Difference between revisions of "Windhoek"
Revision as of 07:11, 8 June 2010
Windhoek  is Namibia's capital and largest city (population ~250,000). It is in the geographic centre of the country at an elevation of 1,600m. This is the city where most safaris travelling through Namibia begin, and also the first point of entry in Namibia should you arrive by airplane.
English is spoken throughout Namibia (it is the country's official language and is also the medium of instruction in most schools), although in all areas Afrikaans (similar to Dutch) is used as a lingua franca, as 95% of the Namibian population speaks Afrikaans. German is widely used in tourism and business.
Radio and television is also predominantly in English.
Other langauges include Oshiwambo, Otjiherero, Damara/Nama, Setswana, SiLozi, and Rukwangali.
The B1, which runs from the north to the south and the B2 (Trans-Kalahari) which runs from the east to the west through Namibia are the primary land routes into Windhoek. Northern towns served by the B1 include Oshakati, Otjiwarongo, and Okahanja. Southern towns include Rehoboth, Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz. From the west the B2 connects Swakopmund and from the east it connects Gobabis.
This is the easiest way to get to Windhoek for people without a car. Combies run from everywhere in Namibia, and through some combination of different routes, one can always find their way to Windhoek. The Engen petrol station north of downtown (Rhino Park) is the rank for southern and western destinations such as Mariental, Swakopmund, Keetmanshoop. For northern destinations such as Otjiwarongo, Oshakati and Rundu go to Hakahana Service Station, Katutura. However, it is easier to arrange for a minibus to take you (check opposite SAA in Independence Avenue).
If you're arriving in Namibia by airplane, this is most likely to be via Hosea Kutako International Airport. The airport is approximately 40km out of town, so give yourself plenty of time to travel to the city centre.
Windhoek also has a municipal airport called Eros. This is the main airport for all domestic flights - so travellers making a connection between international and domestic aircraft should also allow at least one hour for the travel time between the two airports
Windhoek's train station is in the city centre, just off Bahnhof Street.
TransNamib , via their StarLine passenger service, operates trains from Windhoek to destinations all over Namibia. Some routes are
There are no dedicated passenger trains in Namibia, apart from the luxury Desert Express  tourist train. The StarLine scheduled service described above conveys passengers via special coaches hooked on the back of freight trains. These passenger coaches offer comfortable airline-style seating with air-conditioning and (sometimes) video entertainment. Vending machines provide refreshments on long journeys. Note, however, that Namibian trains are considered a relatively slow method of transport.
The Desert Express] is a luxury tourist train that traverses Namibia regularly, taking tourists to such destinations as Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Etosha. Buses are used to transport visitors from train stations to the various sights.
Intercape  runs a bus service to and from Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and Livingstone in Zambia. It's about 24 hours to either city. Book a few days in advance at least to be sure that you have a seat. As at February 2009 the cost was about R700 for either ticket.
There are a number of car rental agencies operating in Windhoek:
There is no public transit 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$7.50, destinations more "out of the way" are charged at N$15. Non standard destinations cost around N$30. Tell the driver 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.
If you feel uncomfortable taking shared taxis, there are on-demand taxis 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$50 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.
Here are some taxi company numbers:
Most hotels and hostels are centrally located close to the city centre, so you can easily walk to most shops, restaurants, clubs and sights.
The University of Namibia (UNAM)  and the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN)  are located in Windhoek. There is also the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre where you can take classes in everything from French to photography.
There is a craft market in Post Street Mall in central Windhoek, though prices are quite high. For cheaper prices, go to the craft market in Okahanja, which is about an hour north of Windhoek. You can hitchhike to Okahanja or catch a combie.
There are a number of arcades and small shopping centres in the centre of Windhoek. Between them you can find pretty much anything you need. There is also a larger mall called Maerua Mall in the south end of the city (Jan Jonker Road), easily accessible by taxi.
For arts and crafts you can visit Jennys Place located at Bougain Villa 78 Sam Nujoma Drive, Klein Windhoek. Telephone +264 61 269152. It is the largest arts and crafts shop in Namibia. They sell everything from paints, face paints, canvases, beads, ribbons, costumes, scrapbooking supplies, brushes, spraypaint, decoupage, wooden blanks, pewter and the occasional oddity such as glow in the dark spraypaint, gifts and decorations. They also provide a variety of art classes such as painting, card making and scrap booking. It has a calm and tranquil atmosphere and a great place to meet other crafters.
The area code for Windhoek is (061). When calling Windhoek from outside Namibia do not put a '0' between the country code and the area code.
It is cheap to buy starter packs (including SIM cards and airtime) throughout the city at less than N$20. This will work out a lot cheaper than 'roaming' and will work throughout Namibia (except 'Switch' CDMA cards which will only work in Windhoek).
There are a number of well-equipped Internet cafés in Windhoek.
There are three free-to-air television stations (NBC TV, One Africa TV and TBN religious station), with CNN news each afternoon 13:00 - 14:00 on NBC TV, local news on NBC TV at 19:00 - 19:30 and local news on One Africa TV 19:30 - 20:00. One Africa TV also relays BBC World news in the mornings until approximately 10:00.
Radio Stations in English include NBC (92.6), Radio Wave (96.7), 99FM (99.00) and Kudu FM (103.5).
Radio Stations in German are NBC German Service (94.9)
There is a laundry facility at the corner of Sam Nujoma Dr. and Hosea Kutako Dr. They charge by the weight of clothing and will usually have it done within two days. You can pay in advance for a fixed number of kilograms at a lower rate if you plan to be around for a while.
There is a grocery store (supermarket) in the Wernhil Centre (at the Western end of the Post Street Mall which starts opposite the Central Post Office in Independence Avenue - look for the red clock tower and turn down the mall). Supermarkets in Namibia have just about anything you might want from back home, though the brand names may be different.
There is also a small outdoor market on the north side of Wernil next to the taxi rank and a souvenir market opposite South African Airways (Independence Avenue). This is a good place to shop for souvenirs and wood carvings. Prices here will be a lot cheaper than in the shops. Feel free to negotiate.
Keep in mind that many places - shops, restaurants, and internet cafés included - are closed on Sunday or stay open only until 1 PM. Note also that alcoholic beverages (beer and wine are also available in shops) isn't sold after 19:00 (weekdays) and after 13:00 on Saturday (through until Monday morning)
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