View from the Grand Mosque

Niamey, the capital of Niger, is a lively, fairly modern city of around 800,000 on the banks of the Niger River in the Tillaberi region in the far southwest of Niger. It is the administrative, cultural and economic hub and hence generally offers good facilities for travellers, both budget and upmarket. Niamey offers unique open-air markets that are great for people watching—they’re patronized by members of the Tuareg Sonuri and Fulani tribes, as well as wrestling, one of the finest museums in Africa and the massive Grand Mosque.



The comparably fertile area around Niamey has been inhabited for millennia by tribes like the Gurma also found in Burkina Faso, but the founders of the village would be the Maouri, who settled on an island called Neni Goungou facing the current Niamey in the late nineteenth century, before coming to settle on the left bank of the river. In 1898, the invading French found the village a suitable location for a military base and in 1905 the city, located in a stable region, became the capital of the Territoire Militaire du Niger (Military Territory of Niger). Niamey was inhabited by about 600 people in 1901 when missionaries arrived in the village and increased to nearly 2,000 after the arrival of the French and its establishment as the national capital. In 1911, the capital was transferred to the newly-stable and more hospitable location at Zinder. However, tensions grew with the British colony of Nigeria (very close to Zinder) and in 1928 the status of capital was transferred back to Niamey. By the time Niger became an independent country in 1960, the city's population had ballooned to 30,000. Niamey's population had risen to 750,000 by 2005, and its status as the most populous city in the country was secure.


Niamey has a hot and generally dry desert climate with a short rainy season from June to September when there can be severe thunderstorms with occasional flooding. Rains can be unpredictable though and sometimes the rainy season means just a few showers now and then.

As with much of West Africa, poor infrastructure leads to frequent flooding and miserable roads during the wet season, so it is best to avoid travel to Niamey from June–September (especially if travelling to nearby countries which receive even more rain).

Average annual rainfall is around 550mm. The coolest and driest (and arguably best) weather of the year is between December and January with averages of 34/15°C (93/57°F) and no rainfall. In October, November and February the weather is hotter and still dry with 38°C (100°F) in the afternoon and 18-23°C (64-73°F) at night. March to May are the hottest months of the year topping out at 42°C (108°F) in the afternoon (although 45°C/114°F temps aren't uncommon) and a warm 25°C (77°F) at night; all three months can see just a few showers.


The Niger river near the Kennedy bridge

The city is divided by the Niger River, which is spanned only by the Kennedy Bridge. The southern side is entirely residential, with the exception of the university by the river (Gamkalle area), and of no interest to tourists. The northern side spreads out in all directions from the bridge. The limits of the "downtown" area seem to be Blv. de l'Indépendence and (further from the river) Blv. Mali Bero. Radiating from the "Place des Martyrs" at the end of the bridge:

There are few traffic lights. There are numerous roundabouts where traffic from several directions merge; these are known as "Place _____" and are chaotic during rush hour but calm most other times of the day. A few notable roundabouts are: "Place des Martyrs", "Place de la Concorde", "Place de la République", and "Place Mandela".

Road names change frequently. Names generally stick with a road for only a few blocks. A straight road a 3-4km long might have 5 or 6 sections known by different names. For example, the road which passes over the Kennedy Bridge is known as "Blvd de l'Université" on the south side, "Pont Président Kennedy" over the bridge, "Rue de Gaweye" after Place des Martyrs, "Rue du Commerce" for a couple blocks, then "Rue de Kalley" until it ends at the Grand Marché. And it's length through all those name changes? Barely 2km!

Tourism Information

The official (but very small) tourist office is located on the west side Ave. du Président Henry Luebke (Tel. 73 24 47) just north of Place de la Fraternité on the same block as the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (visa extensions). Be sure, also, to check out the Niger Ministry of Tourisme (in French), which lists local tour operators . (also in French) has a list of Niamey tour operators here and the embassy of Niger in Canada has some good tourism info.

Local operators include:

Get in

A main road leading into the city centre

By plane

  Diori Hamani International Airport (IATA: NIM) is the only international airport in Niger (since the escalation of violence around Agadez) and is located in the southeastern suburbs of the city along Route National 1 (the main east-west highway in southern Niger).

International Flights

The five major carriers serving Niamey are Air France (Paris-de Gaulle); Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca); Turkish Airlines,(Istanbul). Ethiopian airlines (Addis Ababa). Air Algerie (Algiers). Several West African airlines also serve the city. As of Jan 2015, these include Air Burkina (Ouagadougou); Air Mali (Bamako); ASKY Airlines (Abuja, Lomé, Ouagadougou); Sénégal Airlines (Bamako, Dakar, Ouagadougou); or Westair Benin (Abuja, Cotonou, Ouagadougou).

