Nigeria travel guide feature photo

Nigeria travel guide: discover the giant of Africa

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING I RECEIVE A COMMISSION FOR PURCHASES MADE THROUGH THESE LINKS AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

If you’re looking for the ultimate travel guide to Nigeria, you’ve come to the right place.

As an American Nigerian, it brings me joy whenever I get to write about my family’s homeland. I’ve been to Nigeria several times and I learn something new every time I go.

There’s enough media criticizing Nigeria and Nigerians that you won’t be hearing such from me. There are several countries that enjoy tourism money in the midst of safety and political concerns, so I don’t see why Nigeria, and the African continent at large, should be held to a different standard.

Nigeria travel guide - Bonnibelle Chukwuneta in Nigeria 2023
I always have so much fun whenever I’m visiting Nigeria. It’s vibes on vibes on vibes. ✨

With proactivity, open eyes, and an open mind, a trip to Nigeria is not only possible, but the country will guarantee you an experience like no other.

About Nigeria: The Giant of Africa

Nigeria, or the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa with a southern coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. With a population approaching 230 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and the 6th most populous country in the world. Its economy is the largest in Africa, and the 31st largest in the world by GDP.

Quick facts

Essential tips for travel to Nigeria

Visas and entry requirements

You’ll need a valid passport of at least 6 months and a tourist visa to enter Nigeria. Tourist visas are valid for 6 months with a 90-day period of stay that starts upon arrival to the country. The best time to apply for a visa to Nigeria is about 6 weeks from your departure, or 45 days.

Applying for a visa to Nigeria from the United States, especially if you’re not in Atlanta, Washington DC, or New York City where Nigeria has consulates, can be tricky and requires some patience as the process is two-fold.

Step 1 is applying for the visa. Step 2 is visiting a Nigerian consulate or partner office to get your fingerprints scanned and photos taken. This is a process introduced in 2017 for security measures.

You’ll need the following documents to get a visa to travel to Nigeria:

  • Current passport (with at least 6 months validity)
  • 2 recent passport-size photos
  • Completed visa application form (it costs $160)
  • Confirmation of online payment receipt
  • Confirmation of online acknowledgment slip
  • Letter of invitation from your host—family and friends are fine—accepting full immigration responsibility (View a sample letter)
  • Data page of your host’s passport
  • Confirmed hotel reservation (if you’re not staying with a host)
  • Flight booking confirmation showing arrival and departure
  • Proof of funds (a copy of your bank statement with your name and address—blackout/hide account or card numbers to stay safe)

If you’re applying for a visa from the United States and don’t have an American passport, you’ll also need to show proof of legal residency, like a copy of your Permanent Resident card.

Nigeria Immigration Services has an online portal for you to complete your visa application. Once you’ve completed and paid for the application and saved your confirmation pages, you’ll need to book an appointment to get your biometrics done and complete the rest of the process.

OIS is Nigeria’s partner in biometric capturing and has 6 locations in the United States where you can do your photos and fingerprints: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC. Once you hand over your visa application documents, processing times range between 48 hours and 2 weeks before it’s issued.

To apply for a Nigeria visa, visit the Nigeria Immigration Services’ website.

To schedule an appointment for Biometrics and interview, visit the OIS website.

Nigeria travel guide - expired passports welcome
If you have an expired Nigerian passport, you can still travel with it. Make sure to renew it as soon as you can!

Note: If you’re a Nigerian citizen and have an expired Nigerian passport, you’re still permitted to use it for travel. I did this in 2023 and got some laughs from customs officers in Nigeria, but no entry issues—or issues at international airports for that matter—whatsoever.

Health and safety

Vaccinations and medication

There are two vaccines you should consider before entering Nigeria: polio and yellow fever.

Yellow fever is a viral infection that frequently occurs in South America and Africa. If you’re a vaccinated traveler and frequent Latin America or other African regions, it’s likely you have this already. It’s always advisable to check with your doctor though. A yellow fever vaccination is lifelong, so get the vaccine once and you’re done.

