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Situated in tropical West Africa, the oil-rich state of Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It is listed as one of the 'Next Eleven' major economies of the world - yet despite its abundant natural resources and its position as Africa's largest economy, poverty remains pervasive.
Decades of civil war, famine, military dictatorships, and rampant corruption have left the country with deep divisions that will take many years to heal completely, but Nigeria shows stirring signs of recovery. The country is made up of over 500 ethnic groups and several religions, with a wide variety of languages, customs, and cultures shaping a diverse nation.
Abuja is the capital city, but the largest economic centre and chief port is the former colonial capital of Lagos, located on the Bight of Benin in southwestern Nigeria. The capital was moved to Abuja, located in the heart of the country, in 1991, largely in a bid to curb the frenetic migration to Lagos not only from rural Nigeria, but from neighbouring countries too. Despite this measure, Lagos remains a sprawling, industrial metropolis, home to over 15 million people.
Although the vast majority of visitors arrive on business, the country is emerging as a prominent tourist destination in Africa, welcoming nearly two million travellers a year. With 500 miles (805km) of coastline, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and abundant natural beauty, Nigeria has all the raw ingredients to make for a top tourist destination.
In an effort to unlock the country's tourism potential, the government has pledged to increase investment and improve infrastructure. Meanwhile, only the most adventurous travellers are enjoying this diverse land of sandy beaches, tropical forest, magnificent waterfalls, and fascinating historic and cultural sites.
The majority of visitors travel to Nigeria for business purposes and don't do much sightseeing, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some fascinating attractions in Nigeria that are worth a visit for anyone willing to stray off the beaten path.
Most travel centres on the major cities of Lagos and Abuja, which offer plenty of attractions in the form of national museums, bustling markets, and pretty parks. Venture further afield however, and visitors will discover the beautiful beaches on the coast, the sacred forest groves of Osogbo, the pre-colonial settlements at Sungbo's Eredo, and picturesque scenery in Nigeria's national parks.
A holiday in Nigeria is definitely for the adventurous, and is guaranteed to be unforgettable!
Occupying prime position on Lagos Island in the centre of the city, the National Museum contains a number of treasures and cultural relics of great interest. Take your diary along to record the experience as photography is not allowed. Highlights include the exhibit 'Treasures of Ancient Nigeria: Legacy of Two Thousand Years', and the bullet-ridden black Mercedes in which former president Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in 1973. Also not be missed is the gallery of Benin brasses and the crafts village, where you can haggles for souvenirs.
Situated on the Lekki Peninsula covering 190 acres (78 hectare), the Lekki Conservation Centre is perfect to experience the fauna and flora of this region's delicate ecosystems. You can see Mona monkeys, crocodiles, bush bucks, Maxwell duikers, and giant rats, among other fascinating creatures. There are various trails and tree platforms to get the best vantage point. Visit in the early morning when the animals are most active. Tours need to be booked in advance.
Take a taxi one hour north of Lagos to see Sungbo's Eredo, Africa's largest pre-colonial construction, a sight rated by experts as an unknown 'Wonder of the World'. The Eredo is a rampart that is 1,050 years old, 100 miles (160km) long, and 70ft (20m) high. Locals will need to guide you in and out, as the structure is rapidly being covered by encroaching forest. The enigmatic Eredo has been linked to the myths and legends of various tribes and religions. According to the local Ijebu clan, the Eredo may have been built as a memorial to noblewoman Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo, a childless widow, whose grave is located nearby.
For a taste of the real Lagos, head to the bustling, chaotic, and always fascinating Lekki Market. Intrepid shoppers that make the trip here will be rewarded with a wonderful selection of African masks, Nigerian beadwork, and traditional cloth. The Lekki Market is located about 6 miles (10km) from the centre of Victoria Island, and is a popular taxi route. Bargain hard, but keep smiling. Get a local to help you navigate the market, for about NGN 50, it will be money well spent.
The best beach for Lagos-based visitors is Eleko Beach, located just one hour away from Nigeria's frenetic economic heartland. It's clean and peaceful, with perfect waves and beach huts for hire, and is currently free of the traders and hawkers that can irritate visitors on beaches around Lagos Island. Eleko Beach is a welcome relief from the grime and congestion of the metropolis. To get there, head out east on Lekki Expressway for about 19 miles (30km) and turn right at the petrol service station.
One of Nigeria's top tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove holds a deeply special place in the hearts and minds of the Yoruba people. Located in the last remaining areas of pristine forest in southern Nigeria, the grove is said to be the home of Osun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility. Numerous shrines and sanctuaries have been built in honour of Osun, including sculptures done by Austrian national Suzanne Wenger who earned herself the local name Aduni Olosa, the 'Adored One'. If at all possible, time your visit to coincide with the Osun-Osogbo Festival (late July to August), a 12-day celebration of significant cultural interest.
