With the rise of foreign economic interest in Africa, it’s no surprise that Africa’s most populous country has received plenty of attention lately. Monetary matters aside, Nigeria’s main cities have been becoming more and more cosmopolitan over the years, and that has directly contributed to an increase in tourism and popularity among foreigners.
After decades of dictatorship, Nigeria declared independence in 1960, and has since been seen as an energetic reformer. The government’s ups and downs haven’t stopped Nigerians from living joyful lives, though: in 2003 a study that included more than 65 countries worldwide showed that Nigeria has the happiest people on Earth. So, if you were doubting your travel plans before, these findings should eliminate any uncertainty.
1. Calabar Carnival: This carnival takes place the day after Christmas, and Nigerians from all over flock to Calabar to join in the festivities. Bright dancers, parties, parades: it goes on all day and all night. It’s a definite must-do if you’re in Nigeria at this time of the year.
2. Africa Shrine: Visit the concert ground of the father of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti—“the shrine” as Nigerians know it— in Ikeya on mainland Lagos, near the airport. Fela’s son, himself a world-renowned musician, and other homegrown artists play there regularly.
3. Oba’s Palace: Located in Lagos, this is the home of the ceremonial sovereign of Nigeria. In order to visit you must obtain permission beforehand; if you haven’t done so, try at least to drive by it.
4. Abuja: We recommend hiring a tour guide to visit the country’s capital to get a true local’s viewpoint. For more on Abuja, check out our city page [LINK].
5. Obudu Mountain Ranch: This gorgeous resort, located in the town of Obudu, used to be a cattle ranch. Now it’s a high-up getaway situated in the Sankwala Mountains. Among its attractions are a cable car ride through the mountains and a golf course.
6. Yankari Game Reserve: This is an amazing wildlife reserve in northeastern Nigeria. Its location, on the West African savanna, allows tourists to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. It is also Nigeria’s largest national park.
7. Osun-Osogbo: Also known as the Sacred Grove, this outdoor art commune (accessible by train from Lagos) is situated in a forest known for its mystical past. The structures in this park, such as the Temple of Osun, are truly stunning.
8. Argungu Festival: A fishing and culture festival in Argungu in Kebbi State, the Argungu Festival is one the oldest and best known such events in the country. The festival is centered on a competition in which participants compete using old-fashioned fishing tools over who can catch the largest fish.
9. Eyo Festival: If you like dressing up, this festival is for you. Based in Lagos, the masquerade parade takes place in September or October each year. Check the dates while planning your trip.
10. Kano: Visit one of Nigeria’s most beautiful states and get closer to the arid but spectacular scenery of the Sahara. Don’t miss the tour of the Emir’s Palace and the Durbar celebrations. Every year at the end of Ramadan, hundreds of knights parade in honor of the Emir in their traditional attire, showcasing their riding abilities over their horses.
The weather is fairly stable throughout the year. Nigeria has a rainy season and a dry season. To avoid rain showers and enjoy high temperatures with low humidity, it is best to travel to Nigeria between November and March. During this period, temperatures can reach over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in the shade. December and January witness the Harmattan, sand clouds from the Sahara that linger in the air and sometimes make visibility quite poor (something to bear in mind if you wish to take internal flights). The phenomenon is more common in the north, since it is closer to the desert. April to September is very humid and quite warm 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius.) All in all, you won’t need many warm clothes at all!
Visas: All foreigners require a visa to enter Nigeria regardless of the length of the stay. Fees may vary depending on one’s home country, the length of stay, and the purpose of the trip. We advise allowing ample time to arrange for your visa in order to prevent confusion or delay. Visa application requirements vary depending on country; for requirements for a specific country, visit the official Nigerian immigration website.
Transportation: In/Out and Within Nigeria: Most travelers will fly into the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, formerly known as the Lagos International Airport.
