Niger

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 01 August 2013.   It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial changes. We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Niger overall due to high risk of crime and threat of kidnapping.

Niger overall

Niamey

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel outside of the capital, Niamey, because of the very high threat of kidnapping, the unpredictable political and security situation, the risk of armed banditry and clashes between Niger’s security forces and armed groups. We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Niamey due to the high risk of crime and threat of kidnapping.
  • If you are in Niger, you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to remain in Niger should ensure that they have personal security measures in place. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment.
  • There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Niger following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013.
  • On 25 September 2012, the US Embassy in Niamey warned its citizens of kidnapping threats against Westerners in the Ingal area of northern Niger.
  • Following unspecified security threats local authorities have increased security for foreigners in the Maradi region of southern Niger, bordering Nigeria.
  • There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners in the north and west regions of Africa, including in Niger, particularly in the north of the country. If you do decide to travel outside Niamey, you should travel in daylight, in convoy and with a local guide. Foreigners have been kidnapped from their vehicles in the past. Hostages have been killed. On 8 January 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped in Niamey and were later killed near the border with Mali.
  • Cultural festivals held in north and west Africa are attractive places for terrorists and criminals to identify and target tourists for kidnapping.
  • The political and security situation in Niger has improved following peaceful elections in 2011 and the inauguration of the President. However, demonstrations can occur with little warning you should avoid protests and demonstrations throughout Niger as they may become violent.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Niger. Australians in Niger can no longer obtain consular assistance from the Office of the Canadian Embassy in Niamey. Australians can obtain assistance from the Australian High Commission in Nigeria
  • Given the volatile and dangerous security situation in Niger, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Niger for the most up to date information.

Niger is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is required for entry into Niger.

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We strongly advise you not to travel to Niger outside the capital Niamey, particularly to the northern areas of the country, because of very high threat of kidnapping, the unpredictable political and security situation, the risk of armed banditry and clashes between Niger’s security forces and armed groups. If you are in Niger, you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to remain in Niger should take responsibility for their safety and security and ensure they have personal security measures and contingency plans in place. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment.

Extremist groups, including Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are active in Niger and neighbouring countries including Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Chad, and have been known to execute kidnapped foreigners. The unpredictable security situation in Mali following the coup in March 2012 has heightened the threat of kidnap in the region, including Niger. There is an ongoing elevated threat of kidnapping in Niger (see below).

There is a risk of retaliatory attacks against Western targets in Niger following the French intervention in the conflict in Mali in January 2013.

On 23 May 2013, terrorists using suicide bombs attacked a Nigerien military compound in Agadez and a uranium mining facility, operated by a French company, in Arlit.

Niamey: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the capital Niamey due to the high risk of crime and threat of kidnapping.

On 1 June 2013, Islamist militants attacked the main prison in Niamey, killing three guards and freeing 22 suspected terrorists. There is a heightened presence of security forces in Niamey.

Kidnapping: There is an ongoing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners in the north and west regions of Africa, including Niger, particularly in the north of the country. Due to the risk posed by AQIM and other extremist and criminal groups all travel should be avoided to the regions of Tillaberi, Tahoua, the border regions with Mali and near the border with Burkina Faso. If you do decide to travel to the north of Niger, you should travel in daylight, in convoy and with a local guide. Foreigners have been kidnapped from their vehicles. In Niger, foreign workers, tourists and expatriates have been targeted. Hostages have been killed.

There is an ongoing elevated threat of kidnapping in Niger. On 14 October 2012, six aid workers were kidnapped in Daroko in south-central Niger. Five were released on 3 November 2012 and one was killed in captivity. On 25 September 2012, the US Embassy in Niamey warned its citizens of kidnapping threats against Westerners in the Ingal area of northern Niger. In August 2011, the US Embassy in Niamey reissued its warning to US citizens of increased kidnapping threats against Westerners. Following unspecified security threats local authorities have increased security for foreigners in the Maradi region of southern Niger, bordering Nigeria.

Cultural festivals held in north and west Africa are attractive places for terrorists and criminals to identify and target tourists for kidnapping. These festivals bring people to predictable locations along unsecured routes. Foreigners travelling to and from major cultural festivals were kidnapped in northern Mali in 2009. One hostage was executed. We strongly advise Australians not to attend major festivals.

Incidents involving foreigners include:

  • On 8 January 2011, two French nationals were kidnapped from Niamey and were later killed near the border with Mali.
  • On 16 September 2010, seven individuals, including five French nationals, were kidnapped in Arlit, northern Niger.
  • In July 2010, a French citizen, who was kidnapped from a location near the border with Algeria in April 2010, was executed by his captors.
  • In December 2009, gunmen killed four Saudi tourists in the western Tillaberi region, north of Niamey, as they drove to the Mali border.
  • In November 2009, US Embassy staff members were the target of an attempted kidnapping by heavily armed assailants in Tahoua.
  • In January 2009, a group of European tourists were kidnapped in the Mali-Niger border area. One hostage was executed.

