Is it Safe to Travel to Nigeria? 3 Safety Tips

Nigeria is fraught with political instability, terrorism and crime. If you choose to travel against the advice of your government, here's what you need to know about personal safety.

Kaduna Abuja Expressway, Nigeria Photo © Getty Images/Irene Becker Photography

In September 2019, attacks on foreign-owned shops in and around Johannesburg led to deadly riots. The violence spilled over into Nigeria, where people responded by attacking South African-owned shops. The South African embassy in Nigeria has been closed due to threats. If you are traveling to Nigeria, here are a few tips on what to do if you are traveling in a country experiencing civil unrest.

Nigeria is currently a very dangerous place to travel. Check your government's travel advice before you go to this West African nation.

There are warnings that are in place for terrorism risks, kidnapping and other violent crime. The country's track record for crime against foreigners had been pretty grim, with the U.S. Department of State reporting more than 140 foreign nationals have been kidnapped, and six of them killed, since 2009.

Political Instability

Many of these and other problems can be attributed to the country's political instability, terrorist sects, religious division and issues with oil companies; in fact, Western oil employees continue to be targeted for attacks and abductions. Ships carrying oil and oil rigs near the Niger Delta have also been targeted for kidnapping. Several foreign visitors, however, have been abducted for political or monetary reasons as well.

Terror Groups

The terrorism issue in Nigeria is mainly attributable to two extremist groups, called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Boko Haram, the Islamist sect. This latter group fights with Christians in the north and has increased its attacks in recent years. In early 2012 there are almost daily reports of violence resulting in deaths.

MEND is the group focused on oil and aims to take control of this and other natural resources, such as gas, in the country, particularly the region of the Niger Delta. This group has also claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks. Due to these incidents, curfews exist in certain areas, such as Kaduna City.

No-Go Zones

Several Nigerian provinces are considered no-go areas due to terrorist and criminal activities and attacks. This includes Borno State, Akwa Ibom State, Plateau State, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers and the area bordering Cameroon in the Bakassi Peninsula region.

According to travellers much of the rest of Nigeria is fine for visitors. Bribery and corruption will not normally be an issue (your tour bus or taxi driver is another story, as officials at road blocks may hit those in these positions up for cash). However, the worsening situation dictates that you exercise extreme caution while travelling anywhere in this country.

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2 Comments

  • Geraldine Ojede said

    "Nigeria is currently a very dangerous place to travel"

    How so untrue. How come we don't get to see the good part of Nigeria portrayed to the rest of the world? I love my country and hey, I'm equally scared to travel to other countries where if a seemingly sane guys doesn't wake up one morning and shoot everyone and everything around him for some mundane reason, you're faced with "hurricane Theresa" or any of her relatives.

    I beg to disagree that Nigeria is currently a very dangerous place to travel.

  • Daniel said

    I have travelled to Nigeria in 2016. I went to Kano, Lagos, Yoruba-Land (southwest, e.g. Ibadan, Abeokuta) and Igbo-Land (southeast, e.g. Enugu, Onitscha, Owerri). It was by far the best travel experience in my life (so far). People have an incredible zest for life despite all the problems and the extreme poverty. There is a stark contrast between the south and the north though. In the South (which is mainly Christian), people are surprisingly well educated and cultured and always have high spirits. Everybody speaks good English. Wherever you go, you will be welcomed by warmhearted and hospitable people and smiling faces. These people are so charismatic and charming, its wonderful! Of course, you will encounter people every now and then who will try to take advantage of you. But you'll find that all over the world. The North (mainly muslim), is a different story, however. For one thing, there is the problem of islamic extremism which is a very serious concern there. So you want to be very cautious with trips to the countryside, especially to the northeast (Borno). I personally lived next to an Army compound in Kano. People in the North are clearly less vibrant and thus less fun to be around. Most people have a somewhat cheerless expression on their faces and I encountered hostile people on several occasions (for example when I tried to take pictures of a vaccination campaign in the middle of the street). So people wise the North is definitely less intriguing that the South. On the other hand, people in the North hardly try to trick you into some funny business.

    Here are some travel tips:

    If you are white, get a guide and/or a driver! Do it. You will not get very far without them, believe me. I tried in Lagos to go on my own, it's impossible. You will be stopped by so called "Area Boys" at the next intersection. Just get a good guide (ask at the hotel you are staying at) and enjoy your time there.

    Personally, I always stay out of "trouble", i.e. no drugs, no hookers, no bar fights. In Nigeria, I even refrained from going out at nights. I probably missed some unforgettable partying in Lagos (supposed to be great) but I am just too old for this sh*** and there is plenty of ways to enjoy yourself during the day.

    Try to go to different regions. This country is so diverse, its mind boggling. There are like 250 ethnicities with different languages, customs, traditions. So travel to different areas, e.g. Kano in the North which is heavily influenced by Islam and Arab culture (tribes are Hausa and Fulani), the South-East (Ibgo and mainly Catholic) and Yoruba-Land (southwest, mainly Christian with large minority of muslims).

    If you stay in Lagos or other large cities, you'll not see Nigeria. Hire a driver and discover the countryside. Visit a school in the middle of nowhere, you will see children that have never seen a white man in their lives and freak totally out. Get out of the car and speak to people. You will fall in love with them and get addicted to their vitality.

    Note that as far as I know, there are no agencies, just go to the reception of your hotel and ask for help. You'll be set in half an hour. These people are so creative and spontaneous, they will find you a driver in no time!

    Be openminded. During my short stay of two weeks, I was asked to play a short role in a Nollywood movie (which I did!), ended up at an Igbo wedding and stayed at the house of a family with twelve children. You will never forget these things. But this requires that you are open minded. Be spontaneous and good things will come to you.

    In short: go to Nigeria!

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