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Windhoek is the capital of Namibia, a country on the west coast of southern Africa. In colonial times it was the capital of German South-West Africa. After the First World War the area was governed by South-Africa. In 1990, it was declared independent and received the name Namibia. Since the country became independent, Windhoek has grown considerably. In the centre, tall buildings were built, next to the old German style buildings.
The city has about 230,000 inhabitants, 10% of the country's entire population (which is 20 times the size of the Netherlands). It is the country's biggest city, but it has an unmistakable 'provincial' character.
Windhoek is located in the centre of Namibia, at an altitude of 1,600 metres. It is the place where most tourists arrive when they go on safari elsewhere in the country. The city is situated on a plateau which is bordered on the west by a mountain range with peaks of about 2,000 metres high. Further to the west, on the coast, lies the Namibian Desert. To the east of the central plateau lies another desert, the Kalahari.
Namibia is rich in raw materials: minerals, diamonds, zinc and silver. Mining takes place in the provinces, but the companies' main offices are located in Windhoek. Incidentally, many of these companies are in foreign (German and South-African) hands.
Since the country became independent, tourism has played an increasingly important role in the economy. Namibia attracts many eco-tourists, and being the gateway to the country, Windhoek benefits. The country attracts over a million foreign visitors a year.
The only international airport of Namibia - Hosea Kutako International Airport - is located 45 kilometres to the west of Windhoek. It has direct connections to London (Gatwick), Frankfurt and Munich. A flight to Johannesburg takes about two hours. There is also a regular service to Luanda, the capital of neighbouring country Angola.
The international airport is not the country's busiest airport, which is Eros Airport, located near the centre of Windhoek. Here, small planes take off and land for domestic flights.
Public transport in Windhoek consists of small minivans crossing the city in all directions. Some companies have fixed routes, others do not. It may take a while before you figure out how the system works. You hail a minivan by waving your hand up and down. You name your destination, after which the driver will nod or shake his head, depending on where you want to go. During rush hour it may be difficult to find a van that will take you to your destination. You can board or disembark at any place along the way.
There are trains in Namibia, but they are extremely slow, and are primarily used for freight transports.
The most important street in Windhoek is Independence Avenue (in German times: Kaiserstrasse). Parallel to that street runs the B1 main road, to Okahanja in the north and Rehoboth to the south of the capital. The B2 runs from west to east (Gobabis), and is also know as the Trans-Kalahari road.
Most streets in Windhoek have an asphalt surface, but that does not apply to the roads outside the capital, which are often gravel roads. They are easy to drive on, but don't get overconfident and do not drive too fast. Speeding is the main cause of accidents on these roads. The second cause is lack of concentration due to the long distances and the sparse traffic. Make sure you rest enough and bring sufficient fuel, water and food.
Keep an eye out for crossing wildlife: Namibia is in effect one big wildlife park! Do not toss burning cigarettes from your car window. The chance of starting a fire is extremely high.
The Tourism Office in Windhoek has published a brochure containing tips for driving in Namibia.
In Windhoek there are ample opportunities to park, but have your car guarded. There are always official guards around who will watch your car for a small amount of money, even at night.
Most hotels in Windhoek are located in or near the centre. Most tourist do not stay in the city for long and move on to explore the country. In recent years, the number of accommodations in the country has increased enormously. There is ample choice: from guest houses for backpackers to bed & breakfast accommodations, and from excellent mid-class hotels to luxurious lodges. The latter are usually located in nature areas and can be pretty expensive. It costs quite a lot to build these kind of accommodations in such remote locations and to provide them with food and drinks on a daily basis.
For more information about Windhoek, we recommend Google, and the following sources: