Niger, also colloquially referred to as the Heart of Darkness is a landlocked country in Africa with a population of about 16 million. It shares its borders with Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Chad and Libya. Like many of African country, Niger is also a former colony: it was under the French until it gained independence in 1960. Most of the country is covered in desert plains and dunes, with rolling savanna in the southeast.
Niger has incredible natural beauty, and there are a lot of things to see if you decide to venture to this country. Its mountain ranges in the north of the country are breathtaking, as are the wild giraffe herds that can be seen near Koure, around sixty km from Niamey. You can also see houses a few old trading centers in the Sahara, such as Agadez and Zinder that have that unique mixture of arab/tuareg and black African culture about them. There is also much to see when it comes to the Hausa architecture in those towns. Count on friendly locals and don’t be surprised if someone even invites you into their home.
Warnings & Dangers in Niger
OVERALL RISK : HIGH
Overall, Niger isn’t a safe country to visit. With its political turmoil and UN labeling it the major drug smuggling port, violent and petty crime on the streets, there’s lots to think about when planning a trip to Niger.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : HIGH
Like in most countries in Africa, transport in Niger is unreliable and unsafe. Buses are in poor condition and since there are a lot of cases of banditry, the buses are commonly attacked and passengers inside hassled, tortured or worse. Many taxis and buses lack basic safety equipment like seat belts and headlights. Drivers in Niger can be reckless more often than not.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpockets are somewhat active, especially on markets and places where rare tourists, if there are any, tend to go. Refrain from flashing your belongings and leave your valuables in your accommodation.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH
Two completely opposite natural disasters bring misery every year to Niger. Droughts are its worst natural disasters as it destroys the crops, kills the cattle as well as thousands of people who starve to death. Then the rainy season comes, causes heavy rain that leads to severe flooding and again, thousands of people are left homeless.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
Muggings and robberies are common and you should be extremely careful all the time in Niger. You should under no circumstance go to the region north of Agadez since there have been numerous reports of robberies and kidnappings there.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Niger. These could be retaliatory attacks since this country has participated in the French-led intervention in Mali and has been involved in the regional fight to counter Boko Haram.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
As in almost any countries, there is a great risk of getting scammed in Niger, too. Always check everything twice and negotiate everything in advance. Taxi drivers might try to trick you into paying more, giving you wrongful information about the price of the ride.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH
Women aren’t safe in Niger. Under any circumstance don’t leave your accommodation unaccompanied at night, and try not to do it during the day either. This country is dangerous for anyone to walk around alone.
So... How Safe Is Niger Really?
Niger is not very safe to visit, due to political turmoil and crime on the streets. There is non-violent crime in the form of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching, and there’s violent crime as well, mostly in the form of armed robbery, muggings, and assaults. The violence decreased in the past couple of years compared to how it was before, but it still happens. Places where you should practice extreme vigilance are traditional markets, and areas near hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners.
There’s also terrorism in Niger and it can be and has been directed towards Westerners. This is a politically unstable country, and lawlessness is ever-present. Avoid demonstrations or any kind of display of unease, follow the independent news closely and stay in contact with your embassy. Al-Qaeda is also present in Niger and has kidnapped and killed tourists, so it is of extreme importance to know the regions that are off-limits and avoid them at all costs.
There have also been many reports of carjacking, kidnappings and armed robberies in the region north of Agadez. You shouldn’t go beyond Agadez under any circumstance, and keep in mind that the roads past this point are of terrible quality. Banditry is another issue as they are abundant, so avoid driving late at night in a private vehicle. Some of the places where bandits and armed robbers operate are near the town of Galmi and around Dosso-Doutchi, as well as on the road to Gao, Mali in the Tillabery region. There are, however, police checkpoints on the main highways that are in charge of limiting criminal activities during the day.
- Visas - Most countries need a visa to enter Niger. In order to enter the country, actually, you will need a passport, a visa, and proof of vaccination against yellow fever. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months past the date of your arrival. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - West African CFA franc is the official currency in Niger. ATMs are not widespread but you will be able to withdraw your money from the local bank.
- Weather - Niger is one of the hottest countries in the world with a rainy season that lasts from May to October, with most rainfall in July and August. The heat in Niger is intense, and in Niamey, the capital, temperatures go from 31° C in August to scorching 41° C in April. Nights, however, are cool and the temperature average somewhere below 20° C from November to February.
- Airports - Diori Hamani International Airport is the busiest airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger. It is located 9 km from Niamey in the south eastern suburbs of the city.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Niger, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.