A favourite among business travellers to Lagos and expatriates living in the area of Victoria Island, Lekki Beach Resort is a new establishment offering well-heeled tourists the opportunity to experience some refinement and luxury in the midst of the often chaotic and ramshackle city.
Built along 1.6 miles (2.5km) of the pristine Lekki Beach shoreline, and covering an area of 157 hectares (388 acres), the Lekki Beach Resort is a major operation featuring luxury accommodation, including an 18-hole golf course designed by Ron Garl, and a clubhouse with a fine restaurant and bar. There are also numerous family-oriented amenities, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, exercise rooms, and a health spa. Undoubtedly the premier place to play golf in Nigeria, the course is also quite a beautiful sight in its own right, blending seamlessly into its natural surroundings and boasting fantastic Atlantic Ocean views.
Nigeria is generally hot all year round, lying within the tropical zone with little variation between winter and summer. Seasons are defined as the wet season, from April to October, and the dry season, from November until March. The dry season is accompanied by the dusty northeast winds where midday temperatures that can sometimes reach 100°F (38°C). The wet season is particularly noticeable on the south-eastern coast, where annual rainfall reaches about 130 inches (330cm), where temperatures rarely exceed 90°F (32°C).
Ranked one of the top five restaurants in all Nigeria, the Yellow Chilli is one of the best and most stylish places for contemporary Nigerian cuisine in Lagos. The jollof fiesta is particularly worth trying. This popular restaurant draws a big lunchtime crowd of professionals and expats.
The first Brazilian restaurant in Nigeria has now developed into one of Lagos' best eateries. The menu is all about the eponymous - barbecued meat on skewers that are sliced onto your plate. The restaurant is set on the lagoon and has great views. Surprisingly, the menu and salad bar are suitable for vegetarians too.
Bungalow serves up an array of great food options, including sizzling steaks, tasty marinated ribs, mixed meat skewers, prawns and fajitas. Bungalow Restaurant is definitely the place to go if you're after familiar, western-style meat dishes.
The Vellvett is a tastefully decorated restaurant just off Adeola Adeku Street. This great eatery has a wide range of international dishes on offer, from fresh grilled kebabs and Lebanese specialities to tasty pastas and decadent desserts that will have you coming back for more.
Nigerian currency is the naira (NGN), which is divided into 100 kobo. Approved exchange facilities include major hotels and the airport, but official rates are very high. It is illegal to change money on the street. Credit card fraud is a problem, and visitors are advised to exercise caution when using credit cards. Credit card facilities are also limited outside of the major cities. Prior to travel, visitors should ensure they have a variety of currency options available to them (pounds, US dollars, or euro) in cash. Travellers should be aware of the prevalence of commercial fraud in Nigeria.
English is the official language in Nigeria and is widely used, though many other languages are also spoken.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round and square three-pin plugs are used.
US nationals: United States citizens must have a passport valid for six months after date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport valid for six months after date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
CA nationals: Canadians must have a passport valid for six months after date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
AU nationals: Australians must have a passport valid for six months after the date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
ZA nationals: South Africans must have a passport valid for six months after date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
IR nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport valid for six months after date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for six months after the date of arrival. A visa is required. However, no visa is required for former nationals of Nigeria with a valid foreign passport and an expired Nigerian passport.
Nationals of virtually all countries require a visa to enter Nigeria, the few exceptions are mainly neighbouring African states. Visas must be obtained in advance and all visitors require a return ticket, documents for onward travel and sufficient funds. Those entering for business reasons must also have a letter of invitation and verification from Nigerian representatives abroad stating purpose of entry. Passports must be valid for at least six months after arrival.
Visas can be obtained on arrival. E-visas can be obtained before departure at www.portal.immigration.gov.ng/visa/freshVisa. Passengers must have a printed e-visa confirmation.
Because Nigeria still struggles with diseases such as cholera, yellow fever and polio, so vaccinations are recommended. Visitors should drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Repellent, antimalarial meds, and netting will come in handy too because of malaria, dengue, and chikungunya. TB inoculations are also recommended. Visitors should seek the latest medical advice on vaccinations at least three weeks prior to departure.
Private hospitals offer good facilities in major cities, although travellers requiring specialised treatment will likely be evacuated to Europe or South Africa. Comprehensive travel insurance is strongly advice and should include evacuation. Pharmacies are widespread but might not always have reliable drug supplies. So travellers should bring special or prescription medication with them.
In restaurants, a 10% tip is adequate if a service charge hasn't already been added. Negotiate taxi fares before embarking on a journey; remember that fares are usually increased for tourists so tipping isn't necessary. Porters should be tipped accordingly.
While most visits to Nigeria are trouble free, there are a few issues that travellers should be aware of. Watch out for false greetings at the airport and avoid freely giving out your details as the country is notorious for money scammers. Muggings and carjackings are prevalent so visitors should stay vigilant, while also letting their host, family, and friends know their travel arrangements.
