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Nigeria

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Travel Guide Africa Nigeria

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Introduction

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© All Rights Reserved frankone

If you've ever seen a Nigerian soccer match on TV, you'll have some idea of the tribal passion which underscores modern Nigeria. Donned in patriotic green garb and pounding out fiery Nigerian anthems, it's a compelling sight (and sound) and more than enough advertisement for the country's merits. Expect no less passion once you've hit Nigerian soil, as the music keeps pumping and the people keep moving. However, where passions are high, there often follows tension and conflict, as Nigeria bluntly proves. Like most African countries, it has seen its share of violence, but Nigeria's wounds are perhaps a little fresher than those of its neighbours and visitors should pay particular notice to government warnings.

Lagos, the former capital and the second largest city in Africa, is where the cultural climax of Nigeria has its epicentre. It's a busy affair, but a great way to experience first-hand Nigerian life.

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Brief History

In the northern part of the country, Kano and Katsina has recorded history which dates back to around 999. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem-Bornu Empire prospered as trade posts between North and West Africa.
Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to begin trade in Nigeria, and called the port Lagos after the Portuguese town of Lagos, in Algarve. This name stuck on with more European trade with the region. The Europeans traded with the ethnicities of the coast and also established a trade in slaves which affected many Nigerian ethnicities. Following the Napoleonic Wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior.
In 1885 British claims to a West African sphere of influence received international recognition and on January 1, 1901 Nigeria became a British protectorate, part of the British Empire. Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. 50 years later the country has had many presidents, military coups, wars and other conflicts, both domestic and with other countries, and the country remains a bit of unstable and is certainly not one of the safest in the region for travellers.

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Geography

Nigeria is located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and has a total area of 923,768 km2 making it the world's 32nd-largest country (after Tanzania). It shares a 4,047-kilometre-long border with Benin (773 kilometres), Niger (1497 kilometres), Chad (87 kilometres), Cameroon (1690 kilometres), and has a coastline of at least 853 kilometres. Nigeria lies between latitudes 4° and 14°N, and longitudes 2° and 15°E.
The highest point in Nigeria is Chappal Waddi at 2,419 metres. The main rivers are the Niger and the Benue River which converge and empty into the Niger Delta, one of the world's largest river deltas and the location of a large area of Central African Mangroves. Nigeria has a varied landscape. In the southeast stands the Obudu Plateau. Coastal plains are found in both the southwest and the southeast. This forest zone's most southerly portion is defined as salt water swamp, also known as a mangrove swamp because of the large amount of mangroves in the area. North of this is fresh water swamp, containing different vegetation from the salt water swamp, and north of that is rain forest. Nigeria's most expansive topographical region is that of the valleys of the Niger and Benue River valleys (which merge into each other and form a "y" shape). To the southwest of the Niger there is "rugged" highland, and to the southeast of the Benue are hills and mountains which forms the Mambilla Plateau, the highest Plateau in Nigeria. The area near the border with Cameroon close to the coast is rich rainforest and part of the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests ecoregion. Everything in between the far south and the far north, is savannah (insignificant tree cover, with grasses and flowers located between trees).

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Regions

Administratively, Nigeria is made up of 36 states and 1 territory. The country can also be organised into 3 geographic regions, as listed below.

  • Southern Nigeria, or the Guinea coastlands, is the most economically developed region.
  • Central Nigeria is a sparsely populated regions, apart from several small pockets like the Jos Plateau.
  • Northern Nigeria, or Nigerian Sudan.

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Cities

  • Abuja - the capital in central Nigeria.
  • Lagos - the biggest city in Nigeria.
  • Jos
  • Port Harcourt - port city in the south of Nigeria.
  • Ibadan
  • Kaduna
  • Kano
  • Benin City

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Sights and Activities

National Parks

Visit some of the amazing national parks in Nigeria to see amazing Nigerian wildlife and scenery. A good place to start is the Gashaka-Gumti National Park, which is over 6,000 km² and has excellent fishing. Another great national park is the Cross River National Park, which preserves a wonderful rain forest that is home to gorillas, leopards, white faced monkeys, wild buffaloes and even elephants. Kainji National Park is also a wonderful place to see wild animals and an impressive hydroelectric dam.

Abuja National Mosque

Abuja National Mosque, also known as the Nigerian National Mosque, is the national mosque of Nigeria. The mosque was built in 1984 and is only open to muslims (though you may apply to the office for a guide if you are a non muslim). Located in the center of the city of Abuja there is a great market every Friday selling everything from eclectic books collections to items of ju ju. The large gold dome and four marinates make for an impressive religious building.

