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Niger River, Niamey
Niger in its region.svg
Flag of Niger.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Niamey
Government Military Government
Currency Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Area total: 1.267 million km2
water: 300 km2
land: 1,266,700 km2
Population 11,665,937 (July 2006 est.)
Language French (official), Hausa, Djerma
Religion Muslim 80%, remainder indigenous beliefs and Christian
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +227
Internet TLD .ne
Time Zone UTC+1
Travel Warning WARNING: Please be advised that there are risks to know about when visiting Niger. Terrorism and general violence happen and can be targeted toward Westerners. While violence has dropped a bit in comparison to past years, it still happens on occasion. Remain alert and monitor media before arriving and while in the area. Terrorist groups operate in the areas bordering Mali, Libya, and throughout northern Niger. If travel is unavoidable, consult expert guidance and only stay at hotels with an armed security presence.

Niger (pronounced: /niːˈʒɛər/) is an arid, landlocked country of the Sahel with a population of 16 million. It is bordered by Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Chad and Libya. Niger is a former French colony which was granted independence in 1960. The land is mostly desert plains and dunes, with rolling savanna in the southeast.



In 1993, 35 years after independence from France, Niger held its first free and open elections. A 1995 peace accord ended a five-year Tuareg insurgency in the north. Coups in 1996 and 1999 were followed by the creation of a National Reconciliation Council that effected a transition to civilian rule by December 1999. In 2010 a coup d'état toppled the elected government, a military junta was set up, and elections were organized later that year.


Niger's economy centers on subsistence agriculture, animal husbandry, reexport trade, and increasingly less on uranium, because of declining world demand. The 50% devaluation of the West African franc in January 1994 boosted exports of livestock, cowpeas, onions, and the products of Niger's small cotton industry. The government relies on bilateral and multilateral aid — which was suspended following the April 1999 coup d'etat — for operating expenses and public investment. In 2000-01, the World Bank approved a structural adjustment loan of $105 million to help support fiscal reforms. However, reforms could prove difficult given the government's bleak financial situation. The IMF approved a $73 million poverty reduction and growth facility for Niger in 2000 and announced $115 million in debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Niger is the second poorest country in the world.



  • Niamey — Capital & commercial center, possibly the least crowded/hectic capital in West Africa
  • Agadez — A mecca of trade along trans-Saharan trade routes for over five centuries, home to a magnificent palace and several mosques and a gateway to the nearby Air Mountains
  • Ayorou — Along picturesque section of the River Niger with one of Niger's best markets, and a starting point for river trips to Gaya
  • Diffa — Peul town between shifting sand dunes and disappearing swampland which serves as the gateway to SE Niger & Lake Chad
  • Dosso — has a small ethnic museum, colorful market and even more colorful chief's palace
  • Maradi — Center of agriculture (especially peanuts), home to a colorful chief's palace, and near seasonal rivers/floodplains which have caused interesting land formations to the south
  • Tahoua — Stop en route to Agadez
  • Zinder — The cultural capital of Niger, this Peul-Hausa city has perhaps the most colorful craft markets (pottery & tanning are local specialties) as well as a noteworthy regional museum and sultan's palace

Other destinations[edit]

  • W National Park — magnificent National Park, easiest accessed from Niamey
  • Koure — See the last herd of giraffes in West Africa
  • Balleyara Market — Two hours from Niamey, one of West Africa's largest animal markets, plus a colourful array of other traditional market and artisanal goods (Sundays)
  • Ayorou — A river-side town three hours from Niamey with a colourful, laid-back Sunday market as well as pirougue tours to see the hippos and islands
  • Boubon — Bar/restaurant and huts to rent nightly on an island in the Niger River
  • Termit & Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve — one of Africa's largest reserves (twice as large as Costa Rica), the park protects several animals (including the critically endangered addax, Dama gazelle & desert cheetah), protects the nomadic culture and features lots of scenic desert landscape. Established in 2012, it will take a few years for guides, ecotours and facilities to become available.

Get in[edit]


Nationals of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Tunisia may enter Niger visa-free. you can get a visa for Niger in Ghana, Benin, Togo or Burkina Faso.