Saying this, big cities like Lagos and Abuja are generally fine, but travel to northern Nigeria is quite risky due to the presence of ethnic clashes and threats of terrorism. So it's wise to research the latest government advice if travelling through these regions.
Public transport is potentially dangerous with poorly maintained buses and taxis, and fraud and criminal activity rife among drivers. The reliability of domestic airlines has also been questioned after numerous accidents. Fuel shortages often occur and road travel can be dangerous, particularly in traffic jams and rural areas. Visitors should avoid travelling at night, and should consider driving in a convoy through rural areas.
Nigeria has a relatively formal society and it is appropriate to address Nigerians by their surnames until you know them very well. Beachwear is only appropriate for the beach. Nigeria has the largest Muslim population in Africa, concentrated mainly in the north. Women should dress modestly, and avoid wearing trousers, and all visitors should exercise discretion in behaviour and dress, especially when visiting religious sites and during the holy month of Ramadan.
Time is a different concept in West Africa than in Europe or North America. Being 'on time' to a Nigerian could easily be a couple of hours after an agreed start-time. Evening social events tend to start late and often continue into the small hours. Photography in airports may lead to arrest. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria.
Those looking to do business in Nigeria, and especially those who've never done business on the African continent before, will certainly have to prepare themselves to face unique challenges. Although great strides have been made within Nigeria's corporate landscape, the country still suffers from massive corruption and a debilitating lack of infrastructure, which can make doing business there difficult. The management style typically found in Nigeria is extremely hierarchical. The boss - invariably male, and always of an older generation - will expect and will receive respect from all those working beneath him, and will never be publicly criticised. However, this does not necessarily mean that all decisions are made on this authority-figure's whim; business relationships are extremely important in Nigeria, and often, compromises can be reached.
In general, Nigerian business leaders will lead firmly, giving their employees instructions that are expected to be followed closely. Teamwork, and the ability to work together toward clearly-defined goals, is considered a more valuable asset than independent thinking or individualistic efforts. Business meetings in Nigeria are very social occasions, providing the framework within which solid interpersonal connections are to be made. Bear the following in mind: respect for elders is huge in Nigeria; even if one is more qualified than older colleagues, there is no surer way to cause offence in Nigeria than by disrespecting members of the older generation.
In Nigeria, especially for men, it is important that business dress reflects status; men tend to wear dark, stylish suits and a tie, and don't hold back on the accessories. Dressing for work in Nigeria can be trickier for female expats, especially those used to the more relaxed dress codes of the UK or America. Nigeria is a very traditional country, and therefore, skirts above the knee and cleavage-revealing tops are unacceptable in the office environment, as is the exposure of too much skin around the collarbone and shoulder area.
There is no specific protocol for the exchanging of business cards in Nigeria - although it is considered rude not to study the card in the presence of the person who gave it to you. Make sure any tertiary education or qualifications you have received are printed on your card, and that your title is prominently displayed. In a country of so many different ethnic groups and dialects, English has emerged as the de facto language of business in Nigeria. Business hours are generally from 8am (or 8.30am) to 5pm, from Monday to Friday. In the northern (predominately Muslim) part of Nigeria, Friday is a day of rest.
The country code for Nigeria is +234. Full international direct dialling is available. Free wifi is available in many cafes, restaurants, and hotels in tourist areas. A local prepaid SIM card can be purchased to avoid paying high international roaming charges.
Travellers to Nigeria over 18 years old do not have to pay duty on 200g of tobacco products, 1 litre of spirits and 1 litre wine, perfume or eau de Cologne for personal use and gifts to the value of NGN 50,000 (excluding jewellery, photographic equipment, electronics and luxury goods). Prescription medication and pharmaceutical products should be accompanied by a letter from your GP as well as the original prescription, and should not be carried in your checked luggage.
The following items carry substantial duty levies: cameras, projectors and other electronic goods, unless visitors can provide proof of possession for at least three years or can submit a certificate of re-importation. Prohibited items include beer, mineral water, soft drinks, sparkling wine, fresh fruit and vegetables, textiles, mosquito netting, jewellery and precious metals, cereals, and eggs. Flowers, plants and seeds often need permits and the rules regarding specific species often change, so it is best to check the situation as close to your time of travel as possible.
Nigerian Tourist Office, Abuja: +234 (0)9 234 2764.
Nigerian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 986 8400.
Nigeria High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7839 1244.
Nigeria High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0521.
Nigeria High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6215 8500.
Nigeria High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 0808.
Embassy of Nigeria, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 660 4366.
United States Embassy, Abuja: +234 (0)9 461 4000.
British High Commission, Abuja: + 234 (1) 277 0780.
Canadian High Commission, Abuja: +234 (0)9 461 2900.
Australian High Commission, Abuja: +234 (0)9 461 2780.
South African High Commission, Abuja: +234 (0)9 462 4200.
Irish Embassy, Abuja: +234 (0)9 462 0611.
New Zealand High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Nigeria): +44 20 7930 8422 .
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