All You Need to Know Before Travelling to Namibia

Namibia is rated as one of the best holiday destinations in the world. The country offers many attractive sights such as Sossusvlei, Etosha National Park, Spitzkoppe or Damaraland, and breath-taking sceneries that make Namibia stand out as a tourist destination.

There is so much to see, and so many options to consider in terms of the route, timing, hotels, camps etc. But don’t worry! Planning your holiday to Namibia will be fun, and here are the fundamental things to consider before you start planning your amazing trip to Namibia;

1- Check how many days you want to spend in Namibia:

The first thing we had to do when planning our travel to Namibia was to extend our trip.  For a real Namibia experience, one should spare at least 2 weeks to be able to see all the touristic highlights which involve a bit of wildlife, a bit of desert and of course a lot of nature.

2- Check if you need a visa:

People from the visa-restricted countries will need to apply for a touristic visa in their home country at the Namibian representation. Should there not be any representation in your country, you can contact an immigration agent in Namibia who will obtain on your behalf a “letter of approval” which will be used to enter into Namibia.

People with German, British, American, Canadian, Japanese, South African and Australian passports don’t require to get a touristic visa for Namibia, however, the other nationals like myself will need to prepare the documents and apply at a Namibian representation unless you prefer to go for the below option.

Below option is hassle-free and the quickest!

If you need a touristic visa and don’t want to deal with all the hassle, just contact Raymond Bere from Roncook Tours on raymond.bere@roncooksafaris.com
You may start thinking if it is a scam, but it is not! I sent my passport scan, home address, flight tickets copy and it took 5 days for me to get an approval for my visa.

If you wish, you can also consult Raymond for a Namibian self-drive package or a customised tour.

3- Decide on a route:

Namibia is huge! Considering the most popular Namibia itinerary is Windhoek—Etosha National Park—Swakopmund—Sossusvlei—Windhoek (or the reverse) and one can drive this route in 10 days, you will need more than 10 days to actually be able to relax, enjoy and maybe add another interesting place such as Damaraland or Okonjima.

Remember that it is always about the experience, so you may also want to experience staying inside Etosha Park and watch all the animals gathering around a water hole after the other people go to their rooms. Alternatively, stay in Damaraland’s remote hotels (or even tents) to experience a romantic night by encountering the milky way under a clear sky.

We have planned a 14 days self-drive tour for the following itinerary: Windhoek – Sossusvlei – Twyfelfontein – Etosha South (outside the park) – Etosha Park (Halali Camp) – Etosha East – Okonjima – Windhoek. This itinerary basically lets you relax every two days and drive 3 to 5 hours from one place to another.

4- Decide if you want to do a self-drive tour or a package tour:

A self-drive road trip through Namibia is an incredible way to see the country, so we decided to go for this option after thinking about it for a long time! (We actually ended up making the bookings at the last minute!)

Tour agencies in Namibia offer customised tours as well as accommodation and car rental depending on your needs. As long as you know where you wish to go and stay, booking yourself will save you some money and the hassle of making bookings and payments ahead of your travel. Plus the self-drive option will allow you to discover the hidden sights of such a magnificent country.

Just to give an idea, accommodation in mid-upper range hotels and a 4X4 car rental for 14 days cost around 1,500-2,000 USD per person.  This can naturally be decreased by going for a camping option, smaller car or booking way earlier.

If you will go to Sossusvlei, I strongly recommend renting a 4X4 for an easier ride. Note that smaller cars are not allowed in the park to see the Dune 45 and Dead Vlei so you may end up hiking if you don’t rent a 4X4.

If you go for a self-drive option, make sure to download Google Maps and download the offline map of Namibia to use it as a GPS.

Google Maps is such a handy app that we always use during our travels. All you need is to download the offline map of the country and use it as a GPS even if you don’t have a reception or internet! As it uses a satellite GPS positioning, you won’t have any issues.

Note that the roads in Namibia are on the left side of the road but it is a vast country and there won’t be many cars or traffic on the roads.

5- Check the weather, it may be freezing at nights in winter time:

As Namibia is in the Southern Hemisphere, the winter time is between May/June and September. During this time, expect some pleasant days and freezing cold nights which may fall down to minus degrees. Not all hotels provide heating or a fireplac, and considering you will want to wake up at the sunrise to catch a glimpse of beautiful scenery, you will need warm clothes and maybe even a hot water bottle.

