Useful country information

Train operator:

Transnamib (click 'Services' then starline).  2011-2012 timetable

 

 

Bus operator in Namibia:

Long-distance bus services: ?

Time zone & dialling code:

GMT+1 (GMT+2 first Sunday in Sept to first Sunday in April).  Dial code +264.

Currency:

£1 = 12 Namibian dollars.     Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.namibiatourism.com.na   Hotels in Namibia   Tripadvisor Namibia page

Visas:

UK citizens do not need a visa for stays up to 90 days, but must have a return ticket or evidence of ability to return out of Namibia.

Page last updated:

25 January 2014


Namibia overland...

  A Nambian Starline train at Windhoek

Boarding a StarLine train at Windhoek.

Photo courtesy of Ishizaki, Naoichi

 

Click for map of train routes

On this page...

South Africa to/from Namibia by train+bus

Zimbabwe or Zambia to/from Namibia by bus

Train travel in Namibia

Hotels in Windhoek & Namibia

On other pages...

Train travel in South Africa

Train travel in Zimbabwe

Train travel in Tanzania & Zambia

Sponsored links...

 


South Africa to Namibia

  Windhoek railway station at night, with the Starline train to Keetmanshoop about to depart
 

Windhoek station at night, with the overnight 'Starline' train to Keetmanshoop about to depart.  Photo courtesy of Rashid Khan.

There are no international ferry links to Namibia, but it's possible to travel between Namibia and South Africa by train with only one relatively short section now sadly involving a bus.  It's also possible to travel between Namibia and Zimbabwe or Zambia by bus.

Cape Town or Johannesburg ► Windhoek

Windhoek ► Cape Town or Johannesburg

Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Livingstone (Zambia) ► Windhoek

Windhoek ► Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Livingstone (Zambia)

More information...

If you have any more information. photos or travel reports that would be useful for this page, please e-mail me!

Shosholoza Meyl train routes in South Africa


Train travel in Namibia

StarLine passenger trains...  Click here for StarLine timetable

Regular passenger trains marketed as 'StarLine' are run by TransNamib, on the following routes:

There is currently no timetable at www.transnamib.com.na/starline.html, but traveller Jasper Knockaert has kindly sent a relatively recent StarLine timetable which is believed to be still in force in 2013, and you can also try www.movewindhoek.com.na/content/timetable-trains-namibia-1.

Fares:  As shown above.  Children under 2 free, children 2 but under 12 half fare.  Over 60s get a 33% discount.

How to buy tickets:  Call central reservations at Windhoek on +264 (0) 61 298 2032, or email paxservices@transnamib.com.na.

Business Class & Economy reclining seats:  StarLine trains have Business Class & Economy Class reclining airline-style seats in relatively modern, air-conditioned cars, complete with TV entertainment (but don't expect too much of the latter!).  There are vending machines but no restaurant or buffet car, so take your own food and drink.  These passenger trains also include freight wagons.

Sleepers:  There are generally no sleepers on these StarLine trains, with one exception.  The Windhoek-Keetmanshoop train has a basic sleeping car attached on every second departure, theoretically Tue, Thur & Sun from Keetmanshoop, Mon, Wed & Fri from Windhoek.  This sleeper has 6-bunk couchette-style compartments in both Economy and Business classes, prices are the same as for a seat.  No bedding is provided, so bring your own as it can get cold in the desert.  See Rashid Khan's account of StarLine sleepers in the travellers reports section.

Starline train at Windhoek   Business class seats on a Starline train in Namibia

A StarLine train at Windhoek railway station.

Photo courtesy of Ishizaki, Naoichi

 

Business class reclining seats on a StarLine train.  Photo courtesy of Ishizaki, Naoichi

The Desert Express...

TransNamib also operate a weekly tourist-orientated train between Windhoek & Swakopmund called the Desert Express.  The train has sleepers (with en suite shower/toilet), a restaurant, bar & lounge.  Their original site www.desertexpress.com.na no longer seems to be working, try www.transnamib.com.na/desert-express.html.

Windhoek train station   Windhoek railway station

Outside Windhoek railway station.

