Nigeria Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Welcome to the vibrant world of tourism in Nigeria! This West African nation, known for its diverse culture, natural beauty, and warm hospitality, invites you to explore a tapestry of experiences. From bustling cities to lush rainforests, pristine beaches to ancient traditions, Nigeria offers a rich and multifaceted journey that promises unforgettable moments at every turn. Join us as we embark on a virtual tour through the heart of Nigeria’s tourism gems.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 📅

The best time to visit Nigeria as a tourist largely depends on the specific regions you plan to explore and your preferred weather conditions. Nigeria experiences a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. Here’s a general guideline for when to visit:

  1. Dry Season (November to March):
    • This is generally considered the best time to visit Nigeria for tourism.
    • The weather is relatively dry and cooler, making it comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
    • Coastal areas like Lagos and Calabar are especially pleasant during this period.
  2. Harmattan Season (December to February):
    • The Harmattan is a dry and dusty trade wind that blows across West Africa during this time.
    • While it can create hazy conditions and reduced visibility, it also provides cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.
    • The Harmattan can be a unique experience for some travelers, but it’s essential to be prepared for dust and limited visibility in certain regions.
  3. Wet Season (April to October):
    • The wet season in Nigeria brings heavy rains and high humidity, especially from June to September.
    • While the countryside becomes lush and green, making it an excellent time for wildlife viewing in national parks, the rains can also lead to flooding and challenging travel conditions in some areas.
    • Coastal regions, such as Lagos and Port Harcourt, may experience heavy rainfall during this period.
  4. Festivals and Cultural Events:
    • If you’re interested in experiencing Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant festivals, check the calendar for specific events.
    • Festivals like the Osun-Osogbo Festival and the Durbar Festival often take place at specific times of the year and offer unique cultural experiences.
  5. Safari and Wildlife Viewing: For wildlife enthusiasts, the dry season (November to March) is ideal for visiting national parks like Yankari Game Reserve and Gashaka-Gumti National Park for optimal wildlife sightings.

Keep in mind that Nigeria’s climate can vary from region to region due to its size and diverse geography. Northern areas tend to have a hotter and drier climate, while coastal regions are more humid. Always check the specific weather conditions and travel advisories for the areas you plan to visit, as Nigeria’s climate can be unpredictable, and rainfall patterns may shift from year to year.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 🚌

Getting around Nigeria as a tourist can be an adventure in itself, as the country is vast and diverse with various transportation options. The choice of transportation largely depends on your itinerary and budget. Here are some of the best ways to get around Nigeria:

  1. Domestic Flights:
    • For long-distance travel between major cities, consider taking domestic flights. Nigeria has several airports, and flying can save you significant travel time.
    • Major domestic airlines like Arik Air, Air Peace, and Dana Air offer services between major cities.
  2. Intercity Buses:
    • Intercity buses are a popular and affordable way to travel between cities and towns. Companies like God is Good Motors (GIGM), ABC Transport, and Peace Mass Transit offer comfortable and air-conditioned buses.
    • However, be prepared for potentially long travel times due to road conditions and traffic congestion.
  3. Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps:
    • In urban areas like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, you can use traditional taxis or ride-sharing apps like Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify) for convenient and reasonably priced transportation.
  4. Car Rentals:
    • Renting a car can provide flexibility and convenience, especially if you plan to explore multiple locations. Several international and local car rental agencies operate in Nigeria.
    • Be aware of traffic rules and road conditions, and make sure you have proper documentation, including an international driving permit if required.
  5. Motorcycles (Okadas):
    • Motorcycles, known as “okadas,” are a common mode of transportation, especially for short distances within cities. However, they may not always be the safest option, so exercise caution and wear a helmet if you choose this mode of transport.
  6. Trains:
    • While Nigeria’s rail network is not as extensive as some other countries, there are train services available between certain cities. The Abuja-Kaduna railway and Lagos-Ibadan railway are among the notable routes.
  7. Keke Napep and Commercial Tricycles:
    • In some cities, you’ll find “keke napep” or commercial tricycles as a mode of transport for short distances. They are slower but can navigate congested urban areas efficiently.
  8. Walking and Local Exploration:
    • In cities and towns, walking can be a great way to explore local neighborhoods, markets, and cultural attractions. Be cautious of traffic and stay hydrated, especially in hot weather.
  9. Boats and Ferries:
    • In coastal regions and areas with waterways, boats and ferries may be a necessary means of transport. Lagos, for example, has a network of waterways served by ferries.

