Is it safe to travel to Nigeria? | Anambra | bonnibellechukwuneta.com

Is it safe to travel to Nigeria?

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Last updated June 7, 2024.

This is a blog post answering the following: is it safe to travel to Nigeria?

Nigeria is often referred to as the Giant of Africa. It’s a country full of vibrant culture, history, and natural beauty.

However, it’s a destination that’s misunderstood and has some misconceptions about safety in my opinion.

Some travelers are weary of potential danger in the country, and concerning headlines, tales, and stereotypes don’t make the picture any prettier. All of this leads to missed opportunities to experience one of the most dynamic and diverse nations on the African continent.

I have family in Nigeria, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many times, both with family and solo. If there’s anything I can do as a travel blogger, it’s to lend my voice and words to help portray Nigeria and Africa in a more accurate and positive light.

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect when traveling to Nigeria and how to navigate the country confidently.

Is it safe to travel to Nigeria?

Nigeria isn’t the safest place in the world, and income inequality and political corruption make things dire on the streets. It’s not uncommon to hear about the following types of crimes or incidents taking place:

  • Petty crime and pickpocketing
  • Scams and bribery
  • Terrorism (particularly in northern regions)
  • Civil and ethnic unrest
  • Kidnapping and robberies
  • Police harassment

These are the realities on the ground, and it would be inaccurate to write this blog post without mentioning them. However, Nigeria is just another country with its share of struggles. It’s hypocritical to cite things like police harassment and terrorism as reasons not to go there when those are common occurrences in countries like the United States.

Nigeria on a map of the Global Peace Index. Nigeria ranks 144th of 163 countries for safety and peace. | Is it safe to travel to Nigeria? | BonnibelleChukwuneta.com
Nigeria ranks 144th of 163 countries for safety with a global average comparable to popular tourism spots like Colombia, Israel, and Türkiye. The United States is ranked 131. Source: Vision of Humanity.

Travel advisories, headlines, and stereotypes mean travelers may need clarification or guidance on whether or not travel to Nigeria is possible or worthwhile. Here are some common myths about travel to Nigeria, the realities of experiencing the country as a visitor, and essential safety tips for your travel plans.

Debunking common myths and misconceptions about Nigeria

Myth #1: All of Nigeria is dangerous.

Reality: Nigeria is a country just like any other and has areas that are safer than others. My travels have taught me there isn’t such a thing as a 100% safe or dangerous country, and Nigeria is no different.

Major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, and Kano, to name a few, have established tourist areas where visitors can enjoy a variety of attractions with minimal risk. If you don’t have friends or family to show you around, I recommend connecting with a travel company or tour guide for guidance.

Nigeria: Travel Advice, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. U.K. Government | Is it safe to travel to Nigeria? | bonnibellechukwuneta.com
Nigeria safety map from the U.K. government. I like to check their guidelines since they have closer ties with Nigeria. For more tips, visit their travel advice page.

No matter what you do, always research and stay informed about the areas you’ll be visiting—the same way you would when traveling to any other foreign destination.

Myth #2: Tourists are frequent targets and victims.

Reality: Tourists are rarely targeted in Nigeria, especially in recent years. I may even say they sometimes receive better treatment than locals—Nigerians are known for being incredibly kind and hospitable to foreigners.

Practice common sense and take basic precautions, and you’ll have a safe and enjoyable experience. Some quick tips:

  • Avoid isolated areas, especially if you’re traveling solo
  • Don’t flaunt or wear too many valuables; be wary of pickpockets
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Let friends and family know of your whereabouts

Do this and other universal travel tips, and you shouldn’t have any issues. As I mentioned earlier, locals are welcoming and eager to help, especially if you treat them with respect and take a genuine interest in them. They’ll make sure you have a positive and enriching travel experience.

Myth #3: Nigeria doesn’t have good healthcare and medical facilities.

Reality: Nigeria is in the top 5 among African countries according to the Global Health Security Index.

Remember how there was fear of an African humanitarian crisis like no other during the COVID-19 pandemic and it didn’t happen? It was in part due to a lot of the continent already having Ebola outbreak policies in place—the same travel restrictions and isolation measures were adopted for COVID-19.