As for polio, it’s mostly eradicated in Nigeria and they were declared polio-free in 2020, but wild strains still circulate, particularly in Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara. A vaccine is your best chance against this virus.

General safety tips

I frequently compare Nigeria to places like Costa Rica, Florida, Thailand, and other tropical climates that have a lot of insects.

You should absolutely bring bug spray. There are mosquitoes, and then there are Nigerian mosquitoes that survive fumigation attempts and laugh at many remedies and ointments according to my experience. The bites are annoying and malaria is a serious concern, even with the locals. So, I take it seriously and bring heavy duty stuff like OFF.

Also, stick to drinking bottled water when you’re in Nigeria. Clean water access is still a challenge in many parts of Nigeria, including Lagos and Abuja. 

ATMs and money etiquette

Using money in Nigeria can be tricky at the moment. Cash is hard to come by within the country and it’s not uncommon for ATMs to not have any money to disperse. I’ve heard they might not always have the best exchange rates, too.

I’m stubbornly cashless and have gotten by with sending crypto for services and payments, and apps like BOSS Money to transfer money to local accounts and businesses in the past. That’s not always an option though, so cash remains the most reliable way to get things done.

If you’re coming to Nigeria with cash, bring $100 bills for the best exchange rates. You can change your money to Naira at the airport at various stalls or get black market rates from traders on the street.

Traditional tipping isn’t really a thing in Nigeria, but it’s not uncommon to round up on bills or give an extra $1 or $2 for good service at a hotel or restaurant.

Staying connected while you’re in Nigeria

Using your phone or working remotely from Nigeria can be difficult or even impossible if you’re not prepared.

First, travel with an international plan on your phone if you can. I’m not a fan of getting local phones or sims and much prefer connecting to the local networks with my own phone. T-Mobile ONE is great for this and I’m sure other major mobile service providers offer similar plans.

If you need WiFi for work, make sure to book a hotel or Airbnb that offers it. Usually the better the hotel, the more likely they have a stable network for you to connect to. If not, then consider traveling with your own mobile hotspot like Solis (formerly Skyroam). And use a VPN when you’re working online to keep your internet connection safe. If your company doesn’t provide one, then use a service like ExpressVPN.

Also, no matter what you do, travel with a charged power bank everywhere you go. Stable power is still an issue throughout the country, and there’s nothing worse than having dead appliances and you don’t know when you’ll have electricity again.

Working remotely during your stay? Find some of my latest digital nomad packing tips here.

Destinations to explore in Nigeria

Lagos

Lagos is a large, hustle-and-bustle city and the undeniable pulse of Nigeria. With 9 million inhabitants in the city proper, it’s the most populated city in Africa as of 2023. There’s so much to see and do here, and the nightlife is like no other—ain’t no party like a Lagos party after all. I spent Detty December here in 2023 and we got home early as my cousin described it. It was 5am! It’s a city that never sleeps and an absolute marvel to explore.

Check out: Nike Art Gallery, Lekki Conservation Centre, Badagry Slave Museum, Femi or Seun Kuti performing at the New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja, and Oniru or Elegushi Beach.

Abuja

Abuja (ABJ) is Nigeria’s capital city located in the country’s Federal Government Territory. There’s Lagos opulence, and then there’s Abuja. It’s a wealthy city and as it’s  the home of Nigeria’s administrative and government affairs, it’s home to the affluent people holding those positions, too. There’s plenty to see and do in Abuja, and it’s a good place to chill if that’s the vibe you’re looking for. The city has incredible architecture and neighborhoods worthy of exploration.

Check out: Aso Rock, Millennium Park, Jabi Lake, Usama Dam, and Bature Brewery (Nigeria’s first brewery)!

Nigeria travel guide - Calabar photo
Photo credit to Teo-Inspiro International.

Calabar

Calabar is a special gem tucked away in the south of Nigeria. They probably like their geography like that, and with a culture so rich, vast, and beautiful, who would blame them? Calabar is known for lush greenery, waterways, clean streets, and arguably some of the best food in the country. Edikang ikong, afang soup, and iduk ewusi are just a few of their many native delicacies. If you’re lucky enough to visit Calabar in December, then going to the Calabar Carnival is an absolute must.

Checkout: Obudu Mountain Resort, the Slave History Museum, Drill Ranch (a monkey sanctuary), Cross River National Park, Agbokim Waterfall, and don’t forget to eat your way throughout the city!

Kano

Kano is a city in northern Nigeria and the capital of Kano state, the industrial and commercial hub of the north. The second largest city in Nigeria, Kano is also one of the oldest cities in the country and full of culture and history. Kasuwar Kurmi (Kurmi Market) is a large market in the heart of Kano and was established over 600 years ago, making it one of West Africa’s oldest. Its history is dark—the market was built for the slave trade with shops holding enslaved people for potential buyers. These days, Kasuwar Kurmi is a keeper of artifacts with crafts, souvenirs, and textiles made by the people of Kano City, making it a must-visit destination.

Checkout: The Durbar Festival that celebrates Arewa Hausa Culture, Gidan Rumfa (the Emir’s Palace in Kano City), and Gidan Makama Museum.

Nigeria travel guide - Mapo Hall, in Ibadan. It's one of the oldest buildings in Nigeria.
An aerial view of Mapo Hall in Ibadan. It’s one of the oldest buildings in all of Nigeria. Photo credit to bolarzeal.

Ibadan

Visiting Ibadan is a great way to get the Nigerian city life experience without the bustle that comes with places like Lagos and Abuja. Ibadan is most known for its university. I heard stories about the great University of Ibadan growing up, and I even got confirmation for this while studying towards my French degree in college. An older American man in my class told me stories of his experience at Ibadan and what the university was like when he did a peace corps stint there in the 1960s.

Checkout: The University of Ibadan (especially the zoo and Bower’s Tower) and Topfat Art Gallery. And don’t forget to wander at the local markets!

Where to stay in Nigeria

Nigeria’s major cities have so many hotels to choose from with budgets for every type of traveler.

My personal faves:

More hotel recommendations:

How to get around

Nigeria travel guide - Air Peace plane with passengers exiting in Asaba, Delta, Nigeria
This was shortly after exiting a 45-minute flight from Lagos to Asaba. It was an Air Peace flight and really smooth. I always enjoy the baked goods and juice they serve on board.

Domestic flights – Flying domestically is the quickest, safest, and most comfortable way to get around the country. Depending on where you go, flight times are only an hour or so per leg. Airlines like Air Peace, Ibom Air, and United Nigeria have routes between major cities including Lagos, Abuja, Asaba, Port Harcourt, and more. Just make sure to book on time for the best rates.

Taxis – Taxis are another good option for getting around urban areas. If you’re a first-time visitor, taxi drivers can be helpful in getting you acquainted with the area and telling you what to do and not do. And they often offer to be your main driver if they know you’ll be in the area for a while. Just make sure your fare is a fair one before you hop in.

Buses – Buses are a popular way to travel between cities and within city limits. For intercity travel, coaches provide a more comfortable option with air conditioning and reserved seating. Major transport companies operate regular services between key destinations. It’s an affordable and authentic way to see the country, though travel times can be long.

Rideshare – My favorite way to get around Nigeria when I’m situated in a city is with rideshare apps like Bolt and Uber (I use Bolt a lot more than Uber there). Rides are pretty affordable from just a few dollars to $10-$12 for longer distances to the airport and such. The rides are often air conditioned and it’s a safer mode of travel for me as a solo woman.

Motorbikes or okadas – These were banned in the city of Lagos a while ago, but they remain a popular method to cover short distances around the rest of the country. I’ve only ridden on the back of an okada once and joke that I avoid them because I like my legs—and my head. It’s part of the thrill and the Nigerian experience, but definitely proceed with caution.

