The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Nigeria: Everything You Need to Know
Planning a trip to Nigeria? Here is everything you need to know before you visit the West African country, and how to plan your trip: from visa processing, hotel reservation and tourist attractions, etc.
- Know Nigeria
- Requirements/Checklist for Nigerian Tourist Visa
- How to Apply for a Nigerian Visa
- International Flights and Airports
- Domestic Flights and Airports
- Airport Transfers
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.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, and it is the continent’s largest oil producer. The South-South region, also known as Niger Delta, is Nigeria’s oil-rich region.
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.
Here are the major and most important cities in Nigeria:
- Abuja: The capital of Nigeria (FCT), with beautiful rolling terrain and modern Nigerian architecture. Most Government agencies are headquartered in Abuja. As a result, the embassies, high commissions or consulates of most countries are situated here.
- Lagos: The most populous city in Africa with a population of over 21 million (2019), Lagos is the former colonial capital of Nigeria and its commercial hub. Lagos is the busiest city in Nigeria.
- Calabar: The tourist destination of Nigeria boasting of the following amazing attractions: Obudu Cattle Ranch, Afi Nature Reserve, Agbokim Waterfalls, Tinapa Resort, Marina Resort, among others. Calabar is also one of Nigeria’s oil-rich states.
- Port Harcourt: This is the capital of Rivers State and the largest city in the Nigeri Delta, Nigeria’s oil-rich region.
- Benin City: This is one of Nigerian’s most ancient cities, dating back to pre-colonial times. It boasted one of the most advanced and organised kingdoms before the arrival of the British. The city used to be the capital of the old Bendel state until this was divided into Edo and Delta. Benin City is the capital of Edo state.
- Enugu: Derived from the Igbo words “hill top”, Enugu is the capital city of Enugu State. Tourist attractions include: Udi Hills, Polo Amusement Park, Enugu Zoo, National Museum, and Michael Okpara Square. Enugu’s former coal mines, Onyeama and Okpara, are also open for tourist visits.
- Ibadan: Geographically (in terms of land mass), Ibadan is the largest city in Africa. It is the heart of Yorubaland with the following tourist attractions, among others: National Museum, Bower Memorial Tower, The University of Ibadan and Botanical Garden.
- Kano: The commercial city of northern Nigeria, and one of the most important cities in the country. Kano boasts of the following tourist attractions: Gidan Makama Museum, Gidan Dan Hausa Museum and Kano State Cultural Centre, Kurmi Market, Sani Abacha Stadium, and the Great Mosque.
- Osogbo: Home of the Sacred Grove of Osun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Osogbo (pronounced Oshogbo) is one of Nigeria’s important cities. Major tourist attraction here is the Secret Grove of Osun, a sacred forest along the banks of the Ọsun (Oshun) River just outside the city, dedicated to the river goddess. The Osun-Osogbo Grove is among the last of the sacred forests which usually adjoin the edges of most Yoruba cities before extensive urbanization.
Unless you are from the West African sub-region or from a country with special visa waiver agreements with Nigeria, you will require a visa to enter Nigeria.
Applying for and getting a Nigerian visa is easy once you know the application process and meet the requirements. The process and requirements are largely the same for all Nigerian embassies/consulates or high commissions, with just slight differences for some.
The most common visa types are tourist and business visas. Others are Temporary Work Permit (TWP), Subject to Regularization (STR), Transit Visa, Diplomatic Visa and Visa on Arrival.
Requirements/Checklist for Nigerian Tourist Visa
The Nigerian tourist visa is issued to visitors who want to visit friends and family in Nigeria or for the purpose of tourism. It is valid for 90 days (i.e. three months). To apply for an entry 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.
These are broadly the general requirements for processing a Nigerian visa. However, some countries/embassies require other specific requirements in addition to the above, such as yellow fever vaccination.
For instance, here are more specific Nigerian visa requirements and application procedure for South Africa and the United States.
Visa processing duration too 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.
Additionally, most embassies require appearance in person while some don’t necessarily require your visit. Also, some countries/embassies may require biometric (the United States for instance require a visit to the embassy and biometric capturing).
How to Apply for a Nigerian Visa
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.
After submitting your application, you may be invited for a visa interview within a few days, after which you should get your visa. Nigerian tourist visa is valid for 90 days (three months).
Get a Nigerian Visa on Arrival in 48 Hours!
(VoA Approval Letter + Invitation Letter + CAC Certificate)
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.
You will find a rich array of Nigerian dishes in most restaurants and hotels. Almost all restaurants serve Western foods.
