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Travel Security Advice for Niger

Niger_National_Flag

niger_mapNiger_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:  

Niger is a developing, landlocked African nation whose northern area includes the Sahara Desert.  Tourism facilities are minimal, particularly outside the capital city, Niamey, and the ancient caravan city of Agadez.  Ecotourism and adventure tourism opportunities are plentiful, but the northern areas of the country have been closed to tourism since the middle of 2007.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Niger for additional information.



ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: 

A passport, visa, and proof of yellow fever inoculation are required.  Travelers from the United States should obtain a visa before arriving in Niger; failure to do so could result in being denied entry.  Travelers should obtain the latest information on entry/exit requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Niger, 2204 R Street NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone: (202) 483-4224.  Visit the Embassy of Niger website for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.



SAFETY AND SECURITY:  

U.S. citizens are urged to avoid travel along the border between Niger and Mali, as neither government is able to provide security in this area.  On December 14, 2008, two United Nations officials, former Canadian diplomats, were kidnapped by the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) while returning to Niamey after a visit to a Canadian-operated gold mine.  The officials were subsequently smuggled across the border to a remote desert region of Mali, where they were released in April 2009.  On January 22, 2009, four Europeans were abducted by AQIM operatives along the Mali-Niger border as their tour group was returning from a cultural festival in the Malian town of Anderamboukane.  Two were released after several months and two are still being held for ransom.  The payment of ransom in these and other kidnapping cases has increased the risk of similar abductions.

As of May 17, 2007, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey prohibits official personnel from traveling into areas of Niger to the north of Abalak due to the escalation of violence by local rebel groups.  All American citizens are strongly urged to follow the same guidelines.  On August 27, 2007, the President of Niger declared a State of Alert for the region of Agadez, including the cities of Agadez, Arlit, and Iferouane.  The State of Alert means that all travelers in and around these cities are liable to be stopped and held for questioning.  Moreover, the Nigerien military now has the authority to hold individuals for questioning, without cause, for more than the standard 48 hours.  The State of Alert has been repeatedly renewed and currently remains in force.  The current negotiations between the Government of Niger and rebel groups may bring an end to violence, but lifting of the State of Alert will not result in immediate changes to the U.S. Embassy travel guidelines.  It will take some time to clear the rebel area of landmines, and conditions of insecurity persist in the northern and western areas of Niger.

Foreigners who elect to travel in northern Niger despite the current security situation must submit an approved travel plan through the office of the Governor of Agadez.  Travelers should first contact the Syndicat de Tourism in Agadez (telephone: 96 98 78 81) to enlist the services of a registered tour operator, who will formally coordinate with the Nigerien government and security officials on tourist safety and security in the North and who can facilitate the submission of the required itinerary and intended route.

For travel in any remote area of the country, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to use registered guides and to travel with a minimum of two vehicles equipped with global positioning systems (GPS) and satellite phones.  Travelers are advised to avoid restricted military areas and to consult local police authorities regarding their itinerary and security arrangements.

U.S. citizens are advised to avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.  Large and small street demonstrations occur regularly in Niger, and elections scheduled to take place during the coming months may increase the frequency of demonstrations during the remainder of 2009.  These demonstrations tend to take place near government buildings, university campuses, or other gathering places such as public parks.  Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically begin in January and February and continue through May.  American citizens are, therefore, urged to be particularly vigilant at these times.  During previous student demonstrations, NGO and diplomatic vehicles bearing “IT” or “CD” plates have been targeted by rock-throwing demonstrators.  Many past demonstrations have featured rock throwing and tire burning, especially at key intersections in the city of Niamey.

Due to the abrupt nature of street demonstrations, it is not possible for the U.S. Embassy to notify American citizens each time a demonstration occurs.  Consequently, Americans are reminded to maintain security awareness at all times and to avoid large public gatherings and street demonstrations.  Americans are reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational without advance warning.  While the U.S. Embassy will endeavor to inform citizens of ongoing demonstrations through the warden system when possible, local radio and television stations are good sources for information about local events.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website,

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.

