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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Niger

Niger: Republic of Niger
Capital: Niamey
Population: 10,639,744
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Languages: French (official), Hausa, Djerma
Religions: Muslim 80%, remainder indigenous beliefs and Christian
Borders: Algeria 956 km, Benin 266 km, Burkina Faso 628 km, Chad 1,175 km, Libya 354 km, Mali 821 km, Nigeria 1,497 km

Niger is a developing, inland 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 are plentiful.

Niger returned to a democratically elected government in December 1999 following several years of political instability and military rule. While a sense of political stability has been restored, the potential for anti-government demonstrations and other disturbances remains. U.S. citizens should avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. 

For off road travel in remote areas of the country, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make use of registered guides and to travel with a minimum of two vehicles. Tourism operators coordinate formally and regularly with Nigerien government and security officials on issues related to tourist safety and security in the North. Thus, American tourists are strongly encouraged to use registered tour operators when traveling to Northern Niger, who in turn will share information on itineraries with local police authorities. Names of such tour operators for Northern Niger can be obtained from the tourism association in Agadez. Global positioning systems and satellite phones are also recommended. Travelers are advised to avoid all restricted military areas and to consult local police authorities regarding their itinerary and security arrangements.

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.

Crime is at a critical level due primarily to the amount of thefts, robberies, residential break-ins and attempts of bribery and extortion aimed at foreigners by law enforcement authorities. Thefts and petty crimes are common during the day and 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, National Museum, and on or near the Kennedy Bridge at any time, or the Petit Marche after dark. These areas are especially prone to muggings and should be avoided. In general, walking at night is not recommended as streetlights are scarce and criminals have the protection of darkness to commit their crimes. Recent criminal incidents in Niger have included carjackings, home invasions, and muggings. In December 2000, an American Embassy employee was killed and another gravely wounded in a carjacking in central Niamey. 

In August 2004, an attack against 2 buses on the Agadez-Arlit road left 3 dead and numerous persons wounded. Due to continued sporadic incidents of violence and banditry and other security concerns, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Niger to exercise caution when traveling within the northern and eastern parts of the country, especially along the borders of Mali, Libya, Algeria and Chad. Given the insecurity along these border regions, the Department of State recommends that American citizens in Niger avoid traveling overland to Algeria and Libya. 

In previous attacks, groups of foreign travelers, including Americans, have been robbed of vehicles, cash and belongings and left stranded in the remote desert. The government of Niger is taking steps to address the increased crime/banditry, but operates under severe resource constraints. 

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.

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 law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Niger are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Health facilities are extremely limited in Niamey 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 medicine). Emergency assistance is limited. Travelers must carry their own properly labeled supply of prescription drugs and preventative medicines.

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. 

Niger is the poorest country in the region and roads are generally poorly maintained. U.S. travelers should exercise caution on Niger's paved and unpaved roadways, as traffic accidents are frequent. The main causes of accidents are driver carelessness, excessive speeding, poorly maintained vehicles, and poor to non-existent road surfaces. Other factors include the hazardous mix of bicycles, mopeds, unwary pedestrians, donkey carts, farm animals, and buses on roads which 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 always hazardous and should be avoided if at all possible outside major cities. Banditry is a continuing problem in northern and eastern Niger. There have been reported carjackings and highway robberies in remote areas of 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. 

Visit the National Tourism Office on Rue de Grand Hotel in Niamey. 

As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Niger by local carriers at present, nor the economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Niger's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

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.

Tourists are free to take pictures anywhere in Niger, except near military installations, radio and television stations, the Presidency Building, airport, or the Kennedy Bridge. Tourists should not photograph political and student demonstrations.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 1, 2004

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