Namibia

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Situated on Africa’s south-west cost, Namibia is a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy, despite being only 25 years old, where agriculture, tourism and mining form the basis of the country’s economy.

FACT FILE
Population:
2.1 million
Time zone: GMT + 2 hours (summer); GMT + 1 hour (winter)
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +264
Currency: Namibian dollar; SA Rand – $1=10.4NAD
Language: English, Afrikaans, German, Portuguese, ethnic languages

BACKGROUND

Lying along the South Atlantic Ocean, on the west coast of Africa, Namibia is a young country, only gaining independence in 1990 after German occupation and South African rule.

Natural resources abound, with the major products being copper, diamonds, gold, lead and uranium. Fishing is another important industry, although exploitation of fishing stocks in the 1960s and 70s nearly extinguished all traces of pilchards and sardines. After strict rules were put in place, however, numbers began to rise once again.

Leisure tourism, in the form of game lodges and extreme sports offerings, also makes a significant contribution to the GDP.

BUSINESS TRAVEL NEWS

Most of the activity in 2014 was on the aviation front.

National carrier Air Namibia increased its flights from Windhoek to Ondangwa and Johannesburg in April, adding a third flight on Tuesdays and Thursdays to its domestic destination Ondangwa, as well as a third flight to Johannesburg on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

But, Air Namibia also announced plans to terminate its Windhoek-Accra route from 26 June. According to the airline, limited traffic was the main reason.

In September, Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek was downgraded from Category 9 to Category 5, due to safety concerns regarding its fire and rescue equipment. For a short period, Air Namibia was forced to divert flights and ferry passengers into and out of HKIA in smaller A319-100 aircraft. The airport was upgraded a few weeks later, after showing it had since complied with fire and safety regulations.

In other aviation news, South African airline Airlink re-introduced scheduled flights between Cape Town and Windhoek in October 2014, with a twice daily service.

FlyAfrica, a Zimbabwean low-cost carrier, expanded its operations into Windhoek late in 2014. The airline announced that it would operate daily return flights from Windhoek to Johannesburg from 2 February 2015, with prices starting from $80.

There was very little activity in the Namibian hotel sector, although the Marriott acquisition of the Protea Hotel Group should, in time, have some bearing on the hotel landscape, as Protea has 10 properties across the country, including two in Windhoek.

Outside of Windhoek, a Strand Hotel is set to open in Swakopmund in August 2015, with restaurants, bars, sea-facing terraces and a conference centre.

CITIES

As the capital and largest city, Windhoek is where the majority of business takes place. Despite this, it’s a fairly laidback city, and while people are mostly punctual, they are in no way hurried. The streets are clean and safe to walk. The roads are in good condition, well marked and easy to navigate, if you like to drive yourself. If not, taxis and airport transfers are readily available.

The fishing industry is located in Walvis Bay, slightly north of the midway point on Namibia’s coastline. Its natural deep water harbour is a safe haven for ships.

About three hours from Windhoek and 35 minutes from Walvis Bay is the beach resort of Swakopmund. Here, the tourist industry is booming, with many hotels, night clubs, coffee shops and bars luring visitors. Activities in the area include hot air balloon rides, sea cruises, quad biking, sky diving, and golf at the Rossmund Golf Course – one of only five desert golf courses in the world.

The other coastal town of note is Luderitz, and the mining is concentrated in the south where the gateway is Alexander Bay.

AIRLINES & AIRPORT

Hosea Kutako International Airport, situated 48 kilometres east of Windhoek, is the main gateway, with flights to domestic, regional and international destinations. It’s a modest single-storey building and home to a coffee shop, a mobile phone service provider for a local sim card, a small souvenir shop, a biltong hut, and a host of car rental desks, including Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty and Europcar.

HKIA has a single lounge, with access granted to Business Class passengers or anyone willing to part with N$150 (US$13.50). It offers an array of comfortable seating, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a selection of newspapers. There is hot water for tea and coffee, as well as pre-packed snacks such as muffins and breakfast bars, and a plate of fresh open sandwiches to nibble on.

Eros Airport, in downtown Windhoek, is a secondary airport and an important hub for air charter traffic. Over 350 airstrips are dotted across Namibia, allowing charter aircraft to access remote parts of the country with relative ease.

