Niger travel guide
One of the world’s poorest nations, Niger might be a challenging destination to travel around, but rewards abound for those willing to persevere. And with political stability returning to this West African nation, it is slowly opening up to tourists.
A country shaped by Saharan trade routes, visitors came and went through this land for centuries, leaving behind them a wonderful fusion of Arab and African traditions.
Agadez and Zinder sprung up along these now defunct routes and today these cities retain their ancient mercantile charm. Comprised of beautiful adobe dwellings, their labyrinthine streets are home to bustling markets, which sell pottery, leather and other decorative pieces. Zinder is also renowned for its extravagant Ramadan festival, during which horsemen can be seen riding through the streets in the most flamboyant fashion.
Unlike Agadez and Zinder, Niger’s capital, Niamey, was never a site of trans-Saharan trade, and remained relatively unimportant until the 20th century. It continues to be possibly the least-hurried and most relaxed capital in the region. Situated on the lush banks of the Niger River, from which the country takes its name, Niamey is the commercial centre and a great place to delve into local life.
Niger’s biggest cultural event, however, occurs out in the desert town of Ingall. At the end of the rainy season the town’s population of 500 swells to several thousand as Tuareg and Wodaabe nomads attend the annual Cure Salée festival. The centrepiece is the Wodaabe gerewol, during which unmarried men adopt extravagant makeup and sing rhythmic chants in the hope of impressing a future bride.
Naturalists are also well catered for in Niger, which is home to a number of national parks, most famously W Regional Park, a haven for lions, leopards, elephants, baboons and much more. Ultimately, though, it’s Niger’s ancient cities, time-honoured festivals and nomadic culture that make this friendly country so beguiling.
1,267,000 sq km (489,191 sq miles).
20,715,285 (UN estimate 2016).
14.2 per sq km.
President Mahamadou Issoufou since 2011.
Prime Minister Brigi Rafini since 2011.
Last updated: 22 November 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the following parts of Niger:
- all areas of the country north of the city of Abalak, including the Aïr Massif region;
- the province of Agadez (including the road linking Assamakato Agadez and the city of Agadez);
- areas of Tahoua province north of the city of Tahoua, including the city itself;
- the area of Tillabéri province north of Niamey, including the road from Niamey to Gao and the road from Niamey to Menaka;
- areas within 40km of the border with Nigeria in Diffa, Zinder and Maradi provinces.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Niger, including the capital city Niamey.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Niger, including kidnapping. There are reports that terrorist groups may be targeting international humanitarian workers in Diffa province for kidnapping.
There is a threat of retaliatory attacks in Niger due to its participation in the French-led intervention in Mali and due to Niger’s involvement in the regional fight to counter Boko Haram.
You can contact the emergency services by calling +227 20 73 21 13 (or 18 local number) for emergency medical treatment or the fire service and + 227 20 73 37 43/44 (or 17 local number) for the police.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Extreme poverty means that levels of crime, especially in the capital Niamey, are high. Thefts, robberies and residential break-ins can occur at any time. The main type of incident for which British nationals need consular assistance in Niger is theft. Take sensible precautions to keep important items like money, passports, jewellery and mobile phones safe. The areas around the Gaweye Hotel, National Museum and Petit Marché in Niamey are particularly prone to muggings and you should not walk alone there, or cross the Kennedy Bridge on foot at any time. Walking at night is dangerous due to the lack of street lighting.
Car thieves often target off-road vehicles. Make sure car doors are locked at all times.
Banditry, smuggling and other criminal activity is common in border areas, especially after dark.
Bandits are thought to be operating in the border area with Nigeria south of Zinder. You should take special care and avoid crossing the border with Nigeria during the hours of darkness.
There have also been incidents of Nigeriens being killed in the course of hold-ups and robberies on public transport buses travelling between Tahoua and Agadez and between Agadez and Arlit.
