“Update: As of January 2017, NTT is running tours into the northern desert areas again! The zones around Agadez, Arlit, and the Desert and Mountains are ok to travel with a requisite escort for some segments. For specifics, contact us.
However, all tours are at this time operational, with the exception of the Trans-Sahel tour from Niamey, until further notice.”
Security and the Situation:
Currently we are running our regular tours to the Capital Area, South, and East up until Zinder in Niger. Our Lake Chad tour (“Trans-Sahel”) from Niamey is not available at this time until further notice, and our tours from Agadez are available with certain provisions.
Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb still operate in the areas close to and/or intersecting with Niger. Both are – by our and all accounts, crazy, and dangerous, and both can target foreigners or include them in strikes.
Most of the problem is in Mali (AQIM) and Nigeria (BH), where the 2 base, and which have deeper systemic problems to spur them on in the first place, but these can bleed over across the porous borders that characterize all of Africa. Especially states this big and underpopulated. Poverty and exclusion from global opportunities are the scapegoats for why these problems and groups exist, but that is also reductionist.
At the time of writing some areas are safer than others for tourism, and we follow along those lines when choosing which tours to offer. Most visitors, by far the majority over 99%, emerge unscathed with great tales to tell and no bad encounters to speak of.
Travel East of Zinder and North to Agadez and Arlit by road should be reviewed with us and confirmed for status. You should at all times listen to our guides and check with your embassy, as for the safety and wisdom of traveling to former or current risk zones. Embassies have warned staff not to stray away from the capital, and NGO’s have evacuated most white staff from the country..
The Toureg rebellion is generally about Uranium resources and mining, rather than Islam and any anti-western per-say or any religious general politics…and is a controversy mired further by the public relations departments of France, Russia, and USA in order to, some say, shroud mineral resource agendas…but still it is another flashpoint that should not effect foreigners much, but may in some bad circumstances. Show respect for Toureg’s views on this should you be in the Sahara region, and listen patiently and learn. Independence is something a good deal of people want and they don’t appreciate being remotely associated with terrorism.
Niamey is generally fine but kidnapping and attacks have happened rarely but occasionally there.
All that said, Niamey and Niger generally is a great deal safer than its neighbors in terms of practical reality and travel, and by a long shot safer in terms of road accidents, petty crime, and random violence. Niger is one of the nicer nations in the area in the department of local attitudes and local community protection of foreign guests, with some troubled neighbors around the country that sometimes spoil and steal the show. Please write to us before attempting solo travel, and also to your embassy. We both can help, but we defer to their judgment. It is their and our job to put your safety first.
Getting to Niger
Most travelers arrive via Niamey International Airport (NIM), where most flights come in at night and the cool air outside welcomes you into a relatively relaxed taxi parking lot from an African standpoint. You are not hassled or hustled much here, which can come as a relief after braving the likes of Lagos and similar Afro-capitals, even major tourist ones. Air France, Royal Air Maroc, Turkish Airlines, Burkina Airlines, Air Ivoire, and Asky Airlines all currently as of 2014 fly to the capital, but international flights to Agadez have been discontinued several years ago. The immigration process is a pleasure and very friendly, and the officials often let your friends or the party coming to pick you up wait inside the immigration area. Everything is quiet, secure, and relaxed, and Niamey is one of the tamer beasts of the west when it comes to African cities.
Coming overland over border crossings is a different mess. While nobody asks you for bribes on the Nigerien side, long lines abound and lots of dirt and dust. Benin and Burkina are “ok”, being great cultural and trading neighbors with smooth interchange between each other, while Nigeria is a horrible spectacle and security is not stellar nor is the attitude of the merchants who hang out there.
If crossing overland to or from Nigeria, hang on to your valuables. Mali is off limits and the border should not be attempted under any circumstances, less your life be put in danger. You can also not row across Lake Chad to enter Chad, by yourself or with a hire. The lake is too receded and mosquitoes will dissuade you anyway. – Although border crossings are possible north of the lake, and the area is full of soldiers and security, and so despite your embassy’s declarations, Chad can be a relatively painless experience coming and going.
Getting Around Niger
1 liter of gas is about $1.08 in Niger, but prices of vehicles quoted for the day can vary widely. $200-450 is the range we hear consistently for solid cars with drivers. Intercity buses are more stable and reasonably priced though they do not always honor their promises of air conditioning nor arrive within 2 hours of when they are supposed to. Buses between cities cost in 2014 about $30-40. A taxi ride within a city is about $0.80, while a taxi ride from your hotel to the center of the city is $0.50 in any Nigerien city. Small change and you should feel at liberty to go anywhere within a city you desire. To hire a boat for a quick ride is $4 if you’re a local, but you’ll never get away with less than $15 as a foreigner since locals do not generally take boat rides for fun, and the boats are relatively rudimentary to say the least. A driver, just a driver, without car or gas, asks at the lowest $25 a day to shuttle you around intracity. But you should give more than that if possible and offer him a lunch to keep good form and good will if you are paying this low.
Distances between Niamey to Koure is 67km. Between Niamey and W Park is 145km. Between Niamey and Zinder is 1000km. Between Zinder and Diffa is 300km. There is no bus between Diffa and Lake Chad and you may not take formal major public transport across the border, although you can look for beat-up minibuses to take you over.
It costs $50 to bring your own car over the border, though you must get insurance and documents (NTT can provide these,) and then in 3-6 months from the time you bring in the vehicle (import) you receive the carnet.
