Department of State
Consular Information Sheet
June 2, 2003
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Namibia is a southern African country with a moderately developed economy. Facilities for tourism are good and generally increasing in quality. The capital is Windhoek.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are normally required. Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than 90 days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country. Travellers coming for work, whether paid or voluntary, must obtain their visas prior to entering Namibia. Travellers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of Namibia at 1605 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 986-0540, or from the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the U.N. at 135 E. 36th St., New York, NY 10016, telephone (212) 685-2003, fax (212) 685-1561. Overseas inquiries should be made to the nearest Namibian embassy.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s travel from the parent (s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The recent peace in Angola has led to an improvement in the security situation along the Namibia-Angola border.
American citizens wishing to cross into Angola from Namibia should do so only at official border crossing areas and should consult the State Department's Consular Information Sheet for Angola.
American citizens should avoid street demonstrations, although such events are rare in Namibia. American citizens travelling in Namibia are urged to contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek for the latest safety and security information.
CRIME: Incidents of violent crime directed specifically against Americans or other foreigners are rare, but the number of criminal incidents, both violent and petty, is increasing. The most common criminal offences committed in the capital are non-violent crimes of opportunity, including pickpocketing, purse-snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-ins. Common sense measures such as not leaving valuables in plain sight in parked cars, keeping car doors locked and windows up while driving, safeguarding purses, keeping wallets in front pockets, and being alert to one’s surroundings are the best deterrents against becoming a victim of criminal activity. Banditry remains a problem in the border region between Namibia and Angola.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travellers to Sub-Saharan Africa" provide useful information on personal security while travelling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website at http://travel.state.gov, or from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, internet address http://www.gpoaccess.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Windhoek has a small number of private hospitals and clinics capable of providing emergency care and performing many routine procedures. Doctors, both general practitioners and specialists, as well as dentists, generally have training and facilities that match U.S. standards. Facilities outside the capital vary widely. Several large towns have well-equipped facilities similar to those available in Windhoek, while smaller towns generally do not.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to travelling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travellers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travellers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure “Medical Information for Americans Travelling Abroad,” available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travellers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travellers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Namibia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of public transportation: Fair
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Excellent
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Fair
Availability of roadside assistance: Fair
In Namibia, driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Many of Namibia’s rural roads are gravel. Although these roads are generally well maintained, controlling a vehicle on gravel is significantly more difficult than on pavement. Drivers should not drive in excess of 80km per hour (45 mph) on gravel roads, should reduce speed significantly for curves or turns, and should heed all warning signs. Hitting a sand patch or driving around a curve too fast can easily result in a rollover or spinout. Many accidents on gravel roads occur when tourists exceed safe speeds on corners or in areas recently damaged by rains.
Turning on a red traffic light is not permitted in Namibia. Seat belts are required for all vehicle occupants. Motorcyclists are required by law to wear protective helmets. While child car seats are not required, they are recommended.
In order to drive legally while in Namibia, visitors staying more than a few weeks need an international driving permit. International driving permits must be obtained prior to leaving the U.S. and are available from either the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Short-term visitors do not need an international driving permit; a valid U.S. driver’s license is sufficient.
Roads in Namibia are generally maintained. However, few have shoulders or breakdown lanes. Wildlife wandering on roads is a special driving hazard in Namibia, especially at night. An encounter at high speeds with antelope or cattle can be fatal. The salt-surfaced roads at the coast can also be deceptively dangerous, especially when they have been made slick by morning or evening mist.
Most major roads are undivided with one lane in each direction. Drivers should remain alert for passing vehicles and exercise caution when passing slow moving vehicles. Accidents involving drunk drivers are an increasing problem on major roads where there are high speed limits. Driving under the influence is illegal in Namibia. A charge of culpable homicide can be made against a driver involved in an accident resulting in death.
Roadside assistance and emergency medical services outside of Windhoek may be unreliable or non-existent. Assistance on main roads that link Namibia's larger towns, however, is generally good due to quality cellphone networks. Emergency services contact numbers vary from town to town. The Namibian telephone directory has a list of emergency contact numbers at the beginning of each town listing. It is recommended that Americans maintain a list of contact numbers for the area in which they plan to drive. Telephone numbers may change, and 24-hour availability of these numbers is not guaranteed.
Public transportation is not widely available outside of the capital. Taxis and municipal buses are the only forms of public transportation in Windhoek. Schedules and routes are limited. Car rentals or radio taxis are generally the best means of transport but may be relatively expensive.
Flashing of high beams and similar signals could mean anything from a friendly greeting to a warning. When encountering a motorcade, motorists are encouraged to make way immediately and follow promptly any instructions given by the officials present.
Because of the possibility of intoxicated and/or reckless drivers, the poor mechanical condition of some motor vehicles, and the high incidence of single-vehicle rollover accidents, Americans are urged to avoid hitchhiking in Namibia.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service between the U.S. and Namibia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Namibia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travellers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travellers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Namibia's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Namibia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Americans should avoid purchasing diamonds and other protected resources outside of licensed retail establishments. The sentence for illegal dealing in diamonds in Namibia is stiff -- up to U.S. $20,000 in fines or five years in prison -- and the courts generally impose the maximum sentence. The purchase and exportation of other protected resources, such as elephant ivory, may also be prohibited by Namibian, international, and/or U.S. law.
DANGERS POSED BY WILD ANIMALS: Travellers are advised that, even in the most serene settings, animals are wild and can pose a threat to life and safety. Travellers are cautioned to observe all local or park regulations and heed all instructions given by tour guides. In addition, tourists are advised that potentially dangerous areas sometimes lack fences and warning signs. Appropriate caution should be used in all unfamiliar surroundings.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children’s_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Namibia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek and obtain updated information on travel and security within Namibia. The U.S. Embassy is located at 14 Lossen Street, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, telephone: (264) 61-221-601, fax: (264) 61-22-9792. The mailing address is Private Bag 12029, Windhoek, Namibia. The U.S. Embassy Windhoek website is http://www.usembassy.namib.com.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated September 12, 2002 to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Facilities, and Other Health Information.
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