Niger is an African landlocked country that is also known as the Heart of darkness. It is bordered by Mali, Burkina Faso, Libya, Algeria and Chad and has over 16 million people residing there. A former colony of the French colonialists, the country got her independence in the year 1960 and the official language that is spoken in Niger is French and as a tourist if you know French, your trip will be smoother.
The country is filled with untouched beauty that comes in form of the Desert that covers over 80% of the whole country filled with sand dunes and an extremely hot weather for a climate. 3/4s of the population in Niger are Muslims and that is why you will find many people in the streets dressed in Hijabs and head gears for the women whereas the men are more liberal with what they wear.
Niger has seen a lot of turmoil and is filled with a lot of crime and even though it is not all that safe to go visit the country at the moment, the wonders that are found in the country from the Mountains, the Desert and sand dunes, National Parks to the unique culture in the country and so many more other interesting things are some of the few things that will keep you entertained while in the country.
The Diffa region is one of the top tourist attractions in Niger although at the moment it is a risky area due to the continued insurgence in the area. It is a home to people who have been displaced from their homes due to war and it is where most of the rallies against the government begin from. Therefore as much as the Diffa is a gem waiting to be discovered with the various wildlife located in the area like the leopards, waterbucks and antelopes, it is off limits for the tourists and exploring it will have to wait until when it is declared safe to visit.
The W National Park which was named a UNESCO heritage site is what one can call a trans-border National Park as it crosses there countries that is Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. The National Park is filled with a lush vegetation that is worth exploring and as you take a drive through the Park you will be able to see animals like leopards, lions, baboons and monkeys jumping from one tree to the next, buffalos, hippos, giraffes and many more other interesting animal species.
For all those who love animal trekking especially giraffes this is the place that you should first check out once you get to the country. The Koure city is a home to a large herd of giraffes that are believed to be the only remaining herd along the coast of West Africa. There are several local tour guides that will take you giraffe tracking at a small price and you should be patient because even though they are the tallest mammals, it takes time for you to see them and that is why you will need a tour guide to take you around.
Arlit is a home to one of the most beautiful sand dunes in Niger making it a top destination for tourists. It is a beautiful sight but due to the presence of the mines that are located in close proximity to the majestic dune, it is hard for tourists to stay in the place for more than a few hours but still your journey to the Arlit will be worth it.
The Abaaba National Park was founded in the year 1987 and the main reason as to why it was opened up was to conserve the endangered species that had been poached on during the colonial era. Not many tourist know about this Park but some of the animals that you should expect to see here include the black rhino, elephants, baboons, lions and over 500 bird species that are best seen in the rainy season. The vegetation that is found in the Park that is the Acacia trees are also worth checking out while in Niger.
Things to do in Niger
The ancient city of Agadez was established back in the 11th century and today it has turned out as a significant center of Islamic learning as well as an important seat for the Sahel sultanates. It is occupied mainly by the native Tuareg people popular for making leather handicraft and metallic handicrafts which you can buy from the different stalls at the local markets. This city which is the fifth largest in the whole of Niger was a popular stop over for many merchants that were crossing the desert on camels along the trans-Saharan trade route, And even today it continues to be a significant point along the trans-Saharan highway which is a truck route used to transport goods from the northern parts of the African continent to the South. The city remains highly populated, very vibrant and busy with trade, so visitors who will make their way here will enjoy both ancient and modern day ways of trading. Some of the important sites found here include the sultanate palace as well as the Agadez mosque that was constructed during the 16th century.
this National Park is shared by three different countries which include: Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin; and the large part of this national park that is found within Niger was declared a national park in 1954 and later in 1996 it acquired the status of a World heritage site by UNESCO. In case you are interested seeing the different wildlife found in Niger, is the best recommended place to go. Leopards, baboons, lions, African elephants, hippos, cheetahs and water buffaloes are among the very many different types of animals found here, in addition to more than 365 different types of birds.
Visit the royal palace, the active town square as well as the museum where you will get a chance to learn about the Dosso Kingdom that dominated the region prior to the colonial times. Today a number of cultural ceremonies are still being conducted here.
Located about 200 kilometers Northwest of Niamey the capital and close to the Malian border, Ayorou is an ancient town found close to the banks of river Niger and it is popular for its animal market. During your visit one of the very popular activities to engage in here is to take a hippopotamus tour down the course of the river during which you will also visit several islands that are inhabited and get an opportunity to experience their unique lifestyle.
