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Help with international travel to Namibia

OrcaOrca Registered User regular
edited May 7 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm about 80% on a Namibia photography workshop which would be awesome. Difficulty: it's next month and so would be non-refundable, so I need to be damn sure all my ducks are in a row before I pull the trigger.

I've got my passport (good for another 5 years). I've checked out the State Department's website and it looks like there aren't visa requirements. However I'll need some extra vaccinations--fine. I just found out about the concept of travel doctors so I need to make an appointment Monday to get that sorted out (looks like everybody's closed today).

The organizer requires health insurance, which honestly makes sense. I don't need an expensive trip to turn into a very expensive trip because I fell and broke a leg while 10 hours from the nearest major city. Any recommendations of who to use there? Coverage levels? Is evacuation insurance a good idea? I have Kaiser as my primary insurer and while I need to check my policy I'm pretty sure coverage will be sharply limited for international travel.

The organizer also highly recommends equipment insurance, which makes sense since I'll be hauling around a backpack full of thousands of dollars of camera gear. Any recommendations on short term coverage, gotchas, etc?

It's a +9 hour time delta so some time to acclimate before the workshop would be nice--I could spend a few days in Frankfurt if I can get my layover turned into a layover. Is that even a thing? Or I could spend a few days there in Windhoek getting used to the time change, which would probably be significantly cheaper. If anybody's been, anything to concern myself with? The State Department website seems to suggest just the garden variety theft/scam concerns, nothing too bad.

If you've got other thoughts/advice, I'd love to hear it. I've only been to Japan and the EU internationally so my experience outside of those areas is...uh...lacking, and I don't know what I don't know.

Thanks for any advice.

Orca on

Posts

  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited May 7
    Background: I've spent about 8-9 months in Namibia non consecutively, over about 4 years. I can't answer your insurance questions with any certainty but I can give some general info:

    - if you're going to very remote locations (eg Skeleton Coast, or deep south), it might perhaps be worth making sure you have insurance that will cover eg. emergency helicopter extraction. But honestly if you're with a group, I wouldn't get too worried about it. I've always been covered by my workplace insurance because I was there for fieldwork, but if i was going alone i would probably just get any standard travel insurance policy with a decent upper limit on emergency/health costs.
    - also, emergency care there is very cheap when compared with the US, even for a foreigner, just in case that helps your decisions.
    - equipment insurance is A VERY GOOD IDEA, for both damage and theft. Unfortunately I can't recommend any specific insurers for professional equipment, but any of the big names (Travelers, etc) will usually have a high-end equipment add-on.
    - You shouldn't have any issues getting through the airport, but if they ask do be clear that you're there as a tourist, not a professional photographer - if immigration get a sniff that you might be there on assignment or working, they might demand a visa (or a small bribe to avoid needing a visa)
    - Spending time in europe should be perfectly do-able, and it is a long flight to do without a break. If you do decide to go straight through but want some buffer time to acclimate, I would actually recommend heading across to Swakopmund over staying in Windhoek - better food*, and a more walkable town. Or you could tool around at one of the several dozen safari/wildlife resorts that dot the landscape. Also, because wildlife photography is a big element of tourism, you can get pretty decent equipment at a couple of places in Windhoek, should that be necessary.

    Vibes wise, it's a pretty safe and friendly country. Almost everyone in the urban centres speaks a pretty high level of english (and often German and Afrikaans, on top of two or three local languages). Outside the capital you might have to fend off scammers if they realise you're a tourist. Tipping is normal and expected but only at a low % - if you tip to US levels people might see you as a bit of a mark (personally I tend to tip high anyway because fuck, whatever, it's not like I need it more than them)

    If you're going up north at all, I can probably offer more advice.

    * One warning: if you go to swakopmund and ask any locals or hotel staff where to go eat, they will direct you to a pizza/italian joint near the town centre. Do not, under any circumstances, listen to them. But there's a Portuguese place you should definitely check out.

    Edit: oh and if you think you want to hire your own car (which is definitely the easiest way to get around), I would perhaps avoid doing it at the last minute when you arrive at the airport, they tend to run out pretty fast and everything shuts down completely at sunset, it's easy to get stranded. Book ahead if possible, and it's usually a bit cheaper to do a pickup from one of the rental places in Windhoek proper, rather than the airport.

    tynic on
    OrcaFiendishrabbitElvenshae
  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited May 7
    oh and one of the first things you should do is get a pre-paid sim card, unless Google Fi is finally offering coverage there.

