Self-Driving in Namibia: 22 Essential Tips to Drive in Namibia

Wondering how to plan a self-driving in Namibia?

You are in the right place! This is an ultimate guide, that is meant to give you some insights into what to expect on your Namibia Road Trip. You should be able to plan a trip and have confidence that you will be able to drive safely and without any doubts or fear.

I took a 10-day cross-country self-drive road trip in Namibia and drove from the cities to safari, to the desert, and to many remote areas of the country. I am here now to share with you all the essential tips you must know, to be possibly the best road trip of your life!

Driving in Namibia is definitely different than driving in most other countries, however, it doesn’t have to be a challenging experience. Rent a car in Namibia with confidence and know that you can do this! If you have never driven on the left side of the road before, Namibia’s sparse traffic makes it a great place to learn. If you’ve never driven off-road before, read the tips below and get ready to put your truck in 4-LOW and drive through the sand.

Namibia is such a great self-drive adventure destination, and renting a 4X4 and exploring the country is an experience you will never forget. See the natural beauty, history, and cultures that make Namibia a top-road trip adventure tourism destination. So let’s dive into this self-drive in Namibia guide, and start planning your adventure to uncover the Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Namibia.

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Self driving in Namibia

Read More: 7 Essential Tips on how to rent a car in Namibia

22 Essential Things to Know Before You Go Self-Driving in Namibia


Before you start reading this long list of the essential things you need to know to safely self-drive in Namibia, let me make it easy for you. If you answer “no” to any of the 4 questions below, I would consider hiring a private driver like this one.

  1. Do you feel comfortable driving a 4×4 vehicle?
  2. Do you feel comfortable driving a manual car?
  3. Do you have basic experience in driving off-road?
  4. Do you feel comfortable driving on the left side of the road?

First thing first: You drive on the left in Namibia, which is the same as in neighboring South AfricaBotswana, and Zambia. 

Also, you will need to have a 4×4 vehicle to go on your Namibia road trip. Keep in mind that most of your options will be a manual transmission. If you need an automatic, you will pay more and have fewer options to choose from.


I have written this very detailed guide on renting a car in Namibia, between these two articles, you should be very prepared to design your own self-drive Namibia adventure.

Since there are different providers, offering different rental car options. Therefore, you will need to decide if you will rent a 4×4 truck or a 4×4 truck with a tent on top (if you are planning to camp around the country).

The good news is that you can get a 15% off your rental car when you book through this site. I use and recommend Discover Cars because it is the most reliable rental car source, and it allows you to compare the prices of different places. If you choose any of the car rentals from Discover Cars, you can pick up your car at the Windhoek International Airport.


Considering that Namibia is covered by great swaths of desert, you will need a 4×4 to navigate more easily and to reach some of the less accessible areas. There are many paved roads covering the primary routes, but there are more gravel roads than anything else.

Gravel roads can be traversed in a regular car, and you can do a self-drive safari in Etosha in a car, but it is not advisable. A 4×4 with rugged tires is the best way to get around.

Another great aspect of most 4×4 rental trucks is that they have 2 gas tanks. Considering that you will be driving long distances in remote areas, extending your range with 2 gas tanks is invaluable.

Also, keep in mind that most of your options will be a manual transmission. If you need an automatic, you will pay more and have fewer options to choose from. I also recommend you check these 7 tips to rent a car in Namibia before you make a decision on your rental vehicle.

Namibia road trip self-drive itinerary


Namibia is a great place to camp. Wild camping (camping outside a designated campsite) is not allowed, but there are many excellent campsites across the country. Having a tent on your truck gives you the flexibility to either make camp or stay in a lodge if there is space.

Most of the campsites in Namibia have electric hookups, access to private or shared bathrooms, water, and a fire pit. Being able to set up a tent also gives you the ability to experience nature in a way that you may miss in a lodge.

Namibia self-drive and camping itinerary


As long as you have a driver’s license in your home country, you can drive in Namibia. Keep in mind, however, that in Namibia you will drive on the left side of the road. Any car you rent will most likely have the driver’s seat on the right side of the vehicle.

If you are not used to driving on the opposite side (of the car and the road) take your time and exercise caution. I find that it takes about 3 – 4 days to adapt and feel more comfortable. If you have a passenger with you, ask them to help remind you how to turn, and have them be a copilot. It takes practice.


Make sure you are comfortable with some basic maintenance skills, like putting gas in the vehicle, checking oil, and adjusting tire pressure. You will often be on deserted stretches of roads/trails, so you should be able to change a flat tire at a minimum.

Get to know how to drive in loose sand. You will need to know how to drop your tire pressure to the right level, and you will need to learn how and when to drive in low gear versus high gear. Your 4×4 will probably be a 4×2, which can be put into 4×4 mode (4×2 saves on gas, 4×4 when you need the additional traction).

