Windhoek Namibia Destination Guide
The small, Germanic capital of the country, Windhoek Namibia is an attractive city situated in the Central Highlands and surrounded by hills and mountains, occupying the geographical and economic heart of Namibia.
The city centre is characterised by historic German colonial architecture and imposing modern structures. Dominating the skyline is the striking German Lutheran church, Christuskirche, a mixture of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic design, and the Titenpalast, or ‘Ink Palace’, the parliament building from where the sparsely populated country is governed. The railway station is a Cape Dutch edifice dating back to 1912 and Independence Avenue is a pleasant tree-lined place with fountains and walkways providing a relaxing ambience among the modern buildings of the central business district. The women of the Herero tribe, cattle herders of the region, are very distinctive with their voluminous Victorian-style dresses and colourful headgear.
The German influence is not only apparent in the architecture and colonial style buildings, but is evident in the food and locally brewed beer. Polony and sauerkraut are available on the menu among local dishes, including seafood from the west coast and venison or game steaks from the hinterland.
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the first Sunday in April and the first Sunday in September).
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are standard.
The official currency is the Namibia Dollar (NAD) divided into 100 cents. Its value is equal to the South African Rand, which is also accepted as legal currency in Namibia. Major credit cards are accepted. Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at any bank or bureau de change, though cash is more expensive to exchange than travellers cheques. ATMs are available in larger towns only.
English is the official language, but many people also speak Afrikaans and German. There are also several indigenous languages spoken, mainly in the rural areas.
Tips of 10% are expected by tourist-orientated establishments where a service charge has not been included in the bill. Tour guides, game rangers and trackers rely on tips for their income, but these are discretionary and depend on good service.
The majority of visits to Namibia are trouble-free, but beware of street crime and pickpockets in the town centres. Theft from vehicles, especially from service stations, is common and valuables should be kept out of sight and the car locked. Avoid using taxis if possible and never take one alone. Care should be taken when traveling in the Caprivi Strip; travel in daylight hours only and stay on the main tarred highway, as there is a risk of landmines remaining from the Angolan civil war.
It is best to check before taking pictures of State House or properties where the President is residing, as well as any buildings guarded by the army or police.
Business in Namibia is conducted somewhat formally, although drinking and socialising are an important part of building good working relationships. Standard business etiquette applies; dress tends to be formal with more lightweight materials worn in the hotter seasons, punctuality is important, shake hands on greeting and leaving and in general be polite and professional. English is the official language of Namibia and therefore of Namibian business, though German and Afrikaans is widely spoken. Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Namibia is +264. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)61 for Windhoek. Most towns are covered by a GSM 900/1800 mobile network. Internet access is available from some hotels and Internet cafes are available in Windhoek and Walvis Bay.
Travellers to Namibia over 16 years do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 250g of tobacco; 2 litres wine and 1 litre spirits or liquor; 50ml perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette; and gifts to the value of N$50,000.
Namibian Tourist Office, Windhoek: +264 (0)61 290 6000 or www.namibiatourism.com.na
Australian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for Namibia): +27 (0)12 342 3740
New Zealand Consulate, Windhoek: +264 (0)61 225 228
Emergencies:1011 (Police); 2032276 (Ambulance)
Hosea Kutako International Airport
National carrier called Air Namibia
Location: The airport is situated 26 miles (42km) east of Windhoek.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 from the first Sunday in April to the first Sunday in September).
Transfer between terminals:
Transfer to the city:
A bus into the city is available after each flight arrival. A private shuttle service operates sedans, mini-buses or coaches to transfer individuals and groups to destinations in Windhoek and elsewhere in the country.
Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Imperial.
The airport has two bureaux de change, an ATM, public telephones, a post office, VIP lounge and information desk. There are also restaurants and a cafe.
Short- and long-term parking is available.
Climate and Weather
Translated as ‘Doubtful Fountain’, Twyfelfontein was so named by a farmer who doubted the ability of the spring to sustain his cattle for a long time. The spring is still there, but Twyfelfontein is famous for its prehistoric rock paintings and engravings rather than its water supply. It boasts the largest concentration of ancient rock art in the country (about 2,500 designs), and has been declared a national monument. The petroglyphs primarily depict game animals such as giraffe, antelope, elephant and lion, and are believed to be around 3,000 years old. Visitors are no longer allowed to enter the site without a guide, due to previous vandalism. The uniquely designed Visitor Information Centre features an exhibition, kiosk and souvenir shop.
Location: , Windhoek
How to get there:
The natural beauty of the Spitzkoppe, or Spitzkop, is spectacular; an island of bald granite peaks situated in an endless grassy plain that is visible for miles around. Groot Spitzkop is often referred to as the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’ because of its similarity in shape, and it is one of Namibia’s most famous mountains. Nearby are the Little Spitzkoppe and the Pontok Mountains. The area is a paradise for climbers, although only those with a lot of experience and the correct equipment should attempt the Spitzkoppe itself. The enormous granite rocks were formed hundreds of millions of years ago due to volcanic activity and subsequent erosion has resulted in fascinating rock formations and memorable outlines, which should not go unexplored. The area is also renowned for its breathtaking sunrises that turn the rocks from pale orange to flaming gold.
Location: , Windhoek
How to get there:
The Brandberg massif is famous for its thousands of rock paintings and engravings, most notably the ‘White Lady’, which is estimated to be about 2,000 years old. Guides accompany visitors on an hour walk to the Tsisab Ravine where the famous painting is located on an overhang under a shelter, surrounded by a variety of painted animal forms. Although faded over the years, the trip to see it is well worth the effort. Contrary to early belief, the painting is not actually of a white lady, but is the image of a male, the white colour of the body representing body paint, which suggests it is a medicine man. Since it was discovered in 1955, there has been a great deal of controversy over the meaning and origin of the painting. Brandberg’s highest peak is Königstein, and at 8,550ft (2,606m) it is the highest mountain in Namibia, which can be reached on an organised three-day hike.
Location: , Windhoek