – they didn’t come in handy, as it turned out that Etosha has restrooms in several places, and you can get out of the car there – except for one place where elephants had come, and the fence was broken – we didn’t get out there…
Scrapbooking albums and a pocket printer – we didn’t have time to use them… Sunscreen with UV protection 50 – paradoxically, we didn’t spend that much time in the sun, so the hats with wide brims were sufficient.
UV hats – these actually came in handy.
Swimwear with long sleeves – we actually used these only once because it was too cold for swimming.
Bath foam – these would have been useful for bathing in the pool because the water was cold, but the kids completely gave up on swimming.
Small thermoses for food – these came in very handy; we stored food in them for long drives.
Thermoses for drinks – these were invaluable during the Etosha safari – we made hot tea for the road, and it saved us… They keep the water cold in the heat.
Tablets – don’t judge…
UV flashlights – supposedly, they were useful for finding scorpions to avoid stepping on them at night at the campsite, but we didn’t see any scorpions. However, they still came in handy because it’s really dark at night in Africa.
Art kits and origami sets – I always prepare art kits for the kids because our daughter is always “creating” something. Such a kit includes plenty of A4 sheets, colored paper, scissors, glue, colored pencils, markers, and now I added feathers, glitter, and stickers – basically, I collect all sorts of stuff from home and put as much as will fit into a zippered folder. – and, of course, it came in handy.
Itinerary – our route day by day
Windhoek – Arrival at 7:00 in the morning, shopping, and drive south, overnight at Camelthorn
One of the most beautiful places we stayed in Namibia. We also manage to go on an afternoon game drive and see animals.
Fish River Canyon
A full day on the road, and we arrive at the lodge when it’s already dark.
Fish River Canyon
In the morning, we go to see the canyon, and in the afternoon, we relax at the lodge before another long drive. The kids play by the car wrecks.
Luderitz and Kolmanskop
We try to leave in the morning to make it for a tour of the ghost town of Kolmanskop. We succeed and arrive in Luderitz in the afternoon. We spend the rest of the day at a waterside restaurant because it’s Sunday, and everything is closed, and the town is totally deserted.
Sesriem and Sossusvlei Dunes
We leave early at 8:00 am, and it’s still dark. We drive straight to Sesriem and manage to see the canyon before the gate closes.
Sesriem and Sossusvlei Dunes
Early in the morning, we head to the gate’s opening and see Dead Vlei. We spend the middle of the day at the lodge by the pool, and in the evening, we go back to the dunes.
Early in the morning, we set off for Swakopmund, after a long drive, and after setting up laundry, we only go for dinner on the nearby oceanfront promenade.
We go on a Living Desert Tour in the morning and later visit Cape Cross to see the seals.
In the morning, we go on a boat tour in Walvis Bay, and in the afternoon, we go on a 4×4 tour to Sandwich Harbour.
In the morning, we head to Spitzkoppe. The drive is short, and we have almost the whole day to spend at the campsite and relax.
asza trasa – mapaChatGPT
We head to Twyfelfontein in the morning. We arrive quite early and spend the rest of the day relaxing by the pool – a chill-out day at the lodge. It turns out that with such young children, we can’t go to see the rock engravings.
This day, we were supposed to continue relaxing in Palmwag, so we set off for Palmwag. The road is long and exhausting, and in the end, we get a flat tire. We spend the afternoon by the pool. We wanted to go rhino tracking, but it turns out they don’t take such young children because part of the tour involves walking on foot through the bush. The afternoon safari is also canceled because lions were spotted nearby, and it became too dangerous.
Toshari Lodge (changed from Palmwag)
We were supposed to continue relaxing in Palmwag this day, but the wind disrupts our plans, and we drive to a lodge near Etosha for an overnight stay.
Etosha (we were supposed to sleep at the Okaukejo campsite, but we stayed in a lodge)
In the morning, we go on a game drive with a guide. It’s terribly cold, and we finish earlier. In the afternoon, we do a self-drive with our own car.
Etosha Okaukejo (we were supposed to sleep at the Okaukejo campsite, but we stayed in a lodge)
We spend the entire day in the park, with a break during the day in Halali for food and watching mongooses.
In the morning, we leave Etosha and exit the park through the Namutoni gate. In the late afternoon, we arrive at Ohange Lodge.
We spend the entire day relaxing at Ohange Lodge.
Chill-out at the lodge
In the morning, we leave Ohange and drive only 2 hours to a lodge near AfriCat Foundation. We relax while admiring the animals that roam the lodge’s grounds.
AfriCat Foundation and further relaxation at the lodge
In the morning, we go to see cheetahs at AfriCat Foundation and return to the lodge to relax for the rest of the day.
Windhoek, departure at 20:00
On the way to the airport, we stop at two souvenir markets.
Our Route – map
Namibia – approximate costs
I won’t provide the total cost since it will depend on individual preferences. However, below are the cost components that can help estimate the overall expenses:
- Airfare – You can find flight tickets on the Warsaw-Frankfurt-Windhoek route for around 2200-2500 PLN during promotions.
- Car rental with camping equipment – Prices vary depending on the number of days, type of vehicle, and how far in advance you book.
- Campsites – Costs range from 100 to 300 PLN per car per night, depending on the popularity of the location.
- Lodges/hotels/apartments – Approximately 500 PLN or more per night for a 2-3 person room.
- Fuel – Around 19 NAD per liter; your car consumes about 13 liters per 100 km, and you drove approximately 5,000 km.
- Food – Prices in stores and restaurants are similar to those in Poland.
- Costs of organized tours – Approximately 500-600 PLN for 2 adults + 2 children.
- Tips – Tipping is customary; amounts typically range from 5 to 15 PLN.
Information and fun facts about Namibia
Namibia is a relatively lesser-known and not very popular tourist destination in Poland, so I thought I’d gather a few interesting facts:
- Namibia is over two times larger than Poland but has a population of only 2 million.
- It’s one of the youngest countries in Africa, gaining independence in 1990; before that, it was part of South Africa.
- Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with only Greenland, the Falkland Islands, Mongolia, and Western Sahara having lower population densities.
- The country is rich in uranium and diamond deposits, but wealth is concentrated among a few, leading to significant social inequalities.
- Namibia is home to the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs, estimated at 2,500-3,000 individuals, more than all cheetahs elsewhere combined.
- Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia is the largest canyon in Africa and supposedly the second-largest in the world after the Grand Canyon.
- Before World War II, the territory of present-day Namibia was a German colony. During that time, the Herero and Nama peoples were subjected to a genocide, often considered the first genocide of the 20th century.
- The Namib Desert is the world’s oldest desert, known for its towering sand dunes, with the tallest reaching over 380 meters, higher than London’s Shard building.
- Namibia was the first African country to include environmental protection in its constitution, with nearly 40% of its land under conservation.
- Namibia is a fantastic destination for stargazing, with minimal light pollution.
This was our first major trip in a while, and I prepared quite thoroughly. Here are some recommendations:
- Book “The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari” by Paul Theroux – it provides insights not only into Namibia but also South Africa and Angola.
- Visit Namib.pl – a website run by Anna and Krzysztof Kobus, Namibia specialists. I bought their e-book “Namibia Self-drive” and a Namibia guidebook. The book offers in-depth information about Namibia, while the e-book is handy for planning a camping-heavy trip off the beaten path.
- Get the Tracks4Africa Namibia map – invaluable for planning and navigating on-site, as Google Maps is not always reliable in Namibia.
- In preparing for the trip, I also read accounts on English-language blogs, looking for those with small children involved in the journey. I found a lot of information here: wanderluststorytellers and fullsuitcase.