Driving in low gear (high torque) and in 4×4 is necessary for deep sand – but needs to be combined with the correct tire pressure to give you the most traction.

Tire pressure is absolutely the most important aspect of driving off-road and in deep sand. Many times vehicles (even 4×2) can get unstuck just by dropping tire pressure and creating a wider tire profile. Combining the right tire pressure for the conditions along with a good 4×4 in low gear can get you through nearly any situation you will encounter.


Namibia is a very safe country, and it is very safe to drive in – as long as you follow a few rules.

Driving at night is highly dangerous due to wild and domestic animals. Most wild animals are active at night, and the chance of a collision with an animal is much higher. There are also herds of domestic animals that graze near the roadways.

Don’t exceed the speed limit, especially on gravel roads. One of the most common accidents is a vehicle rollover due to excessive speed, or rapid steering input changes on gravel roads. This is even more important if you are in a top-heavy vehicle like a 4X4 truck. Be cautious of the built-up gravel on the roads which can push your car off to the side.

Be cautious going over blind hills. On gravel roads, you can usually, but not always, see if a vehicle is coming in the opposite direction by the dust trail. When going over blind hills, use tremendous caution because you never know what may be on the other side, including pedestrians or animals.

Be very careful in sandstorms. The low visibility is similar to a snowstorm. The danger is not just in front of you, but also could come from behind. If you decide to stop and wait it out, do so in a safe place.

Self driving in Namibia


When you stop in a city/town to restock your food and water, or just go to a restaurant or site see, you will probably be approached by 1 or more people who offer to watch your vehicle. You may even be guided into a parking spot by one of these people. It is courteous to tip someone for watching your car while you go about your business.

A small amount from you will mean a lot to them. In lieu of money, a donation of food can also be appropriate. Remember, these are people who are just trying to get by. Giving someone 1 dollar or 2 will put a smile on their face.

Don’t leave valuables in plain view when you do leave your vehicle. Prior to parking, secure your valuables and stow things that could tempt someone to break into your car. While you may have paid someone to watch your car for you, the likelihood that they will stop someone from breaking into your car is low.


For auto insurance, make sure you consider getting covered. Anything can happen when you are driving in unfamiliar territory or in unfamiliar conditions. Read the policy carefully beforehand and understand what is covered and not covered. For example, most policies will not cover tires and windshield damage.

Driving in Namibia means you will be spending a lot of time driving on gravel roads and through terrains. It doesn’t matter how carefully you drive your vehicle, expect to have some scratches and at least small damages to the car. I recommend paying for comprehensive insurance when you go on your Namibia self-drive adventure.

You will need to pay for any damages to the vehicle, it is in your contract! I had a couple of damages and at the end of my trip, I had to pay extra – so be prepared!

Namibia road trip in the desert


As mentioned previously, nighttime driving is not advised. In some places, it is absolutely not permitted (such as Etosha National Park). If you find yourself driving after dark, use extreme caution and reduce your speed below the speed limit. It may take you longer to get to your destination, but you will get there in one piece, and you should be able to avoid any animals out on the roadway.

Many Namibians do not have access to vehicles, and they walk to their destinations. At night, the safest way, and easiest, is to walk along the road. Since most roads do not have street lamps (except in the city), it can be very difficult to spot people walking. Your headlights only go so far, and you may drive up on someone quite unexpectedly in the dark.


There are speed limits throughout Namibia, but they are not always posted. Pay attention to your speed on gravel roads (max 100 km/hr), and going through towns and villages. It is very common for Namibians to walk along the roadway to get to their destination or to get to a bus stop. Villagers also walk along the roadway to carry water and shepherd their animals. It is also quite common to see cows or sheep crossing a road unaccompanied, or grazing alongside the road.

Many Namibians look for a ride alongside the road. It is common for a car or truck to suddenly slow and pull over to pick up a passenger. Be wary of cars slowing down suddenly, and always keep an eye on the road and to the side of the road.

If you have a passenger, ask the passenger to keep an eye out, especially in village areas where both people and domestic animals could pose a hazard. If you are driving too fast, you could potentially reduce your time to react to the unexpected.


The roads in Namibia are well maintained and easy to drive on, even the gravel roads. Signs are generally prevalent on paved roads and at intersections of gravel roads. The use of a GPS is the easiest way to navigate, but without GPS you can still find your way around.

The gravel roads and dirt roads can be a bit rough in places, and will not provide the smoothest/quietest ride, but they are in good condition. Keep an eye out for the dips and rises in the dirt and gravel roads. There are usually signs where the biggest ones are and you would do well to reduce speed to avoid damaging the truck, your gear, or your food stocks.