You can buy a plate of decent food for anything from 40 US cents to $100. The larger restaurants and bigger hotels offer specialized foreign cuisine. There are Chinese, French, American, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, Lebanese and other pedigree of restaurants in big cities.
Some Nigerian delicacies are sold outdoors over an eternally lit traditional barbecue machine. Kebabs (known as suya), roasted plantain (Bole), corn, peanuts, yam and local plum (yummy with corn, available May to September) are very popular warm snacks loved across the social spectrum.
A lot of Nigerian meals are a combination of vegetables, cassava (often locally processed into grains — garri), yam, potatoes and loads of fruits, fish, crayfish, meat (including game, known in Nigeria as bush meat).
The pepper soup, fresh fish and bush meat are served as accompaniment to drinks in most bars.
Edikang ikong, a rich, leafy delicacy from Efik land (and to some extent among the Ibibios) of the South South is probably Nigeria’s most famous and most cosmopolitan meal. It is served in many restaurants from the smallest to the biggest hotels.
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 clothing is usually a loose embroidered or floral top and a pair of slacks or baggy shorts, or wrapper (a sari-like piece of colourful ankle-length cloth wrapped around the waist, for women).
They come in a variety of colours, designs and textures – and prices. The clothing etiquette is different in the north, which has strong Arabic influence.
Most workers and business people in northern Nigeria put on flowing robes – most of them white – or equally acceptable but more casual kaftans, with cuff links, and sandals.
Nigerian wears do not require socks.
Cloth weaving is an affectionate Nigerian art and the backbone of the ever-evolving Nigerian traditional haute couture.
The Akwete cloth expresses itself through the delicate art of cloth making that found origin in Akwete, a small town in Abia State is fast changing the dress fashion of many women who live in, or come to the country.
The Akwete cloth produced on a wide loom in delicate and rich patterns has a width of a little more than a yard and is considered as fine workmanship by Nigerians and foreigners.
Woven on narrow looms notably in the small town of lseyin in Oyo State, and among the industrious Ebira people who live in Okene, Kogi State the glittering, regal Aso Oke is extensively worn by Nigerians and foreign aficionados for society weddings and big traditional events.
The adire, made from a variety of cloths, and dyed into elegant, avant-garde patterns — and sometimes teasy — surrealistic motifs, is probably the most popular and most worn of Nigerian cloths. It emerges from the dying pits of Abeoukuta (Ogun State and several other towns, each with its own snooty artistic statement.
You can find in Nigeria practically all the type of drinks you can buy in the United States or elsewhere – beers, sodas, scotch, brandies, champagnes, cocktails…
The chapman, a non-alcoholic cocktail, is a Nigerian specialty that thrills many visitors.
Another one is of course the palm wine, which is “tapped” from the raffia palm tree and is sold fresh in suburbs or as sterilized bottled beers in some pubs.
A popular traditional brew in the north is known as brukutu – a chocolate-coloured, faintly sour fermented drink made from sorghum. It is served in calabashes mostly in home brewery-bars. But brukutu festivals abound.
Nigerians do not believe in splitting bills at the pub. As a matter of fact they often mock people who do. Many foreigners would consider it wise to pool their money together in advance and designate someone to pay on behalf of the group.
Free food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are usually served at parties, public and private functions. Provision is always made for uninvited guests and people accompanying invited guests.
Another thing that may surprise foreign visitors is that there are generally no fixed bar closing hours. Many bars will remain open until the last client is served – sometimes as late as 5.00 a.m.
In Nigeria, there are no age restrictions for the purchase of alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. When a family has a visitor, a pre-teen boy is often sent out to buy the beer next door. But interestingly there is no problem of under-age consumption of adult products. And children are not served alcohol in bars, of course.
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 mornings the molue often has preachers and medicine hawkers singing and sometimes amusing the passengers. The smaller buses ply the highways and the side streets.
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.
There are commuter trains and ferries in Lagos. But most people take the train for long distance – and utterly picturesque, if slow – trips. A very large number of Nigerians travel by plane. At a point, many made the 150-km journey between Lagos and Ibadan by plane.
International Flights and Airports
Domestic Flights and Airports
Nigerian airlines offer excellent services. Except for delays among some operators, air travel in Nigeria is distinctly pleasant.
Some of the airlines have first class seats serving everything from cognac and champagne to a three-course meal. Some airlines manage to serve a full meal to economy passengers even on 55-minute flights.
Most of the 36 states and Abuja have an airport at the capital.