Air Namibia operates two daily flights between Johannesburg and HKIA, as well as an evening flight on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There are also three daily services to and from Cape Town, and flights between Windhoek and Luanda (Angola), Maun (Botswana), Harare and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Lusaka (Zambia) and Frankfurt (Germany). It also connects the capital with other Namibian towns – Ondangwa, Walvis Bay, Luderitz, Rundu, Katima Mulilo, and Oranjemund.

Other airlines operating into and out of Windhoek are BA (operated by Comair), SAA, Airlink, SA Express and TAAG Angola Airlines.

HOTELS

The four big brands in Windhoek – Hilton, Sun International, Protea and Legacy – are supported by a number of guesthouses and smaller non-branded hotels.

Legacy Hotels & Resorts’ Windhoek Country Club is close to Eros airport. It has 152 rooms and offers excellent business facilities, a casino, and an 18-hole golf course for any downtime you might have.

Hilton Windhoek was the city’s first 5-star hotel when it opened a few years ago, and offers everything you’d expect from the Hilton brand – friendly staff, well-appointed rooms, and tasty food. A business lounge on the top floor is reserved for guests in executive rooms on the seventh and eighth floors – with two computer stations and a variety of food and drinks on offer throughout the day. Make sure you try the pool deck on the roof, which enjoys fantastic views of the city.

Sun International’s Kalahari Sands & Casino has a great central location in downtown Windhoek. It features 173 rooms, two restaurants, conference facilities, a beauty spa, and a licenced casino. For self-drivers, it offers free parking, and is close to public transport for those who require it.

The smaller Protea Hotel Fürstenhof, with its 33 guest rooms, has conferencing and banqueting facilities for between 70 and 120 delegates, as well as a boardroom that can seat up to 10 delegates. It also offers free Wi-Fi to guests, as does the Protea Thuringerhof, which has 26 rooms and is five kilometres from Eros Airport.

The group has eight other properties in Namibia – in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Long Beach and Luderitz.

The smaller offerings include the Olive Exclusive Boutique Hotel that blends European style with African warmth, Hotel Thule, a little way from the city centre, Roof of Africa, the Palmquell Hotel, and Safari Hotel.

The Swakopmund Hotel & Entertainment Centre is a good choice for corporate travellers to that city. It offers 90 rooms and decent conference facilities in Namibia’s premier holiday town. The Platform One restaurant, set in the old railway station, is recommended for client dinners.

If you prefer something a little more intimate, consider the Cornerstone Guesthouse, about two minutes’ walk from the town centre and about five minutes’ walk to the beach and seafront, or the Central Guesthouse in the heart of old Swakopmund, within easy walking distance of all amenities, shops, restaurants, museums, craft markets, banks and beaches. There is also the Swakopmund Guesthouse, with four standard and seven luxury rooms, and one family suite a mere five-minute walk from the beach.

CARD ACCEPTANCE

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are all widely accepted in Namibia. Travellers should check with their credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability.

Be aware that petrol stations do not accept credit cards as payment for petrol.

ATMs are widely available and will dispense Namibian dollars. When paying in cash, most establishments will readily accept South African rands – the exchange rate is 1:1 – and will, where possible, give you change in rands if you ask.

VISAS

Travellers to Namibia must ensure that their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay in the country. All visitors must also have a valid return air ticket.

For doing business of any kind in the country, including attending meetings, training courses, sports events and trade fairs, a business visa is required.  

Nationals from Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe do not require a visa to enter Namibia. Travellers from all other African countries must organise a visa before departing for Namibia.

CONNECTIVITY

Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa. It is recommended that you purchase a local sim card and airtime or data, as roaming costs can be pricey.

There are internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well. Most of the hotels offer Wi-Fi, although some at an extra charge.

HEALTH

If your visit is confined to Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, you shouldn’t need to guard against local diseases. If you’re visiting northern Namibia, consult a doctor before travelling, as it is a malaria-risk zone. Take appropriate malaria precautions when travelling to these areas.

A yellow fever vaccination is compulsory for certain nationalities. It is recommended that you are vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and polio, although the absence of any of these will not hinder your travels.

Namibia’s medical system is modern and capable of attending to whatever needs the traveller may have. However, this is largely restricted to the main cities.

TRAVEL TIPS

Namibia is a fairly safe country. Petty crime, such as theft from cars and pick-pockets, do occur, but if you display a little common sense, like not flashing expensive jewellery or leaving valuables in plain sight, you are unlikely to become a target.