African hospitals might not be as developed as the west or others but deserve credit when and where it’s due. Rural areas are limited to healthcare options, but urban centers like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, in particular, are equipped with hospitals, clinics, and equipment that provide quality care and comfort.

Admittedly, these things aren’t accessible to everyone, but someone with foreign currency and means might be able to consider them. It’s an unfortunate reality that’s common well beyond Nigeria’s borders. People with the means can access better quality care.

Traveling with comprehensive health insurance can keep you safe and reduce health concerns. Either make sure you have coverage with your current plan or sign up for travel health insurance like SafetyWing. Also, make sure you have the necessary vaccinations before your trip.

Current safety situation in Nigeria

Millions of travelers explore Nigeria every year, especially during the holidays for Detty December (#DettyDecember) festivities, and they have a blast. I certainly have. Understanding the country’s situation and its safe spots and hot spots is essential for planning a good trip and having a great time.

Some areas of Nigeria are experiencing unrest and are no-travel zones, like Borno state. Still, many parts of the country are peaceful and welcoming to tourists and diasporans alike. Here are some states and their travel advisories:

🔴 Places to avoid

  • Borno
  • Yobe
  • Adamawa
  • Gombe
  • Katsina

🟡 Travel with caution (best for essential travel)

  • Anambra
  • Delta
  • Imo
  • Kano
  • Rivers

🟢 Places you should visit

  • Lagos
  • Edo
  • Akwa Ibom
  • Cross Rivers
  • Abuja

For what it’s worth, I went to Delta and Anambra multiple times last year and had no concerns, and I look forward to exploring Kano and its rich heritage, and writing about it, during a future visit.

I keep a low profile, stay polite, and smile at the frequent police checkpoints, and they usually leave me alone. Still, be alert, practice caution, and be respectful of your surroundings.

More safety information and resources:

Anambra, Nigeria | Is it safe to travel to Nigeria? | bonnibellechukwuneta.com
I took this photo while out for a walk with my sister and cousins in Anambra.

Preparing for your trip

Research and planning before takeoff

Thorough research and planning are crucial before any trip, but you want to make sure to do that with a country like Nigeria. The visa and travel procedures are a bit complicated, so starting the process early can help you minimize complications or delays with your application.

Here are some links to help you with your trip:

Travel documents

Most travelers need a visa to enter Nigeria; you can find the application online on the Nigeria Immigration Services website. It costs $170 as an American applicant and is a 2-step process that requires an in-person visit to an embassy or processing office to get your biometrics done.

As always, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the day of your trip. Having all your documents in order will help you avoid hassle and bribery attempts at the airport.

You can learn more about Nigeria’s visa and entry requirements here.

Vaccinations and medical considerations

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations when you’re traveling to Nigeria:

  • Yellow fever
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Meningitis
  • Polio

Some of these are vaccines you may have gotten when you were younger, and the yellow fever vaccine is now lifetime immunity, so you only need it once. Consult with your physician to figure out what you need at least 1 month before you travel.

It might seem like a lot, but Nigeria still has diseases like Polio and tuberculosis circulating. Visiting your doctor or travel nurse will make sure you’re good to go regarding up-to-date vaccinations and preventative care.

My doctor usually updates me on vaccine cycles and prescribes me an anti-malarial series, which I start before my flight from San Francisco, and nausea medication in case I get food poisoning or have issues from drinking contaminated water. I’ve used this medication before—it’s a lifesaver.

Even with vaccines, practicing general health and safety measures to protect yourself is still advisable. Here are some extra tips to keep in mind as you travel:

  • Practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently. Carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes, just in case.
  • Eat foods from clean, safe establishments and only drink bottled water. I avoid the popular pure water sachets myself.
  • Wear protective clothing and bug spray outdoors, especially if you’re prone to bites.
  • Consider travel health insurance like SafetyWing if your current options don’t cover you abroad.