NOTE TO NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION (NGO) WORKERS: 

Following the murder of a French tourist in the region of Agadez in December 2005, the Nigerien government began requiring that NGOs not only be registered and officially recognized, but also that they inform the Nigerien government of each mission they plan to undertake in Niger.  To avoid detainment and/or expulsion by Nigerien authorities, Embassy Niamey strongly recommends that NGO workers:

  • Make sure that their NGO has registered and received official recognition from the Government of Niger.  For details on how to do this, please visit the Managing Office of Decentralized Cooperation and Non-Governmental Organizations (Direction de la Cooperation Décentralisée et des Organisations Non Gouvernementales) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et de la Cooperation). 

  • Carry with them a copy of the official recognition (Arrêté) of the right of their NGO to operate in Niger.

  • If their international NGO sponsor is without a permanent presence in Niger, American citizens should verify that their NGO group has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission in Niger.  This notice should be in written form and should include the purpose, dates, and location of the mission, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles that will be involved.  The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice of mission.

  • If their NGO is a national NGO, i.e., has a headquarters operation in Niger, the American citizens should verify that their group has informed the Ministry of Territorial Management and Community Development (Ministre de l’Aménagement du Territoire et du Développement Communautaire) at least two weeks prior to the start of a mission in Niger.  This notice should be in written form and should include the purpose, dates, and location of the mission, the names of the individuals who will be working for the NGO on the mission, and the types and license plate numbers of the vehicles that will be involved.  The Ministry of the Interior should be copied on this notice of mission.

  • NGOs should ask for a receipt of their notification provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ministry of the Interior, and Ministry of Territorial Management and Community Development.

  • The U.S. Embassy in Niamey strongly recommends that in addition to the above, NGO workers present themselves at the regional governor’s office prior to beginning their mission in a particular region of Niger.  Again, NGO workers should ask for receipt of their presentation to the regional governor.  It would also be wise to provide the regional governor with the same written notification that was provided to the ministries listed above.



CRIME: 

Crime is at a critical level, primarily due to thefts, robberies, and residential break-ins.  Foreigners are vulnerable to attempts of bribery and extortion by law enforcement authorities.  Thefts and petty crimes are common during the day or night; however, armed attacks are normally committed at night by groups of two to four persons, with one assailant confronting the victim with a knife while the others provide surveillance or a show of force.  Tourists should not walk alone around the Gaweye Hotel, the National Museum, or on or near the Kennedy Bridge at any time, and should avoid the Petit Marché after dark, as these areas are especially prone to muggings.  Walking at night is not recommended as street lights are scarce, providing criminals the protection of darkness to commit their crimes.  Recent criminal incidents in Niger have included carjackings, sexual assaults, home invasions, and muggings.  In December 2000, an American was killed in a carjacking incident in Niamey, and another American was gravely wounded in a carjacking incident outside of Niamey in 2004.  In 2007, two American citizens were raped and two others attacked with a machete.  More recently, a World Bank employee was mugged while walking in downtown Niamey on a weekend morning; local bystanders did not intervene. Travelers should keep expensive new electronics out of sight and always keep their doors locked and windows rolled up when stopped at stoplights.

Use caution and common sense at all times to avoid thieves and pickpockets.  An information sheet on safety and security practices is available from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Niamey.



INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: 

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

There is no local equivalent to a “911” emergency line in Niger.

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.



CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Nigerien laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Niger are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.



SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:  

Dress Restrictions – Local culture and Islamic tradition encourage conservative dress for both men and women.  There have been incidents of groups of men assaulting women who are, or appear to be, African and who are wearing other than traditional garments.

Photography Restrictions – Tourists are free to take pictures anywhere in Niger, except near military installations, radio and television stations, the Presidency Building, airports, or the Kennedy Bridge.  Tourists should not photograph political and student demonstrations, and should seek prior permission before taking a close-up “portrait” photo of an individual.