National Christian Centre

The National Christian Centre, also known as the National Church of Nigeria, is the main Christian place of worship in the country. Located outside the city of Abuja this is an interdenominational church. The church is designed in a neo-gothic style and has many pivoted arches with a wide nave leading to the main alter. There are also several nice stained glass windows and an organ is installed on the side of the chapel. When not in use for Christian ceremonies it is possible to tour the church, sometimes with a guide.

Nollywood

Go check out some locally made Nigerian movies. Some critics have said these movie are more like "home movies" with a slightly bigger budget. In only a few decades these "home movies" have turned into a 250 million USD business, making more then 200 movies a month. This makes it the third largest movie industry in the world. These movies are not for the light hearted, they tend to be extremely violent and heavy use of witch craft may create a negative image of African culture. Although some movies do have interesting themes that reflect the complexity of modern African life and are worth checking out.

Music

Known as the heart of African music, Nigeria has a great music scene. From traditional folk music to African pop there is every kind of music to be found in Nigeria. Make sure to check out some drummers, Afrobeat and the latest African hip hop singles.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Village Life - Check out local markets and customs of different villages scattered around the country.
  • Beaches - Check out nice beaches along the coast and some more secluded ones on the island of Victoria.

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Weather

As Nigeria stretches from the Atlantic coastline towards the edges of the Sahara desert, the climate, although being hot almost anywhere anytime, has some variety.
The coastal area is hot and humid yearround, with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius on most days. February to May is a bit hotter, when even nights are very warm at 26 degrees Celsius on average. Although the rainy season lasts from May to October, there generally is a peak in May/June and another in October, while in between it is relatively dry.
The south central parts have about the same weather as the coastal areas, with small differences regarding temperatures, humidity, sunshine and rainfall. Most of the rain in Nigeria actually falls along the border area with Cameroon.
In the north of the country, there is single rainy season from June to September and a long and hot dry season from October to April. The total amount of rain is much less compared to the southern and coastal zones. Temperatures during the hot season can reach well over 40 degrees Celsius during the days. From December to February the hot, dry and dusty Harmattan wind blows over northern and western parts of the country as well, reaching almost to the coast although here with prevailing southwestern winds, the Harmattan only infects life for several days a year.

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Getting there

By Plane

Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS) near the largest city of the country, Lagos, has a large number of international flights. Destinations include Abuja, Accra, Cotonou, Dakar, Douala, Johannesburg and London with Virgin Nigeria and Abidjan, Accra, Banjul, Conakry, Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Libreville, London and Monrovia with Bellview Airlines. Aero Contractors has flights to and from Abidjan, Accra, Bamako, Libreville, Malabo, Monrovia and Sao Tome. A number of airlines from Europe and Africa have flights as well, like KLM to and from Amsterdam. Lufthansa, Iberia, Air France and Alitalia fly here from the respective countries.

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (ABV) is the second largest airport in the country and the 14th biggest in the whole of Africa. It is located near Abuja. KLM flies directly from Amsterdam to Abuja, while a few other airlines serve place futher away like Dubai, Atlanta, Frankfurt and London. Flights originate from many other countries in this part of Africa.

The city of Kano has some international connections as well, including those with KLM to Amsterdam.

By Car

Land border crossing described below (by public transport) are usually open to independent travellers with their own (prefarably 4wd) car. Expect to pay bribes and have everything in order regarding your papers and insurance for your car. Note that it's not entirely safe to travel in (certain parts) of Nigeria, due to armed attacks, also during the day. This is especially true for the north. Preferably it is wise to use the knowledge of the locals in hiring transport and security, from your pick up at the airport to your local itinerary within Nigeria.

By Bus

To Benin, the main border crossing is on the Lagos (Nigeria) to Cotonou (Benin) highway. An alternative border crossing is further north at Kétou, but there’s not so much public transport that way. Paying bribes is almost customary.
To Cameroon there are two main border crossings. In the north at Bama, 2½ hours from Maiduguri, across to Banki in Cameroon. There is a second more remote alternative crossing at Ngala (Nigeria), which is used mainly for transiting to Chad. The southern border crossing is at Mfum (Nigeria), near Ikom. As you cross to Ekok (Cameroon) roads become much worse, making this border crossing not really suitable during the rainy season, so consider taking the Calabar–Limbe ferry instead during the wettest months (see below).
To Niger, there are four main entry points, the busiest being the Sokoto route, which crosses at Ilela (Nigeria). Minibuses and bush taxis run daily to the border, just past Ilela. Crossing to Birni N’Konni you can get on a bus straight to Niamey. Travelling between Kano (Nigeria) and Zinder (Niger) is just as straightforward. The last option is between Katsina and Maradi. Coming from Niger, it’s easiest to cross at Gaya. You’ll probably have to hire a bush taxi to take you from the Nigerian side at Kamba on to Sokoto.

