Traveling to Nigeria overland? The first thing to think of when traveling through Nigeria overland is safety. Consequently, it is strongly advised not to enter through the North via Niger Republic due to safety concerns posed by the terrorist Islamist sects Boko Haram and ISWAP.
Despite the issues and often misconceptions about Nigeria, it remains an interesting country to explore and have a first-hand experience.
Nigeria at a glance…
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the seventh most populous country in the world with a population of about 200 million people (as at 2019).
A Western African country, Nigeria is bordered to the south by the Gulf of Guinea, to the west by Benin Republic, to the southeast by Cameroon, to the northeast by Chad, and to the north by Niger Republic.
Nigeria has 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. These states are further grouped into six regions (geopolitical zones):
While other regions of Nigeria are relatively peaceful and safe to visit, there is threat of Boko Haram terrorism in the northeast. Due to this insurgency, the US State Department and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against travel to any of the northeastern states of Nigeria, viz: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.
Though Nigeria has approximately 400 ethnic groups with over 450 local languages, the main language for communication and business is English. Other major languages are Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo.
Visitors to Nigeria are usually advised to take vaccination for Yellow Fever, though it is not compulsory. Also due to the tropical nature of Nigeria, take special health precautions against malaria and zika virus.
Malaria is prevalent in tropical and sub-Saharan Africa, caused by mosquito bites. Traveling with mosquito treated nets will help, though that will not be for hotel stay.
Nigeria is warm all-year, except for the occasional harmattan chill and some frigid temperatures on elevated areas like Jos and Pankshin in Plateau State and Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State.
Pack light cotton-based, comfortable clothing and a hat or cap and pairs of sandals for casual pursuits.
No provocative dressing please, especially in the north or in the villages.
For business meetings, pack a suit. Nigerian official dressing is conservative and formal. Dressing often determines the kind of reception you get and improper or casual dressing at an official engagement is not encouraged. But shirtsleeves and a tie are usually sufficient.
Donning a traditional Nigerian attire is almost always a plus and a conversation-starter. A foreigner in Nigerian clothing receives great admiration and trust. It is a good way to impress and earn confidence.
Nigerian cities are linked by broad highways and multiple-lane expressways. In some places, the roads are not as broad and good as Western roads.
Lagos and Abuja have a spaghetti of “fly-over” bridges in the centre of the town to ease traffic.
Lagos is notorious for its multitude of automobiles and frequent rush-hour traffic snarls on some of the bridges that link the Lagos peninsula to the Lagos mainland.
The speed limit in Nigeria is 120 kilometres per hour. Members of the Federal Road Safety Commission who enforce traffic regulations would normally give tickets to motorists who go beyond 120 on the expressways.
Even though there are modern taxi services like Uber and Bolt in some of the major cities, many Nigerians go to work by bus. The most famous is the “molue”, a huge yellow bus – the size of a US school bus found mostly in Lagos. It is cheap and sometimes fun to ride on.
In the big cities, there are usually as many as a bus a minute. The bus conductor, a very dramatic individual hangs out of the bus, fluttering like a flag, and shouting the destination as well as announcing approaching bus stops.
Entering Nigeria Overland
Depending on where exactly you want to visit in Nigeria, you have to decide on the best possible way to cross. The best and safest routes are:
- the Cameroonian border through Ikom in Cross River State (South South Nigeria);
- through Benin Republic via the Seme Border to Lagos (South West Nigeria).
If you are like most overlanders, then the best choice is to cross through Seme Border to Lagos. Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria and you can easily connect to any city from Lagos.
If you plan to get a Nigerian visa on arrival, then crossing through the Seme border from Benin Republic to Lagos is the best (and perhaps your only) choice.
Getting a Nigerian visa can be a bit tricky, but also easy at the same time. You need to understand the Nigerian visa requirements and application process before embarking on your trip.
One mistake most tourists traveling to Nigeria overland often make is to leave their country of residence before applying for a Nigerian visa.
Just to be clear, you can only get a Nigerian visa in a country where you have permanent residence status. Unless, of course, you are applying for a visa on arrival, which has it’s own cons (we will get back to this in a moment).
So, the chances of getting a Nigerian visa when you are in countries like Mali, Ghana, Benin, Togo, or any other country, are very slim if not non-existent.
Your best bet is to get a Nigerian visa in your country of residence prior to your trip. However, if you have embarked on your trip before thinking visas, you can get a Nigerian visa on arrival but there is a procedure you must follow and a small cost to pay.
Essentially, there are two ways to get a Nigerian visa:
- At the embassy or consulate in your country of residence; or
- On arrival
Getting a Nigerian Tourist/Visitor Visa in Your Resident Country
The Nigerian tourist visa is valid for 90 days (i.e. three months). To apply for a visitor/tourist visa to Nigeria, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Passport valid for at least 6 months with at least 2 blank visa pages for endorsement;
- Two recent passport photographs (white background);
- Evidence of sufficient funds (3 months bank statement);
- Address of host in Nigeria or hotel reservation confirmation;
- Letter of Invitation from a host in Nigeria.
Visa processing duration varies for different countries and processing centres. It could be as fast as 5 days or up to 3 weeks (or even longer), as the case may be.
If you have the visa requirements (with a Nigerian visa invitation letter), here is how you can apply for a Nigerian visa:
- Fill the online application form on the Nigerian Immigration website. After completion of application, print out the completed form and sign on it.
- Proceed with payment of the visa fee (online) and print out the payment receipt.
- Attach 2 passport sized photographs to completed Visa Form IMM22, along with the other requirements (letter of invitation, reservation confirmation, etc.) and submit to the Nigerian High Commission/Embassy/Consulate.
You can find Nigerian embassies/high commissions for all countries with their addresses and contacts here.
Getting a Nigerian Visa on Arrival
If you are crossing through Seme Border to Lagos, you may opt to get a visa on arrival (VoA) but here is what you must know before making the decision:
- The visa is actually not issued at the border (Seme); it is issued instead at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
- An Immigration officer will escort you from the border to the Airport where you will be issued the visa. However, you will pay the transport cost (usually around 25,000 NGN (about 68 USD).
- To qualify to travel and get a Nigerian visa on arrival, you must first apply and get a letter of approval from the Comptroller General of Immigration. Approval can be obtained within two business days.
- Nigerian visa on arrival (VoA) is given to non-African passport holders as business visa. This means before the visa is approved, an invitation letter from a company in Nigeria with a valid certificate of incorporation must be presented. This is where we come in. We do the processing, present required documents and get you an approval for an extra 100 bucks (100 USD) plus the visa and processing fees.
Here is how the Nigerian visa on arrival (VoA) approval letter looks like:
The good thing is you can verify the letter of approval online on the immigration portal so you can be sure of the authenticity before arriving at the border.
Need help processing a Nigerian visa on arrival (VoA) or getting a letter of invitation? Get in touch with us: