Travel & Tourism
Niger’s natural landscape is what travelers generally seek out, and we too think it’s simply breathtaking. Despite being one of West Africa’s largest countries, Niger is among the least populated; moving around is easier here compared with doing so in other highly populated or congested countries in Africa. The country’s population is concentrated around the Niger River, where the country’s capital, Niamey, is located.
The main ethnic groups in Niger are the Hausa, who account for roughly half of the population, and the other group, split between such nomadic tribes as the Fulani and Tuareg, as well as the Djerma-Songahi.
Whether you’re traveling to see the many mosques, the sparkling Niger River, or the various animals, you are bound to find something here that you can’t find anywhere else in Africa.
What to Do in Niger
1. Boating on the Niger River: The Niger River is known for hippo spotting. Plan a boat ride down this body of water for a day (or even a few days) to take in the animal sights.
2. Dinosaurs in Agadez : This bustling city is known for its numerous dinosaur-tracking expeditions and fossils. The excavation sites are worth exploring, so plan at least one full day to check them out.
3. Grand Mosque: The Grand Mosque of Agadez is not built in a typical Islamic fashion, with tall minarets and domes. This sand-colored triangular tower, built in the 1500s and rebuilt in the 1800s, is one of the iconic sites of Agadez. The single tower, rising above the flat skyline of the city, is a must-see.
4. Markets in Niamey: Spend an afternoon and get lost in the Grande Marché and Petit Marché. Snag some great deals on clothes, jewelry, art, and various unique items.
5. The National Museum of Niger: Given its entrance fee of only $2, you have absolutely no reason not to visit this treasure trove in Niamey. Learn about the ancient culture of Niger; see dinosaur bones that were discovered in Niger and plenty of traditional art.
6. Grand Marche: The Niamey Grand Market has often been referred to as the commercial hub of Niger, as goods from across the nation and abroad go through the here – both wholesale and retail. The market, especially its traditional craft center is also an important tourist attraction, drawing approximately 20,000 tourists yearly. A large bus and taxi station is situated just behind the market.
7. Dabous Giraffe Rock Art: There are two carvings of giraffes at this site, first discovered in 1997. Estimated to have been completed between 9,000 and 5,000 BC, they are prime examples of early human existence in the area, and reflect their nomadic activities. Each carving is around 20ft in height.
8. W National Park: This protected park land is actually shared across a tri-border area between the nations of Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. A big area of the park lies within Niger, and here it was decreed a national park in 1954.
9. Ayorou: This is a picturesque town on the banks of Niger River, almost at the point where the country borders Mali to the north. One of the most popular activities to do in Ayorou is to go on a hippopotamus tour on the river. The tour will also take you to a couple of the inhabited islands on the river so you can experience the village life there.
10. Agadez: It’s formed from a grid of narrow streets and adobe, mud-brick homes. The centerpiece has to be the earthen minaret of the central mosque, which mimics the great landmarks of the desert towns of Mali to the west.
When to Go
Considering that Niger is one of the hottest countries in Africa, it is best to plan your trip according to what kind of heat you think you can handle. Niger has two seasons: the rainy season lasts from June to September, and the majority of rainfall occurs between June and August. The dry season, between October and May, tends to be dryer and cooler. We recommend traveling between December and February.
Two festivals, the Cure Salee and the Wodaabe Gerewol, are among the world’s most colorful and exciting, and we recommend checking their dates before you plan your trip to Niger.
Getting In and Around
Visas: A passport, visa, and proof of yellow fever inoculation are required upon your arrival in Niger. The U.S. Department of State recommends obtaining a visa before you arrive in Niger, as travelers may be denied entry.
Transportation: Internationally, most major airlines travel to Niger. Domestic flights are available from Agadez, the country’s largest city, and Niamey, the capital city, to other towns around Niger. Traveling by air is the best option within Niger, but local hotels can recommend efficient bus services. Bypass buses at night; traveling early and by daylight is a safer option.
For transportation within cities, a local bus, private-hire taxi, or rental car is your best option.
Mobile Phones: Travelers with GSM-enabled phones should plan on buying a SIM card on their
arrival for use in Niger. Those who don’t have a GSM-enabled phone could either rent or purchase an inexpensive phone for use.
Safety and Security
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Niger? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in Niger:
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to Niger, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
Africa.com comment: An annual ranking of the 54 African countries based on their relative personal security as determined by a highly qualified staff of an African foundation, funded by a successful African philanthropist. See where Niger ranks relative to the other 54 nations in Africa.
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about Niger.
1. Niger is a predominantly Muslim country, so dress appropriately and be respectful of traditions and customs.
2. The official languages of Niger are French and Hausa. We suggest that you learn some basic French terms or even take a small French dictionary.
3. Niger is one of the steamiest African countries: make sure you pack whatever you need to keep yourself protected and cool, including loose clothes, sunscreen, and sun hats.
4. The Harmattan is a strong westward wind that lifts dust from the Sahara. It causes severe visibility issues and can create a generally unpleasant experience for those who haven’t dealt with dust storms. In Niger, November is considered the most intense month of the Harmattan.
5. When traveling during Ramadan, be mindful of the customs being observed around you: most folks are fasting, and people usually abstain from smoking and drinking, too. We liked this site, by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, for learning more about traveling and customs during Ramadan.