By Boat

To Nigeria, there is a twice-weekly ferry from Limbe in Cameroon to Calabar on Monday and Thursday, and in the opposite direction every Tuesday and Friday.
There might be unofficial ferries avaiable across Lake Chad to Chad, but ask around first.

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Getting around

By Plane

Aero Contractors fly between Lagos, Abuja, Bebi, Benin City, Calabar, Enugu, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Warri, Bellview Airlines has flights between Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Owerri and Port Harcourt and Arik Air serves Lagos, Abuja, Benin City, Calabar, Enugu, Jos, Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Warri and Yola. Several other smaller airlines have comparable though less services, including Virgin Nigeria.

By Train

Train services are slow and uncomfortable, but a great way still to get around and cheaper than buses. There are two main routes. One travels from Lagos to Kano via Ibadan, Oyo, Ogbombosho, Kaduna and Zaria. Another travels from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri via Aba, Enugu, Makurdi and Jos. These two connect at Kaduna and Kafanchan. There is a third line, a branch line from Zaria to Gusau and Kaura Namoda. There is at least one daily service on the main routes. Sleeping cars are available, but have to be booked in advance. There are three classes of travel and some trains have restaurant cars and air conditioning.

By Car

In Lagos and Abuja it is easy to rent a car and roads are in an agreeable condition, although some secondary roads might be impassable after heavy rains. It is best though to rent a car with a driver, especially in the north where armed robberies occur and seem to be increasing. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit and two pasport size photos.

By Bus

Buses and minibuses (bush taxis) ply all the main routes and service all but the smallest cities and towns. Buses are relatively fast and safe, although bush taxis are faster and more comfortable, but also less safe.

By Boat

Ferry services operate along the south coast and along the Niger and Benue rivers. For schedules and prices you need to get informations locally.

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Red Tape

Everybody, except nationals from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) needs a visa and these can be obtained at the nearest embassy or consulate.

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Money

See also Money Matters

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Health

See also Travel Health

Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is required upon entering Nigeria.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Nigeria. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.

Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue is present as well, especially in urban areas, but there is no vaccination.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

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Quick Facts

Nigeria flag

Map of Nigeria

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Capital
Abuja
Population
150,000,000
Government
Federal Republic
Religions
Islam, Christianity, Indigenous beliefs
Languages
Edo, Efik, Adamawa Fulfulde, Hausa, Idoma, Igbo, Yerwa Kanuri, Yoruba, English
Calling Code
+234
Nationality
Nigerian
Local name
Naìjírìà, Nijeriya, Naigeria, Niiseriya
Currency
Naira

Contributors

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Nigeria Travel Helpers

  • H-View Travels

    We are registered travel and tour operator here in Nigeria having an extensive knowledge about the tribes and culture of major Nigerian tribes.

    We shall gladly answer questions about Nigeria and welcome Tourist wishing to visit Nigeria by offering first class services to our clients satisfaction.

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    Looking forward to your questions

    Ask H-View Travels a question about Nigeria
  • nneka

    I'll give you tips on how to get by and do what you came to do safely. I've lived in different countries and i know what it feels like to be a stranger.

    Ask nneka a question about Nigeria
  • luluzine

    Hi,
    My country Nigeria gets a lot of bad press which unfortunately we mostly deserve. However with the number of expatriates living here, it means a bunch of bad apples dont a country make.
    Its a tough country from visa, airport, taxi, hotel, doing legitimate business but what you need more than all the tips in the world is a friendly educated local.
    I am not in the travel industry, in fact i am a Medical Doctor who loves travel and because i am also a published author with her own practise, i dictate how i spend my time.
    If you need or would love to come to Nigeria for Business/Pleasure, you could experience a pleasant stay because i can give you loads of tips because i am a big critic of my country so i know how things work and how they should work. I live in Lagos, not far from the airport. If i am in the country i could help with navigating and ensuring you have a safe trip back to your country.

    Ask luluzine a question about Nigeria
  • kpokpogana

    I am living in Enugu, the capital city of Enugu State. I've also travelled to some parts of the Northen Nigeria.I promise to help anybody who may want to visit the country on a business trip, tourism trip, hollydays, etc.I am an OND graduate of Mass Communication from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT),Enugu.

    Ask kpokpogana a question about Nigeria
  • kenforum

    My name is Ken and a Nigerian too.I am a travel agent here in Lagos,Nigeria.It will be my pleasure to help anybody who wishes to make a trip to Nigeria.Every information and travel advice you need about Nigeria will be happily provided to you.

    Ask kenforum a question about Nigeria

Accommodation in Nigeria

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