Within the country, car travel is the best mode of transportation. Traveling by bus is also an option, but do so with the knowledge that it won’t be a luxury ride. For traveling within cities, taxis and private hire cars offer the best ways of getting around without too much expense. If you’re planning to hire a chauffeur for the duration of your trip, make sure that you make arrangements with a reputable country, and try to do so in advance. Taxis (called taking a “drop”) are easy to catch throughout the city during the day, and cost around GBP 1 per ride. Inside major cities, it is also common to strike deals for a full day of service with cab drivers. In Abuja, the Abuja Leasing Company runs the only properly-licensed cab service (green cabs) and represents the safest and most comfortable way to move around town. In Lagos, several private formal companies offer the service and have small booths or agents at the airport’s international terminal. Alternatively, in all cities many informal cab drivers and their associations exist. They can be hired for any number of hours or days. They generally operate private cars without identification. Although they represent a very common way of transport for both Nigerians and foreigners, you may want to leave this option out and prefer a more “formal service” until you become a more seasoned traveler and can discern among them in the interest of security.
Local airlines provide the safest and most efficient means of traveling between cities in Nigeria. Nonetheless, it is worth checking the security record of some of the airline companies. Currently, no Nigerian airline is a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Their safety standards are, however, cleared by the national authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Albeit with declining incidence, deadly crashes have continued to occur in recent years. Among the airlines, Aerocontractors, Arik, and Air Nigeria (former Virgin Nigeria) own the newest and most modern fleet of airplanes and have a more solid reputation for security, with their ticket prices coming accordingly at a premium. They provide connections to most domestic as well as some regional and international travel destinations.
Mobile Phones: The major network providers in Nigeria are MTN, GLO, and Etisalat. You can buy a cheap phone or a SIM card upon arrival.
When traveling between cities in Nigeria, it is best to start the journey early and arrive before nightfall, especially if you are traveling by bus or car. Late-night travel can be dangerous, especially when it’s between states. As always when you’re traveling to a foreign country, it is important to be street smart and aware of your surroundings. Petty theft is common in Nigeria, so keep belongings such as cell phones close to you at all times. The U.S. Department of State’s travel page on Nigeria has more details on safety and security.
Nigeria is infamous for being a hub for credit card fraud. We strongly suggest that you use only cash during your stay in Nigeria.
Nigeria is one of Africa’s most ancient countries. The Nok people, a Neolithic tribe, date as far back as the fifth century B.C.E. The Fulani, Hausa, and Kanuri peoples later settled in Nigeria, and the Fulani ruled from the 14th century until the British came in the 19th century. Under British rule, slavery, which was widely practiced, was abolished in 1936.
After the practice of slavery had ended, Nigeria gained its independence, in 1960. The Nigerian government had its work cut out for it: it faced the task of unifying a very fractured country, the rifts having been created by imperialist leaders during British rule, as well as ethnic differences among its many indigenous groups. Civil war erupted in Nigeria in 1966, when mostly Ibo military leaders started rioting against the government. Ethnic fighting occurred throughout the country, mainly against the Ibo tribe.
The Ibo people migrated to eastern Nigeria and declared themselves independent from the rest of Nigeria, naming their territory Biafra. The devastating Biafra War broke out in 1967 and ended in 1970, when Biafra yielded to the government.
After years of military rule, Nigeria has been able to maintain a solid history of civil rule since 1999. Despite numerous bumps in the road, the government is still under civilian control.
1. Greetings! It is extremely important to greet appropriately those around you when you are in Nigeria. It is a major insult when you do not greet someone in whose company you find yourself. Take care to ask others about how their families are doing as well. This exchange of pleasantries is completely normal, and don’t feel pressured to get into enormous detail.
2. Nigeria’s films and music are legendary. Nollywood, the filmmaking industry of Nigeria, is the second-largest producer of films in the world, behind India’s Bollywood machine. If you’re able to find Nollywood films in the States, try to watch some before you travel to Nigeria; the comedies in particular will give you a glimpse of the kind of humor you will encounter during your trip. Nigerian musicians have not only become some of Africa’s most popular artists but have also crossed over internationally; among them are Fela Kuti, Sonny Ade, and D’banj.
3. Watch your cell phone: petty crime is fairly common throughout Nigeria, so you should keep small items close by and always in sight. Avoid walking at night, and when you’re checking into your hotel, make sure that security guards are employed, or that security gates are working properly.
4. Check out some of the main online newspapers in Nigeria before traveling. We recommend Next or This Day Online.
5. Depending on where you are, language barriers may or may not be an issue. If you are in a main city or traveling with a prearranged guide, English will get you by.