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The Republic of Namibia is a vast, sparsely populated country situated along the south Atlantic coast of Africa between 17 and 29 degrees south of the Equator.
With its surface area of 824,292 km2, Namibia is the 34 th largest country in the world. It stretches for about 1 300 km from south to north and varies from 480 to 930 km in width from west to east.
Namibia, previously known as South West Africa, is bordered by South Africa in the south, Angola and Zambia in the north and Botswana and Zimbabwe in the east.
The oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert stretches along the whole west coast of the country, while the Kalahari Desert runs along its southeastern border with Botswana.
The country is demarcated into 14 regions, namely the Zambezi, Kavango East, Kavango West, Kunene, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions in the north, the Omaheke. Otjozondjupa, Erongo and Khomas Regions in the central areas and the Hardap and !Karas regions in the south.
The Capital City Windhoek
The capital city Windhoek is situated 1 650 meters above sea level in the central highlands of the Khomas region with geographic coordinates: 22 34 S, 17 05 E.
Windhoek is a cosmopolitan with excellent hotels, restaurants, shops, banks and hospital facilities and houses the three branches of government, namely the executive, legislature and judiciary.
The Namibian climate varies from arid and semi-arid to subtropical with the generally temperate desert coast offering sometimes fog-ridden days with temperatures between 5° C and 20°C.
The central, southern and coastal areas constitute some of the most arid landscapes south of the Sahara. The hottest months are January and February, with average day temperatures varying between 9°C to 30°C.
During the winter months that stretch from May to September minimum temperatures can fluctuate between –6°C and 10°C at night to recover to 20°C after 11:00 in the day. Frost occurs over large areas of the country during winter, but in general winter days are clear, cloudless and sunny.
Overall Namibia is a summer rainfall area, with limited showers occurring from October and building up to peak in January and February.
Twyfelfontein: a World Heritage Site
Once a small dot on the Namibian map, Twyfelfontein in Kunene region has not only become the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2007, but is expected to popularise Namibia and attract tourists from all over the world to admire the thousands of historical rock art at the site.
Twyfelfontein is situated in a transitional zone between the Namib Desert and the semi-desert area in the Kunene region. It has a wide variety of rock arts which, date back between 2000 and 3000 years.
This site comprises roughly 2 500 rock engravings on 212 slabs of rock, as well as 13 panels containing a number of rock paintings, including the prehistoric rock carvings, with over 2 000 figures documented to date.
Its magnificent scenery attracts 95% of international tourists and 5% of local tourists.
Languages Spoken in Namibia
English is the official language, but Namibia's relatively small population is extraordinarily diverse in language and culture. More than 11 languages are indigenous to Namibia but with its cosmopolitan society, languages from around the world are spoken in Namibia. People commonly speak two or three languages and more than 49% of the population speaks Oshiwambo. Due to the country's colonial history Afrikaans, the language of the previous South African occupiers is still widely spoken and functions as the lingua franca in Namibia. Namibia has two small groups of nomadic groups; the Khoisan speaking people, known as the Bushmen or San and the Ovahimba people, figuratively known as the red people.
Namibia uses the Namibia dollar (NAD) as its official currency. The NAD is fixed to and equals the South African Rand.
Both the Namibian dollar and South African Rand are legal tender in Namibia.
NAD 1 = 100 cents.
Namibia is one hour ahead of GMT in the winter months, April to September, and two hours ahead of GMT from October to March.
Safety and security
Muggers in Windhoek often target foreign tourists. Attacks can take place even in busy city centre locations in broad daylight. Be alert to your surroundings if you are returning to your guest house or hotel, especially after dark.
Keep car doors locked and windows shut, especially in heavy traffic. Keep valuables off the seats and out of sight. Gangs sometimes try to gain entry to vehicles at busy intersections in Windhoek, including during the day. Theft from vehicles, particularly at service stations, is common. If possible don’t leave your vehicle unattended at fuel stops.
Don’t hail taxis from the street, particularly in Windhoek, as these have been involved in thefts from foreign tourists. Ask your hotel, guest house or tour operator to recommend a reputable taxi company. Don’t enter townships at night unless you are accompanied by someone with local knowledge.
Safeguard your valuables and cash. Use a hotel safe if possible. Keep large amounts of money, expensive jewellery, cameras and cell phones out of sight. Don’t change large sums of money in busy public areas. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place. Beware of pickpockets in town centres.
There have been cases of credit card skimming at some hotels and lodges around the country. When paying by credit card, keep the card in full view at all times and always check your statement carefully.
In case of a police emergency or to report a crime in Windhoek, you can contact the Windhoek City Police Service on 061-2902911 or toll-free 302302.
You must carry your licence at all times and produce it on request at the police check points leading in and out of Windhoek and other major towns and cities. If you hire a car, pay particular attention to the insurance cover provided. Most policies will not cover accidents that do not involve other vehicles or animals. Given the higher than normal probability of an accident on a gravel road because of its condition, you should take out fully comprehensive insurance on any hired vehicle. You are not allowed to use a mobile phone whilst driving.
There have been a number of fatal accidents on gravel/dirt roads. Don’t exceed 80kmh on gravel. Punctures are common. If possible, carry 2 spare tyres and plenty of water.
During the rainy season (normally January to April) many gravel roads deteriorate. Check with your destination on the local road conditions before setting off. Avoid driving at night outside towns as wildlife and stray livestock pose a serious hazard.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any adventure activities you plan to undertake (eg quad biking, dune boarding and hot air ballooning).
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Namibia and have at least 1 completely blank page for Namibian immigration to use. If you are also going to travel in South Africa, you should be aware that although South African authorities state they require 1 blank passport page for entry, some officials insist on 2 blank pages. If you plan to take this route, make sure you have a total of 3 blank pages.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
There are good medical facilities in Windhoek. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Even with fully comprehensive travel insurance, private hospitals in Namibia may insist on proof of payment (cash or credit card) before starting treatment. They may also insist you pay up front, reclaiming from your insurer at a later date. Some travel insurance policies are not recognised by some Namibian hospitals, you should check with your provider if their product is accepted in Namibia before you travel and seek alternative coverage where necessary. Medical evacuation from remote areas can take time.