You need a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.

By plane[edit]

Two international airports: in Niamey(NIM) and Agadez.

There are a few private companies and one mission aviation group (SIMAir) that operate charter flights from Niamey in small planes.

By car[edit]

Travellers can get to Niger overland by roads from Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria. It should be noted that Boko Haram is highly active in Northern Nigeria, and the Malian border is likewise notorious for illicit activities including but not limited to terrorism and kidnapping. Some adventurous souls still cross the Sahara from the north (Algeria), but that area is not secure. Technically, there is an Algerian border post at In Guezzam and a corresponding Nigerian one in Assamakka with a desert piste continuing to Arlit and then onto Agadez, but there is very little up-to-date information concerning this crossing, due to poor intergovernmental communication and the dearth of travelers foolhardy enough to venture into this part of Algeria. Even less secure is the crossing over the porous and oftentimes violent border with Libya. Smugglers will oftentimes illegally transport migrants from Agadez into southern Libya, and it is theoretically possible, though emphatically not advised, to ride with them. Their overloaded trucks have been known to break down, be robbed, or crash, leaving scores of people wandering the desert with no food or water. Lorries filled with cargo that is easy to get in Libya yet scarce in Niger will occasionally cross legally into Niger from Libya, stamping passports and doing paperwork at the French military base in Madama, and they have been known to pick up passengers as well. However, all Libya and Algeria border crossings are best avoided as the risks of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, and other illegal activities are very high in these regions.

Get around[edit]

There are no railways in Niger.

Of the 10,000 km of highways over 2000 km is paved and efforts are being made to improve some of the sections that have previously been in repair. One can travel from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso all the way to Diffa, near Lake Chad on roads in decent to tolerable condition. The road from Niamey to "Park W" in the south is paved. The Zinder-Agadez route is being repaved after being in severe disrepair for years. The Birni Nkonni-Agadez-Arlit road is in poor shape.

The country has 27 airports/landing strips, 9 of which with paved runways.

From mid-December to March the Niger River is navigable for about 300 km, from Niamey to Gaya on the Benin border.

Taxis in Niamey run either 200 francs if the distance isn't too long, or 400 francs for going almost across the city. At the airport in Niamey though they have a monopoly and the lowest you'll get a taxi for is 3,000 francs, and that's if you haggle a lot. However, if you walk south from the airport you'll hit a main road and for 100 to 150F you can get a ride from a beat up van to the Grand Marche (Main Market), luggage included.

By bus[edit]

The Nigerien government has recently set up a bus service along the major routes of the country. While taking cars is exciting and interesting, they are dangerous, extremely hot, and more expensive. Plus, they are forced to pull over after midnight due to banditry. Because these cars often only leave in the evening, it can take several days to travel a relatively short distance. The large buses are brand new Mercedes buses and they carry a soldier at night so they may drive all night long. In addition, due to their large size, they can skim over potholes that would destroy the smaller vans.

Rent a car[edit]

There is almost no possibility to rent a car in usual sense, although in 2005 a Hertz franchise came to Niamey and rents Toyota RAV4s. Also you can rent full-size cat-cat (4x4 SUV from French: quatre-quatre) with a driver/guide, but in most cases you will have to arrange with companies that organise expeditions.

  • Tidene Expeditions, BP 270 Agadez, +227 440568, fax: +227 440 578


French is the lingua franca nationwide and Niger's "official" language for government, it is a second language for nearly all the population and is spoken with varying degrees of fluency. Nearly all travellers should be able to get by using French. There are eight "national" languages which are maternal languages of Nigeriens in various regions of the country. Hausa is the most spoken regional language; nearly 50% of all Nigeriens speak Hausa as their mother tongue, primarily in the south central and southeast of the country. Zarma is the second most spoken language with 2 million speakers (accounting for 25% of Nigeriens) in the southwest of the country. Tamajeq, the language of the Tuareg peoples, is spoken by nearly 10% of Nigeriens in the Saharan north of the country.

