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The TransNamib train
The TransNamib train | © Stéphane Gallay / Flickr
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Why the TransNamib Railway Is the Best Way to See Namibia

Picture of Netumbo Nekomba
Journalist
Updated: 8 May 2018
Experiencing Namibia by train is one of the most fun ways to explore the country at a snail’s pace and take in its beautiful landscape.

Thanks to the TransNamib railways, Namibia’s main source for railway transportation, visitors are able to soak in Namibia’s terrace and see fun tourist attractions along the way. Whether you’re taking the luxurious five-star Desert Express or the economical StarLine Passenger Line train, there’s definitely something to see.

Get your money’s worth

Usually, the train routes travel from Windhoek, the capital city, and spread to major towns in the northern, southern, western and eastern regions of Namibia. If you’re looking for a trip for a lavish experience, the best train to use is the Desert Express. This could cost you 4,000 Namibian dollars (just over $400 USD) for a return trip. The compartment available to you can house one to three people and comes with air-conditioning, access to an elegant lounge and bar, as well as delicious Namibian cuisine to enjoy. It’s usually a tourist favourite.

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The famous quiver tree is located in the southern regions of Namibia | © Netumbo Nekomba / Culture Trip

But if you’re looking for a more economical trip, the Starline is the best way to go. Going for less than 100 Namibian dollars (or $7 USD), this train allows you to travel overnight to your destination. Tickets for these trips must always be pre-booked and can be obtained three months prior to leaving. If you’ve been travelling for over 12 trips, passengers receive an awesome discount as well. Also, the prices can vary depending on where you’re heading to and which day you leave, as there are plenty of discounts available.

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Scenery captured in the northern regions of Namibia | © Netumbo Nekomba / Culture Trip

Routes

Eager to experience the traditional lifestyle of the majority of Namibians? Head over to the northern regions. The train goes as far as Ondangwa, one of the bustling towns that celebrates yearly expos and several feasts. On the way, you’d expect to see a shift in scenery, from the green savanna to the dry, sandy environment with palm trees and marula trees scattered everywhere. Also, don’t be surprised to see goats and cows casually walking around. Eager for some sun and sea? Head over to Walvis Bay from the capital city – it’s always a sight to see when you’re suddenly embraced by the desert air. Although Starline Passengers Services has more access to the regions, Desert Express is limited to Windhoek and to the coast.

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The scenery in the Namib desert changes dramatically | © Netumbo Nekomba / Culture Trip

What you can expect to see

Walvis Bay is quite near Swakopmund, one of the most famous tourist towns in Namibia. And there are plenty of activities to do there. Go sand boarding along the dunes, experience hot air ballooning, go on several boat rides, and witness seals warming up along islands. Or simply experience being in the only place in the world where the desert meets the ocean. Heading up north will take you to Tsumeb, where you can drive along to Etosha National Park, the biggest game park in the country where there are plenty of giraffes, elephants, lions, and other wild animals to see.

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One of the activities you can experience at Swakopmund is dune climbing | © Netumbo Nekomba / Culture Trip

Where you’ll be stopping

Although you can head to South Africa from Keetmanshoop, all the train journeys are overnight, which means you won’t be able to see much along the way. If you’re not in a hurry to get to your destination, then it’s best to take a blanket and pillow and sleep away the journey. But if you’re on the Desert Express, game drives are available at Oropoko Lodge as well as dune excursions in the coastal areas, so there’s plenty to do.

People you interact with

Namibians are quite friendly people and the country is filled with so much diversity. You can expect to bump into tourists from all over the globe and locals from various tribes. Make new friends, understand more about Namibian culture through the staff on board and, most importantly, have fun!