Bargaining is a handy skill in Nigeria, whether you're shopping in a market or negotiating with a taxi driver: always ask the price before getting in. You may be able to negotiate a deal when booking a hotel room.
Dangers & Annoyances
- The most dangerous region is northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been waging a low-grade war against the federal government.
- Lagos has a reputation for petty, violent crime, not always undeserved, although it's been on the decline in the past few years.
- You're unlikely to have trouble with large-scale corruption and bribery. Police roadblocks are common, but fines and bribes are paid by the driver. Take care on the major highways into Lagos, where armed robbery is a problem at night.
- Enugu has a reputation for kidnapping schemes, but they're more likely to be after wealthy oil execs than travellers.
Warning: Boko Haram
Between 2009 and 2016, Boko Haram, a jihadist organisation based in the northeast of Nigeria, has been fighting a low-level war against Christian communities and the central government, killing thousands. Known for bombing churches and markets, assassinating police, and motorcycle drive-bys, the group, whose name means 'Western education is sinful' in Hausa, has made travel to northern Nigeria impossible.
Attacks were sporadic and took place in Adawama, Gombe, Yobe, Jigawa and Plateau States, occasionally in an outskirt of Abuja or Jos, with many incidents centred on Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
The situation has begun to stabilise after a military campaign directed by President Buhari. But there are now many displaced people and severe food shortages in the north.
At the time of writing the guidance was to avoid northern Nigeria altogether. Read your government's travel advisory and ask locals before attempting to head north.
Travelling in the North
Due to the activities of Boko Haram and the subsequent unstable security situation, we were unable to research in Kano, Jos, Yankari and Gashaki-Gumpti National Park.
Supply is 220V. Plugs are square British three pin, but most hotels have European two-pin adaptors.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Nigeria's country code||234|
|Ambulance||112 or 199|
|Fire||112 or 199|
|Police||112 or 199|
Embassies & Consulates
Some embassies have yet to relocate from Lagos to Abuja.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Everyone needs a visa to visit Nigeria.
• No pharmaceutical products are permitted in passengers' checked baggage.
Everyone needs a visa to visit Nigeria, and applications can be quite a process. Three-month visas cost up to US$300, according to nationality.
Visas can reportedly be extended at the Federal Secretariat in Lagos, but it's a byzantine process of endless forms, frustration and dash, with no clear sense of success.
Visas for Onward Travel
Benin One-month visas cost around CFA15,000 (CFA, not naira), with two photos, and take 24 hours to issue. The embassy in Lagos carries an uninviting reputation, and unexpected extra fees are not unknown.
Cameroon A one-month single-entry visa costs CFA50,000 (CFA, not naira), with two photos, and is issued in a day. As well as Lagos and Abuja, there's a useful consulate in Calabar.
Two photos and N5500 will get you a one-month single-entry visa, which you can pick up the next day.
Best obtained in Abuja, a one-month single-entry visa costs N5300 with two photos, and is issued in 48 hours. The consulate in Kano (where the fee can also be paid in CFA) is also an excellent and speedy place to apply – take three photos.
Many Nigerian embassies issue visas only to residents and nationals of the country in which the embassy is located, so it's essential to put things in motion well before your trip. Exact requirements vary, but as a rule of thumb, forms are required in triplicate, along with proof of funds to cover your stay, a round-trip air ticket, and possibly confirmed hotel reservations. You also need a letter of invitation from a resident of Nigeria or a business in the country.
If you're travelling overland to Nigeria, the embassy in Accra (Ghana) is consistently rated as the best place in West Africa to apply for a visa, as no letter of introduction is required. The embassy in Niamey (Niger) also claims to issue visas the same way.
In general Nigerians are warm and relaxed in their greetings and communications.
- Greetings may be extended and elaborate, and elders are greeted first.
- If you're visiting a Nigerian home, bring fruit, nuts or chocolate: don't bring alcohol to a Muslim home.
- Some Muslims do not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.
- If you are eating communally with your hands, always use the right hand.
Homosexual sex is illegal in Nigeria. The draconian ‘Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill’ permits 14-year prison sentences for those entering into a same-sex marriage, or those witnessing or supporting a same-sex marriage. There are 10-year sentences for those who operate gay clubs and organisations.
