Shopping & Cost of Living
As long as you have the appropriate income, you can buy everything (or at least almost everything) in Windhoek (and this also applies to Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Omaruru and Otjiwarongo to a lesser extent) that you would get in any European city of a corresponding size. In Windhoek there are numerous supermarkets, a beautiful pedestrian zone and several so-called ‘malls’, e.g. the Wernhil Park Shopping Center at the end of the pedestrian zone in Postmall Street, the large Maerua Mall on the southern edge of the city center with over 90 different shops and since the beginning In 2015 also the Grove Mall on the southern outskirts of Windhoek in the Kleine Kuppe district.
An article in Finance News recently summarized the results of the 24th Cost of Living Survey (2018) by management consultancy Mercer. After that, Windhoek is only 1966 worldwide. For comparison: Luanda is in 6th place worldwide and is therefore the most expensive city in Africa. The cost of living in the capitals of 209 countries was examined.
As an expatriate living in Namibia, however, you cannot really understand this result. Windhoek is certainly not as expensive as Hong Kong, Luanda, London or New York. On the other hand, the prices (on average) at least roughly correspond to the price level in Germany. Really ‘cheap’ lives in Windhoek and in other parts of Namibia – at least from a German perspective – not. Both rents and ancillary rental costs – especially electricity and water – are rising steadily, not least because of the extremely poor payment behavior among the population for public services. Windhoek alone currently has outstanding debts of N $ 515 million.
Many foodstuffs and everyday items from South Africa as well as the few things that are produced in Namibia (e.g. dairy products) cost as much as Germany. According to listofusnewspapers, vegetables and fruit – also from Namibia and South Africa – are, however, not only more expensive, but also generally of significantly poorer quality, with less choice. Food imported from Europe is much more expensive than South African products. A bar of German or Swiss chocolate costs three to four euros.
High-quality meat (beef, game, etc.) is quite cheap in Namibia because it is produced in the country itself and is also an important export product. Restaurants are also still a bit cheaper than in Germany, after they had almost come close to the German price level in the past. Petrol and diesel are significantly cheaper, currently around N $ 13.50 / liter, i.e. around € 0.80 / liter). South African wine is also quite cheap by German standards.
On the other hand, internet access, for example, is significantly more expensive than in Germany, and electricity is also expensive. The bottom line is that the more expensive and cheaper things more or less balance each other out, so that the cost of living in Windhoek is roughly comparable to the average cost of living in a medium-sized German city. (Big cities like Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart are of course not directly comparable with Windhoek because of their exorbitant rents.)
A popular meeting place, especially for German-Namibians and expatriates, is the so-called ‘ Green Market ‘ (also called ‘Farmers Market’), which takes place every Saturday morning on Kenneth-Kaunda-Straße (formerly Uhland-Straße) in Klein Windhoek Art organic farmers market, where fresh products (especially vegetables, meat, cheese) from farms in the surrounding area are offered. There are now a number of stalls selling arts and crafts.
Otherwise, souvenirs and handicrafts from Namibia are best bought in the Craft Center. The Craft Center is housed in a converted former brewery building in the city center, which now houses various souvenir and craft shops, restaurants and galleries. It is ideal for shopping with visitors and guests from abroad who want to take typical Namibian souvenirs home with them.
Restaurants in Windhoek
The number of recommended restaurants in Windhoek is manageable, restaurant recommendations can be found in every relevant travel guide and on TripAdvisor. Here are some personal recommendations:
- The Stellenbosch Wine Bar & Bistro in the courtyard of Jenny’s Place on Sam Nujoma Drive in Klein-Windhoek (excellent food, very nice, Mediterranean ambience, maybe the best, but definitely the most beautiful restaurant in Windhoek).
- Hotel Heinitzburg in the Luxury Hill district (very nice terrace with a great view over the city, a bit ‘plush’ inside, unfortunately quite expensive).
- Hotel Thule in the Eros district (together with Heinitzburg and the roof terrace of the Hilton Hotel the most beautiful place for a ‘sundowner’).