Keke napep – If you’ve been to places like Thailand or India, you’ll likely be familiar with kekes, or tuk-tuks as they’re known over there. They’re three-wheeled vehicles and I prefer them to okadas as they’re a bit more stable or pleasant to ride. Just make sure to keep your belongings close, especially when you’re driving through crowded areas.

Trains and rail services – Train services are still growing in Nigeria with options very limited for now. There’s a nice route between Lagos and Ibadan, and the new Blue Line in Lagos provides swift transportation between the island and mainland and is worth checking out if you’re up for a new experience. Check train schedules with the Nigerian Railway Corporation online to plan ahead. 

Nigeria travel guide - Bonnibelle Chukwuneta driving in Nigeria
I’ve become a pro at driving in Nigeria. If you have a friend or family with a car, driving is an option. I don’t think the headache or stress is worth it though and still prefer Bolt or taxis as the best way to navigate the cities.

Tips for navigating transportation in Nigeria

  • Plan ahead. Research where you’re going and the best way to get there in advance, especially if you’re traveling a long distance.
  • Stay safe. Avoid traveling at night if you can, especially if you’re alone, and stick to reputable airlines, apps, and other transportation providers.
  • Be flexible. Nigeria is notorious for traffic and delays pretty much everywhere. The best way to anticipate this is by staying flexible with your plans in the likely event that you won’t get there on time.
  • Stay powered up. Carry a power bank with you so your phone is always on in the event you’re lost, stuck, or late.

What to eat in Nigeria

Must-try dishes

Nigeria travel guide - Jollof rice and a grilled turkey wing
You can’t leave Nigeria without having a plate, or several plates, of jollof rice. Get it with a turkey wing and you’re enjoying.

Jollof rice – This dish is a national favorite in Nigeria even though we are not the originators (fellow Nigerians, argue with your fada—I’m telling the truth lol). It’s a one-pot dish of rice that’s cooked in a rich sauce of blended tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, peppers, and seasonings and soaks up all the flavors. Enjoy it with meat or fish and fried plantain, and don’t forget to wash it all down with some orange Fanta.

Pounded yam and egusi soup – Known as miyan gushi in Hausa, ofe egusi in Igbo and efo elegusi in Yoruba, this staple crosses states and ethnic groups in Nigeria, and is easily the country’s most popular soup. It’s made of ground melon seeds and cooked in a rich broth with various meats, dried and smoked fishes, onions, peppers, and vegetables for the signature green leaf look. Freshly pounded yam is a popular way to enjoy this soup. You’ll go to heaven and back.

Suya – Suya is a grilled meat that’s native to the Hausas in the north. The meat is cooked over fire and dusted with spices including kulikuli (a ground peanut mixture) and spices before being garnished with onions and tomatoes. The best suya is in the north, but it’s prepared and readily available across the country. Regardless of where you are, get your suya on the street. Restaurants tend to overcharge for an experience that’s less tasty and enjoyable than the gist and banter outside.

Nigeria travel guide - bread and akara with Ovaltine, boiled water, and powdered milk
Bread and akara is a quintessential breakfast combo. Ovaltine with Peak milk is a great way to wash it all down, too.

Akara – Akara is a yummy fritter and a popular street food that’s easy to find and perfect if you’re on the go. It’s made of peeled, grounded black eyed peas (bean flour is sometimes used in its place) onions, peppers, and spices. It’s ground together and fried until it’s fluffy and golden brown. It’s delicious and best served hot. It’s great for breakfast with pap or custard, or sandwiched between bread and enjoyed with tea or coffee. Eating them the way they are is equally recommended though.

Moin moin – Moin moin is another bean dish and a favorite for so many. Simply, it’s a steamed or boiled bean pudding or cake, but that doesn’t do it justice. Black eyed beans are soaked, peeled, then blended with onions and peppers till smooth. Seasonings and spices are added, as well as proteins like eggs, smoked fish, or corned beef. Traditionally, it’s steamed in banana leaves, lending it a unique flavor.

