Nigeria

Traffic in Lagos   Woman with baby

Why Nigeria?                                                                    Click here to view video

We shouldn’t beat about the bush: Nigeria has an image problem. It dominates West Africa economically and politically, and has produced music and literature whose influence spreads far beyond the continent. But for all this clout, mention the country’s name to the person on the street and they’re more likely to come up with a litany of woe: corruption, ethnic violence and email scams. As a travel destination, Nigeria seems more a place to avoid than to book a flight to.

And yet, Nigeria is a country we’re coming to love. Getting around can sometimes be a little tough, and it’s certainly a challenging destination for first-timers, but you shouldn’t believe all the scare stories. Lagos is one of the most exuberant cities in Africa, while port city Calabar makes for an enjoyable stopover for travellers on their way to Cameroon. Across Southern Nigeria, old kingdoms carry on their customs, from creating elaborate brass sculptures to venerating the ancient gods. More modern traditions include one of the world’s pioneering primate conservation organisations. In the north, where the land dries out as it stretches towards the desert, Muslim Nigeria thrives in dusty trade cities where memories of the Saharan trade routes still linger. Don't miss West Africa's oldest city Kano, and Yankari National Park, the best in the country.
 
Nigeria is a country of extremes. Great wealth and great poverty sit cheek by jowl, and tensions between different communities can boil over into civil strife. While a few parts of the country remain problematic, the vast majority is as warm and welcoming to visitors as anywhere in Africa. Challenging yet exuberant, this is Africa in the raw – there’s nowhere quite like it on the continent.

  • When should I travel?
Varies from area to area. The southern coast is hot and humid with a rainy season from March to November. During the dry season, the Harmattan wind blows from the Sahara. The north's rainy season is from July to September. Nights can be cold in December and January.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Nigeria has a poor reputation for safety and civil unrest and yet, for the traveller, it can seem like the friendliest and most welcoming country in western Africa. Navigating these apparently contradictory states is the key to getting the most out of your visit.  Consistently the most troubled region of the country is the Niger Delta, due to the long-running grievances between the local population and the big oil companies, where the kidnapping of Western oil employees is a continued threat. In the north, communal disturbances between Muslims and Christians periodically spill over into bloody violence. Stay clear of demonstrations and areas where you suddenly see large numbers of police or army troops. Lagos has a terrible reputation for violent crime, not always undeserved. As a traveller you’re unlikely to have trouble with corruption and bribery. Police roadblocks are common, but fines and bribes are paid by the driver. Some caution should be exercised on the major highways into Lagos, where armed robbery is a problem, although almost always at night.

  • What money should I take?
Local currency is the Naira (NGN).  American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are rarely accepted in Nigeria and, because of the prevalence of credit card fraud, their use is ill-advised.  Facilities for changing traveller's cheques are limited to Abuja and larger towns, but exchanging them can be problematic.  The government of Nigeria has fixed an artificially high rate for local currency (the Naira) in terms of its value in exchange for foreign currencies. However, trading on the black market is extremely dangerous and could lead to arrest. Therefore, visitors are advised to exchange currency at the official rate and at approved exchange facilities, which often include major hotels. Inter-bank transfers are frequently difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish.

  • What language will they understand?
The number of languages currently estimated and catalogued in Nigeria is 521 however the official language of Nigeria, English, the former colonial language, was chosen to facilitate the cultural and linguistic unity of the country. The major languages spoken in Nigeria are Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Fulfulde, Kanuri, and Ibibio. Even though most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their own languages, English, being the official language, is widely used for education, business transactions and for official purposes.

  • How about my health?
The government-provided health care facilities are of a poor standard and are subject to shortages of drugs, equipment, materials and even electricity. It is advisable to take a sufficient supply of drugs or medication to meet personal needs. However, there are some adequate private facilities where the standards approach those of Europe. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services and medical insurance is essential.  All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised.

  • Public Holidays for 2012 / 2013

2012

January 01 New Year's Day
February 05  Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)
April 06 Good Friday
April 09 Easter Monday
May 01 Workers' Day
August 19 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
October 01 Independence Day
October 26 Eid al-Kabir (Feast of the Sacrifice)
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day

2013
January 01 New Year's Day
January 24 Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)
March 29 Good Friday
April 01 Easter Monday
May 01 Workers' Day
August 08 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
October 01 Independence Day
October 15 Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require entry visa for Nigeria. 

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
While a valid international health certificate proving vaccination against yellow fever is required, vaccination against hepatitis A and B and meningitis is also recommended. Preventative measures against malaria are strongly advised.