You will spend most of your time self-driving in Namibia on gravel roads as you tour the country. Keep in mind:

  • Gravel provides less traction and grip than paved roads, therefore you will need to reduce your speed
  • Gravel roads require lower tire pressure to minimize flat tires – lower tire pressure will smooth your ride and may cost you slightly more in gas, but will save you a lot of money on tires (and the time to change tires)
  • You will get a flat tire on gravel roads. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when. Be ready to get out and change your flat tire to a spare. Next time you are in a city, get the flat repaired or replaced.
  • Gravel roads create a lot of dust which can minimize visibility. Be careful when passing other vehicles or when you are being passed. If visibility gets too low, pull over to the side until it improves.
  • On gravel roads, it can be hard to see big dips or bumps. If you hit either of these at a high speed you can damage the vehicle or whatever is in the back of your truck (like food and water containers).
  • Gravel can collect into berms on the sides or in the middle of the road which can cause your vehicle to slide. Be EXTREMELY cautious about these low berms of gravel, they can cause you to lose control and possibly flip the vehicle.
  • Follow the tire tracks as best you can. This will minimize your chance of puncturing a tire and reduce the risk of driving through a berm of gravel.
Namibia self-drive road trip itinerary was amazing


Tires are key to your road trip to Namibia. Your rental truck should have at least 1 spare tire, if not 2. I absolutely recommend having 2 spare tires due to the high probability of getting a flat tire on gravel roads.

I recommend carrying a tire pressure gauge to monitor and adjust your tire pressure according to the type of road you are traveling on. If you lower the tire pressure, don’t worry, every gas station will put air in your tires when you get fuel.

It can be difficult to know if you have a hole in a tire when driving on a gravel road. Visually check your tires often, and don’t hesitate to stop and check if you notice the truck handling differently, you hear a new noise, or you smell something unusual. All of these could be indications that you have a flat tire.

Read More: 7 Essential Tips on how to rent a car in Namibia


Whether is a wild animal or a domestic animal, you will come across animals on the road. When you are on a safari, your eyes are peeled for a sighting. Your alert level is high and your anticipation is soaring. At the same time, you are probably not driving 60 km/hr.

Be very cautious and aware of animals throughout your travels in Namibia. Four eyes are better than two, so engage your co-pilot to help keep an eye out. You never know what you may come across…wild horses, elephants, sheep, cattle, dogs, springboks, giraffes, jackals, etc.

The most frequent risk you will find will be near villages, where herds of animals graze alongside or cross the road. These domesticated animals (cows and sheep) are often unattended, and unpredictable. Wild animals are usually much leerier of roads and cars and will usually run in the opposite direction.

Namibia itinerary safari self-drive in Etosha


English is the official language of Namibia, and all road signs are in English. You will see road signs with the route, the letter B, C, or D, followed by numbers.

  • B roads are paved
  • C roads are wide gravel roads that are maintained frequently
  • D roads are more suited to 4×4 traffic and are not maintained as well as C roads

You are also likely to find quite a few different animal signs, quite different from what you are used to seeing. Keep an eye out when you see these signs and you might get lucky! For example, when I laughed at the “squirrel crossing” sign, there was a squirrel staring at me just next to the sign…haha!

Most signs are red and white and triangle-shaped and alert the driver to potential hazards. These warning signs should be self-explanatory, but if not, use caution.


Getting around Namibia is not too hard, as there are not too many roads to choose from. Having a GPS in the vehicle is one sure way to navigate around the country. If you have cell service you can use your phone as well. Barring these devices, a good old-fashioned map is a great option too.

Ideally, if you already have your route planned, you can program it into the GPS or into Google Maps and let the device guide your journey. Going off-plan and taking some side trips is easy when you can plan your way back onto your route.

Botswana self-drive itinerary


Distances between towns and cities can belong. In some cases, you may not pass a store for a few days. Any time you have the chance, make sure you stock up, especially on water.

If you have water in the back of the truck and you drive over rough terrain, it is possible that you could lose some water either through bottles breaking or spilling. Why I am saying this? Because it happen to me, and I ran out of food and water in a remote area.

You can never have enough water and food, so keep stocked up! Snacks are a great way to keep your energy up throughout the day, so make sure you have plenty on hand. I have a whole article of high-energy snacks that you can easily prepare and carry with you.

Namib desert in 25 photos of Namibia


On the long roads, you may come across other vehicles stopped on the road. This certainly happened to me. Be courteous if you feel safe to see if the other driver is okay or needs help. The roads pass through long stretches of uninhabited territory. If anything, you can offer some water and snacks if they are waiting for help to come.