6- Prepare the Namibia Packing List and Start Shopping:

Here is your packing list for Namibia:

  • Passports and visas
  • Vaccination certificate(not necessary)
  • International drivers licence
  • Travel insurance

Clothing:

  • Warm clothes for the night
  • Hats
  • Swimsuits 
  • Neutral coloured clothing for safari
  • Closed shoes or trainers
  • Flip flops
  • Scarf to be protected from the sand
  • Backpack / Rucksack to take on safari rides or hiking

Electronics and others:

  • Flashlight (or use your phone’s flashlight)
  • Phone charger for the car
  • Electrical adapter (South African – Type D and M)
  • Binoculars
  • Portable Mp3 Player
  • Kindle or an ebook
  • Medicine and a first aid kit
  • Camera, external drive, lenses, charger and tripod if you are into photography
  • Headphones
  • Memory cards
  • Drone (you need to register)
  • Cooler
  • Sunscreen and sunburn lotion
  • Insect repellent
  • Toilet paper

If Camping:

  • Toiletries
  • Trash bags
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Brush to clean the sand
  • Mattress
  • Pillow
  • Headlight

Shopping will not end before you travel because you will need to do some water and food shopping when you are in Namibia. Especially if you are heading on a road trip, make sure to pack extra supplies such as water, food, fuel and warm clothing as you may get stuck in the middle of the road and don’t see anyone around.

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Top 10 Best Things to Do in Tokyo

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Tokyo offers a wide range of shopping, dining, entertainment, cuisine and culture and you will never get enough of the Japanese capital. Originally a small fishing village named Edo, Tokyo means ‘eastern capital’ in Chinese.

It is always a good time to visit Tokyo, however, the cherry blossom season is the most popular time of the year so better to plan your travel well in advance. In an average year, the cherry blossoms start blooming on 25 March in Tokyo. Then, they hit full bloom (known as “mankai” in Japanese) on 2 April.

Ahead of your travel to Japan, make sure to order your mobile wifi online so you will never be disconnected from the rest of the world. It is pretty convenient and recommended for all travellers visiting Japan as the city is pretty instagrammable!

Here are my top ten things to do in Tokyo:

  1. Anime Stores in Akihabara:

Akihabara is famous for its electronics gadget and anime stores, and it is collectors’ heaven. If you have been looking for 90s game consoles like Game-boy or Tetris, this is your place. Don’t worry if you are not a geek as the street is lively. When you are in Akihabara, you can also check out Tokyo’s famous Maid Cafes, or have your ears cleaned (no I’m not joking).

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  1. Shibuya Crossing:

Shibuya, Ginza, Roppongi or Shinjuku are the most popular areas to stay in Tokyo. Shinjuku has the busiest station in the world, Ginza offers luxury shopping, Shinjuku is the hip area which accommodates younger crowds and Roppongi offers nightlife.

Shibuya intersection is the meeting point of Tokyo residents, and walking across the Shibuya crossing is a must-do. Once you cross,  head to Starbucks at the corner and sip your coffee while watching people crossing when all the lights turn red at the same time.

 

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Shibuya Crossing view from Starbucks

 

  1. Subway Queues:

Taxis are expensive in Tokyo, however, underground transportation is pretty developed and orderly. When you are in Tokyo, go underground and see the conductors dressed in crisp uniforms, wearing white gloves and holding microphones to keep the order of the subway.

 

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Rush hour in Tokyo

 

  1. Best Views of the City and Mt. Fuji:

If you have time and energy, go ahead and book a tour to Mt Fuji, however for those who are not interested in climbing but only the view, a visit to Bunkyo Civic Center is the best option, and it is right in the middle of the city. It is free and gives the best views of Tokyo as well as Mt Fuji given the weather permits.

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  1. Shopping in Cat Street:

If you are not into Zara or H&M, forget about Ginza or Takeshita streets. Cat Street is the hippiest shopping street of Tokyo. Tokyo’s coolest hipsters hang out here in trendy cafes and street fashion shops. This narrow street in Harajuku has nothing to do with cats so don’t be disappointed when you are there.

  1. Tsukiji Fish Market:

The world’s largest fish market handles around 2000 tonnes of seafood a day. If you’d like to watch tuna auctions, make sure to be there at 5:00am in the morning. This touristic market offers fish as well as fruits and vegetables. There are pretty good sushi restaurants as the market is best combined with a fresh sushi breakfast. The market is open until noon so you don’t have to wake up so early.

 

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Tsukiji Fish Market

 

  1. Takeshita Street:

This pedestrian shopping street offers costumes, gothic clothes and kawaii fashion. The real kawaii (cute) culture’s birthplace Takashi Street has been inspiring many pop stars as well!

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Takeshita Street

 

  1. Ginza Street:

The large shopping street Ginza is the Tokyo version of 5th Avenue of New York or Oxford Street of London. The popular upscale shopping area offers numerous internationally renowned department stores. You may lose yourself in department stores as some of them are pretty huge and interesting but try to remember there are much more to see in Tokyo.

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Ginza Street
  1. Temples and Shrines:

If you will add Kyoto to your Japan trip, there is no need to see all the temples in Tokyo, however, there are a few ones which are attracting a lot of tourists such as Meiji Shrine and Senso-ji. Meiji Shrine, located in Shibuya is not colourful or flashy like other places of worship and is less of a tourist trap than Senso-ji which is Tokyo’s oldest temple.

When you are in Japanese temples, you will see people drawing small pieces of paper stripes from boxes in return for a small fee as 100 yens. This is called O-mikuji, and they are random fortunes written on strips of paper at temples in Japan. If you draw bad luck, don’t worry as it explains how to improve your fortune.

