What You Need To Know
Niamey is the capital and largest city of the West African country Niger. Niamey lies on the Niger River, primarily situated on the east bank. It is an administrative, cultural and economic centre.
On the Niger River’s lush shores and home to culinary delights unparalleled elsewhere in Niger, Niamey refreshes those arriving from the Sahel’s wilds. Conversely, it can be a desperate place with summer dust never settling and the pain of the world’s poorest country on show.
Dive into markets, peruse the museum, take a pirogue along the river or simply enjoy a sunset riverside drink as silhouettes of loping, laden camels cross Kennedy Bridge.
- The Communaute Financiere Africaine Franc, sometimes referred to as the CFA Franc or simply “the Franc”, is the official currency of Niger.
- MasterCard/ Maestro withdrawals are available at Banque Atlantique in Niamey, credit cards are almost never accepted anywhere and are extremely costly.
Sterling, American dollars and other foreign currency are not accepted as currency, only to exchange in a local Niamey money bank.
Niger, one of the hottest countries in the world, has three basic climatic zones: the Saharan desert in the north, the Sahel to the south of the desert, and the Sudan in the southwest corner. The intense heat of the Saharan zone often causes the scant rainfall to evaporate before it hits the ground; at Bilma, in the east, annual rainfall is only 2 cm (0.79 in). On the average, rainfall in the Aïr Massif is limited to a maximum of 25 cm (10 in) annually, and most of it comes during a single two-month period. It averages 56 cm (22 in) at Niamey, in the southern Sahel. The rainy season is from May through October, with most rain in July and August. At Niamey, the average maximum daily temperature fluctuates from 31° C (88° F ) in August to 41° C (106° F ) in April. Nights are cool (below 20° C /68° F ) from November to February.
French is the official language of government. However, most Nigeriens speak one of a number of local languages as their mother tongue. The West Chadic language of Hausa is the most common.
The five main local languages spoken in Niger are – Hausa, Songhai, Fula/Fulbe (spoken by the Fulani), Tamasheq/Tamajaq (spoken by the Tuareg) and Kanuri/Beri-Beri.
Health and security
- Medical care does not meet the international standards and is especially limited/non-existent in rural areas. This is a cash society, and physicians/clinics do not take insurance or credit cards. Hospitalization, even at CURE, is risky since nursing care is essentially non-existent and is substandard when available. Infections following minor procedures are common even at the “good” medical facilities. Drugs, bandages, IV fluids, and other supplies are often in short supply/unavailable in local hospitals. Emergency medical assistance (EMT, paramedics) are non-existent. Most ambulances are dilapidated, have no emergency equipment, and can take an hour or more to arrive.
- Health precautions are generally similar to those throughout Africa: Up to date normal vaccinations plus those for yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A and B. Beware of rabies and cholera and consider a vaccination for meningococcemia for children and adolescents. Take a well stocked first aid kit with you, protect yourself from mosquitoes, wash your hands well before handling food, peel fruit and vegetables and do not drink tap water or dairy products.
- Crime occurs at all hours in Niamey and other major cities. Non-violent crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching, backpack theft, cell phone theft) are present in major cities, notably in or around places where Westerners gather.
- Vehicle thefts were prevalent in Niamey; however, since the arrest of a Nigerien/Nigerian theft ring, the level has decreased. Most carjackings reported to police occur along the southern border.
Niger has experienced terrorism, mainly in the form of kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR) operations and clashes between the military and al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram (BH), and/or other terrorist groups. AQIM and similar terrorist groups are active across the Sahel region; over the years, they have conducted multiple kidnappings and killings. AQIM has conducted operations in the Sahel since 2006, when the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) became affiliated with al-Qaida and changed its doctrine and name. In 2012, AQIM and allied groups took over northern Mali. These groups include some Nigeriens but are essentially external threats to Niger.
- The Night Market should be avoided after dark, as criminals loiter in the area looking for potential victims. The area is notorious for pickpocketing, purse snatching, mugging, and assaults. The area around the Gaweye and Grand Hotels, National Museum, and Kennedy Bridge are other high-risk areas, day or night.
- For reasons of security do not drive near certain areas such as those close to the borders of Libya and Algeria.
- Take a canoe for a sunset sail along the Niger River, one of Africa’s most important waterways and Niger’s lifeblood. Fishing for some of the 250 species in the river is possible throughout the year, the main season being from February to July.
- Visit the National Museum is in downtown Niamey: the buildings are all painted a brilliant blue and white. There are exhibits on Nigerien history and culture, as well as a small zoo. There is also an artisan area where you can watch people work on traditional crafts and buy their products.