Budget Namibia: Typical Costs and Saving Tips for a Self-Drive Safari

Budget Namibia: Is it possible to visit Namibia on a budget? We think so. If you can live without 5-star lodges and hot air balloon rides over the desert (add that to the bucket list). 

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But we must admit, taking a self-drive holiday and camping was not as cheap as we expected. Budget Namibia still amounts to about $50 per person per day (excluding vehicle rental). Check out our summary of the typical costs for a self-drive safari through Namibia, including some tips on how you can save.

Typical Costs

What we spent

We spent a total of 19 nights in Namibia (5 of which the accommodation was at no charge) and covered a total distance of 6,690km driving from Cape Town to Namibia and back. Our total cost averaged out at $52 per person per night and obviously did not include vehicle rental (since we used Adam’s panel van). We did however waste some money and have included some tips so you don’t make the same mistakes.

 Price in ZAR/ NADPrice in USD
TOTAL22,794.221,983.55
Travel Insurance1,022.9589.02
Diesel6,842.87595.47
Accommodation4,939.00429.79
Fees1,380.00120.09
Groceries5,724.55498.15
Eating Out2,247.50195.58
Snacks/ Ice637.3555.46

* Note that 1 South African Rand = 1 Namibian Dollar, both have been converted on the exchange rate on 10 December 2014 which was R11.50.

Travel Insurance

It might be easy to forget to arrange travel insurance when taking a self-drive holiday from South Africa to our friendly neighbour, Namibia, but it is most definitely an essential travel cost. The obvious risks involved are driving on gravel roads lined with wild animals, usually with an offroad vehicle packed to the rim with expensive gear (not really elephants attacking your car).

On this trip we opted for World Nomads and paid $86 for what we thought was really comprehensive insurance including:

  • $5 million cover for overseas medical and dental expenses
  • 24 hour emergency assistance
  • travel expenses to the value of $500,000 for emergency evacuation and repatriation
  • all the standard trip cancellation and travel related risks

The best part is that you can get World Nomads insurance online in under a minute and can edit the policy as you go. Luckily we never needed to claim but I asked around and it seems they are on the ball in that department too.

Transportation

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Having your own car means stopping whenever you want.

Namibia is a vast country so we covered massive distances on this trip – a whopping 6,690km in total (you can steal our itinerary here). This of course meant that one of our largest costs was diesel for good old Carlito the Vito. We ended up averaging about N$1 per km but this would of course vary with vehicle, route and the cost of diesel.

There were quite a few petrol stations that did not accept garage cards. So it is always a good idea to have cash handy when refuelling.

We were lucky enough to be able to take our own car to Namibia. There were definitely times we wished we had a 4X4 but Carlito served us well – most importantly at no extra charge. We didn’t even need the two spare tyres we took along “just in case”.

The cost of renting a 4X4 would definitely make this trip a lot more expensive. We looked around before we left and found that a kitted out Toyota Hilux with all the bells and whistles would rack up a cool N$1,800 a day.

Accommodation

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Watching the resident elephant family chill out at the Halali waterhole.

Even though we were lucky enough to be able to spend a few cosy nights at a friend’s farm close to Okahandja as well as a few luxurious nights at the Onguma Tented Camp, most of our time in Namibia was spent camping in the back of Adam’s panel van.

Given the very basic nature of what is provided on most camp sites (usually a power outlet, running water, fire place, shared bathrooms and showers), one would expect camping to be relatively cheap.

What you can expect to pay when you camp:

Camping inside Etosha’s gates is a lot more expensive than camping outside but does offer night time action at the waterhole. Which is priceless.

Activities

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Besides park fees all “activities” are free.

A big plus of a self-drive safari is that your only expense when it comes to activities is the park fees. In addition there are a few tourist attractions that have very reasonable entrance fees and of course border fees if you are coming from SA:

  • Border fee: N$220 per vehicle
  • Twyfelfontein World Heritage Sight: N$50 per person + N$20 per car
  • Etosha National Park Fees: N$60 per person per day plus N$10 per car per day
Visiting the Organ Pipes and Brandberg close to Twyfelfontein was unnecessary especially taking the road condition into account.

Food

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Pretending to be tourists in the butchery in Swakopmund (and being convinced to buy “skilpadjies” – lamb’s liver wrapped in netvet (caul fat), which is the fatty membrane that surrounds the kidneys – yum – we never ate it)

We tried our best to stock up on food before we left South Africa. Our roadtrip snacks actually lasted most of the trip but unfortunately (due to some technical difficulties with our camping fridge) most of our perishables, well, perished. Having said that we didn’t really spend more on groceries in Namibia than what we would have spent back home in SA.

We were naughty and ate out a few times, usually at franchised restaurants from South Africa (Spur/ Wimpy/ KFC) and on occasion at the massively overpriced restaurants at the Okaukuejo and Halali camp sites. This was such a waste of money.

Other than that we stocked up on ice, ice creams and Dorito’s everytime we filled up.

Buying anything other than ice at the convenience stores at the Etosha campsites is a waste of money.

LLT Index

The average cost of the following items in Namibia:

  • soda: N$7
  • ice cream: N$15
  • beer: N$19
  • cappucino: N$22
  • slice of cake: N$25
  • breakfast at mid-range restaurant: N$50
  • main meal at mid-range restaurant: N$70

Updates

Prices change all the time and we visited Namibia in December 2014. So if you have updates to anything listed above please share it in the comments section below. And if there is anything we have left out please let us know.

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