Backpacking Namibia isn’t something we would recommend. Yes, we brought our backpacks, as we rarely travel with suitcases. But we did dump them in the truck of our rental during our first day in Namibia. We didn’t travel Namibia with our backpacks strapped to our backs on a limited travel budget, as we did in most countries we traveled. We’ll tell you why we wouldn’t recommend backpacking in Namibia – and give you some budget tips if you decide to do it anyway.
Public transport is limited
The best way to explore Namibia is with your own car. Rental cars aren’t cheap though, so this would make a backpacking trip to Namibia on a strict budget difficult. You could opt for the cheapest car rental option, so a 2WD with limited insurance. We met a couple of girls at the Fish River Canyon though and saw how their small city car couldn’t bring them to any other place there than the central viewpoint. Our 4WD was a way better option – especially at the Fish River Canyon, Brukkaros volcano and Sossusvlei – though a sturdy and not the cheapest 2WD would have been sufficient for most locations.
Read more: we wrote an extensive guide on road tripping in Namibia. It tells you all you need to know about renting a car, rental prices, driving in Namibia, the roads in Namibia, safety, what to do when your rental car breaks down and more.
We would however always chose a cheaper 2WD over the public transport in Namibia. Public transport in Namibia isn’t widely available and won’t bring you to all big Namibia tourist attractions. There is a train track running through Namibia, but it would leave you at the more central points around the country and not the tourist highlights.
Hitchhiking in Namibia wouldn’t be our first choice as well. We met a group of three girls in Lüderitz hitchhiking from one place to another. They were already stuck in Lüderitz for over a week (and we didn’t have enough space in our rental car to take them with us).
The only other real alternative is joining tours. You could either join a tour for your entire trip or small ones bringing you from the capital Windhoek to the Etosha National Park for example. We don’t like to stick to some group planning and didn’t find those tours on a budget anyway.
Backpacking Namibia on a budget isn’t easy
Most typical accommodations in Namibia are private lodges, luxury safari tents or guest farms. Those aren’t cheap. Backpacker hostels are only available in the cities, and there just aren’t many cities in Namibia. So you’ll only find those in capital Windhoek, Swakopmund and Lüderitz.
The only other budget option is camping. Campsites are usually much cheaper than lodges, though discount prices in the low season could surprise you. To get to a campsite though, you’d need your own vehicle or a big amount of luck hitchhiking. Wild camping would save you even more money and is allowed in Namibia.
Read more: we wrote a blog post about camping in Namibia, explaining how to rent a car with a rooftop tent, what equipment to rent, prices and campsites.
Our budget tips for Namibia
#1 Travel in low season
We traveled to Namibia in January which is low season because of its extreme temperature. The heat prevented us from doing big hikes, we only did a half-day hike in the Naukluft National Park. The famous 5-day hike in the Fish River Canyon isn’t even allowed during that time of the year.
Traveling in low season has many advantages though. We didn’t have to book your camping spots in advance, not even on the popular campsites. And even better: prices are very different from those in high season. We even stayed at a camp where lodges were cheaper than camping spots, because of the huge discounts on lodges at state-owned NWR camps during low season.
#2 Cook your own meals
There aren’t many restaurants in Namibia, only in the cities and there aren’t many of those. That leaves you with no other option than the one pricey restaurant of your safari camp or guest house instead. If you decide to cook your own meals, you can save quite some travel budget. When you go camping in Namibia, you’ll probably also rent some cooking equipment to prepare your own meals. Most cabins have a small kitchen area as well.
Make sure to check prices in the supermarkets though. We were surprised how expensive a bell pepper can be in a desert country. The zebra steaks were cheaper.
#3 Skip the guided tours
You’ll probaby travel to Namibia to experience an African safari, probably in the Etosha National Park. The best thing about Etosha though, is the unique opportunity to go on a self-drive safari. You don’t need a guide or guided tour to get around the park and go game watching. Those tours are quite pricey, so you’ll safe a lot of money this way.
#4 Backpack Namibia with friends and split costs
Your rental car and fuel will probably be the biggest expense on your Namibia trip. Most cars have enough space for four or maybe even five people, so it would make sense to share a car with other travelers. Find them online or in your Windhoek hostel, so you can split the costs of a rental car. If you’d like to use a roof top tent for sleeping, you could rent a car with two rooftop tents. We saw many families traveling with two tents.
Our Namibia travel budget
We aren’t big spenders and opted for camping in Namibia. Our total travel expenses were € 3.300 for the two of us and we stayed in Namibia for more than three weeks.
We didn’t include our ticket though, as flight prices can be very different depending on where you’re traveling from.
The biggest chunk of our budget was our rental car: about € 1.400. We choose a 4WD with a rooftop tent and rented it for our entire stay. We opted for an older and thus cheaper rental car, but we didn’t save on insurance and even paid for extra spare tires. You can read more about the rental prices and what options could save you some money in our Namibia car rental blog.
Fuel was another big expense. If we added up the number right, we spent almost € 1.000 on gas. We did drive over 5.000 kilometers and visited the far north and south of the country, making many detours and extra day trips for fun. Fuel prices are pretty much the same anywhere in the country, even in the national parks.
Another cost you’ll probably face on a daily basis is the entrance fee for the national parks. You pay for park permits pretty much anywhere, as almost all Namibia is a national park. Prices aren’t that high though; you pay per person and for your car. We paid about € 115 for the park permits with the two of us during our trip, visiting eight national parks.
That leaves about € 830 for other expenses. This was all we needed for the campsites with electricity, groceries, some activites like quad driving and sandboarding at Swakopmund, restaurants in the cities and souvenirs.