The roads are in fairly good condition and most people traverse the country by land. An all-wheel-drive vehicle is only necessary on tertiary roads and along the Skeleton Coast. An international driver’s licence is only required for visitors who drive on the right-hand side of the road. For those who drive on the left, flashing your valid driver’s licence issued in your country is enough to get you the keys to a rental car.

In Windhoek, you have a wide choice of dining options, many of them found along Independence Avenue. Along with local eateries, you’ll find a few South African favourites such as Spur, Steers and KFC.

Joe’s Beerhouse is a local favourite and a must for visitors. The eclectic décor holds immense charm, even as it boggles the mind. Farm equipment is displayed alongside empty alcohol bottles. Tables are illuminated by hanging bulbs encased in straw lampshades draped with plastic ivy, and bar stools are made from disused toilets. The pub offers a relaxed meal, in generous portions, with a varied menu.

CONTACTS

www.namibiatourism.com.na

OPINION PIECE
Kate Kennedy
Journalist – Business Traveller Africa

I travelled to Windhoek in August 2014, flying with Air Namibia from Johannesburg and staying at the Hilton Windhoek and Sun International’s Kalahari Sands Hotel and Casino.

I hired a car from Avis to get into and around town. The Polo Vivo was more than sufficient for the suburban roads. Traffic in town is a breeze, particularly when compared with capital cities in other African countries. There is ample parking, not always free of charge, but costs are generally reasonable – a couple of dollars for a few hours.

The rooms at Kalahari Sands are generous in size and the buffet meals are tasty. Hilton’s rooms are very tastefully decorated – I really liked the recessed lighting and night light in the toilet cubicle.

Cellular coverage and internet access are both decent. I bought a local sim card for my phone at the TN Mobile shop at Hosea Kutako International Airport, to avoid international roaming costs. The sales guy set everything up for me and loaded the airtime and data I had purchased. I had no problems with connectivity.

Most hotels offer Wi-Fi, but it’s usually over and above the cost of the room. Kalahari Sands offer data bundles, while Hilton charge according to a time limit.  

According to Hilton Windhoek’s General Manager John McAcree, prices in the city are about 30% higher than in Cape Town, and I would probably agree with this. Budget on around R120 ($10.6) per person for lunch at a local restaurant and R150 ($13.3) for dinner.

My debit card was readily accepted at retail outlets and restaurants. Twice during my stay, however, I had to draw cash to make purchases, as the card machines could not complete the transactions. ATMs are fairly easy to find, but service charges for foreign cards aren’t cheap. I suggest drawing cash in South Africa – should you be travelling from there – before your trip, to avoid paying additional fees.

Windhoek is very much like South Africa. It has a small town feel, but at the same time offering modern conveniences big city dwellers have come to rely on. I found it very convenient that rands are accepted at shops and restaurants – not having to arrange forex to visit Namibia is a real plus for me.

AIRLINES
Air Namibia – airnamibia.com.na
British Airways – comair.com (Comair)
FlyAfrica – flyafrica.com
Kulula – kulula.com
SAA – flysaa.com
SA Express – flyexpress.com
TAAG – taag.com

HOTELS
Belvedere – belvedere-boutiquehotel.com
Casa Blanca – casablancahotelnamibia.com
Heinitzburg – heinitzburg.com
Hilton Windhoek – hilton.com
Hotel Thule – hotelthule.com
Jordani B&B – jordanibb.com
Kalahari Sands – suninternational.com
Moni – monihotel.com
Olive – theolive-namibia.com
Palmquell – palmquell.com
Protea Furstenhof – proteahotels.com
Protea Thuringerhof – proteahotels.com
Roof of Africa – roofofafrica.com
Safari – safarihotelsnamibia.com
Uhland – hoteluhland.com
Vertigo Boutique – vertigoboutiquehotel.com
Windhoek CC – windhoekcountryclub.co.za

CAR RENTAL
Avis – avis.com
Budget – budget.com
Europcar – europcar.com
Hertz – hertz.com
Thrifty – thrifty.co.za

TMC
Access-to-Africa – access-to-africa.com
American Express – americanexpresstravel.co.za
CWT – carlsonwagonlit.com
HRG – hrgworldwide.com
Suretravel – suretravel.co.za
TWF – travelwithflair.co.za
Uniglobe  – uniglobetravel.mu
XL Travel – xltravel.co.za