Decent connections are widespread in major towns, for around N200 per hour. Never use internet banking in a Nigerian cybercafe.
If asked for a bribe by a police officer or security guard, the easiest approach is to agree.
Drug use, possession and dealing is likely to result in a lengthy prison sentence or heavy fine.
Avoid taking photos of government buildings, ports, airports, military personnel or police.
- Newspapers Privately owned English-language daily newspapers include the Guardian, This Day, the Punch and Vanguard.
- TV There are over 30 national and state TV stations, broadcasting in English and all major local languages. South African satellite DSTV is hugely popular.
ATMs are increasingly widespread and many are connected to international systems such as MasterCard or Visa. GTB is the most reliable.
Used freely as both a noun and a verb, 'dash' is a word you'll hear a lot in Nigeria. It can mean either a bribe or a tip. The most frequent form of dash you're likely to encounter is at police roadblocks. In large-scale corruption, money is referred to as 'chopped' (literally 'eaten'). Although you're actually unlikely to be asked for dash as a bribe, dashing someone who performs a service for you, such as a guide or driver, is often appropriate.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Hotels Tip N1000 or so for help with bags
- Restaurants For decent service 10% is customary
- Taxis Tips are not expected, but add one for good service
The unit of currency is the naira (N).
Credit cards are accepted at only a few places, and use them with caution. Notify your bank before you use your cards in Nigeria as fraud scams have made it a red flag country for transactions.
For online purchases such as buying internal flights your card may be refused. You may have to ask a trusted local to make the transaction for you, then reimburse them.
Bring higher denomination dollars or pounds for the best exchange rate.
There are moneychangers in each town and they are almost always Hausa.
Western Union branches are useless unless you have a Nigerian bank account.
General business hours are from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Sanitation days are held on the last Saturday of the month – traffic isn't allowed before 10am for street cleaning.
Banks 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Government offices 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday
Shops and supermarkets 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, 7.30 to 1pm Saturday
Mail sent to or from Nigeria is notoriously slow. Worldwide postcards cost about N80. For parcels, use an international courier like DHL or FedEx, which have offices in most towns.
New Year's Day 1 January
Easter March or April
May Day 1 May
National Day 1 October
Christmas 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
Islamic holidays are observed in northern Nigeria.
- Smoking Prohibited in public places and is punishable by a fine.
Taxes & Refunds
There is no tax refund scheme for purchases made in Nigeria.
Nigeria is in love with the mobile phone, and cellular networks are more reliable than landlines.
Calls at roadside phone stands are quick and easy to make, costing around N20 per minute inside Nigeria, and around N60 for an international call. Most mobile numbers start with 080.
Having a local SIM card to use in a smart phone is extremely useful. The best service is Etisalat (SIMs cost N300) though MTN has the widest coverage. Street vendors everywhere sell top-up scratch cards.
Local time is GMT plus one hour.
- Public toilets are very scarce – on long journeys expect to pee by the side of the road.
- Take toilet paper and hand sanitiser for any non-hotel toilet.
There is little in the way of tourist information or useful city maps on the ground in Nigeria. Some private agencies can be helpful.
Travel with Children
While children will be treated kindly in Nigeria, you may find the practicalities difficult. The broken pavements are very difficult for prams, and public toilets tend to be dire, with no baby-change facilities. Bus journeys are hot and crowded, with few loo breaks.
Lekki Conservation Centre Climb the canopy walkways to get close to the monkeys in this wetland reserve.
Afi Mountain Drill Ranch Watch drill monkeys and a very lively chimpanzee up close in Calabar.
Osun Sacred Grove Vervet monkeys scamper through the trees of the grove, but thankfully the snakes and alligators stay well hidden.
Powered wheelchairs are few and far between, and the country's broken pavements make travel difficult for disabled visitors.
Locals are likely to be helpful though, and it can often be very cheap to hire people to help with lifting and so on.
Major volunteer organisations such as VSO (www.vsointernational.org/) operate programs in Nigeria, where you can work in tandem with local people.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Nigeria uses the metric system.
If you're planning to work in Nigeria you need to apply in advance for a Subject to Regularisation (STR) entry visa. Your post will need to have been confirmed in advance by your employer with the Ministry of the Interior.