British nationals are increasingly being targeted by scams. The scams come in many forms: romance and friendship, business ventures, work and employment opportunities, and can pose great financial risk to victims. You should treat with considerable caution any requests for funds, a job offer, a business venture or a face to face meeting from someone you have been in correspondence with over the internet who lives in West Africa.
Travel around Niger can be difficult, and conditions are poor for overland travel. You should take all necessary safety precautions, especially outside of main urban areas, have confidence in your security arrangements and maintain a high level of vigilance. Avoid all travel between towns at night. Seek local advice and use local travel agents and guides when travelling outside main towns and in desert areas. An approved local travel agent can arrange all the necessary permits for your journey and leave details of your itinerary with the local authorities. Travel in convoy and carry an independent satellite phone when travelling off the beaten track. You should prepare well in advance and make sure you have a sufficient supply of drinking water and food.
Local authorities are extremely sensitive about foreigners travelling out of Tahoua to other parts of Niger in the east and the north. There is a risk of arrest and deportation for even enquiring about travel to Agadez, given the security situation in that region.
The MNJ armed group has launched attacks in the north including the use of land mines, and Islamist terrorist groups have recently launched attacks in Agadez, Arlit and against a prison in Niamey (see Terrorism section for more details). The Governor of the city of Agadez has banned vehicles without a security forces escort from leaving the city after 4pm. Attacks against tourists are known to take place at El Meki between Agadez and Timia. The Aïr and Ténéré regions are particularly prone to attacks. From 28 November 2014, a curfew has been implemented in the whole of the Diffa region prohibiting the movement of motorised vehicles from 8pm to 6am.
President Issoufou declared a state of emergency on 3 March 2017 in the Diffa region, in Ouallam, Ayorou, Bankilare, Abala and Banibongou (Tillabéri region) and Tassara and Tillia (Tahoua region). This was in response to an escalation in terrorist attacks, especially in the region of Tillabéri near the border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. On 16 June 2017, the government extended the state of emergency to include the regions of Diffa, Tillabery and Tahoua in their entirety.
The roads listed below in northern Niger are permanently closed to tourists, except with special authorisation:
- Chirfa (Djado) / Djanet (Algeria)
- Achouloma (north Djado) / Salvador Pass (Libya)
- Adrar Bous (north Aïr) / Djanet (Algeria)
- Adrar Bous (north Aïr) / In Azawa (Algeria)
- Agadez / Arlit / Iferouane
- Agadez / Tahoua
UK driving licences are not valid. If you plan to drive in Niger, you should get an International Driving Permit. This is valid for 3 months, after which you will need to get a Niger licence. You should carry car registration documents with you at all times.
The main roads between Niamey and other large towns are generally satisfactory by African standards, but some roads are pot-holed. Driving standards are poor. Vehicles are often poorly lit at night and there is little street lighting. There have been reports of land mines being used in Burkina Faso on the road between Ouagadougou and Niamey. Seek local advice before making this journey.
Buses operate on routes between Niamey and other large towns, but distances are long and buses are prone to mechanical failure. There have also been incidents of Nigeriens being killed in the course of hold-ups and robberies on public transport buses travelling between Tahoua and Agadez and between Agadez and Arlit.
Taxis are available but are often in poor mechanical condition. Driving standards are poor. On 8 January 2008, a car drove over a landmine in Niamey, killing one person and injuring another. There have also been reports of land mines being used in Burkina Faso on the road between Ouagadougou and Niamey. Local advice should be sought before making this journey.
In the case of an accident, you should go immediately to the nearest police station to file a report: remaining on the spot risks being taken to task, sometimes violently, by the local population. Medical help in the event of an accident is likely to be limited.
President Issoufou was elected in April 2011. He won a second 5-year term in March 2016. Niger has contributed troops to the UN Peacekeeping Mission (MINUSMA) in neighbouring Mali and is committing troops to the regional fight against Boko Haram.