When using public transportation, be prepared for potential delays, especially during peak travel times and in congested cities. Plan your routes in advance, and consider booking transportation tickets (e.g., bus tickets or domestic flights) ahead of time, especially during busy travel seasons. Always check the latest travel advisories and safety recommendations for the specific regions you plan to visit in Nigeria.

What’s the Official Language?

Official Language: The official language of Nigeria is English. English serves as the lingua franca for communication between the country’s numerous ethnic groups, making it widely understood and used for official purposes, education, and business throughout Nigeria.

Here are some basic English words and phrases that can be useful for tourists in Nigeria:

  1. HelloHello
  2. Good morningGood morning
  3. Good afternoonGood afternoon
  4. Good eveningGood evening
  5. GoodbyeGoodbye
  6. YesYes
  7. NoNo
  8. PleasePlease
  9. Thank youThank you
  10. Excuse me / SorryExcuse me / Sorry
  11. How are you?How are you?
  12. I’m lostI’m lost
  13. Where is…?Where is…?
  14. How much does this cost?How much does this cost?
  15. I need helpI need help
  16. I’m a touristI’m a tourist
  17. Can you recommend a restaurant?Can you recommend a restaurant?
  18. BathroomBathroom
  19. WaterWater
  20. FoodFood
  21. HotelHotel
  22. AirportAirport
  23. Bus stationBus station
  24. Train stationTrain station
  25. TaxiTaxi
  26. HospitalHospital
  27. PolicePolice

While English is widely spoken and understood, especially in urban areas and among educated Nigerians, Nigeria is a diverse country with hundreds of indigenous languages. Learning a few basic phrases in the local language of the region you are visiting can be a gesture of respect and may enhance your interactions with locals. Some common Nigerian languages include Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, depending on the region.

Remember that pronunciation and accents can vary, so don’t be discouraged if there are slight differences in the way people speak English in different parts of Nigeria. Nigerians are generally welcoming and appreciative when tourists make an effort to communicate in English or their local languages.

Where to Stay? 🏨

Nigeria offers a wide range of accommodation options for tourists, catering to various budgets and preferences. The choice of where to stay largely depends on your travel itinerary and the type of experience you seek. Here are some popular accommodation options for tourists in Nigeria:

  1. Hotels:
    • Major cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt have a variety of hotels, ranging from budget to luxury. You can find international hotel chains as well as locally owned and boutique hotels.
    • Luxury hotels often offer additional amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and on-site restaurants.
  2. Guesthouses and Bed-and-Breakfasts:
    • Guesthouses and B&Bs provide a more intimate and personalized accommodation experience. They are often found in urban areas and some tourist destinations.
    • These options are suitable for travelers seeking a more homely atmosphere.
  3. Serviced Apartments:
    • Serviced apartments are available in major cities and are a good choice for longer stays or for travelers who prefer the comforts of home. They come with kitchen facilities and housekeeping services.
  4. Resorts:
    • Nigeria has several coastal and inland resorts, particularly in areas like Lagos, Calabar, and the Niger Delta region. These resorts offer relaxation, water sports, and entertainment facilities.
  5. Eco-Lodges:
    • In natural and wildlife-rich areas, eco-lodges provide a sustainable and immersive experience. Consider staying in an eco-lodge in places like Obudu Cattle Ranch or Yankari Game Reserve.
  6. Hostels:
    • Hostels can be found in urban areas and are budget-friendly options for backpackers and budget-conscious travelers. They often have dormitory-style rooms or private rooms with shared facilities.
  7. Camps and Glamping:
    • In remote and scenic locations like national parks, you can find camping and glamping options for a unique outdoor experience. Some of these provide tents or cabins with basic amenities.
  8. House Rentals and Airbnb:
    • In cities, you can often find vacation rentals and Airbnb listings, providing you with the comfort of a home away from home.
  9. Homestays:
    • Some regions offer homestay experiences where you can stay with local families, gaining insights into their daily lives and culture.

When choosing accommodation in Nigeria, consider factors such as location, amenities, safety, and reviews from other travelers. Booking in advance is advisable, especially during peak tourist seasons. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a local SIM card with data to assist with navigation and communication during your travels in Nigeria.

