A question I asked about a million people before heading to Namibia on our recent self-drive tour was, do we need a 4×4 vehicle or can we self-drive Namibia with a normal car?
The answers were pretty much 50 / 50, in that half of those I asked said a 4×4 was essential, while the other half said a normal car was fine… But now that we have “been there, done that”, I feel I am in a position to answer this question for others, and the answer is… Yes and No!
After much deliberation, we chose to rent a regular car, and during our 12-day, 2500km journey, our trusty Volkswagen never had a single bump, scrape, chip, or flat tyre…although it was rather dusty! So while I can say ‘yes’ you can self-drive Namibia with a regular rental car, I would also like to mention the following…
Namibia is the perfect country for self-drive tours, but as soon as you head out of the main cities, the tar roads turn to gravel roads, and you will remain on gravel roads for most of your journey. As with anywhere in the world, some roads are better maintained than others are, and if you are to navigate Namibia’s gravel roads in a regular saloon car, you need to be an experienced driver.
That said, the gravel roads are extremely wide and you will be lucky to see more than three other vehicles during a five-hour drive, so the chances of an accident or a smashed windscreen due to other cars flicking up stones is low. However, gravel can put added stress onto the smaller wheels of a regular car, and so you need to watch out for sharp rocks and anything that might give you a puncture.
Driving Namibia in a saloon car can be a bumpy ride, especially if you head on down to Sossusvlei, so if you are looking for comfort, opt for a 2×4 car with relatively high clearance to absorb some of the bumps along the way – this is the option we will be going for next time.
With regard to self-driving Namibia in a 4×4, well, I guess if you want to head off-road and do a self-drive safari in Etosha National Park this is probably the best option, but the vehicle, the insurance and the gas will take up a big chunk of your holiday budget.
So if you are not heading off into the unknown, stick with a 2×4, and spend the money you save on some fantastic souvenirs!