There’s no British Embassy in Niger. The British Ambassador to Niger resides in Bamako, Mali, but the ability of the Embassy to deliver consular services is limited. If you need consular assistance in Niger, contact the British Embassy in Bamako.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Niger. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. There’s a threat of retaliatory attacks in Niger due to its participation in the French-led intervention in Mali and due to Niger’s involvement in the regional fight to counter Boko Haram. You should monitor developments, be alert to announcements and remain vigilant at all times.
As seen in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on hotels, cafés and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these places.
The government declared a state of emergency on 03 March 2017 in Diffa region, in Ouallam, Ayorou, Bankilare, Abala and Banibongou (Tillabéri region) and Tassara and Tillia (Tahoua region).This was in response to an escalation in terrorist attacks, especially in the Tillabéri region.
There have been multiple attacks in Niger in 2017, particularly in the Diffa and Tillabéri regions. Recent attacks have included:
- on 21 October 2017 gunmen attacked a police post in Ayourou, Tillabéri region killing 13 Nigerien gendarmes and wounding five.
- on 4 October 2017 terrorists attacked a military patrol in Tongo Tongo, Tillaberi region, killing four US and five Nigerien soldiers
- on 2 July 2017 Boko Haram insurgents killed 9 and abducted over 30 people in Ngalawa, Diffa region
- on 28 June 2017 two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a UN camp in Kabelawa, Diffa
As a result of safety and security concerns, some organisations, including foreign companies, NGOs, and private aid organisations have suspended operations in Niger or withdrawn family members and / or staff.
The US Embassy in Niger issued a travel warning on 30 October
The government of Nigeria has declared a state of emergency in its northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Borno and Yobe border southern Niger.
There’s a high threat of kidnapping from terrorist groups operating in the region including Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram. These groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya. They have proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out attacks.
Westerners have been kidnapped in Niger and the wider Sahel region, including in Niamey and the north and west of Niger. On October 14 2016, an aid worker was kidnapped in Abalak, a province of the region of Tahoua 350 km northeast of Niamey. There are reports that terrorist groups may be targeting international humanitarian workers in Diffa province for kidnapping.
Criminal gangs have previously carried out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards. There are currently several westerners being held in the Sahel and surrounding region. Victims in the region have included tourists, NGO workers and diplomats of a variety of nationalities, primarily European. These attacks have sometimes resulted in the murder of the hostage.
Kidnapping for ransom is Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and its associated groups primary source of finance. Further kidnap attacks are likely. Terrorist groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets. There are reports that terrorist groups may be targeting international humanitarian workers in Diffa province for kidnapping. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence in country is unlikely to serve as protection.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
There’s considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Niger is a Muslim country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2018, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 16 May and finish on 15 June.
Don’t photograph military or government installations.
You should carry some form of identification at all times. This would normally mean your passport or residence permit. If you drive outside the main towns, the likelihood of having to produce some form of identification is high.
If you commit a criminal offence you will be subjected to local law. Local prison conditions are harsh.
Homosexuality is illegal, but in practice is tolerated if discreet.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You will need a valid visa to enter Niger. You can get a visa from the Nigerien Honorary Consulate (MPC House, 15 Maple Mews, London, NW6 5UZ; telephone +44 207 328 8180), or from the Nigerien embassy in Paris (154 rue de Longchamp, 75116 Paris; telephone: +00 33 (1) 4504 8060).
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is needed.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Niger.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities are poor, even in Niamey. Serious medical treatment would mean evacuation to Europe. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 53,000 adults aged 15 or over in Niger were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.8% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The rainy season in Niger is from May to November. Torrential rains can cause floods and landslides. You should monitor local weather reports and expect difficulties when travelling to affected areas during this season.
Niger is a cash based society. Credit cards are rarely accepted even in the best hotels and restaurants. There are few ATMs. Banks accept travellers’ cheques. You will have to produce your passport and the receipt for the cheques from the issuing bank.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.