Maradi is the third largest city in Niger and among the major economic centers in the country. Being a prime home to the Hausa Culture, this city has a number of artisan markets where handicrafts are beautifully displayed and sold. This is a good place to go and buy some souvenirs to carry back home at the end of your visit in Niger. Other places of interest in this city include: the Dan Kasswa mosque and the Katsinawa Provincial Palace for the Chief.
Zinder is mistakenly believed to be the capital of Niger however this city served as a capital to the country until 1927 when the capital was transferred to Niamey the present day capital. Zinder offers various tourist attractions such as the unique mud-brick constructed sultan’s Palace which is significant to this Sahel region traditions, a large market where you will be able to see both Niger’s mercantile history as well as the modern day trade. Unique about this part of Africa is that today the tradition of bartering items as a form of trade is still being practiced and this is one of the best places to have a personal experience of it while in Africa.
River Niger is among the most significant waterways on the African continent. So do not miss out on a relaxing sunset sail in a canoe was you explore this beautiful waterway. Other activities that can be done on this river include fishing trips especially from Feruary to July, as the river has more than 250 different species.
Koure town is found in the southwestern part of the country and it is home to one of the last remaining populations of giraffes across Western Africa. These giraffes have a tendency of moving closer to the road and foliage on the nearby vegetation during the rainy seasons. Many tourists enjoy game drives to see these very tall animals gracefully feed of the treetops, and a number of holidaymakers actually prefer to hike to this area and see these animals while on foot. Koure can easily be accessed from capital city Niamey.
The section of the Sahara Desert within Niger has a number of uneven Air Mountains that rise high above the surrounding terrain to a height of 6,000 feet (1800 meters) and covers an area of about 85,000 square kilometers. This area which is mainly inhabited by the Tuareg nomads is home to a number of different wildlife species such as the fennec a desert specialist, hyenas and baboons.
The Cure Salee also known as the Festival for Nomads which is an annual gathering of the Wodaabe and Tuareg people found in Ingall a town in the northern part of Niger. This ceremony is conducted in the last two weeks of August.
Frequently asked questions
Below are a number of questions that are frequently asked about Niger by the people visiting this country and these we have professionally answered.
What vaccines do I need when going to Niger?
Citizens from the UK, Canada and the USA in addition to other European countries with the exception of Norway, Australia and Denmark need a Visa to go to Niger. There are a number of other African countries that are also exempted from obtaining Visas. All visa applications should be made through the Embassy of Niger in their home country, with a passport valid for six (6) months and this should be done prior to traveling. Visa application processing may take about 14 days to complete and all successful applicants with proof of sufficient funds to sustain them through their stay and confirmed accommodation reservation will be awarded a tourist visa valid for three thirty (30) days.
Is it Safe to Visit Niger?
Niger is generally considered a safe destination and its worth visiting especially when looking for a holiday destination to visit Africa. However it is important to know that petty crimes like pick pocketing, mugging and car-jacking are experienced especially in the busy cities like Niamey and the southern part of the country. it is also important that you take personal precaution and refrain from moving alone at night and when in the busy centers, ensure that all you do not expose your valuable items such as laptops, phones and cameras. The areas close to Niger’s border with Mali are considered to be very unsafe and nearly unlegislated and for that reason you are advised not to go there.
What vaccines do I need when visiting Niger?
All persons visiting Niger are highly advised to be up to date with all routine vaccination such as: polio, tetanus, MMR, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, cholera, Tuberculosis as well as rabies. The yellow fever vaccine is also mandatory for those going to this country and all travelers are required to present a certificate on arrival in the country as proof of receiving the vaccine.
Another disease that you should take good precaution about and yet it is very prevalent is Malaria. For that reason all persons visiting this country are advised to visit their physicians back in their home country so as to prescribe for you the appropriate anti-malaria prophylaxis.
How to avoid Malaria in Niger?
Below are some of the most recommended ways to avoid contracting malaria while in Niger:
What is the official language of Niger?
The official language used in Niger is French, considering the fact that the country was colonized by the French. In addition there are six indigenous languages that are recognized by the country as national languages and these include: Tamasheq, Hausa, Zarma, Kanuri, Fulfulde and Gourmanchéma. Basic English is also spoken in many of the tourist areas however we always advise that you learn some basic French phrases.
What is the time zone of Niger?
