Windhoek is Namibia's capital and largest city (population ~400,000). It is in the geographic centre of the country at an elevation of 1,600m. This is the city where most safaris travelling through Namibia begin, and also the first point of entry in Namibia should you arrive by airplane.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The city was spelled Windhuk during the German colonial time and is sometimes still referred to as such in German. The name is pronounced wind-hook, as "oe" in Dutch and Afrikaans is pronounced like "u" in German.
The B1, which runs from the north to the south and the B2 (Trans-Kalahari) which runs from the east to the west through Namibia are the primary land routes into Windhoek. Northern towns served by the B1 include Oshakati, Otjiwarongo, and Okahanja. Southern towns include Rehoboth, Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz. From the west the B2 connects Swakopmund and from the east it connects Gobabis.
This is the easiest way to get to Windhoek for people without a car. Minibuses run from everywhere in Namibia, and through some combination of different routes, one can always find their way to Windhoek. The Engen petrol station north of downtown (Rhino Park) is the rank for southern and western destinations such as Mariental, Swakopmund, Keetmanshoop. For northern destinations such as Otjiwarongo, Oshakati and Rundu go to Hakahana Service Station, Katutura. However, it is easier to arrange for a minibus to take you (check opposite SAA in Independence Avenue).
If you're arriving in Namibia by airplane, this is most likely to be via Hosea Kutako International Airport. The airport is approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) out of town, so give yourself plenty of time to travel to the city centre. A taxi to the city will be about N$300 per person and will drop you at your doorstep. If you are travelling in a group you can negotiate a bulk price.
Windhoek also has a regional airport called Eros, situated south of the city centre. Travelling between international and domestic airport will take about half a day, due to customs, passport control, road time, and another check-in. Luggage will not be routed from one airport to another!
Windhoek's train station is in the city centre, just off Bahnhof Street.
TransNamib [dead link], via their StarLine passenger service, operates trains from Windhoek to a few destinations in Namibia. All trains depart in the late afternoon or early evening (between 4 and 8 PM) at a time when the ticket office is already closed. You cannot buy a ticket on the train. In fact, you cannot enter the platform without a ticket. Trains are scheduled 2-5 times per week, depending on destination and season, on the following routes:
- Windhoek-Swakopmund-Walvis Bay
- Windhoek-Keetmanshoop; this train used to split and continue on to Upington in South Africa and Lüderitz on the Atlantic coast, but no longer does so.
These are not dedicated passenger trains but convey passengers via special coaches hooked on the back of freight trains. They are therefore a relatively slow method of transport, as the train will stop at every tree to hook and unhook freight cars. The trip Windhoek-Swakopmund (360 kilometres (220 mi) by road) takes a scheduled 9 hours, the 500 kilometres (310 mi) trip to Keetmanshoop takes almost a day. Tickets are cheap, though, even in business class, and the passenger coaches are comfortable and have an airline-style seating. Their air-conditioning, video entertainment, and vending machines are not often operational, though. Most trains travel at night; bring a sleeping bag against the cold.
The Desert Express is a luxury tourist train that traverses Namibia regularly, taking tourists to such destinations as Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Etosha National Park. Buses are used to transport visitors from train stations to the various sights.
- Intercape runs a bus service to and from Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and Livingstone in Zambia.
- Insight Luxury Coaches has a bus two times a week from Windhoek to Livingstone Zambia for N$450.
- Baileys Reo Liner has a bus three times a week from Windhoek to Cape Town with a fare of N$650.
- AT&T Monnakgotla Transport has a bus two times a week from Windhoek to Gaborone Botswana.
Book a few days in advance at least to be sure that you have a seat.
Most hotels and hostels are close to the city centre, so you can easily walk to most shops, restaurants, clubs and sights. After dark it is not safe to walk, though.
There are a number of car rental agencies operating in Windhoek:
- [dead link] CABS Car hire, 282 Independence Ave, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. not operative in Namibia according to website
- Okavango Car hire, 124 Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Adozu Car Hire, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- African Car Hire, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Avis (City), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Avis (Airport) (At Hosea Kutako International Airport), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Budget (City), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Budget (Airport) (At Hosea Kutako International Airport), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Imperial (City), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Imperial (Airport) (At Hosea Kutako International Airport), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no public transport in Windhoek but there is a system of shared taxis that do not have fixed routes. Everybody in the taxi is driven to their intended destination, in the order the driver thinks is best. Taxis have their registration number, a letter and up to three digits, prominently displayed. Taxis looking for passengers will hoot. To catch a taxi, point your hand into the direction you want to travel. Once the driver stops, tell him your destination. If it is not en route to his other passengers' destinations, he might refuse. Just wave down the next taxi.
