I thought very hard and long about this particular blog post as it’s a very sensitive topic.
I recently read a blog post on the Matador Network website where 18 people talked about their greatest insecurities as travelers. One of them was a lady who is afraid she might offend locals because of her lack of knowledge about the area and its people.
I have jotted down a few points that make us (Namibian locals) cringe from the inside and shake our heads in dismay. This doesn’t mean we don’t like having you, as a tourist, here in Namibia but after this you will know what not to do and ultimately be a better traveler. There are some traveling taboos you should break when traveling.
The best thing to do is to start chatting to people online before your trip and do some research online.
There is a reason this is listed as the first topic. Littering is bad for our environment FULLSTOP. We try our best to keep our country clean and beautiful but littering affects much more than just the beauty of our country. Littering causes much bigger problems than disrupting Picasso style landscape photos. The animal and plant life is affected to a big extent. Birds get caught up in it, causing them to be unable to fly ultimately resulting in starvation. Plastic gets stuck in an animal’s throat and when they eat, they cannot swallow, causing them to starve. Depending on the type of plastic, it may also contain different types of chemicals.
When on holiday recently I saw a baboon and its little one, eating Peanut Butter from the jar. It was clever enough to eat the content and not the jar, but what if the little baboon started chewing on the jar, and a piece of the plastic got stuck in its throat? Please don’t litter. Ensure there is always a bag of some sort in your car so you can throw all the bottles and trash in there. Once you reach your destination you can throw it away in bins provided.
Baboon and its young
Demanding To Know the Price in your currency
We understand it is very difficult to budget in another currency but the locals usually do not know what the exchange rate of your currency is. The best thing to do is have a calculator on hand to work it out. You get such cute calculators that actually double as a key chain. This way you can work it out quickly. Alternatively, download a currency converter App for your Smartphone and you will be A-Okay.
The traffic laws in Namibia are not that different from the rest of the world, except small things like driving on the left side of the road like in England. For driving tips, click here.
The point I would like to make is to try and find out what the laws are in Namibia if you are a self-drive tourist. Before you leave for your holiday through Namibia, do research online or when you arrive in Namibia, stop at the nearest police station or Tourism center to get information about the Namibian laws. A very common sight is people stopping anywhere to take a picture, a pit stop next to the road or simply driving too slow and stopping anywhere in the busy streets of our towns. We really understand that you do not know the places or that you really want to take a photo of the giraffe standing next to the road. This is a very dangerous thing to do. Do not just stop anywhere please. It is for your own safety and we know what a schlep it can be to sort out things like car insurance and travel insurance when something happens. Please adhere to traffic regulations at all times.
Plan … plan … plan…
Before heading off on your long awaited and much deserved holiday, do the necessary planning and research. There is a lot of information available on the internet that you can use to know exactly which hot spots to visit, what to wear and what not to do. It will only help you to make your holiday worthwhile. I know the unknown can be a lot of fun sometimes but it can also spoil your trip. A very good example is our sunsets. We don’t have twilight and it gets dark very quickly. When the sun starts setting, make sure your camp is set up or that you are very close to your destination. Driving at night in Namibia is not advisable and can be dangerous if you do not know the area.
Be street smart
We are aware that you are on holiday and you want to relax. This does not mean you should throw caution to the wind. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t leave valuables lying around in your car where they are clearly visible. People will take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. To read more about this topic, please click here.
Rip of vendors
When buying products from street vendors it is okay to negotiate, but think of the value of the product. Look at the product and really think how much time and effort was spent to create that specific product. If business is slow, vendors will sell something below its worth just to get some money. While we are on this specific subject, when you are taking photos of locals like the traditionally rich Ovahimba people ask for permission, but also reward them for doing so.
Relax – you’re on holiday and we are on Africa time
Unfortunately / fortunately in Africa we work on Africa time. When someone uses the words:” we will do it now”, make sure you add 20 minutes to that. In Namibia things don’t happen as speedy as you would sometimes like it to happen. My advice is: sit back and relax, enjoy your holiday and don’t expect things to happen quickly. Take the time to unwind and forget about the rat race of life. Live life at a slower pace and use the time you wait wisely. Take more pictures and take long relaxing breaths.
No, you cannot have that or keep that.
In my lifetime I have heard the strangest requests: some of them flattering but some of them just downright weird. The other day, I had to fight of a tourist who wanted to buy my Pixie Tie Dyed pants. Really? Yes, I am being serious. The big problem was I bought them when I was a tourist visiting another country so I would not easily part from my Pixie pants, but enough about my attire. What I actually want to mention are things like plants from the desert and other spots in Namibia. Do not, I repeat please do not just break of plants to take with you or dry the leaves to use as your 50 Shades of Gray bookmark. It might just be nearly extinct or poisonous.
Thank you for your understanding. I really hope this will serve as a guide and not discourage you from traveling to our country and feel warmly welcomed.
That is it from me for now. Happy traveling and remember: Take Namibia with you on your camera and in your heart and only leave your footprint behind.
Jessica Thomas is a local freelance writer. She is an eccentric young lady who has a love affair with writing. Get on board her journey of discovery.