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  1. Nightlife:

Tokyo has the weird and kinky nightlife and it is limited by your imagination. From Izakayas (inexpensive Japanese bars) to beer bars, red-light district to themed bars, karaoke bars to cocktail joints, Tokyo is the hot spot for night owls. While there are small bars in every neighbourhood, the bigger clubs and attractions for nightlife are all concentrated in one area called Roppongi. The Kabukicho section of Shinjuku is Tokyo’s most well known red-light district, with The Robot Restaurant which features a raucous pop-culture show with robotic monsters, dancers and lasers.

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An additional tip for art enthusiasts: If you are interested in contemporary art, I would highly recommend the Mori Art Museum which is located in Roppongi Hills. There is also a sky deck which offers astonishing city views but you need to pay extra to get in.

Hope you enjoy Tokyo, and make sure to add your favourite things to do in Tokyo in comments below 🙂

How to Spend Two Days in Vienna

 

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Grand Ferdinand Hotel’s terrace

To be honest, Vienna wasn’t on my bucket list but I decided to spend a weekend there as the flight times from Doha were perfect. Who would know it would become one of my favorite European destinations! It was Autumn when all trees changed their colors and it made Vienna even prettier.

If you’re planning a visit to Vienna, here are the must-dos to get the most out of it in only two days;

1- Wander around Stephansplatz:

Vienna is a great walking city and Stephansplatz is in the middle of everything. Choose a café and spend an hour or so watching people passing by, or admire the huge St. Stephens Cathedral. Wander over to the opposite side of the square to see the postmodern Haas-Haus and watch Vienna’s street performers. You will love it!

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2-Have breakfast at the terrace of Grand Ferdinand Hotel:

And stay there if you can. On the street where all upper scale hotels are, Grand Ferdinand Hotel has pretty rooms and a terrace restaurant where you can enjoy a breakfast while watching the beautiful Vienna’s skyline. It is quite posh so dressing up is highly recommended.

https://grandferdinand.com 

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3- Eat schnitzel at Figlmuller 

Eating the biggest and the most delicious Wienerschnitzel of Vienna is a must when you are in Vienna. Due to popularity, they recently opened their second restaurant just near the old one which is behind St Stephen’s Cathedral. Order a potato salad with schnitzel and you will be amazed and full as Figlmuller’s prides itself on presenting the largest

Order a potato salad with schnitzel and you will be amazed and full(!) as Figlmuller prides itself on presenting the largest Wienerschnitzel possible.

As I didn’t make a reservation, I could get a table in the new restaurant after waiting for a while. Make sure to reserve a table if you don’t want to wait.

https://www.figlmueller.at

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Figlmuller’s Wienerschnitzel

4- Take a picture of Hundertwasserhaus:

There is really not much around Hundertwasserhaus but it is a must-see Instagtammable place while you are in Vienna. Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the architectural highlight of Vienna offers a colorfully decorated exterior façade.

5- Take a ride in Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel:

After seeing Hundertwasserhaus, get to the other side of Danube River and experience the moving tradition of Vienna. Couples can also enjoy a whole cabin for themselves while having a romantic candle-light dinner for around 340 Euros.

6- Enjoy a concert in one of the historical cathedrals:

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles) and many other sacred sites are regular showplaces for diverse classical music concerts. I bought my ticket from a booth near St. Stephen’s Cathedral for 25 Euros and had an amazing experience.

7- Visit Albertina Museum for some art intake:

The Albertina Museum has been presenting the largest Raphael exhibition in Austria until 7 January 2018 so art lovers should pay a visit to this museum which is located just opposite to Mozart Cafe. The entrance is 12 Euros, and visitors can visit Contemporary Art floor and Albertina’s staterooms alongside Raphael exhibition.

8- Taste the original sacher-torte at Cafe Sacher:

Vienna has hundreds of cafes and Sacher Cafe is one of them. Cafe Sacher is a home to the famous Sacher-Torte, a chocolate cake worthy of a trip to Vienna alone to taste. If there is a queue at the door, you can also try the next door – Mozart Cafe.

In some cafes in Vienna, you may be expected to dress up so make sure to pack some nice clothes.

 

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The queue for the Cafe Sacher

 

9- Visit Schonbrunn Palace and its gardens:

Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence located in Vienna, Austria. It is one of Europe’s most beautiful Baroque complexes, and gardens of the palace are worth to see.

It is in the suburbs of Vienna so you will need to take the U2 metro line direct to the Schonbrunn.

 

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Schonbrunn Gardens

 

10- Visit Belvedere Museum:

Visit ‘The Kiss’, the most famous Gustav Klimt piece, at the Austrian Gallery Belvedere in Vienna.

11- Taste 1516 Brewing Company’s beers:

This is a cozy but busy street-side bar where you can go for late night drinks or bites.

 

Above are the maximum you can do in a weekend but if you have more time, make sure to visit Museums Quartier, see Rathaus and Hofburg Palace, taste more Viennese cakes at Strock bakery and have more schnitzel at Gasthaus Poschl or Augustinerkeller Bitzinger Wien.