Nigeria Travel Guide: Essential Facts and Information

View of Lagos Lagoon and bridge, Nigeria

Michael Kraus / EyeEm/ Getty Images

As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria is often considered the continent's powerhouse. Rich in oil and increasingly tech-savvy, it's also a major destination for business travelers and its booming economy is in evidence in the sparkling megacity of Lagos. Here, world-class restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and malls vie for space with commercial skyscrapers. Elsewhere in Nigeria you'll find rural villages, breathtaking nature reserves and golden beaches; but beware, political turmoil and terrorism make some areas of the country unsafe.

Check the latest travel warnings before booking your trip to Nigeria.

Location

Part of West Africa, Nigeria borders the Gulf of Guinea on its southern edge. It also shares land borders with Benin to the west, Niger to the north, Chad to the northeast and Cameroon to the east.

Geography

Nigeria has a total land mass of 351,649 square miles/ 910,768 square kilometers, making it slightly more than twice the size of California. It is the 14th largest country in Africa.

Capital City

The capital of Nigeria is Abuja.

Population

According to a July 2017 estimate by the CIA World Factbook, Nigeria has a population of over 190.6 million people - more than any other African nation. This includes more than 250 distinct ethnic groups of which the most populous are the Hausa and the Fulani, the Yoruba and the Igbo.

Language

There are over 520 languages spoken in Nigeria (the third-most of any country in the world). The official language and lingua franca is English. Other major languages include Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Fulani.

Religion

Islam is the majority religion in Nigeria, accounting for 50% of the population. 40% of Nigerians identify as Christian with the remaining 10% holding indigenous beliefs.

Currency

The naira is the official currency in Nigeria. For accurate exchange rates, use this helpful online converter.

Climate

Nigeria has a tropical climate and temperatures remain consistently warm all year round. The country's large size means that there are several different climatic zones, each with their own unique weather pattern. However, the weather in Nigeria is generally defined by its wet and dry seasons. For most of the country, the wet season runs from April to October, although rains start as early as February in the south. The dry season runs from November to March and brings with it the dry, dusty harmattan wind.

When to Go

There are pros and cons to traveling in either season, but most visitors agree that despite the harmattan, the dry season is the most pleasant time to experience Nigeria. Humidity is at its lowest at this time of year, there are fewer insects and your trip is less likely to be delayed by flooding in rural areas of the country.

Key Attractions

Sprawled along the edge of Lagos Lagoon, Lagos may no longer be Nigeria's capital but it is still the country's beating heart. With a population of 21 million people, it's a hive of activity known for its vibrant music and art scene. You can dance until dawn in the city's nightclubs, shop for contemporary fashion or learn about Nigerian history at the National Museum.

Yankari National Park preserves a large tract of interior savannah and offers the best game-viewing in the country. You can expect to see a wide variety of wildlife including elephants, buffalo, waterbuck and lions. The birdlife is also spectacular with more than 350 recorded species. After a busy day, don't miss out on a dip in the park's scenic Wikki Warm Springs.

A center of Yoruba spirituality in the south of the country, Oshogbo is most famous for the Osun-Osugbo Sacred Grove, a UNESCO-protected cultural site located on its outskirts. This dense patch of primary forest is believed to be the home of Yoruba fertility goddess Osun. Sculptures, sanctuaries and shrines can be found amidst the ancient trees and along the meandering river.

Getting There

Nigeria has several major airports. The one most frequently used by international visitors is Murtala Muhammed International Airport (LOS), located on the outskirts of Lagos. Many airlines offer flights to Lagos, including Emirates, Delta, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. Most visitors require a visa and must apply for one at their nearest Nigerian embassy before departure. For more information, visit the Nigeria Immigration Service website.

Medical Requirements

In addition to making sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date, the CDC recommends the following vaccinations for visitors to Nigeria: hepatitis A, polio, typhoid and yellow fever. Proof of polio vaccination is an exit requirement for visitors that spend more than four weeks in the country, and proof of yellow fever vaccination is an entry requirement for anyone traveling to Nigeria from a yellow fever country.

Other vaccines including cholera and rabies may be advisable depending on which part of the country you're traveling to. Malaria is a risk throughout, and prophylactics should be taken to prevent infection. Pregnant women or those that are trying to conceive are also advised not to visit Nigeria due to the risk of Zika virus.