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Car Rental in Nigeria: Your Inexpensive Key to the “Giant of Africa”
The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria earned its nickname as the “giant of Africa” for its huge population and its robust economy, though its inhabitants’ incredible diversity must also be taken into account. Over 500 different ethnic groups call Nigeria their home! This cultural mix means that the cities of Nigeria are overflowing with incredible smells and tastes – don’t miss out on your neighborhood bukas, artwork – whether exhibited in galleries, museums, or on the streets – and experiences, from Nigeria’s famous nightlife to its incredible landscapes. Make the most of your vacation by renting a car and traveling cheaply from bustling Lagos or Benin City to view wildlife in Yankari National Park, climb the incredible Idanre Hills, or swim beneath the isolated Gurara Falls.
Nigeria is truly home to hundreds of languages, but the country’s official language is English. Most Nigerians speak Nigerian pidgin, however, which though understandable to English speakers, may require some time to get accustomed to.
The currency is the Nigerian Naira, and you will need cash to fulfill most of your purchasing transactions. ATMs are available in metropolitan areas, but are typically limited to very small amounts. It is advisable to exchange currency at airports or near large hotels; note that most currency exchangers only exchange US dollars, pounds sterling, or euros! Any other forms of currency are of little use once you’ve arrived in Nigeria.
The best time to visit the country is during its dry season, from December to March. Be aware of current travel cautions regarding violence in numerous Nigerian states, particularly in the north, and take these cautions into account as you plan your stay.
If you’re arriving by air, you’ll likely land in Lagos or Abuja, though you can also fly to Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu, if you want to skip the travel time over long distances. These are all great places from which to rent a car.
Road conditions are fairly poor in Nigeria, so plan extra time into your travel between tourist destinations! It is recommended to only rent a car in Lagos if you are planning to leave the city, as driving there is a challenge, even for the locals.
Driving in Nigeria
While road conditions are bad in Nigeria – expect a lot of potholes, even more traffic, and the most unexpected travel conditions, including sudden disappearances of the road itself – driving yourself is still a more reliable and comfortable way to explore the country via land travel. Hiring a car is especially valuable if you’re planning to travel outside of Lagos, and is likely to be cheaper than depending on air travel as you explore this diverse and exciting area of the world.
- Be diligent about recording the car’s condition with the renter and whether it has current and valid insurance before you leave the rental lot in order to ensure you aren’t charged extra for damages you did not incur upon return!
- Make sure you get a receipt for your rental – even though receipts are atypical – and carry it with you whenever you’re driving.
- Record the car rental company’s emergency phone numbers in case you run into automotive trouble while travelling.
- Carry a copy of your driver’s license with you to hand over to police if you are pulled over for routine checks. By no means hand them your original license. Have some cash on hand to handle immediate fees, fines, or negotiations.
- Traffic proceeds on the right-hand side of the road in Nigeria.
- In roundabouts, yield to the traffic on the left.
Speed Limits and Traffic
- Traffic in Nigeria’s metropolitan areas can often add hours to your trip. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination within cities.
- The speed limit in towns is 40 km/h.
- Unless you are a citizen in one of the countries involved in the Economic Community of West African States, you will need a visa to travel to Nigeria. You can apply for a visa at Nigerian embassies worldwide, as well as at some British embassies.
- When you enter the country, be sure to bring your yellow fever vaccination form with you, in addition to your visa paperwork!
- It is necessary to have a Nigerian driver’s license or a special International Driving Permit valid only in Nigeria, Somalia, and Iraq. Your standard international driver’s license is not valid in Nigeria.
- Parking is highly unregulated in Nigeria, but by no means should you leave your car on the side of the highway. While the minimum driving age is 18 in Nigeria, drivers under the age of 25 will likely be charged extra fees to rent a car.