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Windhoek (pronounced /ˈvɪnthʊk/) is the capital of Namibia and has about 230,000 inhabitants. It is located in the Khomas Region in the central part of the country on a plateau at an altitude of almost 1,700 metres above sea level. The city is relatively young (about 120 years) and small but it is the administrative centre of the country and most travellers arriving by plane in Namibia will first spend a day or so in Windhoek. It is safe compared to other African cities and has its own charms, like the German colonial building style, several churches and the main street, Independence Avenue. In and around the city there are good hotels and restaurants and nearby is Daan Viljoen National Park, which is a good place to do a small safari.
Namibia celebrates Independence Day on the 21st of March, to mark the day in 1990 when it gained full independence from South Africa. It is a national holiday with many shops and businesses closing for the day as well as all governmental offices.
The Windhoek Karneval is a very important event in the capital, with celebrations beginning on the first Friday of April. There is the Prinzenball, Büttenabende, the Maskenball (the masked ball) and the Kehraus, which marks the end of the carnival. Festivities also include a ladies night, a youth carnival and a childrens carnival.
Held every February, the Bank Windhoek Arts Festival celebrates local artists and their work. It encourages the development of artists, helping locals establish a name in the industry and giving people a vehicle to enjoy the local design scene. A variety of events from dance and theater to visual arts are held throughout the capital.
Although much of central and southern Namibia have a desert climate, this is not entirely through for the central plateau where Windhoek is located. Although in general dry, the hot summer includes some serious downpours sometimes, especially in January and February. In winter, the weather is usually dry with clear blue skies and temperatures still around or above 20 °C and occasionally the temperature drops below 0 °C during the months of June to August.
Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) is the country's primary international airport.
There are few direct connections from Europe, the USA or Australia. From Europe, best direct connections are with Air Namibia or Lufthansa from Frankfurt or Munich.
There are more flights to and from neighbouring countries though, and it is most likely that you have to switch planes in Cape Town or Johannesburg before heading towards Windhoek. South African Airlines flies to these two South African cities, while Air Namibia flies to other cities as well, like Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Maun (gateway for Chobe and Okavango Delta) in Botswana.
Air Namibia is the national airline of Namibia but there are few domestic flights that are of any use to travellers and most flights are chartered. There are however a few dozen of airports in Namibia, mostly catering to smaller planes with originate from Windhoek. Often these flights are part of a package deal. You might find this List of airport in Namibia interesting if you want to joing such a tour.
There is a regular overnight train service with TransNamib, the national railway company of Namibia, from Upington in South Africa to Windhoek via Keetmanshoop in the south of Namibia. The total trip takes about 26 hours. Although the domestic service from Keetmanshoop to Windhoek rides every day except Saturdays, the train between Upington and Keetmanshoop only rides on two days: from Upington on Sundays and Thursdays at 5am arriving 11 and a half hours later in Keetmanshoop and from the latter on Wednesdays and Saturdays around 9 am, taking well over 12 hours to reach Upington in South Africa's Northern Cape Province.
Several luxurious trains also travel through Namibia, stopping en route in Windhoek.
Well maintained roads lead north, south and east of Windhoek and all are tarred. To the west/interior though roads are gravel but still in an excellent shape. A 4wd vehicle is not necessary but recommended when using these latter roads.
Bus services between Botswana and Windhoek are highly irregular, so probably the simplest way is to hitch - though remember all the usual safety caveats. Public transport in Botswana runs frequently as far west as Ghanzi, from where you can hitch to Windhoek. Hitching from the border to Windhoek should cost about N$100 (Nov 2009).
Buses connect the capital Windhoek with most neighbouring countries, but frequencies are low and traveltime high. It takes about 24 hours to and from Johannesburg and even more to Lusaka in Zambia. There are also direct buses between Windhoek and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, stopping in Katima Mulilo in the eastern Caprivi. These buses travel through Botswana, but you are not allowed to get out of the buses. From Windhoek there are also irregular minibuses travelling directly to Maun, the gateway for the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Intercape offers buses between Windhoek and Walis Bay and to the north (Caprivi Strip, Rundu, Grootfontein) and south (Mariental, Karasburg).
There are loads of car rental agencies on the airport and in the city to get you started for your trip.
There is no public transport in Windhoek but there is a system of shared taxis which are similar to combies in South African cities. Taxis primarily run between the townships and the main industrial/commercial areas of the city. Routes are not fixed like a bus route or the combie routes in South Africa. This gives some added flexibility, but also means that fares between given destinations may not always be the same. You can get in or get out wherever you want along the "route".
To catch a taxi just flag it down by holding your arm out and waving your hand down towards the ground. It's a casual gesture, so don't stick your arm straight out like a sign post, and don't wave your arm around like you're calling for help. The fare for destinations that are on the "route" or close to the route is N$10, destinations more "out of the way" are charged at N$20. After midnight every tour is N$20. Point your hand in the direction that you want to go. If the driver stops for you, tell him where you want to go when you get in or before you get in. If the destination is too far off their route, they will tell you they're not going there so you'll just have to wait for another taxi. This can be common during rush hour. It will take some time to figure out what these informal routes are.
Most taxis cruise along Independence Avenue south of the intersection with Fidel Castro Street. The easiest place to catch them is in front of the Gustav Voigts Centre/Kalahari Sands Hotel.
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) which allow you to hire the entire car to yourself. Most of these taxis have to be pre-booked via telephone; they'll come and get you wherever you are. In the city, they can be found behind the Tourist Information Office at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Fidel Castro Street (opposite Gustav Voigts Centre/Kalahari Sands Hotel) and on the northern-side of Wernhill Park shopping mall. They also 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 especially to the airport; it's just a question of how much they are going to charge.
Most hotels and hostels are close to the city centre, so you can easily walk to most shops, restaurants, clubs and sights.
|Cardboard Box||15 Johann Albrecht St Windhoek West||Hostel||67|
|Roof of Africa Hotel/Conference & Travel Centre||124-126 Nelson Mandela Avenue P O BOX 11745 Klein||Hotel||-|
|Rivendell Guest House||PO Box 97059 Windhoek||Guesthouse||81|
|Kansimba Game Lodge||P.O.Box 23556||Guesthouse||-|
|BackPacker Unite||5 Grieg str, Windhoek West P.O. Box 23658 Windhoek||HOSTEL||74|
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 are Internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well. Wifi is on the rise, but still not on the level of neighbouring South Africa.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Namibia's country code is 264. Each city or region has a two-digit area code. When calling long distance within Namibia, prefix the area code with a '0'. Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa. Be aware that when you get off the beaten track signal can be erratic.
To avoid high costs, switch off data roaming and/or buy a local SIM card instead. Internet rates especially are extremely high still, but you will also save money on calling costs.
Nampost is the national postal service of Namibia. It has post offices in most major cities and towns or postal services are incorporated within small shops in the smallest settlements. As for many countries in Southern Africa, services are actually fairly reliable but not very fast. Count on 2 weeks or more for postcards or letters to be send to countries in Europe or North America. Most post offices are open from 8:00 or 9:00am to around 4:30pm, with shorter hours (mornings) on Saturdays. Note that local variations may apply. For parcels, you might choose more expensive but faster companies like DHL, UPS, FedEx or TNT.
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