Niger is politically unstable and therefore lawlessness is widespread. The latest coup d'etat in early 2010 increased the unstable situation and every traveller should follow independent news closely and stay in contact with their embassy. Also Al-Qaeda is present in Niger and kidnapped and killed tourists, so it is essential to know the off-limit regions and avoid them
In the region north of Agadez, there have been many carjackings, kidnappings and robberies in the past sixteen or so years. The problem continues to this day, and tourists should consider the area essentially lawless. You should not venture beyond Agadez even if you have a guide and a 4WD vehicle unless you seriously know what you are doing. The roads past this point are of terrible quality and banditti are abundant.
Avoid driving late at night in a private vehicle. Occasionally armed robbers will operate near the town of Galmi central Niger and around Dosso-Doutchi in western Niger, as well as on the road to Gao, Mali in the Tillabery region. Normally, there are police checkpoints on the main highways which limit criminal activities during the day.
The main annoyances you are likely to meet are young boys shouting "Anasara," which means 'foreigner' in most local languages, derived from the Arabic word. You will also be asked for a 'cadeau' pretty much every time you see a person outside your hotel. The word is French for 'gift,' and it is best to remember not to perpetuate the misery this word causes to foreigners working in the country.
In Niamey the safety level is better. If you stay away from markets after dark and use taxis and are EXTRA careful to avoid where the streets cross ravines, you shouldn't run into any problems. In markets there is risk of pickpockets or handbag straps being cut but you are more likely to lose money by haggling poorly and in French.
Carrying a backpack and camera, looking like a tourist, and especially being white, will definitely draw some unwanted attention. Most of the attention is from people who try to get your money legally, either by selling you a toothbrush or by begging, but there are always a few less honest people.
The Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/travel...) is an excellent resource for authoritative advice on health issues for travelers to Niger.
Drink lots and lots of water while in Niger because the dry heat will dehydrate you and you won't realize it. It is the best preventative step you can take. Bottled water or water sealed in a bag called pure-wata is available in most of the cities but in a pinch, city tap water is well-chlorinated this is according to one traveler; another American who lived in Niger for two years says never drink unfiltered water anywhere! â that includes ice!. Be particularly wary of well water, stream water, and rural water.
Be sure to replenish your salts as well as liquids.
Wear loose conservative clothes, big hats, and lots of sunscreen. If in doubt, wear what the locals wear.
Malaria, including encephaletic malaria, is a problem, and is chloroquine resistant in Niger (http://www2.ncid.cdc.gov/...). Take your prophylaxes, use heavy-duty insect repellent DEET is best, though nasty, and consider carrying a mosquito net to sleep under.
Giardia and amoebic dysentery are common. Be wary of any roadside food, unless you buy it hot off the grill. Even items fried in oil could make you sick if the oil has been heavily used and is old. Best to avoid salads and uncooked veggies. Also, never drink unfiltered water including ice.
Schistosomiasis is present in most water bodies in Niger, so travelers should avoid going in the water everywhere â except chlorinated swimming pools (http://www.cdc.gov/travel...).
In case you were unable to stay healthy, the Clinique Pasteur situated in front of the LycÃ©e Fontaine has clean facilities, sterile needles, and competent, sympathetic doctors. The Clinique Gamkalley and many other clinics are around, however, you may need to watch out for dirty needles, over-prescription and aggressive staff.
See the Friends of Niger website (http://www.friendsofniger.org) for discussion boards where you can ask questions before you go to Niger and maybe get some Nigeriens or others to fill you in.
Visitors are treated as kings in Niger there is a Koranic proverb to that effect, so be careful not to abuse the hospitality you will be shown. For the most part, try to accept all the small tokens and gestures cokes, tea, small gifts, etc. that are offered to you during your time in Niger. It really isn't good to refuse too much and don't think "these people are too poor to give me these things". That is offensive as taking good care of guests is a point of honor and gives people great pleasure. Don't comment out loud when you see poverty or things in disrepair and please don't remind Nigeriens about how poor their country is.
Dress conservatively, which means no shorts, no skirts above the knees, and no tank tops. For women, dressing revealingly can be seen as very offensive, even in Niamey. Also, dress nicely, as clothes determine how well you are treated back.
Avoid drunken behavior, since alcohol is prohibited in the Muslim religion and greatly frowned-upon in Niger.
Always ask people, especially camel drivers, market sellers, and the elderly, before taking a photograph. Many Nigeriens still find it offensive.
Slavery is still relatively common in the central areas, away from the towns. You can generally spot slaves by the unadorned, solid ankle bracelets on both feet, which look like manacles and may well serve that purpose. Unless you feel particularly brave, discussion of the subject with either victims or perpetrators is probably best avoided.
The official language in Niger is French, though very few people speak it outside Niamey, and even there do not expect a high level conversation with the traders at the markets. The local languages include Djerma spoken mainly in Niamey and the bordering Tillaberi and Dosso regions, Hausa, Fulfulde and Tamashek spoken by Tuaregs in north, and Kanuri spoken by Beri Beri. English is of no use outside American cultural center and few big hotels of Niamey. However, you will find English-speakers in border towns along the Nigerian border, such as Birni N Konni and Maradi. These people are usually from Nigeria to the south and in general want something from you. As friendly as they may be, always listen to a professional guide over anyone that speaks some English.
If you learn about 20 phrases in a local language, you will gain respect in a heartbeat. Simply greeting people in their local tongue will make your trip there smoother than you would have ever thought possible.
Top essential Zarma/Djerma phrases:
Mate ni go? mah-tay nee go?: How are you?
Sah-mai sawm-eye: Fine
Mano...? Where is...?
Ai ga ba... Eye gah bah: I want...
Wo-nae: That one
Ai eye MAH fah-ham: I don't understand.
Top essential Hausa phrases:
Kana LA-hiya: How are you?
LA-hiya LO: It's all good.
Na GO-day: Thank you
Sai ANjima: Goodbye
Some Arabic words are also common:
salam-u-laikum, which roughly means, "peace be with you," and is used in Niger when you enter a house or greet someone
al hamdallaye, which means to a Nigerien "Bless it, it's finished." It can also mean "no thank you." The latter can also get you out of having to sample possibly dirty food, or from eating at someone's home until your stomach explodes.
In-shah-allah, which means "God willing." For example, "I'll come to visit your family in-shah-allah."
French is the lingua franca nationwide and Niger's "official" language for government, it is a second language for nearly all the population and is spoken with varying degrees of fluency. Nearly all travellers should be able to get by using French. There are eight "national" languages which are maternal languages of Nigeriens in various regions of the country. Hausa is the most spoken regional language; nearly 50% of all Nigeriens speak Hausa as their mother tongue, primarily in the south central and southeast of the country. Zarma is the second most spoken language with 2 million speakers accounting for 25% of Nigeriens in the southwest of the country. Tamajeq, the language of the Tuareg peoples, is spoken by nearly 10% of Nigeriens in the Saharan north of the country.