See[edit][add listing]

West Africa's last remaining wild Giraffe herd lives in Niger

Niger has stunning natural beauty, especially in the Mountain ranges in the north of the country, but also houses a few old trading centers in the Sahara, such as Agadez and Zinder, that have a distinct mixture of arab/tuareg and black african culture. The Hausa architecture in those towns is also worth a visit for tourists. The wild giraffe herd lives near Koure which is only around sixty kilometers from Niamey on a paved road. You will need a 4x4 vehicle and a guide however. The giraffes live near many people and are rather curious and friendly. You can approach within ten meters or so before they become more cautious. The locals are also very friendly. Don't be surprised if you are invited into someone's home. In such circumstances a small gift would always be appreciated.

Do[edit][add listing]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Nigerien artisanal specialties include:

  • intricately imprinted leather boxes (ranging from small 5cm boxes to full-size trunks)
  • other leather goods
  • silver jewellery.
  • colourful hand-woven wedding blankets
  • coloured straw mats
  • fabric (only the Enitex brand is made in Niger, but there are many other kinds that are also good)

See the Niamey section and the Balleyara section for sample prices of these goods and where to find them.

The currency used in Niger is the CFA Franc (FCFA — XOF) — pronounced "say-fah". US$1 = 504.62 FCFA (as of April 2021).

ATMs — Mastercard/ Maestro/ visa card withdrawals are available at Ecobank and Banque Atlantique in Niamey.

Credit cards are almost never accepted anywhere.

Foreign currency are not accepted as currency, only to exchange into local money via a bank or black market. Exception: near the border of Nigeria, Nigerian currency Naira is accepted.

Bargaining and haggling is essential and expected. It's best to have a low price and a maximum price in mind before entering into a negotiation. If the price is higher than you want, just say thanks and walk away: if you were offering a fair price you will be called back. If you were offering too low a price, you won't be called back, but you can always go back later and offer more.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Local, traditional food includes:

  • a dense millet porridge with an okra sauce, a pepper sauce, a tomato sauce, or a squash sauce on top, sometimes with veggies and a couple chunks of meat
  • rice with the above sauces
  • mushy macaroni pasta with an oily red sauce
  • rice & beans
  • corn cous-cous mixed with moringa leaves, black-eyed peas, and sauce (called dumbou in Djera/Zarma, and only available in Djerma/Zarma regions)

Availability varies widely by region, but visitors may wish to try the following delicious specialties, usually available as street food:

  • dumbou (see above)
  • kilishi: beef jerkey that comes in three flavors: regular, peanut-spiced, and hot-pepper-spiced
  • masa: delicious sourdough pancakes eaten with a peanut/hot pepper/ginger spice mix or a brown sauce
  • fari masa: fried dough balls served with either a squash/tomato salsa or sugar
  • chichena: like fari masa above, but made from bean flour instead of wheat flour
  • koudagou (Djerma/Zarma): fried sweet potato chunks with sauce

Less exotic but also tasty:

  • brochettes — meat kabobs made from either beef, lamb, or goat
  • omelet sandwiches
  • mangoes: if in season, they are bigger and juicier than any available in the western world
  • yogurt: pasteurized, sweet, and available wherever there is a fridge
  • fried fish sandwiches
  • ground beef sandwiches
  • plates of garlicky green beans or peas (usually in bars and restaurants)

Careful of the salads — usually not ok for western travelers even in the city.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Drink plenty of filtered or bottled water. You will get dehydrated during your trip to Niger at one point. At times it can be hard to find bottled water, but ask for "Purewater" (pronounced pure-wata) that comes in sealed plastic bags for usually 25F (50F in some hard-to-reach places). You will also need to replenish your salts more frequently than you are accustomed.

Keep in mind that drinking alcohol is generally forbidden in Muslim culture, so take extra care to keep drunken inappropriate behavior behind closed doors and out of the public eye.

The drinking age in Niger is 18.

The national beer is called, appropriately, Biere Niger. The only other locally produced beer is a franchise of the French West-African Flag brewery. While taste is in the eye of the beerholder, Biere Niger is decent. Both are brewed in the same tank from the same ingredients with the slightest variation on how much reconstituted malt they put in each batch. All other beer, boxed wine, and hard liquor is imported.