Nigeria travel guide - moin moin wrapped in banana leaves
Moin moin wrapped in banana leaves has a unique, earthy flavor.
Nigeria travel guide - moin moin outside banana leaves
This is what it looks like unwrapped. This one had boiled eggs. So good!

Foods I recommend

Here are some of my favorite dishes that I absolutely have to eat during my visits.

Coconut rice – This type of rice (and the next one) are some of my favorite foods to eat in Nigeria. Period. It’s cooked in fresh coconut milk and seasoned with spices like dried crayfish, pepper, and chicken bouillon and yummy when enjoyed with fried plantains and fish.

Iwuk edesi – This is a popular type of rice that originates from the east, specifically Cross River. It goes by various names including native jollof rice and rich palm oil rice in case you don’t see iwuk edesi on the menu. It’s another one-pot rice dish, but this one has palm oil, scent leaves, dried fish, and sometimes meat and prawns, too. It’s just… *chef’s kiss* 🤌🏽

Nigeria travel guide - a plate of delicious native rice at Bukka Pot in Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria
A plate of jollof rice, native rice, and grilled chicken at Bukka Pot. I had some delivered before I left Lagos for the US. It was THAT good.

There was one native rice I had in particular that’s led to an addiction I refuse to cure. You can find it at Bukka Pot in Ikorodu, Lagos if you manage to venture out that way.

Ayamase stew – Also known as designer stew, ayamase is a top-tier sauce with an exquisite taste. It’s a spiced stew that’s made from green bell peppers and green scotch bonnets. A good ayamase will have different cuts of meat and boiled egg, along with fragrant ofada rice. Ayamase is one of a kind.

Grilled fish – This is one of my favorite foods to enjoy when I’m out with friends and cousins or I’m spending a day at the beach. There are cooks with grills set up and they’re cooking fresh catfish and croaker if they have it. It’s spicy, packed with pepper and flavor, and is best enjoyed with others, cold soft drinks or booze, and crashing waves or good vibes.

Nigeria travel guide - Ofe akwu and rice / banga soup/stew and rice
A plate of banga, or palm kernel, stew. This was in Anambra, so it’s called ofe akwu and it’s eaten with rice.

Banga soup/stew – There are soups, and then there’s banga soup. Banga soup is native to the east with states like Delta, Anambra, and Cross River making some of the best variations of it. It’s commonly referred to as banga soup in Delta, ofe akwu (palm nut stew eaten with rice) in Anambra and abak atama in the Calabar region. Hot water is poured and palm kernels and they’re pounded to extract a concentrate, which is the base of the soup. Dried and smoked fish, meats, and native spices are added for a rich, warm delicacy best enjoyed with akpu (fufu) or starch.

Tips for a good food experience in Nigeria

  • Ask locals for recommendations. If you don’t know where to start, ask folks and passersby for some restaurants and street vendors. Definitely ask someone who has the best suya around! My friend recommends Glover Court Suya if you’re in or near Ikoyi.
  • Look for busy spots. If there are lots of folks eating somewhere, chances are the food is fresh, delicious, and worth waiting for.
  • Make sure they practice good hygiene. Nigeria has an amazing street food experience, but you should still take caution and be smart about it. Clean utensils, fresh ingredients, and proper food handling are all good signs that a place is safe to eat.
  • Embrace the heat. Nigeria is known for spicy food, especially if you’re in Lagos. While I enjoy it, I know it’s not for everyone. You can try to ask for dishes that are less spicy, but go knowing that there’s pepper in many of the foods.
  • Bring cash. Even if some restaurants say they take card payments, it’s usually local cards that are accepted. Getting my MasterCard to go through was hit and miss, even at places like Cold Stone Creamery. Cash will save you the headache—and empty stomach.
I spent a day with Hausa farmers in Agbor, Delta, Nigeria, learning about some of their practices and watching them haggle and negotiate with customers.

How to stay safe in Nigeria

There’s plenty of chatter in the media online about safety concerns in Nigeria and whether or not people should visit. The truth is that tourists should feel safe navigating the country. No one should experience crime and kidnappings, but those things haven’t happened to people visiting Nigeria in a long time.