Cultural sensitivity and etiquette

Thanks to pop culture, Nigeria is growing in popularity, but that doesn’t mean the country doesn’t have conservative values, even in places like Lagos. Visiting the country with an understanding of different Nigerian customs and traditions can help make sure you have a good experience.

Nigeria is diverse, with over 250 ethnic groups and over 525 native languages spoken, with Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo being the most common ones. Pidgin English is a language most Nigerians understand, so learning a few phrases can help you build rapport with locals.

Some tips to keep in mind as you travel:

  • Dress modestly, especially when visiting villages, rural areas, or religious sites. While I’ve yet to see the north, visiting parts of the east and southwest still felt restrictive, like what you’d assume you’d find in other regions—just something to keep in mind.
  • Be polite and greet people when you can. Folks are naturally curious and courteous, and presenting yourself in a friendly manner can help set the tone for the interactions you have.
  • Try new things and be open-minded. One thing I notice when I travel to Nigeria is that some locals have assumptions about folks not willing to try or acclimate to their customs—something they often experience with diaspora family members. If you’re willing to do things like the locals, not only will you be accepted, but they’ll show you a good time.
A statue in Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria | Is it safe to travel to Nigeria? | bonnibellechukwuneta.com
I took this photo while visiting Ikorodu, a suburb in Lagos, Nigeria.

Local and solo safety tips

The world can be a scary place—that goes for Nigeria, the United States, and any other destination. Staying safe starts with you, though, and you should feel empowered to travel almost anywhere. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself during your trip:

  • Travel to safe areas and lean on friends, family, and tour guides if you’re exploring parts of the country for the first time.
  • Avoid dangerous areas, and don’t walk alone at night.
  • Use rideshare apps like Uber and Bolt and share your location with loved ones to keep yourself safe.
  • Maintain a low profile and avoid wearing flashy items if you can.
  • Carry some cash in case your cards aren’t accepted or you have an emergency.
  • Be respectful of your surroundings and the locals welcoming you to their country.

Must-visit destinations in Nigeria

Lagos

Lagos is Nigeria’s largest city, a bustling metro known for its vibrant nightlife, beautiful beaches, and cultural attractions. Visit the Lekki Conservation Centre, Nike Art Gallery, and Tarkwa Bay Beach.

Abuja

Abuja is the capital of Nigeria and home to the federal government. It’s known for its modern architecture, serene landscapes, and urban planning. Visit Aso Rock, Millennium Park, and Bature Brewery—Nigeria’s first brewery!

Calabar

Calabar is the gateway to Cross River, one of Nigeria’s most beautiful states if you like greenery. Visit Obudu Mountain Resort, Drill Ranch, and Cross River National Park if you can make the 2½ – hour journey north.

Enugu

Enugu is nicknamed Coal City and often called 042, its telephone area code. It’s rich in heritage, good local cuisine, and breathtaking landscapes. Visit the Ngwo Pine Forest and the National Museum of Unity, and be on the lookout for festivals.

Emergency contacts and resources

It’s important to know who to contact should there be an emergency. Nigeria’s former president, Muhammad Buhari, implemented a universal emergency number, 112, that people can use. I’ve read if you dial 911, it still directs you to Nigeria’s 112 number.

Here are some numbers to keep nearby:

Emergency: Dial 112 (911 will redirect you to 112 in Nigeria); for police, road safety (FRSC), fire service, ambulance service, etc.

Emergency Response Africa: 0800 0255 5375

Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC): Dial 122 for road accidents, car breakdowns, and other traffic-related emergencies

For more emergency numbers, visit this page.

Embrace Nigerian culture and wander confidently

Nigeria is a country of vibrant culture and warm hospitality, and part of me feels compelled to write about it because it’s easy to miss out on unique experiences due to preconceptions.

It’s incredibly important to stay informed and take precautions to keep yourself safe—just as you would if you were visiting New York, Paris, or Mexico City. But many regions are safe and welcoming to tourists.

Pay attention to trends and statistics in the regions you want to visit and plan accordingly. Most importantly, embrace the environment and experience.

Safe travels!

Is it safe to travel to Nigeria? Pinterest pin | BonnibelleChukwuneta.com

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