Money & Banking
The Namibian dollar (N$) is divided into 100 cents. This is freely convertible in Namibia; there's no black market and no customs regulations applicable to moving it across borders. It is currently tied to the South African rand (R) so that N$1=R1. Rand can be used freely in Namibia – nobody even notices – though it is often difficult to change Namibian dollars once you leave Namibia. Even in South Africa, you must change the dollars at a bank, and may be charged a small premium for doing so.
Many banks overseas know only the exchange rate for rand, and don't supply Namibian dollars, or even quote a rate for it. If that's the case, you can bring rand to Namibia, and use that instead.
If the rand plummets in the future, perhaps as the result of negative developments in South Africa, then Windhoek may take full control of its currency, and allow it to float free from the rand. Its economy is probably strong enough to make this a very positive move. Check the latest situation with one of the bigger banks before you leave.
The last few years have seen the rand become progressively weaker against sterling and the US dollar, although there has been a considerable upturn in recent months. Nevertheless, travel in Namibia for the western visitor remains very good value.
Rates of exchange in March 2003:
£1 = N$12.70 = R12.70
US$1 = N$7.90 = R7.90
Œ1 = N$8.75 = R8.75How to take your money
Namibian dollars are essential for buying petrol and small items, whilst most hotels, restaurants and larger shops accept credit cards.
Many travellers take most of their money as travellers' cheques (sterling or US dollars). Banks in the cities will cash any travellers' cheques, but American Express and Barclays Visa are well recognised, and prompt replacements are issued if cheques are stolen. (By carrying AMEX cheques you are eligible to use their customer mail-drop facilities in Windhoek.)
The major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, and Diners Club) are widely accepted, and often transactions in Namibia take time to appear on your statement. There are reports, though, that American Express cards are increasingly difficult to use in both shops and banks, Drawing money at a bank via credit cards is easy, but it will take a few minutes longer than changing travellers' cheques.
The best system is always to have some cash Namibian dollars (or rand – remember they are interchangeable) with you, whilst conserving these by using credit cards where you can. You can gradually withdraw more money from your credit cards, or by cashing travellers' cheques, as your trip progresses. However, always make sure that your Namibian dollars will last out until you can get to a bank.
Changing money at any of the commercial banks is as easy and as quick as it is in Europe. Normal banking hours are 08.30–15.30 weekdays and sometimes 08.30–11.00 Saturdays, depending upon the town, though there are a few places that are open seven days a week. Banks will cash travellers' cheques or give cash advances on credit cards, though the clearance required for a cash advance may take 30 minutes or so. Note that you may need to take a passport, even just to change currency.
BOB tills (auto-teller machines, or ATMs) work with Visa and MasterCard cards, though whether you are using a direct-debit card or a credit card, you should enter 'credit card account' and not 'bank account' when prompted about where you want your money to come from.
Away from the banks, Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards are usually accepted by lodges, hotels, restaurants, and shops, but travellers' cheques which are not in Namibian dollars or South African rand can be difficult to use. In the remoter areas cash is essential. Wherever you are, petrol stations always require cash. Note that at the end of the month, when many government employees are paid, the queue at the bank can be several hours long.