Nigeria Travel Guide
Better known for scammers, kidnapping foreign oil workers and rampant corruption, Nigeria is an African powerhouse that suffers a PR problem. One of the reasons why this West African nation is so difficult and ornery to unite into a single, stable republic is its diversity and Nigeria is a case in point. It’s population consists of 250 different peoples, histories, religions and languages - all existing side by side in this colorful, hectic and often shaky nation. Commonly described as the ‘Giant of Africa‘, the former British colony offers roads that are not for the faint-hearted, aggressive street sellers, locally brewed gin that is strong enough to make you go blind and a population that will suspect you of being a racist if you are white. But if you have skin that is thick enough and you can stay long enough to make friends with the locals (which may take some time), then you can experience some of the ‘giant’s‘ unique delights, of which there are many.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Nigeria’s numerous lively and colorful festivals; the Osun Sacred Forest which features the impressive Shrine of Oshuno; Kano, the oldest walled (Muslim) city in West Africa and eight unique wildlife parks.
What’s Not: Vaccinations against yellow fever, malaria epidemic, high levels of corruption, religious and ethnic tensions, high risk of HIV/AIDS infection, poverty, reckless driving and copied merchandise, email scammers, getting kidnapped in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
When to Go
In general, Nigeria is hot throughout the annum, with little difference between the wet and dry seasons. There are two seasons: the wet season (April until October) and the dry season (November until March). The dry season witnesses the dry and dusty northeast winds’ prevailing influences. On the southeastern coast, the wet season is especially noticeable, where yearly rainfall reaches approximately 130 inches (330cms).
Getting There & Away
Nigeria Airways operates domestic and international flights. The airline’s frequently scheduled services connect Lagos and the majority of state capitals. Nigeria Airways also provides flights to a number of West African and European airports. The Nigerian rail network is owned and operated by the statutory Nigerian Railway Corp., and is the fifth-largest in Africa. However, years of neglect have significantly reduced the railway’s utility and capacity. During the last decade, the federal government has done its best to improve the coverage of the country’s road network, but poorly-maintained roads are the norm, and are especially problematic in the rainy season; so unless you’re an experienced rally driver, it may be better to avoid driving altogether.
Health & Safety
You will need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter the country, while the likes of polio, meningitis, hepatitis (A and B), typhoid and malaria are prevalent. Like in any African country, HIV/AIDS is a huge threat, so pack plenty of condoms unless you plan on a stint of celibacy. Travelers should solely consume bottled water and make sure that meat are cooked for long enough and eaten while still hot; a trip to the market, where fresh meat sits alongside flies all day, should be enough to explain why. There are several good private hospitals, but the government-run medical facilities are of low quality and it is not advised to seek medical help at one of them or it might be that you leave sicker than before you entered!
Food & Hospitality
Nigerian cuisine is influenced by the many peoples who live in the country, with some of the best known foods including: soup (all number of varieties), plantain (fried, boiled or roasted), pounded yam, jollof rice and kebabs (suya). The country is one of the world’s two destinations where the renowned Guinness is produced outside of Ireland, and although it’s not the same product; it tastes pretty good. The larger cities such as Lagos and Abuja represent the best hotels, with accommodation outside these busy hubs being nothing to talk about.
Three weeks is the least you should stay in this large country to explore some of the main attractions.
A three or four day visit to Yankari, the country’s most stunning national park.
You can easily stay for a week in Kano, which is the north’s most fascinating city.
Five or six days in Port Harcourt, also known as the ‘Garden City’.
At least 10 days to check out the seven other wildlife parks.
Two days to visit the Zuma rock on the outskirts of the city of Abuja.
One week holidaying at one of Nigeria’s beaches.
Nigeria’s eight unique wildlife parks: spread throughout the nation, these parks offer wildlife, waterfalls, hills, mountains springs, caves and lakes.
Abuja: Nigeria’s new capital, known as ‘Second London‘, is a clean and wonderful city set amid stunning landscapes.
Kano: absolutely a must-see when visiting Nigeria, this third-largest bustling city boasts plenty of historical and cultural attractions.
Beaches: the country has several excellent beaches including: Coconut Beach, west of Lagos, and Calabar Beach, which is located at the mouth of the Calabar River and lends travelers the privacy in a mind-blowing setting that is off the beaten path.
Lagos: formerly the country’s capital, it is a densely populated metropolis which has the reputation of being the most expensive on the globe!
Jos: a popular holiday destination with a pleasant climate, Jos is situated in a wonderful setting 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) above sea level.
Tours and safaris: Nigeria provides outstanding areas which are ideal for adventurous tours and safaris.
Join a significant festival: such as the colorful cultural Osun Festival which takes place every August at the Osun sacred groves in Osogbo, attracting thousands of national and international tourists and believers. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes!
Fun and sun at the beach: participate in water sports or simply relax at one of the beaches.
Bird watching: Yankari National Park, located in the eastern half of the nation, is the best spot for bird watching.
Golfing: especially in Abuja, there are some quality golf courses.
Festivals & Events
The country has numerous local festivals that date back to the era before the introduction of the main religions, and which remain occasions for dance and masquerade. There are so many that it is impossible to mention them all, as each of the peoples (250 groups!) has their own unique festivals.
February: Arugungu Fishing Festival is a colorful festival that takes place in Arugungu in Kebbu State. Huge crowds of local boys and men get in the water, armed with big fishnet scoops and accompanied by canoes with drummers aboard.
October: during the Benin Festival, young male and female villagers have the opportunity to be ritually acquainted.
Anytime of the year: the Eyo Festival takes place whenever tradition and occasion demand, but it is mostly held as the last burial rite for a highly respected chief. The festival is unique in the area of Lagos.
November: during the Sharo Festival, young unmarried men are whipped to test their endurance and eligibility to marry. It is celebrated with plenty of festivities and dancing. If you are planning to marry, you can find out if you are ready for it here!
December: the War Dance takes place in Abia State, ‘warriors’ dressed in lion skin dance to the Ekpirikpe drummers’ rhythmic beat and perform the famous war songs and dances.