Hidden Gems of Africa – How to Plan a Trip to Niger

JUAN MARTINEZ

May 16, 2023

Hidden Gems of Africa – How to Plan a Trip to Niger

Known as one of the most challenging countries to travel to, cautious planning and staying up-to-date are key when planning a trip to Niger.

From all the countries I’ve traveled to so far, Niger is undoubtedly one of the most logistically challenging. There is essentially no available information about the region, and apart from a few travelers who have shared their experiences on travel forums, I had to figure out most things while being there.

However, Niger is a captivating country filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, vibrant traditions, and warm hospitality. It is a true hidden gem waiting to be explored, and its people are striving to move forward and make the best of their circumstances.

When considering planning a trip to Niger, it is crucial to have an understanding of the country’s current security situation and adhere to the do’s and don’ts. While a significant part of the country does face security challenges in certain regions, there are still plenty of safe areas to explore. By staying informed and making well-informed decisions, you can have a rewarding and secure travel experience in Niger.

In this guide, I will get into various aspects of planning your trip to Niger. I will provide information on visa applications, security concerns, must-visit destinations, cultural highlights, and practical tips to ensure a smooth and fulfilling journey. Whether you are attempting to visit every country on Earth, have work-related reasons to visit Niger, or have always been fascinated by Nigerien culture, Niger has something special to offer. exceptional to offer.

navigating along the Niger River outside Niamey
navigating along the Niger River outside Niamey

Visas and permits

Niger has a relatively straightforward visa policy for most travelers. Unless you hold a West African passport, you will need to apply for a visa in advance. But don’t worry! After traveling to all West African countries, obtaining a Niger visa has been one of the easiest. Generally, you will need a valid passport with a minimum of six months validity from the date of entry, flight tickets (or an itinerary), and a few photos.

For proof of accommodation, I made a fully refundable booking on Booking.com and applied for the visa at the Niger Consulate in Berlin. The process took 5 days and cost 80 EUR.

Apart from the visa, there are no other necessary permits required to enter Niger. There are no photography permits or overland transfer permits needed to move around the country. Niger is also a country where travelers can explore independently without the need for a guided tour. However, security reasons may not make it as easy as it sounds – more on that later.

NOTE:
Although an invitation letter is usually required, I was able to obtain my Niger visa without one. In case you cannot skip this step, you can also reach out to your hotel or Airbnb host and ask for a signed invitation letter.

Read more: Which Are The Most Bizarre Travel Experiences In Burkina Faso

National Museum of Niamey
Inside the National Museum of Niamey

How to travel around Niger

While traveling overland may seem like the most reasonable way to explore Niger, security is a major concern for travelers. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations operate freely outside major cities and frequently commit crimes against humanity.

Local tour operators take advantage of this security situation by selling tours at exorbitant prices. A 10-day overland tour around the country can start at 4000 EUR, which wealthier travelers may be willing to pay.

Unfortunately, for those looking to avoid these high prices and just want to go for the cheap option, there are a plenty inexperienced tour operators who may claim that additional security is unnecessary. However, once you leave the city, you will likely be on your own, relying on luck to avoid being stopped in the wrong place at the wrong time.

No, I don’t want to scare you or tell you what to do, but last January a French traveler got kidnapped in Mali by its own tour operator. Finding the right tour operator is the most important aspect for having a trouble-free trip and you shouldn’t book anything in West Africa, just because is cheap.

Security companies offer overland transfers between cities, which can be a less expensive and more secure option for traveling overland. During my stay in Niger, I inquired about overland transfers and learned that a security officer accompanies the transfer at a cost of 200 EUR per day per vehicle.

Another option is to fly between different cities. Niger Airlines operates regular flights between major cities like Niamey and Agadez, offering a quicker and more efficient way to cover long distances. Keep in mind that flight prices start at 500 EUR due to high demand, and there have been reports of last-minute cancellations.

Read more: Best things to do in Niamey, Niger

Traditional Tuareg in northern Niger
Traditional Tuareg in Northern Niger

Travel around Niger in a Nutshell

  • Local transport – Safety: 1/5, Price: 1/5, Convenience: 2/5
  • Private transportation – Safety: 4/5, Price: 3/5, Convenience: 5/5
  • Tours – Safety: 4/5, Price: 5/5, Convenience: 5/5
  • Flight – Safety: 5/5, Price: 4/5, Convenience: 3/5

How Safe is Niamey?