    Edit: More important info! You will be heading into winter/the dry season! It will usually be warm and sunny in the day. but most of the country is actually at a medium-high elevation, and away from the coasts or in the desert, the temperature will plummet at night. Definitely pack a fleecy sweater and some long pants.

    tynic on
    Elvenshae
  • OrcaOrca Registered User regular
    Thanks! That's even better than I was hoping for. It's going to be part of a group (8 + leader + local guides for each location), sticking to the parklands and natural areas to the south and west (Quiver Tree Forest, Deadvlei, etc.). The Quiver Tree Forest is about as far south as it gets, but I see a couple major roads nearby. So hopefully no helicopter extraction needed--but that's the kind of thing where I don't know if I'd be overpaying by getting it or not.

  • OrcaOrca Registered User regular
    tynic wrote: »
    oh and one of the first things you should do is get a pre-paid sim card, unless Google Fi is finally offering coverage there.

    Ahhh right! I'd forgotten about that, thanks for the reminder. I had to do the same thing in Japan. Are there kiosks in the airport where you're only getting overcharged a reasonable amount or should I go further afield?

  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Orca wrote: »
    tynic wrote: »
    oh and one of the first things you should do is get a pre-paid sim card, unless Google Fi is finally offering coverage there.

    Ahhh right! I'd forgotten about that, thanks for the reminder. I had to do the same thing in Japan. Are there kiosks in the airport where you're only getting overcharged a reasonable amount or should I go further afield?

    I don't remember the airport having anything in that regard (haven't been there since 2019 so things might have changed mind you), but there's at least one or two phone kiosks in any mall or town centre, and the main telco company has service centres around the place you can go to in a pinch.

  • FiendishrabbitFiendishrabbit Registered User regular
    Orca wrote: »
    I've got my passport (good for another 5 years). I've checked out the State Department's website and it looks like there aren't visa requirements. However I'll need some extra vaccinations--fine. I just found out about the concept of travel doctors so I need to make an appointment Monday to get that sorted out (looks like everybody's closed today).

    Well. That's a bit last minute. For Namibia you need Hep A/Hep B, and unless you've been vaccinated against both the recommended is two shots with 1 month in between (although there is an alternate of 3 shots over a shorter interval).
    Also, if you're going north of Windhoek you need malaria meds, and which malaria meds you should use really depends (as they have an array of potential unpleasant side effects).

    "The western world sips from a poisonous cocktail: Polarisation, populism, protectionism and post-truth"
    -Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden
  • OrcaOrca Registered User regular
    Orca wrote: »
    I've got my passport (good for another 5 years). I've checked out the State Department's website and it looks like there aren't visa requirements. However I'll need some extra vaccinations--fine. I just found out about the concept of travel doctors so I need to make an appointment Monday to get that sorted out (looks like everybody's closed today).

    Well. That's a bit last minute. For Namibia you need Hep A/Hep B, and unless you've been vaccinated against both the recommended is two shots with 1 month in between (although there is an alternate of 3 shots over a shorter interval).
    Also, if you're going north of Windhoek you need malaria meds, and which malaria meds you should use really depends (as they have an array of potential unpleasant side effects).

    It'll be south and west of Windhoek, not the northern part of the country. And yeah that's the kind of thing I need to get squared away or shown it's a dealbreaker before I drop $bux on this whole effort. One month between shots is theoretically doable..if I get it done in the next week.

  • OrcaOrca Registered User regular
    Day 2 after action report in case someone else comes across this thread looking for what has worked, what hasn't, and what my decision process has been based on the advice given:

    * I went with Travelers Insurance for my medical and emergency evacuation insurance. Cost was $75, which is cheap enough I didn't blink, I just went and got it.
    * Equipment insurance options I looked at for photography specifically were all centered around professional (business) use. I instead got a State Farm rental policy for my apartment (I still need to cancel my current liability-only policy) and got a personal articles policy on top of it to cover my photography gear.
    * I wasn't able to get my vaccinations scheduled early enough to meet the deadline for a second vaccination in 28 days before my flight. So that sucked. They weren't willing to bend by even one day (27 days between shots) to let me get that second shot. So I'm going in half-protected. Unrelated testing shows my antibody titer as of two weeks ago was in the low-immune level, so hopefully it's sufficient protection. In any case I'm following the travel nurse's advice and only eating fruit with a thick skin I peel myself and piping hot food served immediately. Local water I have boiled (thank you kettle) and otherwise relying on bottled water. Hopefully it's enough. Local water also tastes like ass, FYI. Drink bottled water.
    * I was able to pick up a prepaid SIM card at the airport, so that was convenient.
    * I ended up staying in Windhoek because I realized fairly late I didn't have a reservation yet and forgot that tynic had given me a suggestion! Missed opportunity there. Day 1 I spent sleeping. Day 2 is today and it's noon. Likely I'll walk to a museum, to the park, and then come back to the hotel and sleep some more. Yayyyy jetlag. I could have done better here.
    * I ended up going for taxis instead of renting a car and I'm glad I did. You drive on the left here and that breaks my brain!
    * I meant to pack more warm clothing but forgot it because it was drying on the hanger instead of in its usual drawer. Dammit. I should start making lists when traveling. It's cold enough I'm going to pick up a fleece and a light jacket since we'll be doing some night shooting. So good call there Tynic.
    * Immigration included a vaccination or valid negative covid test result. They accepted my Apple Wallet vaccination card. There is an immigration document you'll need to fill out and they do not have pens. Nor did the plane, irritatingly enough. ANA was much better about this. I had to borrow a pen from a fellow traveler while waiting in line; bring a cheap pen to make your life easier.
    * Restaurants in Frankfurt seemed to only be open for lunch on weekdays. Your options become a couple sandwich shops after 2pm from what I could tell.

    What would I do differently in the future?
    * Travel nurse appointment 2 months in advance. Wellness checkup 3 months in advance. (I did the wellness checkup a little after the vaccinations and it turned up some possible issues that put a pretty big damper on the trip. Getting some clarity earlier would have helped quite a bit, and I ended up spending several weeks getting a battery of tests done).
    * 1 day of recovery time would probably have been sufficient since day 1 of the tour is mostly collecting everyone. Two days helps but I can manage without it.
    * Make a list of all the shit you want to bring. I'm kicking myself for not bringing the extra cold weather gear I had planned to.
    * Getting a couple hundred dollars changed to Rand would have been nice. I probably have enough for the incidental taxis and whatnot but I feel like I need to care about it instead of...you know...not. I am purposely avoiding using my debit card out of an abundance of caution.
    * Outlets here are Type D, which is pretty damn uncommon. I was able to pick up an appropriate adapter at an electronics shop in Frankfurt airport for way too much money (20 euros for a grounded converter type B (US grounded) to D) but it's working great. If I had planned this better I'd have gotten something for much cheaper ahead of time. The hotel I'm at right now has one type F outlet and one Type G, and a bunch of Type Ds scattered throughout. We'll see what the rest of the places I stay at have. The Anker PowerExtend 3-Cube is working well so I can plug in my laptop, both chargers, and charge my phone at the same time off of one plug. I do recommend it as a travel plug expander.
    * Pack anything vaguely pointy in checked luggage. The German TSA equivalent pulled my two inch scissors out of my toiletry bag and told me to remove them from the bag next time to avoid having them get secondary screening. They also yanked my nail file to look at it, I guess because it looked vaguely stabby, despite being about 3 inches in length and being as dangerous as a...well...nail file. They also do not permit you to hold your boarding pass and passport while being scanned. I hate that security theater has made it there as well, and they execute it with even less tolerance for deviations than America's bullshit.

    Ringo
  • tynictynic PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
    oh yeah sorry, I forgot about the plug outlets, they're real monsters. Also forgot to mention the driving side and the hard water, because as an australian from adelaide, both those things were just like coming home. (Seriously, people in windhoek drive exactly like people in my hometown, its eerie).

    Sounds like you're well on your way though! Hope you have a blast and you need to show us some of your photos! You're going to some really spectacular areas.

  • OrcaOrca Registered User regular
    I am! I meet up with the tour group tomorrow and then we're off to the races. I'm excited and looking forward to the rest of the trip--if I don't get any pictures I want to hang on my wall, that'll be MY fault, because the places on the itinerary look amazing.

    Thanks for all the insights and advice.

    Banzai5150BahamutZEROTuminSkeithElvenshaeDisruptedCapitalistAkilaeRingo
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