Practical tips on 4x4 Self-driving in
You’ve secured your vehicle, planned
your route and packed your bags for that epic self-drive trip across Namibia.
Now that you are ready to hit the road, there are a few things you should
remember that will guarantee a great trip. Enjoying a self-drive safari or
holiday adventure only comes when you understand how to operate your vehicle in
different environments. Because Namibia’s landscape is so diverse and
dramatically contrasting in most parts, it is essential that you are aware of
how to operate your vehicle in these different conditions. Apart from the
terrain alone, the weather also has contributing factors to how your vehicle
Most vehicles provided for self-drive
safaris in Namibia need little fuss with regards to getting from one point to
another as they are easily adaptable and can therefore be used by even a novice
4x4 driver. With an option between automatic or manual transmission, 4x4 driver
skill or prior experience is not necessarily a must. The aim to provide
vehicles that allow everyone to have the opportunity to take on a self-drive
challenge head on. However, there are a few practical guides that would help
your driving experience better. This list is not exhaustive and is not the
absolute 4x4 manual, but rather a collection of tips that would assist you on
your journey drawn from past experiences.
After ensuring you have everything you
need, always ensure that your vehicle has all the add-ons that you may need if
you are travelling into 4x4 territory. 4x4 territory is terrain that does not
resemble ordinary driving conditions, that is, non-tarred roads or surfaces. As
a self-drive tour operator and vehicle hiring company, Melbic Car Rentals Tours
and Transfers for instance always ensure that they provide you with the best
vehicle for your trip that compliments your itinerary.
Firstly, understand how the vehicle
operates. Knowing the ins and outs of the vehicle’s basic operation under
different conditions may be the difference between a smooth and bumpy ride. Our
staff are on hand to offer assistance and answer any queries before you set
off. If any issues arise with the vehicle, feel free to contact us on the
Double check if your vehicle is equipped
with a spare tyre, or two.
Two spare tyres are useful when embarking
on an extensive self-drive on rough roads that put a high demand on tyres, or
for more isolated areas, far from any mechanic or tyre fix and replacement
stores. The spare tyre, along with the other tyres on the vehicle, should be
inflated to the correct pressure. It is also important to check tyre pressure
when you can before setting off on your day’s journey.
Ensure that all your tyre changing tools
are available and know where they are stored and how they operate. Always familiarise
yourself with said equipment as it may differ from vehicle to vehicle. We are
more than glad to show you how the jack operates and where to place it on the
vehicle to get proper lift when changing a tyre. Make sure you have
A reflective triangle
A wheel spanner
A lock nut key, if lock nuts are used on
Tyre pressure is vital when it comes to
self-drive tours on Namibian roads. Because Namibia is an unforgiving country, roads
can be daunting, but when done right can be a joy to drive on. To drive on such
surfaces, tyres are usually left a little on the soft side as it helps with
traction on lose gravelly surfaces – and softer tyres dampen the ride. Follow
the instructions given with your vehicle for peace of mind.
Our vehicles come equipped with a shovel
to allow you to dig yourself out of sticky situations if they do occur. Always
make sure it is stored in its place and you know where this is, for when you
A tow-rope is always an essential tool
to have when doing self-driving in 4x4 country. You might have the opportunity
to help a fellow traveler.
Get a local SIM card for your mobile
phone, unless a phone and SIM card is provided standard such as with Melbic.
Most parts of Namibia have cellphone network coverage, save some more deserted
areas. Keep it charged to allow you to communicate if the need arises in an
Vehicles have a basic first aid kit in
the vehicle to allow for primary care. Take note of what is inside, and if
needed, supplement, according to your requirements.
Be mentally prepared
Although this seems a bit of an oxymoron
for someone on a holiday, the demands of a 4x4 self-drive can be mentally
taxing. It is always wise to truly understand the nature of the challenge ahead
and to properly prepare for it mentally and physically.
Get enough rest between drives. Driving
long stretches can be exhausting, especially when going at it alone. Adequate
rest allows your body to recover both mentally and physically, and helps you
get the best out of your trip. Ensure your trip is scheduled in a way that
allows for adequate rests between drives. At most, target 400km every 24 hours.
If you have an assistant driver, swap
ever so often to reduce the burden on one driver during your trip. A drive
around Namibia is more enjoyable if you have someone to share it with.
Drink lots of water. Namibia is a hot
country, with average temperatures of 35°C in summer, in some parts, that
average is as high as 41°C. Staying hydrated means you retain a lot of energy
which is otherwise lost through fatigue.
Eat well and heartily. Energy is
essential to tackle some of the dunes, rivers and rocky outcrops you will be
driving in. Take a few munchables with you, you never know how long you will be
on the road. Sometimes, when in a bind, help might come after a few hours, as
most of the adventurous 4x4 roads are off the beaten track, with vehicles
coming by only so often.
Know your route
and road surfaces
Gather as much knowledge on your
scheduled route before setting off, so as to anticipate any challenges on the
road and better prepare for your 4x4 driving experience. Know where there are sandy
patches, potential river crossings in the rainy season, or bad corrugation, so
as to allow you to adjust your drive accordingly. The majority of Namibia’s
roads are 1st grade gravel roads with main tarred roads linking
major towns and settlements, making your driving experience easier and more
pleasurable. Namibia’s roads were ranked as amongst the best in the world,
certainly leading the pack on the continent.
A little more information to keep your
Driving on tarmac requires you to
inflate the vehicle’s tyre pressure to the stipulated level. Do not overinflate.
Driving on gravel roads can be
undertaken with vehicle’s stipulated tyre pressure. Slower speeds however are
advised and due care to be exercised to allow for the spotting of potential
hazards on time.
If encountering very sandy surfaces a
very low tyre pressure and slower consistent speeds allow for the maintenance
of vehicle momentum.
Every self-drive adventure is one to
write home about. Great stories and amazing memories are made on the road and
such adventures will always leave you with something to talk about at the
dinner table with friends. So take the challenge head on, hop into your car and
enjoy every kilometre, with all that it brings.