As these taxis primarily run between the townships and the main industrial/commercial areas of the city, it can be difficult to find one in posh suburbs at night---over the day domestic workers take a taxi there. The standard fare for destinations that are on the "route" or close to the route is N$12, destinations more "out of the way" are charged double. After midnight every tour costs double, and people recognisable a tourists will generally not travel for the normal fee. If the driver says nothing about the price, give N$12.
Shared taxis are generally in bad technical shape, and their aggressive driving is legendary. If you feel uncomfortable with that, there are radio taxis (on-demand) that do not pick up other passengers while they drive you. Most of these taxis have to be pre-booked via telephone; they'll come and get you wherever you are. They tend to gather at popular restaurants and nightspots. Make sure you agree on the price before taking them; most will ask for at least N$80 to go anywhere around Windhoek. These taxis also can take you out of Windhoek and to the airport.
Here are some taxi company numbers:
- Parliament of Namibia. Formerly the legislative assembly during the apartheid days, this is now the home of the National Assembly. There is also a new building next door for the National Council.
- National Gallery of Namibia
- Dictator street names Though Namibia isn't a dictatorship, there are a few dictators with whom Namibia's first President was quite friendly during the days of the struggle for independence (and still is). There are two in Windhoek, both downtown: Fidel Castro St. and Robert Mugabe Ave.
- Christuskirche In the middle of a big traffic circle where Robert Mugabe Ave. and Fidel Castro St. meet, at the gates of the Parliamentary compound. The old Lutheran church. The circular stained-glass window in the facade and all the other stained-glass windows in the church were donated by Kaiser Wilhelm II, as a gift to the colony. In the 1990s, a tourist noticed that all the windows were installed with the sun protection on the inside, prompting authorities to re-install all of the windows, properly.
- 1 AJ du Plooy Sports Fields, Socrates Street, Academia (Between Academia High School and Windhoek Technical High School. Follow the way to the University of Namibia (UNAM), it is roughly opposite.). Soccer and rugby fields, tennis courts, basketball court. Also suitable for a picnic. Not all amenities are in good shape but it is free to use for everyone. Not safe after dark.
- 2 Archersland (Leave the town on the National Road B6 eastwards in the direction of the international airport. About 15 km outside town, turn left to Heja Lodge. Archersland is signposted from there. Your vehicle needs a bit of ground clearance to get right to the place but you can park at Heja Lodge and continue on foot for about a km.). Two hunting trails (rubber animals, of course) of circa 2 km each. Only open on weekends. 150 N$ per day, kids 100 N$, reduction if you bring your own equipment---and a penalty if you break or lose theirs.
- Cats Unlimited, e-mail: email@example.com. They guide conservation expeditions concentrating on big cats just outside of Windhoek. N$11999.
The University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) are located in Windhoek. There is also the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre where you can take classes in everything from French to photography.
There is a craft market in Post Street Mall in central Windhoek, though prices are quite high. For cheaper prices, go to the craft market in Okahandja, which is about an hour north of Windhoek. You can hitchhike to Okahanja or catch a combie.
There are a number of arcades and small shopping centres in the centre of Windhoek. Between them you can find pretty much anything you need. There is also a larger mall called Maerua Mall in the south end of the city (Jan Jonker Road), easily accessible by taxi.
For arts and crafts you can visit Jennys Place located at Bougain Villa 78 Sam Nujoma Drive, Klein Windhoek. Telephone +264 61 269152. It is the largest arts and crafts shop in Namibia. They sell everything from paints, face paints, canvases, beads, ribbons, costumes, scrapbooking supplies, brushes, spraypaint, decoupage, wooden blanks, pewter and the occasional oddity such as glow in the dark spraypaint, gifts and decorations. They also provide a variety of art classes such as painting, card making and scrap booking. It has a calm and tranquil atmosphere and a great place to meet other crafters.
Keep in mind that many places – shops, restaurants, and internet cafés included – are closed on Sundays or stay open only until 1PM. Note also that alcoholic beverages aren't sold after 19:00 (weekdays) and after 13:00 on Saturday (through until Monday morning). On public holidays only restaurants and night clubs are open, all ordinary bars have to close.
- 1 Cafe le Pain, General Murtala Mohammed Avenue, Eros (inside the service station). A somewhat extravagant bakery with (for Namibia) ridiculous prices but lots of interesting produce. Very friendly staff. The shelf will only fill up from around 09:00 in the morning, ideal for a brunch at home, not ideal for the early birds. Roll 1.80 N$, croissant 20 N$, small loaf of bread 35 N$.
