According to the Ibrahim Index, Nigeria came 49th out of 54 African countries in the “personal injury” category.
No wonder then that we’re often asked questions like: is Nigeria safe to visit? Is it safe to work in Nigeria?
Of course, no holiday destination is truly safe these days given the threat of global terrorism. But Nigeria has some of its own challenges and risks.
We’ve put together a list of 5 key tips on how to stay safe in Nigeria.
The US Department of State currently recommends that American citizens avoid visiting the following states in Nigeria Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara.
All of these states witness frequent robberies, armed attacks and riots, not to mention terrorist atrocities carried out by Boko Haram. American and all other Western tourists should avoid travel to the states listed above.
If you do wish to travel to these areas, we advise you to follow the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office guidance:
“Before considering any travel to areas to which the FCO advise against all or all but essential travel, take professional security advice. Be vigilant at all times, keep others informed of your travel plans and vary your routines.”
Not all parts of Nigeria are out of bounds.
Most visitors to Nigeria spend most their time in the capital, Abuja, or its beating urban hub, Lagos.
This brings us to our next question: can Lagos be considered a safe place to travel?
If you’re flying to Nigeria, you will likely land in Lagos.
Lagos is nowhere near as safe as European and US destinations. There is always the risk of petty crime such as pickpocketing and, in rare cases, violent crime.
Another annoyance for Western tourists is the corruption and bribery. Expect to be routinely stopped by police and other troublemakers looking for bribes.
The best advice for visitors worried about safety in Lagos is to always be accompanied by a Nigerian friend or contact. Another piece of advice is to stay in the safer neighbourhoods of Lagos such as Victoria Island, Ikeja and Banana Island.
If you’re looking for peace of mind, we would emphasise that there are thousands of American, British and other expats living and working in Lagos and Abuja. Most of these expats manage to live safe and trouble-free lives.
While in Nigeria, we recommend that you watch the news and keep abreast of developments in the country.
Curfews, states of emergency and restrictions on travel might be imposed at very short notice. The threat of terrorism from groups such as Boko Haram also looms large.
It is therefore essential to be aware of developments in Nigeria so that you can avoid certain areas of the country wherever trouble arises.
Thinking of taking a cruise or boat trip on the Gulf of Guinea? Think again.
The Gulf of Guinea is notorious for pirate attacks. There are tens of incidences in the past few years where armed gangs have stormed boats and robbed or even held hostage tourists.
You would be well advised to stay on land during your visit to Nigeria. But there’s nothing preventing you from visiting some of Nigeria’s beautiful beaches.
Nigeria has one of the worst air safety records of any country in the world. Most recently, Dana Air Flight 992 crashed into a Lagos building, with no passengers surviving the crash.
As the Guardian wrote in its article titled “Come to Nigeria, if you like a bit of edge with your natural beauty”:
“The country’s infrastructure – particularly its aviation safety and security – is worse than ever.”
If you want to stay safe on your visit to Nigeria, we advise against all air travel within Nigeria. It’s preferable to simply take a reliable driver where you wish to travel between destinations in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a beautiful country to visit as we explore in greater detail in our piece on the top 5 places to visit in Nigeria. But what about the bottom line – Is Nigeria safe to visit?
Each person will have to make up their own mind based on their own individual tolerance for risk.
In our view, Nigeria is not danger-free but precautions and safety measures can be taken to ensure that your risk is trouble free as we’ve outlined above.
If you’re a reader from outside of Nigeria who has visited our beautiful country, please comment below and let us know your thoughts about your time here.