Photo courtesy of Ishizaki, Naoichi

 

Windhoek station platform.

Photo courtesy of Ishizaki, Naoichi

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Catherine Albers reports (2013):  "My StarLine train (on a Thursday night) from Windhoek to Walvis Bay was busier than I had expected probably because it was during school holidays and it was Heroes Day the following Monday. There were quite a few families on board. There is still a vending machine and, much to my surprise both ladies and gents toilets. Old but clean even at 3.30am on a busy train. The person who checked the ticket as I went onto the platform also fulfilled various roles on the train - checking tickets, showing the videos, getting people down from the luggage racks, and generally keeping order! After the two videos were finished he reorganised the first class passengers so that there was a row of empty seats in front of everyone. He folded the backs of these down onto the seats to act as foot rests. He then reclined our seats to around 140 degrees so we had some semblance of a bed. In the middle of the night the East and Westbound trains pass and stop alongside each other briefly. The ticket collectors/guards swap trains and return to their home towns. We arrived at Walvis Bay at around 9am an hour or so late. It was a great journey and the ticket collector we had for the first half of the journey was fantastic."

Traveller Luke Addis reports:  "Despite many of the locals not knowing the existence of Namibian Starline night trains, we headed off to the charming German station at Windhoek to get tickets. Open from 3pm on a Sunday. Tickets easily bought for 116N$. Pretty amazed when we turned up that night to find that only one solitary carriage would take us to Swakopmund. A DVD player was brought 5 minutes before scheduled departure and we headed off into the night after a lot of shunting onto our freight train we would adjoin. The business class seats were ripped out of the Air Namib plane's first class section and come complete with 1989 In-flight magazines which is a quirk. Toilets are clean, a DVD shows and a vending machine provides snacks. Not many people on and the journey was slow but we arrived on time and well-rested. The Business class seats have an arm-rest in-between so if you don't think your service will be busy ( few are) then in economy you will get two seats to lie down on (adjustable armrests!).  Our return was only 66N$ from Walvis Bay. Different seats in business but we opted for economy this time and got a better sleep. Very friendly ticket attendants and doors can be opened for air as you pass through the mighty sand-dunes. Some Christian hymns were playing on the TV loudly but it put me to sleep eventually. Service arrived into Windhoek about 40 minutes late which isn't too bad. Some points - the waiting rooms at Walvis Bay and Windhoek are sheltered and safe, offer charging facilities as well as a place to rest if your trains arrives at an anti-sociable hour. Namibia is fortunately still enthusiastic about its railway heritage, and it's staff are friendly and its full of little quirks ( two trains per night with one carriage each on a freight train!). If you enjoy the experience, a visit to the Windhoek Rail Museum (top floor of station) is thoroughly recommended!"Starline train at Swakopmund

Traveller Rich Perkons used StarLine from Walvis Bay to Windhoek in Feb 2009:  "Although there is only one train a day, Walvis Bay ticket office is open all day, but closes a couple of hours before the train leaves.  My train was a single coach attached to 22 petrol tankers, a few box cars and a couple of flatbed trucks.  Despite the slow speed, a two-hour delay in leaving and clunky-ness, the journey was fine and we arrived 30mins early.  Tickets get collected around 3am after the train crew switches so don't loose your ticket."

