Namibia is not a dangerous country, and is generally amazingly crime-free. Outside of the main cities, crime against visitors, however minor, is exceedingly rare. Even if you are travelling on local transport on a low budget, you are likely to experience numerous acts of random kindness, but not crime. It is certainly safer for visitors than the UK, USA, or most of Europe.
To get into a difficult situation, you'll usually have to try hard. You need to make yourself an obvious target for thieves, perhaps by walking around at night, with showy valuables, in a less affluent area of the city. Provided you are sensible, you are most unlikely to ever see any crime here.
Most towns in Namibia have townships, and often these are home to many of the poorer sections of society. Generally they are perfectly safe to visit during the day, but tourists would be wise to avoid wandering around with valuables. If you have friends or contacts who are local and know the areas well, then take the opportunity to explore with them a little. Wander around during the day, or go off to a nightclub together. You'll find that they show you a very different facet of Namibian life from that seen in the more affluent areas. For women travellers, especially those travelling alone, it is important to learn the local attitudes about how to behave acceptably. This takes some practice, and a certain confidence. You will often be the centre of attention, but by developing conversational techniques to avert over-enthusiastic male attention, you should be perfectly safe. Making friends of the local women is one way to help avoid such problems.
Theft is rarely a problem in Namibia – which is surprising given the poverty levels amongst much of the population. The only real exception to this rule is theft from unattended vehicles, which is common in Windhoek (especially) and the larger towns. If you leave your vehicle with anything valuable on view, then you will probably return to find a window smashed and items stolen. Aside from this, theft is really very unusual. Reporting thefts to the police
If you are the victim of a theft then report it to the police – they ought to know. Also try to get a copy of the report, or at least a reference number on an official-looking piece of paper, as this will help you to claim on your insurance policy when you return home. However, reporting anything in a police station can take a long time, and do not expect any speedy arrests for a small case of theft.
To get arrested in Namibia, a foreigner will normally have to try quite hard. Though most Namibians are not paranoid about spies, it is always wise to ask for permission to photograph near bridges or military installations. This simple courtesy costs you nothing, and may avoid a problem later.
One excellent way to get arrested in Namibia is to try to smuggle drugs across its borders, or to try to buy them from 'pushers'. Drug offences carry penalties at least as stiff as those you will find at home – and the jails are a lot less pleasant. Namibia's police are not forbidden to use entrapment techniques or 'sting' operations to catch criminals. Buying, selling or using drugs in Namibia is just not worth the risk.
Failing this, argue with a policeman or army official – and get angry into the bargain – and you may manage to be arrested. It is essential to control your temper; stay relaxed when dealing with officials. Not only will you gain respect, and hence help your cause, but you will avoid being forced to cool off for a night in the cells.
If you are careless enough to be arrested, you will often only be asked a few questions. If the police are suspicious of you, then how you handle the situation will determine whether you are kept for a matter of hours or days. Be patient, helpful, good-humoured, and as truthful as possible. Never lose your temper, it will only aggravate the situation. Avoid any hint of arrogance. If things are going badly after half a day or so, then start firmly, but politely, to insist on seeing someone in higher authority. As a last resort you do, at least in theory, have the right to contact your embassy or consulate, though the finer points of your civil liberties may end up being overlooked by an irate local police chief.
Bribery may be a fact of life in some parts of Africa, but in Namibia it is very rare. Certainly no normal visitor should ever be asked for, or offer, a bribe. It would be just as illegal as offering someone a bribe back home.
Safety For Women TravellersJanice Booth
When attention becomes intrusive, it can help if you are wearing a wedding ring and have photos of 'your' husband and children, even if they are someone else's. A good reason to give for not being with them is that you have to travel in connection with your job – biology, zoology, geography, or whatever. (But not journalism, that's risky.)
Pay attention to local etiquette, and to speaking, dressing and moving reasonably decorously. Look at how the local women dress, and try not to expose parts of yourself that they keep covered. Think about body language. In much of southern Africa direct eye contact with a man will be seen as a 'come-on'; sunglasses are helpful here.
Don't be afraid to explain clearly – but pleasantly rather than as a put-down – that you aren't in the market for whatever distractions are on offer. Remember that you are probably as much of a novelty to the local people as they are to you; and the fact that you are travelling abroad alone gives them the message that you are free and adventurous. But don't imagine that a Lothario lurks under every bush: many approaches stem from genuine friendliness or curiosity, and a brush-off in such cases doesn't do much for the image of travellers in general.
Take sensible precautions against theft and attack – try to cover all the risks before you encounter them – and then relax and enjoy your trip. You'll meet far more kindness than villainy.