There’s unrest and unease in the northeastern, and anyone going there should go with caution. Abuja and Kano are quite safe, and you can always use a local tour guide if you’re unfamiliar with some areas or don’t want to navigate alone. That goes for any part of the country. There’s much to see, do, and enjoy in Nigeria and that shouldn’t be surrendered to fear.

I haven’t had any bribing experiences at the airport recently, though I still hear stories about it happening. If you’re at the airport, there are signs that say they don’t take bribes. If an officer asks for one, point to the sign or tell them you brought your smile. They laugh at me but I’m serious and just smile and walk away.

In general, just stay vigilant and aware, and keep your belongings close in crowded areas the same way you would in a crowd in Rio de Janeiro or a bus in Rome. Be respectful of people, their customs, and their local laws, and trouble usually won’t find you.

Start planning your trip

Here are some of my favorite resources to use when I’m booking travel to and in Nigeria. Booking and communicating with hosts and service providers ahead of time has gotten me the best deals, customer service, and experiences overall.

Google Flights This is my favorite way to book flights. I check flights anywhere from 6 weeks to 10 months ahead of time for my best chance at finding flights from San Francisco to Lagos for less than $1,000.

Booking.com Booking is the number 1 accommodation website in the world with a large selection of Nigerian hotels available to choose from. They have all options from budget to luxury.

Airbnb I like to stay in Airbnbs and enjoy some nice interior design. The cities have great selections of studios, apartments, and duplexes with amenities like pools and gyms to enjoy. Even if you’re not staying in a home, enjoy a vast selection of experiences to do something new and unique.

Bolt Bolt is a leading rideshare app that’s popular in countries across Europe and Africa. I’ve had better rates and experiences using Bolt versus Uber in different parts of Nigeria. Not only were they cheaper, but there were more rides available and they were quicker to get to my pickup locations. Both work, but this app is my preference.

TripAdvisor Want more local tour options? TripAdvisor is a great resource for finding things to do wherever you are. It’s also helpful for restaurant recommendations and boasts of a large community that can answer your most pressing travel questions.

Afropass Afropass is your VIP to experience premium African food, music, and events globally all in one app. There are a number of Nigerian events to explore—particularly if you’re in Lagos.

There’s so much to see and do in Nigeria that you’re bound to have a one-of-a-kind trip no matter where you go!

Comments (4)

  • Marquita

    March 26, 2024 at 10:38 am

    What an extensive guide of Nigeria! You really didn’t miss here. Wow! I didn’t know the yellow fever vaccine lasted forever. I thought it was only 10 years. Glad I don’t have to get that one again. And good to know about the drinking water. I have been sick before from drinking tap water and it wasn’t fun.

    1. Bonnibelle Chukwuneta

      March 26, 2024 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks! The yellow fever vaccine became good for life in 2015—I was glad to hear it, too. And yes, bottled water only if you want to enjoy your trip lol.

  • Tiffany

    March 26, 2024 at 1:36 pm

    I’ve only been to the airport in Nigeria! I may try to plan to go after leaving Ghana in January! Ive tried Nigerian Jollof rice and now want to try the other rice dishes and egusi soup. OMG, the visa process seems expensive and a long process. Do you know how long the Visa is good for? Thanks for letting me know about the ATM machines, Ill make sure to bring cash. Although I assume that most larger restaurants take. cards?!

    1. Bonnibelle Chukwuneta

      March 26, 2024 at 10:00 pm

      Yes, sadly no e-Visa option like Benin for now! A Nigerian visa is valid for 6 months and you can stay for 7 to 90 days with it. Some busier places did accept my Mastercard or Visa (Kingfisher in Lekki comes to mind), but Cold Stone and Domino’s were surprise rejections. So I carried cash as backup to avoid embarrassments.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post

Swiftmay tights review: everything you need to know about the viral fleece-lined leggings