In rare pockets of the capital you can find millet beer homebrew, brewed by Burkinabe immigrants. This is drunk out of calabash gourd bowls. Some compare the taste to a dry, unsweetened cider. See the Niamey section for directions.

Locally-made non-alcoholic drinks are delicious. Safety depends on the water quality: generally ok in the capital and NOT ok in rural areas. They are either sold by women out of their houses (ask around), by young girls from trays on their heads, or by young boys pushing around coolers. These drinks include:

  • lemu-hari: a sweet lemony-gingery drink
  • bisap: a dark red kool-aid-type drink made from hibiscus leaves
  • apollo: a thick, pinkish-brownish drink made from the baobab fruit
  • degue: sweet yogurt with small millet balls (like tapioca)

To drink, you bite the corner off the bag.


The official language in Niger is French, though very few people speak it outside Niamey, and even there do not expect a high level conversation with the traders at the markets. The local languages include Djerma (spoken mainly in Niamey and the bordering Tillaberi and Dosso regions), Hausa, Fulfulde and Tamashek (spoken by Tuaregs in north), and Kanuri (spoken by Beri Beri). English is of no use outside the American cultural center and a few big hotels of Niamey. However, you will find English-speakers in border towns along the Nigerian border, such as Birni N Konni and Maradi. These people are usually from Nigeria to the south and in general want something from you. As friendly as they may be, always listen to a professional guide over anyone that speaks some English.

If you learn about 20 phrases in a local language, you will gain respect in a heartbeat. Simply greeting people in their local tongue will make your trip there smoother than you would have ever thought possible.

Top essential Zarma/Djerma phrases:

  • Fofo: hello
  • Mate ni go? (mah-tay nee go?): How are you?
  • Sah-mai (sawm-eye): Fine
  • Mano...? Where is...?
  • Ai ga ba... (Eye gah bah): I want...
  • Wo-nae: That one
  • Toe: OK.
  • Ai (eye) MAH fah-ham: I don't understand.
  • Ka-LA-tone-tone: Goodbye

Top essential Hausa phrases:

  • Sannu: Hello
  • Kana LA-hiya: How are you?
  • LA-hiya LO: It's all good.
  • Na GO-day: Thank you
  • Sai ANjima: Goodbye

Some Arabic words are also common:

  • salam-u-laikum, which roughly means, "peace be with you," and is used in Niger when you enter a house or greet someone
  • al hamdallaye, which means to a Nigerien "Bless it, it's finished." It can also mean "no thank you." The latter can also get you out of having to sample possibly dirty food, or from eating at someone's home until your stomach explodes.
  • In-shah-allah, which means "God willing." For example, "I'll come to visit your family in-shah-allah."


Patience. If you haven't learned it before you went to Niger, you probably will.


Volunteering would be your best bet here, as many people in the rural areas have been hit by drought.

Stay safe[edit]

Niger is politically unstable and therefore lawlessness is widespread. The latest coup d'etat in March 2021 increased the unstable situation and every traveller should follow independent news closely and stay in contact with their embassy. There is also a large presence of Al-Qaeda who have kidnapped and killed tourists, so it is essential to know the off-limit regions and avoid them.

In the region north of Agadez, there have been many carjackings, kidnappings and robberies in the past sixteen or so years. The problem continues to this day, and tourists should consider the area essentially lawless. You should not venture beyond Agadez even if you have a guide and a 4WD vehicle unless you seriously know what you are doing. The roads past this point are of terrible quality with bandits being abundant.

Avoid driving late at night in a private vehicle. Occasionally armed robbers will operate near the town of Galmi (central Niger) and around Dosso-Doutchi (in western Niger), as well as on the road to Gao, Mali in the Tillabery region. Normally, there are police checkpoints on the main highways which limit criminal activities during the day.