Traveller Alexander Bradley used StarLine from Windhoek to Swakopmund in June 2008:  We called the reservation line and they told us they couldn’t take our reservation and that we needed to go to a station and book.  Arriving at the German-inspired Windhoek Station we booked our ticket from Windhoek to Swakopmund for the following day and were told to arrive half an hour before departure.  Arriving at the platform there were three individual carriages lined up on the platform, the first to Walvis Bay and last to Keetmanshoop, the middle one had the lights switched off.  We climbed onboard the Walvis Bay carriage and walked down the aisle past the economy class seats, past the drinks and snacks machine and the toilets to the business class section. There were 12 business class seats in the section;  we occupied two with another lady behind us, the economy section was half full.  The seats were 4 across in both business and economy, but the business seats were larger, higher and more padded.  The engine coupled to the train at 19:45, ten minutes before departure.  The conductor came on board and checked our tickets before switching on the DVD player.  They showed two films before we all fell asleep, although the speakers were a little too soft with the clickety-clack of the train and it became too soft to hear, and too loud to not watch.  The lights were out for the DVD, but I could turn on my reading light.  The train departed at 20:05, ten minutes after the scheduled time and we were full steam ahead for five minutes before the train turned around and spent half an hour coupling to about 15 wagons including box cars, steel pipes and petrol between us and the engine.  There was space above our seats for our baggage and the conductor sat in business call behind us so we felt quite safe.  The seats were comfortable and the air con/ heater were keeping us at a good temperature during the night, although we brought out our own blanket to be extra warm. We woke at about 06:00 and became very worried that we had slept in and missed our stop at 05:20 and that we were continuing onto Walvis Bay.  We were relieved when we found that our train was running late. We arrived at Swakopmund 06:35, 1h15m late. The sun rose just as we arrived in Swakopmund and we were able to see the landscape for the first time during the trip.  Photo courtesy of Alexander Bradley.

Traveller Rashid Khan has used the Keetmanshoop-Windhoek train on many occasions:  "I've taken the Keetmanshoop-Windhoek "Starline" train close to 20 times now.  Pricing ranges from $N80 up to $N130 depending on class (business is $N20 extra) and time of year, off peak, peak and peak peak. School breaks are peak.  There is indeed a sleeper scheduled to be on that train every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.  In general, the Keetmanshoop to Windhoek train should have a sleeper every Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday. I say "in general" because this schedule, although printed on posters, is definitely not adhered to.  There will be often be no sleeper when there should be, and be one when there shouldn't be.  The likelihood of a sleeper seems to follow the school break schedule aka more likely around peak time. If you want a sleeper, and make no mistake, you definitely do, ask and then ask again, scheduled or not.

A bit about the sleeper: A sleeper bunk is the same price as a seat.  All compartments are the same size, with 6 berths arranged 3 bunks per side. None of the sleeper cars are air-con, no bedding is provided. The middle bunk folds down to become a back rest, with the lowest bunk being the bottom of the seat. The top bunk is fixed and always available for sleeping. The bottom bunk is flat with no real falling-off protection. The middle bunk, when raised, slopes in slightly, with a small bump of lip to keep you in. The top has a board to keep you in - I could see this being quite uncomfortable for a larger person. There are no assigned seats/bunks in the sleepers, only an assigned cabin, its first-come-first-serve from there.  My favourite bunk in any cabin is the top bunk closest towards the front. The bottom bunks get a very cold breeze. A blanket or sleeping bag is required on the train ANY time of year. Desert nights are cold.  There are a number of different sleeper cars that run, they're all similar, however there are 2 different classes of car.  Economy sleepers: These have padded bunks with a vinyl covering. In general the cabins do not have doors, though sometimes they do, but don't count on it. The doors in economy class are not maintained and can be difficult to open/close.  Business class sleepers: N$20 extra.  These have slightly thicker padding and a fabric covering. Business class has a small table and a ladder to reach the top bunk. The doors for these cabins are in better working order. Note that a door does not mean privacy. Staff does not knock before using the key to enter, and I've had security guards come in just to hang out, eat and talk at 3am when I'm trying to be fast asleep. The main benefit of the door is to keep out the noise and cigarette smoke from the hall. While there are lots of "No Smoking" signs the rule is not enforced.  Even if there isn't a sleeper you are welcome to "go upstairs" in the standard cars if there's room. Upstairs you say? Luggage rack. I've done this a few times, and while it isn't padded it is flat and sturdy. The staff suggested it and I find it more comfortable than the chairs.  Only business class, the front section of a chair car, is air-con. The movies shown in the chair cars tend to be be really really bad kung fu flicks, but if you bring your own DVD they'll put it in for you! Fun fact: They once showed a movie called "Lasko: Death Train".

More information...

If anyone has any more information or travel reports that would be useful for this page, please e-mail me!


Hotels & accommodation in Namibia

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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