- Standard Bank (all over Namibia.). has master card / visa card ATMs
- Nedbank (all over Namibia.). has master card / visa card ATMs
- First National Bank (all over Namibia.). has master card / visa card ATMs
Supermarkets in Namibia have just about anything you might want from back home, though the brand names may be different.
- Shoprite. Shoprite has many supermarkets in Windhoek and all over Namibia.
- Spar. There are now 27 Spar supermarkets in Namibia.
- Pick n Pay (one in Wernhill center). Pick N Pay have supermarkets all over Namibia.
There is a small outdoor market in Post Street Mall, a pedestrian street between Wernhil park and Independence Avenue. This is a good place to shop for souvenirs and wood carvings. Prices here will be a lot cheaper than in the shops. Feel free to negotiate.
- PepperCorn, Shop 59, Maerua Mall (opposite the cinema), ☎ . 9AM-10PM. Try to get a seat in the lounge and have a drink before and after the meal.
- Joe's Beer House, 160 Nelson Mandela Ave, ☎ . M-Th 4PM-late, F-Su 11AM-late. If you are looking for the place all tourists go and the waiters will tell you when the tip is not sufficient, this is the place to go. The food is really good though. Get a Zebra steak or an ostrich kebab to round off that game drive. The meals served are extremely large and don't come with many vegetables.
- Luigi and the Fish, 320 Sam Nujoma Dr (Klein Windhoek, on the way to the airport), ☎ . 6PM-10PM. A nice restaurant and bar, many travellers here. It describes itself as having the biggest menu in Namibia, with a mix of game, beef, pork, seafood, pizza and vegetarian dishes. On Fridays and Saturdays you need to book in advance.
- 1 Old Continental Cafe, Pedestrian passage between Lüderitz Street and Independence Avenue (Parking can be difficult here. Come on foot.), ☎ . 9AM-5PM. Small downtown eatery for breakfast and lunch. Lebanese-style cooking, dishes are somewhat spicy. Try the soup of the day. N$30-80.
- Sardinia, 47 Independence Ave, ☎ . 9AM-11PM. Italian restaurant with great pizzas, hot dishes and excellent ice cream.
- 2 The Kebab House, 143 Robert Mugabe Avenue (opposite the Islamic Centre). lunch and dinner, daily. Halaal Pakistani and Indian food. Huge portions and good value for money. From Potato Naan (N$30, big enough to make you full for the day) to Lamb Leg (N$499 but who can eat 2 kg of meat?). Most main courses below N$100.
- Joes Beer House A trip to Windhoek is incomplete without visiting this unique beer garden! It is always packed with locals and travellers. It has an excellent menu and reservations must be made in advance.
- The Wine Bar Located on a hill overlooking Windhoek with fantastic sunsets, perfect for that romantic occasion. The staff give excellent service and have good knowledge of the wines being served. You may also purchase wine here.
- Blitzkrieg Bunker Bar A loud rock and metal bar. Despite the risqué name, a perfectly friendly place with laid-back staff and a good crowd. Writing anywhere on the walls with a marker pen is not discouraged.
- Bump Located in the Southern Industrial section of Windhoek, Bump features a spacious outdoor area, mid-sized dance floor and a large bar. Although the music is often limited to house and rave music, the service is friendly. Popular with the Afrikaner crowd.
- Sardinia, 47 Independence Ave, ☎ . 9AM-11PM. Italian restaurant with great pizzas, hot dishes and excellent ice cream.
- Warehouse, corner of Tal Street and Sam Nujoma Drive, ☎ . Closed on Sundays. Popular with tourists and the local artist's scene. Live music (Rock and Jazz) of varying quality, but often good and always entertaining and free. Tuesdays Karaoke. Occasionally there is a rock concert in a separate hall for which there is an admission fee. 0.5l beer N$25, meals and snacks N$40-80.
- 1 Chez Ntemba, Dr Kenneth Kaunda Street (Off Independence Avenue. All taxi drivers know it, too). open Wed-Sun. Popular with locals and the only place to go out on Sundays because other places are closed or dead quiet. Fri-Sun entrance is N$30. Small beer for N$20.
- 2 J&J Gambling House, Luther Street (Off Independence Avenue. At the back of Chez Ntemba, walk halfway around the block). Open till 2 AM except on Sundays when it closes 10 PM. Popular bar in the town centre. J&J can get a bit rough from time to time: Hookers, drunkards, people selling contraband, but security is good. 750 ml beer N$ 23, you would have to go deep into the slums to get it cheaper.
- Cardboard Box Backpackers Hostel, 15 John Albrecht St (at the corner of John Meinart), ☎ . Has a bar and a swimming pool; close to downtown. Also the site of the Cardboard Box Travel Shop. Dorm bed N$135.