Currency Regulations – The West African Franc (FCFA), which is the currency Niger shares with several other West African countries, is fully convertible into Euros.  Foreign currency exchange over 1 million FCFA (about $2,000 at the current exchange rate of 500 FCFA/$1) requires authorization from the Ministry of the Economy and Finance (forms are available from all major banks).

Telephone Service – Due to the poor quality and low quantity of land lines, callers often experience delays when placing calls, and faxes are often garbled.  The quality of cellular service is generally superior and is available from multiple providers in urban areas.

Please see our Customs Information.



MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: 

Health facilities are extremely limited in Niamey and urban centers, and completely inadequate outside the capital.  Although physicians are generally well trained, even the best hospitals in Niamey suffer from inadequate facilities, antiquated equipment, and shortages of supplies, particularly medicines.  Emergency assistance is limited.  Travelers must carry their own properly labeled supplies of prescription drugs and preventative medicines.

Malaria is prevalent in Niger.  Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain found in Niger, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.  Because travelers to Niger are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that travelers should take one of the following anti-malarial drugs:  mefloquine (LariamTM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (MalaroneTM).  The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate anti-malarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease.  Other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, also help to reduce malaria risk.  Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician about their travel history and the anti-malarial drugs they have been taking.  For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC travelers’ health web site.

Tap water is unsafe to drink throughout Niger and should be avoided.  Bottled water and beverages are safe, although visitors should be aware than many restaurants and hotels serve tap water.  Ice made from tap water is also unsafe to consume.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s websitee.  For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website Further general health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Niger.



MEDICAL INSURANCE: 

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.



TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Niger is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road safety throughout Niger is a concern, and visitors are strongly urged to avoid driving at night outside of major cities.  The public transportation system, urban and rural road conditions, and the availability of roadside assistance are all poor.  The main causes of accidents are driver carelessness, excessive speed, poorly maintained vehicles, and poor to nonexistent road surfaces.  Other factors include the hazardous mix of bicycles, mopeds, unwary pedestrians, donkey carts, farm animals, and buses on roads that are generally unpaved and poorly lighted.  Overloaded tractor-trailers, “bush taxis,” and disabled vehicles are additional dangers on rural roads, where speeds are generally higher.  Travel outside Niamey and other cities often requires four-wheel-drive vehicles, which creates an additional security risk since these vehicles – especially Toyota Land Cruisers – are high-theft items.  Driving at night is hazardous and should be avoided.  Banditry is a continuing problem in northern and eastern Niger, as well as along the border with Mali.  Occasional carjackings and highway robberies have occurred throughout the country.

While taxis are available at a fixed fare in Niamey, most are in poor condition and do not meet basic U.S. road safety standards.  Inter-city “bush-taxis” are available at negotiable fares, but these vehicles (minibuses, station wagons, and sedans) are generally older, unsafe models that are overloaded, poorly maintained, and driven by reckless operators seeking to save time and money.  A national bus company (SNTV) operates coaches on inter-city routes and, since being reorganized in 2001, has provided reliable service and experienced no major accidents.  Air Transport, Rimbo, and Garba Messagé are private bus companies operating in Niger.  There is some concern regarding the youth of drivers and the speed with which the private bus companies travel the Nigerien roads.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. 



AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Niger, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Niger’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA's website.



CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.



REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:  

Americans living or traveling in Niger are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Niger.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located on Rue des Ambassades, Niamey, Niger.  The U.S. Embassy mailing address is B.P. 11201, Niamey, Niger.  Telephone numbers are (227) 20-72-26-61 through 64, and fax numbers (227) 20-73-31-67 or 20-72-31-46.  The Embassy’s after-hours emergency number is (227) 20-72-31-41.


This replaces the Country Specific Information for Niger dated February 13, 2009, to update sections on Safety and Security, Crime, and Special Circumstances.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Niger HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is a Malaria Warning for Niger HERE....

Regards

The SW Team.......

 

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