Road rules
Issue 3 (November 2008) Namibia has 42,000 kilometres of open road to explore, making it a fabulous destination for a self-drive holiday. The main roads are well-maintained and perfectly safe, if taken carefully. For the more adventurous, the many off-road tracks that criss-cross the country make it easy to escape into Namibia’s vast open spaces. Driving instructor Richard Hoff offers his ten top tips for a successful road trip.


1 Carry at least sixty litres of water, two spare tyres, a satellite phone and a GPS.

2 Drive with lights on at all times so you can be seen much more easily on the dusty roads.

3 Know your fuel range. Many 4WD vehicles have long-range tanks. Fill up at every possible occasion. In the rural areas filling stations are often few and far between.
4 Keep a good following distance when travelling in convoy. At 80 kmph keep around eight vehicle lengths between you and the car in front. At 100 kmph keep ten vehicle lengths – especially in dusty conditions.

5 On gravel roads, try to avoid braking hard or swerving. Don’t get carried away on the flat straight routes: keep your speed down to about 80 kmph. It you have a blow-out try to keep your steering wheel straight and coast to a stop.

6 Make sure your tyres are correctly inflated. Dry riverbeds, rocks, mud and dunes all require lower tyre pressure, while tar and gravel need harder tyres. Stick to the guidelines provided by the car rental company and the diagram inside the driver’s door.

7 Many of Namibia’s rivers are ephemeral and you might suddenly find your way blocked. If the water is fast flowing and visibly high then find another route. Otherwise, always walk a river crossing before driving it.  If you can walk it, you can drive it as long as the water is not deeper than the top of your tyres.

8 Take it easy and rest regularly. Taking a break every hour allows you to enjoy more of the scenery. When you pull over, stop well clear of the edge of the road.

9 Don’t make your own trails when venturing off-road. Stick to the existing ones, there are enough of them around Namibia.  Don’t drive down a track where you are not sure of a way out again. When making use of trails or tracks, it is advisable to have two or more vehicles travelling together.

10 If you run into trouble and don’t have a satellite phone with you, your best bet is set your spare tyre alight. The thick black smoke this produces can be seen for miles around and the tyre burns for a long time. The smoke should alert some of the numerous bush pilots of your plight. It is also a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary with the car rental agency so the authorities know where to start looking for you should you go missing.

Richard Hoff runs Be Local driver training in Windhoek.

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