Whether you plan to travel to Nigeria for the first time or as a repeat visitor, there are certain things you must know (and do) in order to have a safe, worthwhile travel experience.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is generally regarded as a high-risk country for many reasons:
Terrorism due to the Boko Haram insurgency, the Niger-Delta militants, political unrest due to bad governance, kidnapping, robbery, fraud and internet scams commonly regarded in the West African country as “Yahoo-Yahoo”.
All these make visiting Nigeria sort of a hectic and scary adventure, especially for the first time visitor. This is why it is pertinent that you use a trusted travel agency when visiting Nigeria. For starters, the travel company will arrange your visit, send you a letter of invitation, take immigration responsibilities (which is one of the measures to ensure you’re absolutely safe), make hotel reservation and pick you up at the airport, and even drop you off at departure! .
So what should you know before taking the trip to Nigeria?
Here’s how to travel to Nigeria safely and with ease
1. Research your destination thoroughly
You need sufficiently accurate and detailed information about your location in Nigeria prior to your visit. There is a lot of information on the net, but I can assure most of that is not accurate, and not exactly helpful. Other than getting random pieces of information here and there, you can get free, accurate, customized information about your visit from a trusted travel partner, Destinali.
You can ask just about any destination in Nigeria and get reliable information that will make you feel at ease when you arrive. Travelling to Nigeria without sufficient information can leave you frustrated, sort of.
Much of the information you should seek has to do with safety of the area, transportation, food, etc. Gather as much information as possible to help you take informed decisions about your visit to Nigeria.
2. Make Your Reservation With a Trusted Travel Company
When booking a room online, always book through a trusted company. Make sure you secure your accommodation upfront and get a reservation confirmation before embarking on the trip.
The last thing you want is to have accommodation problem when you arrive.
3. Get a Yellow Fever Vaccination before travelling to Nigeria
Yellow fever is a viral infection most prevalent in South American and African countries, though very rarely in Nigeria. However, to eliminate the risk of contacting the virus, travellers are strongly advised to get vaccinated against the virus before travelling to Nigeria.
In fact, in some countries, you won’t be let in the plane to Nigeria without evidence of yellow fever vaccination. Besides, on arrival at the airport in Nigeria, the Immigration will demand for your yellow fever vaccination card. Failure to provide that will be a glorious avenue for money extortion from you.
How far in advance do you need yellow fever vaccine before you travel to Nigeria?
Well, it is advised you take the yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days before you travel. While the vaccination is lifelong for many, those at a high risk of contacting the virus will need the vaccine at least once in ten years.
4. Getting a letter of invitation to Nigeria
An invitation letter by your host or organisation in Nigeria is one of the visa application requirements. Your company/organisation or host in Nigeria should send you a letter of invitation, accepting immigration responsibility.
If, however, you’re visiting on your own, here’s how to get a letter of invitation to Nigeria. Or, you can simply apply for a letter of invitation here.
5. Evidence of proper travelling arrangement
The Nigerian embassy/high commission/consulate where you will apply for a visa will demand for evidence of proper travelling arrangement from you. This could be in form of a reservation confirmation from the hotel.
If you schedule your visit through Destinali, you should get a reservation confirmation even without paying upfront for accommodation.
6. Getting a Nigerian visa
Unless you’re from West Africa and hold an ECOWAS passport, or you’re from a country with special visa waiver agreements with Nigeria, you will need a visa to travel to Nigeria.
Getting a Nigerian visa takes within days to weeks, depending on the circumstances and your country of residence.
7. You can get a Nigerian visa on arrival
The Nigerian Visa on Arrival (VoA) program is an alternative if it is much stress for you getting a visa in your country of residence. The thing is you must get an approval letter from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) before you can qualify to travel and get a visa at the port of entry upon arrival.
Though many travellers to Nigeria prefer to get a visa on arrival, there is a ‘cat in hell’s chance’ you will get an approval. Unless of course you belong to the rank and file, or you choose the easier path of paying a travel agency in Nigeria to facilitate an approval letter for you.
The Nigeria Visa on Arrival approval takes up to two business days to process, and here’s how to apply and certainly get an approval fast.
8. When visiting a ‘friend’, make an alternative accommodation arrangement
If you are visiting a friend, especially for the first time, you are better off staying in a hotel at least initially. Don’t go straight to their home as the living conditions might be horrible or sub standard.
Book a hotel and stay there for a few days before you can move to your friend’s home if you are satisfied.
9. Carry little cash
Carry less cash with you if you are travelling to Nigeria. You want to at all times avoid the risk of being robbed or swindled. If you must lose any money, it should be ‘disposable’ cash.
You can make purchases with your VISA or MasterCard, and sometimes you may have to inform your card issue of your trip to make paying with your card a lot easier and safer for you.
10. Change money only inside the airport or genuine bureau de change
You may need to change some cash to the Nigerian local currency (Naira). You will get genuine and the best exchange rates INSIDE THE AIRPORT arrival hall. If you change money outside the airport, you may get fake notes or mysterious notes that will ‘vanish’ thereafter.
You may also change to Naira in the hotel, but exchange rate at the hotel is normally lower. Your best bet is to change to Naira before you step out of the airport.
11. Get a tour guide
The need for knowledgeable tour guide cannot be over emphasized, especially if you intend to travel to Nigeria for the first time. Apart from the safety risk involved, if you are not with a local, prices for almost anything will rise astronomically. This is one of the reasons you must plan your visit with a reliable travel agency in Nigeria.
Qualitative tour guide will ensure you get added safety, have a local’s knowledge of your destination, and saves you a lot of costs.
12. Enjoy your visit
Enjoy your stay in Nigeria as much as possible. Far from all the fear-mongering, you will be pleasantly surprised about a lot of things in Nigeria.
Safe travels and share your experience in the comments.