An oryx crossing the gravel road in Damaraland, Namibia

Self-drive vs Private Guided

February 8, 2024

Take a look at the difference between a self-drive and a private guided safari. If you’re contemplating flying as an option, we’ve got you covered there too (Fly-in vs. Self-drive?).

So let’s start with the obvious: a self-drive safari means you rent a suitable 4x4 vehicle and off you go. You’ll be driving yourself between your destinations, you’ll be doing activities along the way on your own and you’ll be navigating your road trip on your own steam. A private guided safari (here we are referring to an independent guided tour, not a group guided adventure), means you rent a suitable 4x4 vehicle (usually a safari converted vehicle) and you have your own private guide from start to end. Your guide will do all the driving between your destinations, you’ll do all possible activities with your guide and own vehicle throughout and your guide will point out all the not-to-miss stuff in between. Since this is a private tour, your time is still flexible the main difference, you won’t need to navigate your way yourself, you’ll have the expert guidance of your guide for that.

Ok so now you know the fundamental difference between the two types of safaris, you’re probably still thinking which is best for me? How do I compare them to decide?

There’s certainly more to it than just that so let’s take a deeper look. By the end of it, you’ll have the answer.

Why a Self-drive?

1. A self-drive is in general cheaper than a private guided safari, but it’s important to keep in mind that a private guided safari usually includes your fuel costs, park entry fees and extras such as drinking water in the vehicle and most meals throughout. On a self-drive basis these costs are additional so doing a direct comparison can be misleading. If you break it down though you are skipping on the daily costs of the private guide and his/her accommodation so a self-drive will always be a cheaper option.

2. Travel at your own pace and on your own time. Your schedule is your own. Spend as much time or as little time at highlights as you wish. Change your plans last minute. Every day’s adventure is up to you. Do it the way you want to.

3. You’ll need to have a sense of adventure and while we are not talking about getting lost in the wilderness because it’s all pretty civilised, you will need to be ready to change a tyre if you get a flat and navigate your route on a map. Luckily you’ll also have a GPS and our detailed travel diary, so it’s really just for the unexpected. As a tailor-made self-drive we’ll ensure you have what you need and you’re ready to depart but as you’re going it alone, a sense of humour and sense of adventure will go a long way.

4. NTS is always on hand if you need us, so while you may be on the road on your own, we’re always there for you in case you need us for anything. 24/7 in-country support.

Why not?

1. Most activities will be done on your own, which is great if you are happy to venture off and explore alone but this means relying on your own skill and some luck. Now it’s not that you have to do the activities on your own, there are always guided activities that can be booked with lodge guides, but these will come at an extra cost and best booked in advance if you want to guarantee your spot to avoid disappointment. Unless booked on a private basis, these activities are done shared with other lodge guests.

2. Have a question? You’ll have to wait until you have a WiFi connection again and ask Google or hope you have a know-it-all on tour with you. You could be left with a lot of unanswered questions depending on how inquisitive you are about that strange looking plant, the animal that just fleeted across the road or that bird chirping away at your suitable roadside picnic spot.

3. There’s loads to do and see along the way. It might be nice to consider a second driver so you can take turns behind the wheel and enjoying the scenery. If not, there are plenty of places to stop en route as you go along to ensure you don’t miss the wonder of it all while driving.

4. You’ll only see what you know or what you have researched. Navigating on your own can sometimes mean missing things in between. Your travel diary gives advice for what to look out for and your meet-and-greet representative will have also given you the low down on arrival, but let’s face it, there are always hidden treasures you could miss.

Why Private Guided?

1. You can sit back and relax for the duration of your trip. You won’t have to drive and this means it’s a stress-free vacay especially if this is your first time travelling in unfamiliar territory. Let your guide do the “heavy lifting” so you can just enjoy your holiday.

2. You have your own private guide with you from start to finish. Someone that will take care of your schedule, make all arrangements as well as offer advice as you go along and that’s on top of offering invaluable information on sites and highlights, wildlife, flora, fauna, geology and even astronomy. The list continues. It’s a perfectly organised tour in perfect execution by your guide.

3. Ask as many questions as you like. Your guide will give you first-hand knowledge on all things safari and share stories with you around the campfire. Experience the country through the eyes of your guide. It’s like having a walking, talking guide book with you on tour.

4. Go more in depth. A guided tour takes you on a deeper experience of the country, your route and everything in between. You don’t need to figure it out, it’s already been figured for you and being a private guided tour you still have flexibility, just discuss it with your guide as you go.

Why not?

1. A private guided tour is more expensive as we covered above. Although there’ll be few extra costs once in country as most are included, it’s still more pricey overall. We refer to a private guided tour, so if you’re a family or a group it’ll work out cheaper per person than comparing with the costs for a couple or as a single traveller.

2. There’s less privacy, but that’s only because your guide is with you most of the time driving between destinations and on activities. For the rest it offers as much privacy as a self-drive tour would.

3. Some activities at some destinations, such as private reserves can only be done with lodge guides. This means you will have to pay for these additional activities despite having your own guide and vehicle, should you wish to head out on these days.


So whether the beauty of a safari lies in the assurance of having someone take you around to explore and assist you along the way with bookings, additional activities and restaurant recommendations or you prefer to go it alone, which for you is the sense of adventure, there’s never a wrong way to travel to Namibia and beyond. If you are however still undecided as to whether a self-drive, private guided or even a fly-in safari is for you, speak to a travel expert for further advice based on your route and expectations. There’s always the option to combine different tour types to get the most out of your safari too. We’ll figure it all out for you based on your custom itinerary and if you aren’t sure about your itinerary yet, no problem, just get in touch.

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