Traveling to Nigeria is definitely not for the faint of heart. There should be no romantic notions of what visiting the country would be like and you should definitely be prepared for the unexpected. Yes, you may be hustled, you may be asked to pay a bribe and you may pay a foreign tax, but let’s not pretend that doesn’t happen (and far worse) in other countries. The bad rap that Nigeria and Nigerians constantly get is not deserved, no matter how many letters you’ve received from Nigerian scam artists.
First, Nigeria as we know it today is only 57 years old. And throughout that 57 years there has been a lot of political unrest including coup d’etats and militarization of its government. So the country has only been a true democracy for 16 years. The last thing a “new” country is going to have on its agenda is building up its tourism sector especially if it does not depend on it to fuel the economy. So you have a “new” country still trying to find its way internally after the mess that colonization and corruption has made and you expect five star hotels and glitzy restaurants. Ummm, no. You’re not going to find a ton of modern day conveniences that you’d find in other touristy places. The transportation system is ancient and made with locals in mind not tourists. Roads are a mess because the states refuse to pave roads that are the responsibility of the federal government and government workers are paid pennies which breeds corruption and practices of bribery. Yes, those are all realities. However, once you “get” this and move beyond it you can enjoy the country for what it is – one big giant adventure.
You will hear a lot of people say, don’t go to Nigeria alone. And this is the truth. Meaning, make sure someone is expecting you and that you have contacts within the country that will be there to help you navigate your way. Know exactly how you will get from the airport to your accommodations and definitely have your accommodations already arranged. Don’t think you’re going to come here and “wing it”. No. That’s not how this works.
Also, there won’t be some fancy money exchange kiosk at the airport. However, once you go outside there will be a ton of Hausa men ready to exchange your USD or Euros if you need to. And it’s actually legit. They will give you a better rate than the ATM, but if you’re more comfortable using the ATM then by all means do so.
Also, don’t give Customs any reason to attempt to delay you. Have your yellow card handy, don’t have anything new and in the box in your luggage, and keep some USD or Euros handy just in case you need a quick fix. Now, the official policy is that no one is supposed to ask for, take or give bribes and you will see signs stating such in the airport. However, the fact of the matter is this, these folks get paid about $40 to $100 PER MONTH. If you really are going to get your panties in a bunch about sliding them a $10 or $20 then just don’t come to Nigeria. Seriously. The majority of the people here live off of less than $2 a day, please get some perspective along with your privilege as you’re “vacationing” in their country.