Foreigners have also been kidnapped in the north and east of the country. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/political tension

The political and security situation in Niger has improved following peaceful elections in 2011 and the inauguration of the President. However, demonstrations can occur with little warning. You should avoid political rallies and demonstrations as they could turn violent.

Clashes between security forces and armed groups can occur in the departments of Agadez, Diffa, Zinder,and Maradi, and north of the city of Abalack in the department of Tahoua. Armed groups operate in the north and west.

Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Crime

There is a high risk crime throughout Niger, including in Niamey. Foreigners are frequently targeted by criminals. Armed home invasions, kidnapping, carjackings and muggings occur. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are a particular target for thieves. When travelling by road, you should keep the doors locked, the windows up and valuables out of sight.

Petty crime is high in the capital city, Niamey, and muggings are common around the Gaweye Hotel, the National Museum, Kennedy Bridge and Petit Marche. Criminal activity throughout Niger can occur at any time but the risk of being a victim increases at night. Because of the absence of street lighting it is recommended you do not walk about at night.

Armed banditry also occurs in the northern and eastern regions including the departments of Agadez, Diffa, Zinder and Maradi, and north of the city of Abalack in the department of Tahoua. If you do decide to travel outside Niamey, you should take particular care on roads between major cities such as Agadez, Arlit and Tahoua, and on the Agadez-Timia road. Several roads in the north are closed to tourists except with special authorisation. If travelling from Niger to Mali via Burkina Faso, travellers are advised to avoid the Ayorou Gao Road as banditry is a problem. It is also a problem on the road between the Burkina Faso border and the town of Torodi in the Department of Niamey.

Fraud: Commercial and internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Victims have been defrauded and those who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas in which to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity. If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Africa to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators. Our international scams page provides more detail on these types of scams.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from some African countries. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating schemes or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, the Australian citizen may be asked by their friend or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable travel to Australia. In some cases the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners may be lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and can become victims of crime including kidnapping, assault and robbery.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Niger is a cash-based society. There are no ATMs and credit cards are rarely accepted. Travellers' cheques can be cashed at banks on production of the original purchase receipt and passport.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

We advise against all travel outside Niamey. If despite our advice you choose to travel outside Niamey, all road travel should be in daylight, in a convoy and with a local guide. Travelling at night is especially dangerous due to the risk of banditry. Local authorities are sensitive to foreigners travelling out of Tahoua to the east or north of Niger. If you must travel outside of Niamey, we recommend you use an approved local travel agent who can arrange for all necessary permits and approvals.

Unexploded munitions, including landmines, are found throughout the country, including in Niamey and other major cities but particularly throughout the Talak Plains and the sparsely inhabited regions of the Agadez region, including the Djado Plateau, the Mangueni Plateau, and Air Massif.

Roads in Niger are in poor condition, vehicles are poorly maintained and there is a lack of sufficient street lighting. For further advice on road safety, see our road travel page.

You may be asked for vehicle registration and ownership papers by authorities at any time, especially on journeys outside of the main towns. Travellers are recommended to carry photographic identification at all times.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Niger, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs may include heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment.

The death penalty exists in Niger for serious crimes such as murder.

Homosexual acts are not illegal in Niger, however the law states that an "unnatural act" with a person of the same sex who is under 21 is punishable by six months to three years imprisonment and a fine of between 10,000 and 100,000 CFA. The local community is generally intolerant of same sex relationships. See our LGBTI travellers page.

It is illegal to photograph around military zones, military assets and/or military personnel, the Presidency Building and Kennedy Bridge in Niamey, radio and television stations and the airport.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

Niger is a conservative, Islamic, society and you should dress and behave so as not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice. Women are advised to wear a headscarf and loose fitting clothing that covers the arms and legs.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.

Information for dual nationals

The Government of Niger does not recognise dual nationality. Australian travellers entering Niger with a Nigerien passport will be treated as Nigerien citizens by local authorities. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Nigerien dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We recommend that you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in the capital Niamey are very limited and even more basic in rural areas. Up-front payment is usually required and the inability to pay will often delay treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation could cost between $A15,000 to $A200,000 depending on the circumstances.

Niger is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Niger. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria and other tropical diseases are common in West African countries, including Niger. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria, and to take precautions against mosquito bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, meningitis, polio and, tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Niger. Australians in Niger can no longer obtain consular assistance from the Office of the Canadian Embassy in Niamey.

You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission in Nigeria:

Australian High Commission

48 Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Maitama
Abuja, Nigeria
Telephone: (234 9) 461 2780
Facsimile: (234 9) 461 2782
Email: ahc.abuja@dfat.gov.au
Web: www.nigeria.highcommission.gov.au

If you are travelling to Niger, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above Embassy or High Commission you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The rainy season is from June to October when flooding may occur and some roads may become impassable. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.