What to Eat? 🍽️

Nigerian cuisine is known for its rich flavors, diverse ingredients, and vibrant dishes. As a tourist in Nigeria, trying the local food is an integral part of experiencing the culture. Here are some must-try Nigerian dishes:

  1. Jollof Rice: Jollof rice is a beloved West African dish made from rice cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce with spices, vegetables, and often meat or seafood. It’s a staple at celebrations and gatherings.
  2. Pounded Yam and Egusi Soup: Pounded yam is a starchy side dish often served with hearty soups like egusi (made from ground melon seeds) or vegetable soup. You use the pounded yam to scoop up the soup.
  3. Suya: Suya is a popular street food made of skewered and grilled meat (typically beef, chicken, or goat) coated in a spicy peanut sauce. It’s a delicious and savory snack.
  4. Chinchinga: Similar to suya, chinchinga is a Ghanaian-style grilled meat skewer found in northern Nigeria. It’s seasoned with spices and served with a spicy pepper sauce.
  5. Amala and Ewedu Soup: Amala is a smooth, dark, and thick yam or cassava-based swallow served with a green and slimy ewedu soup made from jute leaves. It’s a common dish in southwestern Nigeria.
  6. Akara: Akara are deep-fried bean cakes made from black-eyed peas or cowpeas. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, often served as a snack or breakfast.
  7. Moi Moi: Moi moi is a steamed bean pudding made from black-eyed peas, onions, and spices. It’s often served as a side dish or main course and can be customized with vegetables and proteins.
  8. Pepper Soup: Nigerian pepper soup is a spicy and flavorful broth made with a variety of meats (goat, chicken, or fish), aromatic spices, and a generous amount of chili pepper. It’s known for its bold taste.
  9. Pounded Yam and Egusi Soup: Pounded yam is a starchy side dish often served with hearty soups like egusi (made from ground melon seeds) or vegetable soup. You use the pounded yam to scoop up the soup.
  10. Plantain: Try fried plantains, known as dodo, as a side dish or snack. You can also try plantain chips for a crispy treat.
  11. Ghanaian Waakye: Waakye is a Ghanaian dish made from rice and beans cooked together. It’s often served with a variety of toppings, including fried fish, eggs, and a spicy pepper sauce.
  12. Chapman: Chapman is a refreshing Nigerian cocktail made with a mix of fruit juices, soda, and bitters. It’s a popular drink at social gatherings and restaurants.
  13. Chinchinga: Similar to suya, chinchinga is a Ghanaian-style grilled meat skewer found in northern Nigeria. It’s seasoned with spices and served with a spicy pepper sauce.
  14. Shawarma: Shawarma stalls are common in Nigerian cities, serving this Middle Eastern-inspired street food. It typically consists of thinly sliced meat (chicken or beef), vegetables, and sauces wrapped in flatbread.
  15. Snacks: Explore Nigerian snacks like puff-puff (deep-fried dough), akamu (fermented maize pudding), and meat pies available at street vendors.

Nigerian cuisine is diverse, with regional variations, so be sure to try local specialties wherever you go. Nigerian food can be quite spicy, so if you’re sensitive to heat, don’t forget to ask for milder versions when ordering. Enjoy the vibrant flavors and culinary delights of Nigeria during your visit!

What to See? 🔍

Nigeria is a country rich in cultural heritage, natural beauty, and historical significance. As a tourist, there are several must-see places and attractions across the country. Here are some of the top destinations to visit in Nigeria:

  1. Abuja – The Capital City:
    • Explore Nigeria’s modern capital city, Abuja, known for its contemporary architecture, including the stunning National Mosque and National Christian Centre.
    • Don’t miss Aso Rock, a massive geological formation, and the Jabi Lake, which offers recreational activities.
  2. Lagos – The Commercial Hub:
    • Visit Lagos, Nigeria’s economic and cultural center. Explore Victoria Island, Lekki Conservation Centre, and the historic district of Badagry.
    • Relax on beautiful beaches like Tarkwa Bay and Elegushi Beach.
  3. Olumo Rock, Abeokuta:
    • Climb the ancient Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State, which holds historical and spiritual significance for the local people.
  4. Benin City – The Ancient Kingdom:
    • Discover the ancient Benin Kingdom’s history at the Benin City National Museum and the Royal Palace, known for its impressive bronze artwork.
    • Explore the historic streets of the city and its fascinating street art.
  5. Zuma Rock, Niger State:
    • Marvel at Zuma Rock, often referred to as “Gateway to Abuja,” a massive monolith that dominates the landscape.
  6. Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi:
    • Go on a safari adventure in Yankari Game Reserve, where you can spot elephants, lions, and a variety of wildlife.
    • Relax in natural warm springs within the reserve.
  7. Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove:
    • Visit the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its ancient sculptures, shrines, and sacred art.
  8. Kano – The Ancient City:
    • Explore the ancient city of Kano, known for its historic architecture, including the Great Mosque and the Emir’s Palace.
    • Visit Kurmi Market, one of West Africa’s largest markets.
  9. Calabar – The Cultural Hub:
    • Experience the rich culture of Calabar, known for the annual Calabar Carnival.
    • Explore the serene Kwa Falls and visit the historic slave trade sites.
  10. Nok Village, Kaduna:
    • Discover the ancient Nok culture by visiting the Nok Village archaeological site, known for its terracotta sculptures and artifacts.
  11. Awhum Waterfall, Enugu:
    • Hike to Awhum Waterfall in Enugu State, a picturesque natural attraction surrounded by lush greenery.
  12. Erin Ijesha Waterfall, Osun:
    • Enjoy the cascading beauty of Erin Ijesha Waterfall in Osun State, a popular spot for hiking and picnics.
  13. Ogbunike Caves, Anambra:
    • Explore the mysterious Ogbunike Caves, a UNESCO Heritage site, known for its unique rock formations and spiritual significance.
  14. Obudu Mountain Resort, Cross River:
    • Visit the scenic Obudu Mountain Resort, known for its cable cars, hiking trails, and stunning views of the Cross River.
  15. Idanre Hills, Ondo:
    • Hike to the top of Idanre Hills, a historic and picturesque site offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

These are just a few of the many incredible places to visit in Nigeria. The country’s diversity in culture, landscapes, and history offers something for every traveler, from vibrant cities to serene natural wonders and ancient cultural sites. Be sure to check local travel advisories and safety guidelines before planning your visit.

What to Do? 📸

As a tourist in Nigeria, there are a plethora of exciting and enriching activities to experience. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit:

  1. Explore Local Cuisine: Sample the diverse and flavorful Nigerian cuisine. Try jollof rice, suya, pounded yam and egusi soup, moi moi, and other local dishes. Don’t forget to try street food and snacks from local vendors.
  2. Attend a Cultural Festival: If your visit coincides with a cultural festival or event, make sure to attend. Festivals like the Calabar Carnival and Osun-Osogbo Festival offer vibrant cultural experiences.
  3. Visit Art Galleries and Museums: Explore Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage by visiting art galleries and museums. The National Museum in Lagos and Benin City National Museum are excellent places to start.
  4. Go on a Safari: Embark on a safari adventure in Yankari Game Reserve or Cross River National Park to spot diverse wildlife, including elephants, lions, and rare bird species.
  5. Hike and Explore Nature: Nigeria offers beautiful natural landscapes. Hike to waterfalls like Erin Ijesha and Awhum or climb ancient rocks like Olumo Rock and Zuma Rock.
  6. Attend a Nollywood Movie Premiere: Experience Nigeria’s vibrant film industry by attending a Nollywood movie premiere or visiting a local cinema.
  7. Learn Traditional Arts and Crafts: Take the opportunity to learn about traditional Nigerian crafts like bead-making, pottery, weaving, and woodcarving by visiting local artisans.
  8. Relax on Pristine Beaches: Nigeria’s coastline boasts some beautiful beaches. Relax on the shores of Tarkwa Bay, Elegushi Beach, or Takwa Bay Beach.
  9. Shop at Local Markets: Explore bustling markets like Kurmi Market in Kano, Ogbete Market in Enugu, and Art and Craft Market in Abuja. Bargain for unique souvenirs, fabrics, and handicrafts.
  10. Attend a Nigerian Wedding: If you’re invited to a traditional Nigerian wedding, don’t miss the opportunity to witness the vibrant celebrations, music, and colorful attire.
  11. Take a Boat Ride: Enjoy a scenic boat ride in locations like Lagos Lagoon, the Niger Delta, or through the mangroves in the Niger Delta.
  12. Visit Historic Sites: Explore historical sites like the ancient city of Benin, the slave trade routes in Calabar, and the Nok Village archaeological site.
  13. Learn a Local Dance: Join a local dance class to learn popular Nigerian dances like the Azonto, Shaku Shaku, and Zanku.
  14. Experience Lagos Nightlife: Lagos has a vibrant nightlife scene. Explore clubs, bars, and live music venues in Victoria Island and Lekki.
  15. Attend a Nigerian Football Match: If you’re a sports enthusiast, attend a Nigerian football (soccer) match to experience the passion and enthusiasm of local fans.
  16. Visit a Sufi Shrine: Experience the spiritual and musical traditions of Nigeria by visiting a Sufi shrine and witnessing Sufi music performances.
  17. Engage with Local Communities: Connect with local communities, interact with residents, and learn about their way of life. Participate in cultural exchange programs or volunteer opportunities.
  18. Learn About Indigenous Languages: Familiarize yourself with common phrases in Nigerian languages like Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa to enhance your interactions with locals.
  19. Explore Nigeria’s Music Scene: Nigeria is known for its vibrant music scene. Attend live music performances, especially Afrobeat and Highlife music concerts.
  20. Practice Responsible Tourism: Respect local customs, traditions, and the environment. Engage in responsible tourism practices to leave a positive impact on the communities you visit.

