Namibia

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Introduction to Namibia

Wedged between the Kalahari and the chilly South Atlantic, Namibia has deserts, seascapes, bushwalking and boundlessness. Blessed with rich natural resources, a solid modern infrastructure and diverse traditional cultures, it is a beautiful country of vast potential.

It's hard to imagine how the German colonizers of Namibia coped with the unlimited elbow room, vast deserts and annual quota of 300 days of sunshine, but that's exactly what now draws travellers to one of Africa's most intriguing destinations.

Full country name: Republic of Namibia

Area: 825,418 sq km

Population: 1.8 million

Capital City: Windhoek

People: 86% African (50% Owambo, 9% Kavango, 7% Herero, 7% Damara, 5% Nama, 4% Caprivian, 3% San, 2% Baster, 0.5% Tswana), 7.4% mixed, 6.6% white

Language: English, Herero, German, Afrikaans

Religion: Christian, Lutheran, native religions

Government: republic

GDP: US$6.6 billion

GDP per capita: US$4,100

Annual Growth: 2%

Inflation: 7%

Major Industries: Meat packing, fish processing, dairy products, mining (diamond, lead, zinc, tin, silver, tungsten, uranium, copper), millet, sorghum, peanuts, livestock, fish

Major Trading Partners: UK, South Africa, Spain, Japan, Germany, USA

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Visitors from Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US do not require a visa.

Health risks: schistosomiasis (bilharzia) (This occurs in the east), malaria (This occurs in the north-east), HIV/AIDS (HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) develops into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is a fatal disease. Any exposure to blood, blood products or body fluids may put the individual at risk. The disease is often transmitted through sexual contact or dirty needles - body piercing, acupuncture, tattooing and vaccinations can be potentially as dangerous as intravenous drug use. HIV and AIDS can also be spread via infected blood transfusions, but blood supplies in most reputable hospitals are now screened, so the risk from transfusions is low. If you do need an injection, ask to see the syringe unwrapped in front of you, or take a needle and syringe pack with you. Fear of HIV infection should not preclude treatment for any serious medical conditions. Most countries have organizations and services for HIV-positive folks and people with AIDS. For a list of organizations divided by country, plus descriptions of their services, see www.aidsmap.com)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 2

Dialling Code: 264

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

A big event to watch for is Maherero Day, on the weekend nearest 26 August, when the Herero people gather in traditional dress at Okahandja (just north of Windhoek) for a memorial service to the chiefs killed in the Khoi-Khoi and German wars. In October there's a similar event for the Hereros in Omaruru (north-west of Windhoek) to honour their chief Zeraua. Independence Day on 21 March is celebrated with feasts and festivities all over Namibia. The Windhoek Karnival held over a week in late April/early May is a big social event for city sophisticates, as is the Küste Karnival at Swakopmund in late August or early September, and the Windhoek Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Show in late September. Oktoberfest, with all its beer swilling and sausage sizzling, is vigourously celebrated throughout the country in late October.

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Best time to Visit

The dry winter season (May to October) is the most pleasant time to visit Namibia. It's best to avoid Namib-Naukluft Park and Etosha National Park in the extreme heat between December and March. Resort areas are busiest during both Namibian and South African school holidays, which usually take place from mid-December to mid-January, late-April to early June, and late-August to mid-September.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Namibian Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$2-5

Mid-range: US$5-10

High: US$10-15

Deluxe: US$15+

Lodging

Budget: US$5-8

Mid-range: US$8-25

High: US$25-80

Deluxe: US$80+

Namibia is a relatively inexpensive country to visit. Budget travellers need only spend about USD25.00 a day if they camp or stay in backpacker hostels, self-cater and use public transportation. A mid-range budget of around USD60.00 a day secures inexpensive hotels and a couple of daily restaurant meals. Better hotels, habitual restaurant meals, guided tours and a rented 4WD requires at least USD100.00 a day.

Major foreign currencies and travellers cheques can be exchanged in any bank. Rates for travellers cheques are better than cash. When changing money, you can choose between Namibian dollars or South African rand; for changing leftover money after your trip, rand is better. It's worth noting that the rand and the Namibian dollar have equal value in Namibia, but the Namibian dollar drops to about 70% of the rand in South Africa. Credit cards are widely accepted in shops, restaurants and hotels.

An 15.5% sales tax is applied to most purchases, including meals and accommodation, but it's not normally included in marked prices. Tipping is only expected in up-market restaurants, and only if a service charge hasn't already been added to the bill. Tipping is prohibited in national parks and reserves. Bargaining, particularly in rural markets, is a local way of life, especially for arts and crafts.

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Attractions

Windhoek

Namibia's Central Highlands are dominated by its small, Germanic capital, Windhoek. Set at the geographical heart of Namibia, it serves as the nerve centre of the country's business and commercial operations and boasts Namibia's international airport.

Situated among low hills at an elevation of 1660m (5444ft), Windhoek enjoys a refreshing highland climate with considerable temperature variations and a lot of rain. This makes for lush gardens and spectacular flower beds. The population of 160,000 people reflects Namibia's ethnic mix.

Etosha National Park

One of the world's greatest wildlife-viewing venues, Etosha National Park is the Namibian destination for many travellers. The western part of the park is characterised by scrubby savannah but further east, the scrub gives way to mixed woodland.

The lifeblood of Etosha is the Etosha Pan - an immense, flat, saline desert that only occasionally holds water. During winter months, perennial springs around its edges draw large concentrations of birds, elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras and a few cheetahs and leopards.

Fish River Canyon

There's nowhere else in Africa like Fish River Canyon. The Fish River has been gouging this gorge for thousands of years and the result couldn't be improved upon. Although it's huge - 160km (99mi) long and 27km (17mi) wide - size alone cannot explain the appeal of the canyon.

The views from this place are incredible. The main information/tourist centre for the canyon is at Hobas, at the northern end of the park. The area around the Hobas Information Centre has picnic sites, camp grounds and walking trails, and access to some of the best viewpoints in the canyon.

Lüderitz

Lüderitz is a surreal colonial relic - a Bavarian village huddling on the barren, windswept coast of the Namib Desert, scarcely touched by the 20th century. It's everything you'd expect of a small German town, from delicatessens and coffee shops to Lutheran churches.

The Atlantic coastline is home to penguins and seals, and the desolate beaches support flocks of flamingoes and ostriches. Lüderitz is also the northern anchor of the diamond-rich Sperrgebiet (Forbidden Area), and its prosperity is plain for all to see.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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