- Chameleon Backpackers Lodge & Guesthouse, 5-7 Voight St, ☎ . Has a mix of dorm and private rooms with a bar, swimming pool and booking desk for Chameleon Safaris. Close to downtown. Dorm bed N$150 pp.
- 1 ParadiseGarden Backpackers (ParadiseGarden Hostel & Camping), 5 Roentgen Street (At the corner of Beethoven street and John Meinert street turn right into Beethoven street. Roentgen street is the first street on your left.), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Owned and managed by a German. Has travel information desk, free WiFi and secure parking, well-equipped kitchen, laundry service, a huge and always clean swimming pool, located within a 15-minute walk from Windhoek downtown. English, Spanish and German spoken. Camping N$130, dorm N $190, rooms starting from N$450.
- [formerly dead link] Rivendell Backpackers, 40 Beethoven St, ☎ . single/double rooms and dorm beds. Has a swimming pool.
- Backpackers Unite, 5 Grieg St, ☎ . Check-in: 12 noon, check-out: 12 noon. camping/dorm beds. has a swimming pool. free breakfast and wifi. Dorm N$140 pp. Caamping N$80 pp..
- Galpinii Guest House (b&b), 45, Prinsloo Street, Pioneers Park, ☎ , fax: .
- Klein Windhoek Guest House, 2 Hofmeyer Street, Klein Windhoek, ☎ , fax: .
- Jordani Bed and Breakfast, 55 Hamutenya Wanehepo Ndadi St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00.
- Protea Hotel Furstenhof, Dr. Frans Indongo Street. Luxury hotel downtown with a pool and beautiful view of the city.
- Kalahari Sands, 129 Independence Ave. Luxury hotel downtown with a casino and a small shopping centre.
- Windhoek Country Club. Luxury resort and conference centre in the south end of the city.
- Heinitzburg. Luxury resort looks like an old castle above the city
- Hilton Hotel, Rev. Michael Scott St.. Namibia's only five-star hotel. Luxury, certainly when compared to the alternatives, new modern, well equipped, excellent service, city center location.
The area code for Windhoek is (061). When calling Windhoek from outside Namibia do not put a '0' between the country code and the area code.
It is cheaper to buy mobile phone starter packs than rely on roaming. Starter packs, including SIM cards and airtime, can be purchased throughout the city at less than N$20. They will work throughout Namibia, except 'Switch' CDMA cards that only work in Windhoek.
There are a number of well-equipped Internet cafés in Windhoek.
- Internet Cafe, Wernhill Center (2nd floor above Pick 'n Pay, near Post St Mall entrance). Large number of computers with good connection speeds. Also has a few terminals for Skype calls. N$12 for 30 min.
English is spoken throughout Namibia (it is the country's official language and is also the medium of instruction in most schools), although in many urban areas Afrikaans (similar to Dutch) is used as a lingua franca, as 50% of the Namibian population speak Afrikaans. German is widely used in tourism. Oshiwambo is spoken by 50% of Namibians as a mother tongue.
Radio and television is also predominantly in English.
Other languages include Otjiherero, Damara/Nama, Setswana, SiLozi, and Rukwangali.
Due to its high elevation of about 1,600m you can be sunburnt easily, even on the (few) cloudy days. Wear a hat and sunscreen.
Windhoek is not within the endemic malaria area. The mosquitoes can still be a pest during rainy season (Nov-April). Repellents are available at every supermarket.
Windhoek is generally safe for tourists but the usual precautions should be taken. Do not walk around displaying jewelry or electronics. Take a radio taxi at night. Do not visit the townships unaccompanied, or after dark.
Be careful with the traffic. Many drivers ignore red lights, zebra crossings, and a lot more. For a car that wants to turn, a green pedestrian traffic light means nothing, and generally people in cars are deemed to be more important than people on foot, and therefore have the right of way.
- Medical emergency / Fire station: +264-(0)-61 211111
- Crisis emergency services: +264-(0)-61 303395,
- City Police: +264-(0)-61 302302, +264-(0)-61 2902018,
- Police: +264-(0)-61 10111
- Lady Pohamba Private Hospital: +264-(0)-83 3359000,
- Roman Catholic Private Hospital: +264-(0)-61 2702911
- Mediclinic Private Hospital: +264-(0)-61 4331000
- State Hospital: +264-(0)-61 2039111
- Egypt, 10 Berg St, ☎ , fax: .
- Finland, 2 Crohn St (corner of Bahnhof Street), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo, We, Th 9AM-noon.
- United States, 14 Lossen St, ☎ , fax: .