Niger doesn’t have daylight saving and the time zone for Niger is GMT+1.
What is the local currency in Niger?
The West African Franc is the local currency used in Niger and interestingly this currency is also used in a number of other West African countries like: Togo, Benin, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Foreign currencies like the Pound sterling, US Dollar and the Euro can easily be exchanged against this local money.
This local currency presents as bank notes and coins and the notes are in denominations of CFA 1000, 2,000, 2,500, 5,000 and 10,000. The coins on the other hand the coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250 and 500.
Please keep in mind that foreign currencies are not commonly accepted as a means of payment so you will have to exchange them to the local franc. This can be done in banks or at the airport.
Are credit cards accepted in Niger?
Because Niger mainly runs on a cash based economy, credit cards are not commonly accepted across the country. Diners and MasterCard are the only ones accepted but on a very minimal basis. ATMs are also available but may not accept international cards. It’s for that reason that you are highly advised to bring sufficient cash to sustain you through your stay.
What is the electricity current in Niger?
Niger runs on an electricity current ranging from 220V to 240V with 50Hz, and uses the two pin round European-style plus. In case you are bringing your personal electric gadgets such as a hair dryer and hair iron, ensure that they have an adjustable voltage. Don’t forget to bring an adapter despite the fact that many hotels will promise to provide them.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Niger?
Tap water is considered to be unsafe to drinking in Niger. Ensure that all water to be consumed for drinking is filtered and well boiled or treated. Alternatively you can consume bottled water as it is also safe, however, make sure that the seal for the bottle-cap is still sealed at the time of being served. In addition, you are highly advised to always use either bottled or boiled water when brushing.
How is the Nightlife in Niger?
The nightlife of Niger can best be enjoyed in Niamey the capital city and the other smaller towns of Niger do not have much to offer in the night. Within Niamey are a number of nightclubs, jazz clubs and a number of places that play live band. There are also a number of bars and fine restaurants that prepare fine dishes (remember Niger was colonized by the French so fine cooking is still their area of expertise).
Where to stay in Niger?
Accommodation within Niger may be somewhat difficult to obtain especially on arrival, for that reason, all travelers visiting the country should make the hotel reservations (particularly for major hotels) prior to traveling in the country. Major towns and cities such as Zinder, Niamey, Agadez, Maradi, La Tapoa provide good hotel accommodations. another option is to go camping while in Niger.
What is the best time to visit Niger?
The most recommended and best time to visit Niger for a holiday is from the month of January to February as well as from July to December when there is hardly any rainfall and the temperatures are hot. April experiences the highest-average temperatures of 42°C while the lowest average temperatures of 34°C are experienced in January.
Accommodation in Niger is a little bit hard to come by and the few hotels that are found in the country are always fully booked and that is why it is advisable that you book in advance in order for you to get the best accommodation facilities in the country. Some of the best hotels can be found in Zinder, Ayorou, Maradi and Agadez. Besides the hotels, you can also try out camping especially in Zinder but with whichever accommodation facility that you choose, note that the rule of first come first serve is used widely in the country.
What should I know about Niger?
Niger is one of the most underdeveloped and poorest country in Africa and yet it is a home to some of the largest uranium wells in the world. The official language is French however you will find that there are other local languages spoken in the country.
Where is Niger located?
Niger is an African country that is located in the western part of the continent and neighbored by countries like Benin and Burkina Faso.
What is Niger’s currency?
The currency that is used in Niger is the West African Franc. This is used for most of the transactions that are carried out in the country and every tourist is advised to at least change their money into the CFA franc for easy purchase and payment of the goods and services in the country.
What is the weather like in Niger?
Niger is considered to be one of the hottest countries in the world with temperatures rising up to 41 degrees Celsius. The rainy season starts in May and ends in October whereas the dry season is from November to April.
What do I need before I travel to Niger?
There quite a lot things that you need but the most important ones include the yellow fever immunization card, a tourist visa, passport and you will also need to show that you can fully sustain yourself while in the country.
What will I eat in Niger?
While there are lots of international cuisines that are prepared in Niger, their staple food includes cassava, millet, beans, whet dumplings, sorghum, maize and porridge and all these can be got at the different restaurants and streets.
Is Niger safe for tourist?
The answer is no. Niger is not safe for tourists due to the constant fighting in the country, mugging, stealing and several surprise attacks and terrorism which is done by the Al-Qaeda. So generally the country is off limits at the moment.