Nigeria Travel Guide
Nigeria is a land of extreme contrasts. While it is one of Africa’s largest and richest economies, more than half of its citizens get by on less than a dollar a day. The streets of cities like Lagos teem with chaos, while the countryside remains relatively sanguine by comparison.
The relative safety of the south (less the Niger Delta) is a world away from the north, where Boko Haram terrorize innocent civilians, often with impunity. To be clear, Nigeria is not a place for beginner travellers.
For even those who have seen much of the world, coming here requires a great deal of physical and mental preparation.
Those who listen to locals and have a good feel for the mood on the ground will fare best here; if you fall in this camp, there are many rewards that can be reaped by including Nigeria in your travel plans.
Currency: Nigerian Nairas
Languages: English, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Fulani
What To Do
Get a better appreciation of this nation’s past history by spending some time exploring the exhibits of the Nigerian National Museum.
Here, you will find art and artifacts that best relay the history of Nigeria. From a terra cotta head crafted between 2,500 and 3,000 years ago, to more recent examples of creative artistic expression, there are items representing the many tribes and peoples that have comprised Nigerian society over the generations.
Although the lack of air conditioning and the less than perfect organization of exhibits may bother purists, this place makes up for its shortcomings with the passion of its hard-working guides.
Outside Lagos, the Lekki Conservation Centre protects a natural habitat under threat from the oil industry. Stretching over 190 acres, it preserves a mangrove forest, as well as the animal & plant species that reside within it.
Keep your eyes peeled for various species of monkeys, crocodiles, birds, and snakes as you move along the boardwalks that span this park, as plenty of the above-mentioned animals thrive in this protected area.
While a considerable portion of Nigeria’s population identifies as Christian, just as many holds up Islam as their faith. Abuja National Mosque is this nation’s finest hall of worship for Muslims. Stretching proudly into Abuja’s skyline, its characteristic minarets and golden dome stand as a point of pride for those in the capital.
Outside of Friday prayers, non-Muslim visitors are welcome to tour the grounds but note that photography is not allowed within this glorious structure. There are plenty of vantage points where one can snap excellent exterior photography, however, so photographers won’t go away totally disappointed.
Over countless generations, Nigeria has been governed by various kingdoms, empires, and caliphates. As such, there have been many occasions when these factions came into conflict with each other, sparking wars.
In the early 19th century, Olumo Rock was ground zero for one of these confrontations. Within this natural formation, the Egba people found refuge even as a massive battle raged outside.
Having proved itself as a defensive point, settlements that exist to this day grew out from around the rock, and in the modern age, it has become one of the bigger tourist attractions in Nigeria.
As wonderful as the cities, towns, points of interest, and people are in Nigeria, the rough reality of travel in this country means that it will stretch your patience to the breaking point eventually.
When you need to get away from it all, make the trek out to Eleko Beach. Located 60 kilometres east of Lagos, it is far enough away from the city to be free from the crowds, noise, and pollution that are part of life in one of Western Africa’s most crowded cities.
With plenty of empty sand, warm tropical water, private beach cabanas, and swaying coconut palms for everyone that visits, spending some time here is a great way to end your visit to Nigeria.
What to Eat
As you walk the streets of Nigeria, be sure to grab some Akara from a vendor if hunger is getting the best of you between meals. Made by mashing up pre-cooked and peeled black-eyed peas together with onions, salt, shrimp, and cashews, they are formed into balls and are then deep fried in palm oil.
Served piping hot, they are delectable treats in a part of the world that is not that well-known for culinary creativity. Vegetarians are accommodated as well, as versions of Akara containing black-eyed peas, green tomatoes, and hot peppers are also widely available.
Still hungry? If you have a thing for meat on a stick, keep your eyes open for Suya. Made with Halal meats such as chicken or ram, these meat skewers are marinated with peanut cake, vegetable oil, and salt before being put on the grill. Served with sliced onions, it will keep you going on your Nigerian adventure.
Finally, those seeking to dine on the national dish of Nigeria need only search for a restaurant that serves Jollof Rice. A favourite of Nigerians before the slave trade began centuries ago, it is widely thought that this dish was the predecessor to Jambalaya, one of the most popular dishes in Louisiana, USA.
Made in a single pot with rice, tomatoes, and onions, it cooks for several hours together, allowing the flavours of each ingredient to intermingle, creating an unforgettable culinary experience.