- Sardinia Blue Olive, in the Schoenman’s Building, located directly at the so-called ‘Presidents’ Crossing’ intersection Sam Nujoma Drive / Nelson Mandela Road (Italian and Namibian dishes, reasonable prices).
- Joe’s Beerhouse on Nelson Mandela Street in the Eros district (one of the ‘MUST-See’ attractions of Windhoek, combination of bar and restaurant, rustic ambience, reasonable prices).
- The Social on the corner of Robert Mugabe Road and Liliencron Street, in the Eros neighborhood.
- Andy’s Bar on Sam Nujoma Avenue in Klein-Windhoek, between Hidas Center and Jenny’s Place (a kind of sports bar with small dishes, popular with locals and expatriates).
- Garnish on Trift Street, near the German Higher Private School (DHPS) (very good Indian food, reasonable price, but ambience can be expanded). In the meantime, a second branch has been opened in Klein-Windhoek (Sam Nujoma Drive, in the immediate vicinity of Andy’s Bar).
- Haiku Sushi Lounge (formerly Thai Café) on the corner of Steinstrasse / Sam Nujoma Drive (Thai food and sushi, some dishes very good, others (especially the soups) less so. Overall, a bit overpriced).
- Qué Tapas, Spanish restaurant and bar, tucked away at the lower end of Lilliencron Street in the Eros district (very nice atmosphere, but relatively expensive).
- Klein-Windhoek Guesthouse (Hofmeyer Street 2 in Klein-Windhoek, small side street off Nelson-Mandela-Avenue, restaurant and beer garden, good pizza).
In the meanwhile renovated historical building of the former restaurant “Zum Weinberg” on Jan-Jonker-Straße in Klein-Windhoek, a new fish restaurant has opened since September 2018, and another restaurant (steakhouse) has since been added. There are also numerous other restaurants in the three larger shopping centers mentioned above.
Restaurants in Swakopmund
There are also a number of good restaurants in Swakopmund. The author’s personal favorites are:
- ‘ Tug ‘ (in my opinion the absolute No. 1 in Swakopmund, right on the ‘Jetty’ (pier), great ambience, very good food (especially fish dishes) at (still) reasonable prices).
- Strand Hotel (right on the pier, several restaurants: Farmhouse Deli, Brewer & Butcher and Ocean Cellar; my personal favorite is Brewer & Butcher with its own microbrewery).
Kücki’s Pub is also very well known (nice ambience, the quality of the food varies greatly, however, and is frequented by large tour groups). The Village Café on Sam-Nujoma-Avenue is a ‘must’ for breakfast, a snack or lunch. Very nicely done, great atmosphere, good dishes at reasonable prices. For a small snack for lunch or a café and cake, Bojo’s is highly recommended (at the back of the Hansa Hotel, not far from the Tourist Info kiosk). The cheesecake is particularly recommended here.
A special ‘Namibian cuisine’ is only available in rudiments, for example “botbotjie”, a kind of stew made from meat, millet, potatoes and vegetables. It is prepared in proper style in a ‘potje’ (a three-legged cast iron pot) over an open fire. Basically, the way Namibian cooks is similar, but otherwise very much like South African cuisine.
Namibian / South African cuisine is not necessarily something for vegetarians! In both countries “braai” or “braaien” (barbecue) is a kind of national sport and in South Africa there are even official BBQ competitions. When invited to the braai, it is customary to bring a bottle of wine. With the “Bring & Braai”, the host provides the side dishes and drinks and the guests bring their own barbecue food (and, if possible, a bottle of wine anyway). Meat is one of the few foods that is not only much better in Namibia, but also much cheaper than in Germany.
A Namibian / South African meat specialty is biltong (dried beef or game meat), which can be bought in almost every supermarket and every major petrol station as well as in special biltong shops. By the way, alcoholic beverages may only be sold in Namibian shops and supermarkets as well as the so-called ‘bottle stores’ until 6:00 p.m. (or 7:00 p.m., depending on the license), on Saturdays only until 2:00 p.m. and on Sundays and public holidays at all Not.