The main annoyances you are likely to meet are young boys shouting "Anasara," which means 'foreigner' in most local languages, derived from the Arabic word. You will also be asked for a 'cadeau' pretty much every time you see a person outside your hotel. The word is French for 'gift,' and it is best to remember not to perpetuate the misery this word causes to foreigners working in the country.

In Niamey the safety level is better. If you stay away from markets after dark and use taxis and are EXTRA careful to avoid where the streets cross ravines, you shouldn't run into any problems. In markets there is risk of pickpockets or handbag straps being cut but you are more likely to lose money by haggling poorly and in French.

Carrying a backpack and camera, looking like a tourist, and especially being white, will definitely draw some unwanted attention. Most of the attention is from people who try to get your money legally, either by selling you a toothbrush or by begging, but there are always a few less honest people.

Stay healthy[edit]

The Centers for Disease Control [1] is an excellent resource for authoritative advice on health issues for travelers to Niger.

Drink lots and lots of water while in Niger because the dry heat will dehydrate you and you won't realize it. It is the best preventative step you can take. Bottled water or water sealed in a bag (called pure-wata) is available in most of the cities but in a pinch, city tap water is well-chlorinated (this is according to one traveler; another American who lived in Niger for two years says never drink unfiltered water anywhere! — that includes ice!). Be particularly wary of well water, stream water, and rural water.

Be sure to replenish your salts as well as liquids.

Wear loose conservative clothes, big hats, and lots of sunscreen. If in doubt, wear what the locals wear.

Malaria, including encephaletic malaria, is a problem, and is chloroquine resistant in Niger [2]. Take your prophylaxes, use heavy-duty insect repellent (DEET is best, though nasty), and consider carrying a mosquito net to sleep under.

Giardia and amoebic dysentery are common. Be wary of any roadside food, unless you buy it hot off the grill. Even items fried in oil could make you sick if the oil has been heavily used and is old. Best to avoid salads and uncooked veggies. Also, never drink unfiltered water (including ice).

Schistosomiasis is present in most water bodies in Niger, so travelers should avoid going in the water everywhere — except chlorinated swimming pools [3].

In case you were unable to stay healthy, the Clinique Pasteur (situated in front of the Lycée Fontaine) has clean facilities, sterile needles, and competent, sympathetic doctors. The Clinique Gamkalley and many other clinics are around, however, you may need to watch out for dirty needles, over-prescription and aggressive staff.


Visitors are treated as kings in Niger (there is a Koranic proverb to that effect), so be careful not to abuse the hospitality you will be shown. For the most part, try to accept all the small tokens and gestures (cokes, tea, small gifts, etc.) that are offered to you during your time in Niger. It really isn't good to refuse too much and don't think "these people are too poor to give me these things". That is offensive as taking good care of guests is a point of honor and gives people great pleasure. If you feel uncomfortable in regards to this custom offer gifts in exchange. Nigeriens tend to be very friendly and love swapping stuff. Don't comment out loud when you see poverty or things in disrepair and please don't remind Nigeriens about how poor their country is.

Dress conservatively, which means no shorts, no skirts above the knees, and no tank tops. For women, dressing revealingly can be seen as very offensive, even in Niamey. Also, dress nicely, as clothes determine how well you are treated back.

Avoid drunken behavior, since alcohol is prohibited in the Muslim religion and greatly frowned-upon in Niger.

Don't eat while walking in the street, this is considered obscene. Even drinking water is just barely acceptable. If you are sitting together with others and you decide to eat or drink something, even if it's only a piece of fruit, offer to share with everyone. Most people will decline, but it is expected that you offer nonetheless.

Always ask people, especially camel drivers, market sellers, and the elderly, before taking a photograph. Many Nigeriens still find it offensive. Usualy they will demand payment for photos.

Slavery is still relatively common in the central areas, away from the towns. You can generally spot slaves by the unadorned, solid ankle bracelets on both feet, which look like manacles and may well serve that purpose. Unless you feel particularly brave, discussion of the subject with either victims or perpetrators is probably best avoided.


See the Friends of Niger website [4] for discussion boards where you can ask questions before you go to Niger and maybe get some Nigeriens or others to fill you in.

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