Private Military security convoys, which can sometimes be mandatory for travel, cost $4000 and up for 5-7 days around Agadez in the north, for example. When you want to visit Lake Chad or some of the places in the far north, at times you may be imposed with the mandatory company of the military, who expect to be paid in advance. We can organize this for you and get the real price without them inflating their pay, however we cannot argue with them nor get around this rule. At the time of writing it is literally and logistically much much cheaper and safer to book a tour with us or any operator than to attempt to go to northern Niger and do the paperwork and convoy hire yourself.
The only “domestic airline” is one plane, a Dash-8 used by the WFP and UN to ferry NGO workers around between various cities… It runs on a regular schedule, and one-way tickets (if you’re a visitor you can sometimes get onboard, but ask in advance) are around $210 each between any 2 cities in Niger. – Tahoua, Agadez, Arlit, Zinder, Diffa, Niamey.
Business Opportunities and Doing Business in Niger
Niger is a frontier market abounding with opportunity and also with irritations and hardships for entrepreneurs. It is a much safer, business-friendlier environment than Nigeria or most of west Africa, with Ghana a close second with far more people already in the Ghana game. We would encourage aspiring and adventuring businessmen to head here and speak with us as well as pursue their own ideas and investigations.
The largest logistical company is Mohammad Rhissa’s Rimbo, which owns billions of assets throughout West Africa and transportation and infrastructure near-monopolies. He is the most famous businessman in Niger and went from a totally uneducated instinctive merchant to a megamillionaire by being honest and careful. There is an astounding amount of demand in food and transport sectors, both underserved. As you’ll see, Niger is in need of just about everything, and is the most “behind” country in Africa for the very same reason it is so fascinating and so frozen in time. Cooking oil, wheat, and basic commodities are easily liquidated here, and natural gas is venting around the place waiting to be bottled for sale. Uranium is not available for the layman but there are gold and other deposits and informal mines to the south. Check with your embassy about doing everything the clean and cool way, and for good suppliers and local partners to help your efforts. Also check with us. Sanitation and garbage eradication is abundantly evident in its sore need.
Getting stuff in to sell and trade is remarkably easy with the right route and channels – 40 tons from Cotonou port in Benin costs only $2500 to transport to Niamey, while from Ghana Togo or Nigeria it would run you at least $4000 overland. Go with Benin. On the otherhand, Cotonou may have the distance advantage but the price of importing generally is cheapest using the port of Lome, Togo.
Electronic Surveillance and security systems, private security, and response are growing very fast here too. But hopefully that will reverse with more stability in the country’s future.
Visas and Airport Hassles at Niamey International Airport
Visas are $100 for most foreign nationals and admit tourists and businessmen for 3 months from the date of entry. They are also valid for 3 months. You must show yellow fever (yellow card) vaccination upon arrival, but all else is relatively smooth here and corruption free at least to your face as an incoming/outgoing visitor.
The US Embassy in Washington DC for Niger grants visas to anyone who applies and is eligible. You need not be American, and can quite literally mail your application in from anywhere in the world and have your visa issued and sent back! They are as friendly a group of Africans as ever you’ll hear of in positions of state! Visa extensions can be arranged through NTT, as well as (for those in a rush or in a bind), visas on arrival or “visa volant”
Places to Stay in Niamey
The premiere hotels in the city are the Hotel Gawiye on the River at $100-160 a night for 4-star standards. The Grand Hotel is 2nd at slightly under the quality and price point. Hotel Univers is our preferred partner and we can get you rates of between $50-80. Hotel Ronnier is a stalwart reliable choice, at around the same. The Chinese Hotel Oasis is a gaudy, plastic strange abomination near the new Chinese-built freeway, but Asians end up there nevertheless and pay more. This is an alright option as a hotel generally, but the location is terrible. There are other hotels and homestays in town that range from $30-80 but are not clean nor secure and are ill-advised.
In W Park the names of the game are Hotel de la Tapoa ($50) and Savanna Lodge ($60), both outstanding and serene.
Out in Zinder there are the beautiful and private Hotel Auberge Gamzaki for $70, Auberge Mourna also at $70 stands with a great restaurant and in a central location, and the horrible and huge hotel on the main highway peddles its slums for $25 a night, but gets by far the most business of the 3. They are busy building a new central hotel in the city which could be the best of all the bunch soon.
Homestays can be arranged for way under all these prices by NTT on request.
We can for a comfortable stay arrange any of the above at prices at least $10 under rack rate. Contact us.
Agadez is not feasible at this time to book individual hotels or homestays without an itinerary and tour. This may change in the future but contact us for special arrangements. We can book on request accommodation according to almost any budget and preferences there, and there are clear over a hundred to choose from.
Going out: Places to Shop, Eat, and Drink in Niamey
Food is great in Niamey and you’ll find French flare with Saharan style, as well as plenty of foreign flavor – Chinese is the only dissapointment.
Head to the Turkish restaurant next to Turkish Airlines office for our staff favorite, or to Amandine in the downtown for Lebanese standard fare (well-done, and positively stuffed with expats).
Namaste has the best Indian cuisine, and Mango the best African.
Le Keraw is a good riverside haunt, while Makis 2000 is the place to do business lunch (expensive.)
For budget backpackers, Rangoli is a mid-priced Indian cafe where dinners will run about $20. Self-caterers should head to downtown supermarkets or to Baaklini grocery. Entrees run $6-10 in Niger, drinks $2, and sides $4-10.
When it comes to bars the choices are manifold. La terasse (staff pick) is the best bar on the river. Elysee is a popular place for weekends. Moki, run by the one and only Amina, is also a staff pick and our favorite, and very chill for foreigners and locals to relax, dance, or meet.
There is plenty of dancing at Le Rivaled, but Le closh and Le toulosian should both be avoided for their past history of violence and kidnapping.