It can be challenging to determine how long it will take to drive from Point A to Point B. The road conditions will determine the speed you will be able to travel, and you never know when you may get a flat tire. Be very conservative in your estimates (you won’t be traveling 55mph / 90kph on most roads), and make sure you plan to arrive at your destination before dark.

touring Namibia self-drive


Going on a safari in Etosha National Park is incredibly easy. The gravel roads throughout the park are very well maintained and you can easily navigate them in a 4×2 vehicle. The main advantage of having a truck is the ride height and point of view.

The roads in Etosha are well-marked and it is easy to follow the park map to guide your safari. Driving off-road is not permitted and really not necessary. You can download an app and check animal sightings to try to be in the right place at the right time to see the animals you want. Most of the fun of safari is the search…driving around looking for the animals in their natural habitat.

It is very common to talk with other drivers while on safari to see what they have seen and where. If you are passing another vehicle heading in the other direction, you can wave them down and exchange experiences. Perhaps there is a lion 2km up the road that they saw.

Namibia self-drive safari in Etosha


Since you will be driving around the country, make sure you bring what you need. Doing a self-drive adventure is not like backpacking. The vehicle will haul what you need. Stock up on food and water, and make sure you have appropriate clothes for the environment and a change of shoes.

You want to pack light….but at the same time, you will be so remote for many days that you will want to pack heavy. So, let me help you PACK SMART:

Ethical and Responsivel travel in Africa

Self-driving in Namibia Conclusion

I hope you found this guide on how to self-driving in Namibia useful. There are some things that we just learn by doing ourselves, and during my Namibia itinerary planning, I found some information on the web, the majority of the trips on how to drive in Namibia are listed here, and I learned while I was in Namibia.

But in short, driving n Namibia is safe and relatively easy, if you are well-prepared and rent a reliable car. Most likely you will have some surprises along the way, such as a flat tire or getting stuck in the sand. But as long as you have good assistance from your rental car company, and some basic mechanical skills, you will be just fine.

If you have any further questions just leave me a comment below, as I would love to connect with you.

If you are planning a trip to Namibia, make sure you check out my other posts:

Self driving in Namibia Pinterest

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4 thoughts on “Self-Driving in Namibia: 22 Essential Tips to Drive in Namibia”

  1. Hello Paula,
    Thank you for your detailed posts. So interesting to read. We are planning on heading over in July but the costs of planned Namibia+Botswana trips is through the roof. So, we are looking at self driving. With no 4×4 drive experience, would we be ok? I can change a tyre, will have hubby with me but we will also have 4x children (11, 9, 7, 5yrs). Would you suggest it is a safe trip? Did you see the big 5 in Etosha? Did you love this trip? Appreciate any addittional info. Thank you!

  2. Hello Bridie, I am so glad to see you found and enjoyed my article and all the tips. I agree the planned trips to anywhere in Africa are very expensive. You can definitely do it yourself and save a good amount of money. I think you should be OK driving a 4×4 without experience, as long as you do your research on some basic information and be prepared. I also recommend you read this article:
    The fact is, most likely you will have a couple of flat tires, so be prepared! Traveling with kids should be safe too, I found Namibia to be a very safe country, just make sure you follow the safety protocols on how to drive in Namibia, and NEVER drive in the dark, as it is dangerous because of animals on the road. I did see the big 5 in Etosha, and I found it an easy and safe self-safari (compared to the remote ones I have done in other parts of Africa). I LOVED my trip and it was a trip of a lifetime. Truly recommend it!

  3. Hello Paula
    What a detailed post, it has shed some light on what Namibia is all about. Thank you. My husband and I have booked our holiday to Namibia Desert Rose Resort in Henties Baai for January 2024. We will be travelling with our two children aged 9 and 5. It will be our first time visiting Namibia and we were looking at self driving from the Hosea Kutako Airport to Henties Baai. We have no experience of driving a 4×4 in mostly gravel or sandy roads would you suggest we would be ok? Would you suggest its safe to travell with children? Would you suggest it would be easier to rent a shuttle with its driver who is familiar with the area? That’s if such services are available in Namibia. I would much appreciate more info. Thanks

  4. Hello Phindy, I am glad you found my article helpful. This was my first time driving long distance on a gravel roads too, as I drove for 30 days between Namibia and Botswana. I had some issues driving in Namibia, such as not having the right air pressure on my tires and end up having many flat tires. You may have issues too, so just be aware that if that happens, you and your husband have some basic experience on changing tires. In some instances I had some locals stopping and helping me to change the tires, so local people are very helpful too. I found Namibia to be a safe country, but if you feel nervous about having kids with you, maybe hiring a local guide would be the best option. Unfortunately I don’t have any guides to recommend to you. I would recommend you to check this article too, as it may help your planning:

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