Nigeria offers a wealth of experiences for travelers, from cultural immersion to thrilling adventures. Make the most of your trip by embracing the country’s diversity and warmth.

Culture and Safety 🦺

Traveling to Nigeria can be an enriching experience, but it’s essential to be mindful of the local culture and safety considerations. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Culture:

  1. Respect Local Customs: Nigeria is a culturally diverse country with over 250 ethnic groups. Respect the customs and traditions of the local people, especially when visiting rural areas and communities.
  2. Greetings: Common greetings include “Good morning” and “Good afternoon.” Handshakes are a common form of greeting, but it’s a good practice to wait for the other person to initiate physical contact.
  3. Dress Modestly: Nigeria is a conservative country, especially in the northern regions. Dress modestly, covering your shoulders and knees, when in public places and religious sites. In some communities, wearing shorts or revealing clothing may be considered disrespectful.
  4. Religious Respect: Nigeria has a significant Muslim and Christian population. Be respectful of religious practices, especially during prayer times and religious festivals. Dress modestly when visiting mosques or churches.
  5. Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photos of people or their property, as some individuals may not be comfortable with photography.
  6. Food Etiquette: Nigerian cuisine is diverse and delicious. When eating with your hands (common for some dishes), use your right hand, as the left is considered unclean. It’s customary to wash your hands before and after meals.

Safety:

  1. Travel Advisories: Check for travel advisories from your government and local authorities before planning your trip to Nigeria. Stay updated on the current security situation, especially in specific regions.
  2. Health Precautions: Consult with a travel clinic for recommended vaccinations and health precautions before traveling to Nigeria. Malaria is a risk in many parts of the country, so take necessary precautions.
  3. Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations. Respect Nigerian customs rules, visa requirements, and traffic laws. Note that drug offenses can result in severe penalties.
  4. Transportation Safety: Be cautious when using public transportation, especially in congested urban areas. Opt for reputable transportation providers, and if possible, arrange for transportation in advance.
  5. Security: Nigeria has experienced security challenges in certain regions. Stay informed about the security situation, especially in areas with active conflicts. Follow local advice on safety and security.
  6. Cultural Sensitivity: Be aware of cultural norms and practices, especially when discussing sensitive topics. Avoid discussing religion and politics with strangers.
  7. Travel Insurance: Consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and personal belongings.
  8. Communication: Keep copies of important documents like your passport, visa, and travel insurance in a secure location, and share your itinerary with a trusted person back home.
  9. Local Advice: Seek advice from locals and your accommodations regarding safety and current conditions in the area.

While Nigeria offers a rich cultural experience and many attractions, it’s essential to exercise caution, be respectful of local customs, and stay informed about safety conditions. By taking these precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable visit to Nigeria.

Conclusion

As your journey through Nigeria comes to an end, you’ll leave with cherished memories of a land where culture, history, and natural wonders converge. The warmth of its people, the rhythm of its music, and the flavors of its cuisine will stay with you long after your visit. Nigeria, a nation of diversity and vibrancy, eagerly awaits your return to uncover more of its hidden treasures. Until then, safe travels and “Kedu!” (welcome) to Nigeria.