Niamey, the capital city of Niger, generally maintains a relatively safe environment for travelers. During my time in Niamey, I found the people to be extremely friendly, and I never felt any sense of danger while walking alone, even at night.

However, it is important to exercise caution and remain aware of your surroundings. While Niamey has a lower security risk compared to other parts of the country, it is still advisable to take precautions. The city benefits from increased security measures, including checkpoints and a visible presence of security forces, which contribute to maintaining stability and order.

During my stay in Niamey, I had the opportunity to connect with several locals through the Couchsurfing app and became friends with my Airbnb host. This allowed me to experience a more local side of the city and enhanced my overall stay.

INSIDER TIP: When booking accommodation, note that Booking.com offers mainly 4-5 star hotels. Consider using Airbnb for a more personal experience at a fraction of the price. I paid 18 EUR per night for an incredible Airbnb stay with a host who helped me get a SIM card and organize part of my trip.

Read more: Somaliland unveiled – How to travel Africa’s most complex country

Souvenir Shop next to the main market in Niamey
Souvenir Shop next to the main market in Niamey

Places to See in Niger

Agadez: UNESCO-listed old town with the famous mud mosque, sultan’s palace, and an animal market. Le Pilier restaurant offers good French and Italian food.

Tiguidit: Cliffs known for previously discovered dinosaur skeletons. Provides solitude and views over the Ténéré Desert.

Zinder: Visit the sultan’s palace, Birni area with decorated Hausa architecture, former slave market, Dolle Market, French cemetery, and traditional bakery.

Mirriah: Small town near Zinder with the Tsotse-Baki Royal Palace and surrounding Hausa architecture.

Tahoua: Major transport hub with older neighborhoods and the Sultan of Tahoua’s palace. Mare de Tabalak, a surreal lake, is an hour north of the city.

Siria & Yama: Villages with astonishing mud-brick architecture, including several mosques.

Dogondoutchi: Beautiful town with table-top mountains. Hike to the top for expansive sunset views.

Dosso: Traditional sultanate with a beautiful palace exterior painted in bright colors.

Kouré: Known for herds of the rare West African giraffe. Giraffe numbers have increased through conservation efforts.

Niamey: Niger’s capital with a low-key atmosphere. Enjoy a pinasse ride on the Niger River, visit Dan Malkou market, the national museum, grand mosque, riverside tanneries, and monuments. Several restaurants offer diverse cuisine, including Le Pilier, Maquis 2020, and Mango Café. Glasimo ice-cream parlor is exceptional.

Read more: Everything You Need To Know Before Traveling To South Sudan

Boat Tour in Niamey
Boat Tour in Niamey

INSIDER TIP: For those interested in attending the Gewerol Festival, tour operators may offer packages starting at 3000 – 4000 USD for a few days. However, by gathering information in advance and reaching out to locals who can assist with planning and logistics, it is possible to attend the festival at a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, I missed the festival, but I was able to arrange a photoshoot with several Gewerol participants for just 30 EUR (a local tour operator quoted 150 EUR for the same service).

Read more: How to cross the border between Djibouti and Somaliland

Gewerol people dressing up
Gewerol people dressing up

Local Tour Operators in Niger

Although I personally used only one tour operator for a half-day trip outside Niamey, I gathered information about various tour operators in the country. Here is an overview of the tour operators I discovered during my research:

Niger Travel & Tours

Zenith Tours

  • Email: zenithtours@gmail.com
  • Phone: +33 785561347

Agadez Voyages

Sahel Decouverte

Cisse Abbel Aziz

  • Phone: +227 9735 4998
  • (He helped me arrange everything in Niamey and its outskirts)

NOTE:
In Africa, WhatsApp is the preferred method of contact. For quick responses to your questions, it is recommended to send a WhatsApp message and continue the conversation there.

Read more: Best places to visit in Djibouti

View of the mosque of Agadez
View of the mosque of Agadez during a trip to Niger

Planning an expedition to Niger and need a translator? While French is widely spoken, the deeper you go into the country, the more difficult is to find French speakers. Thats where a guide comes good into play. For translating documents or information, a Hausa Translator can be more useful.

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