Domestic flights

There are no scheduled, domestic flights in Niger, as of January 2013. There have been a couple of different charter airlines operating in the country in recent years (mostly hauling employees and management to the country's remote mines), but they are VERY expensive (think tens of thousands of dollars or euros per flight hour) and, since there's not much demand, you'll likely have to pay for the return flight too.

At the Airport

Between the airport and the city

At the Arbre Museum

By bus

Buses travel between Niamey and Cotonou in Benin, taking 14 hours for the journey. Crossing is at the Gaya/Malanville border where otherwise you can take a moto and walk across if you don't feel like doing the whole trip in one stage. There are also buses and minibuses to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, taking around 10 hours. Crossing is at Foetchango, west of Niamey. Finally, there is bus service between Niamey and Gao in Mali, taking up to 20 hours.

Buses and bush taxis connect Niamey to other destinations in Niger, including Zinder and Agadez.

By boat

While the Niger River runs through the city and there are no impediments to river travel (rapids, waterfalls), there is no regular boat service like there is upstream in Mali. Many pirougue operators will gladly take you along the river for a reasonable price, but you will need to find one heading in your direction. Pirougues operate on erratic schedules, are both much slower and less comfortable than buses.

By car

WARNING: Highways leading to the north of Niamey pose a great risk to travelers' safety. Several kidnappings have taken place in areas near the Mali border. (Updated Jan 2013)

There are several highways leading to/from Niamey.

By rail

A new railway link between Niamey, Dosso and Cotonou is currently under construction and expected to open for passenger traffic in 2016. Eventually the railway will link up with Burkina Faso as well. The railway station,   Gare de Niamey is located next to the Hippodrome.

Get around

Streets of Niamey


Street addresses were not devised until the past decade for most West African cities. Niamey implemented one of the most efficient plans in the region between 2001-2002. The city has been divided into 44 sections (named and based largely on existing neighbourhoods) and each was given a two letter prefix (for instance, "GM" for "Grande Marche). Since the vast majority of roads lacked names, numbers were assigned to each road (even if it has a name); streets running roughly parallel to the river were assigned even numbers and cross-streets assigned odd numbers. Over 100,000 street signs were installed to denote these roads at intersections. Addresses were assigned by distance from the river, alternating even-odd on opposite sides of the street. Thus the address 4735, Rue GM 12, Niamey is located in the Grande Marche district on road 12 (which runs parallel to the river).

By taxi

Taxis (small white cars) are plentiful and easy to use. They are almost always shared (1 passenger in the front, 3 in the back) unless you ask specifically to pay more to make it private. There are a handful of places where taxis will queue for passengers (airport, grande marche, etc), but most of the time you just stick out your hand towards the traffic, maybe give a weak wave, and shout for "taxi" or "taximan". The rate for a shared taxi is FIXED at XOF200 per person. Through the open window, tell the driver your destination and if he nods, or stays there, you're good to go. It is better to give a section of the city or a major landmark as the destination than giving an address. If he drives off, he wasn't going near your destination; just hail the next taxi. For longer distances the taxi driver will indicate it is double (XOF400) by saying quatre cent (French), deux courses (also French) or wah-haku (Djerma) before you get in the car. If in doubt, confirm the price beforehand, especially if you are white and take a taxi near a hotel.

The rate is XOF800-1000 if you want the taxi all for yourself. You should pay more only from bus station (XOF500) and from the airport (XOF3000 or higher). Prices double after midnight. Oftentimes, taxis will wait outside hotels looking for passengers, usually they will try to charge more than the official rate or are only looking for single passengers (they won't stop for other passengers and will charge you accordingly)

If you need to call a taxi to pre-arrange something, one to try is Taxi Bonbon at Fun guy that likes to chat and flirt.

By car

There is a Hertz car rental place in Niger that rents Toyota RAV4. It is very expensive!


See also: French phrasebook and Zarma phrasebook.

French is spoken by most people in Niamey, albeit as a second language and with varying levels of fluency. French is the official language used by the government. In addition, Hausa and Zarma among others are national languages and official government announcements are translated into the national languages. French is spoken by the large French community as well as most other foreigners living in the city. The regional languages are Zarma and Hausa, although the city is home to many of the ethnic groups in Niger.


Musée national Boubou-Hama
Grande Mosque


Music performances

The CCFN & CCOG (see above) frequently host concerts and with capacities of a few thousand, they can be quite lively. At the Centre Pour la Formation et Promotion Musicales (CFPM) there is a Rap Zone every Wednesday afternoon at 16:30. Often there are people just jamming underneath the trees. They sell instruments, and they give drum, dance, and guitar lessons. At the restaurant Djoumkoume in Chateau Un there is live music almost every night, starting around 20:00 or 21:00. Sometimes there is a XOF1000-2000 cover. To get there, take a taxi to Pharmacie Chateau Un. Then, instead of taking a right to go to Idrissa Nems, you take a left. You’ll see it on your left.

Along the river

Banks of the Niamey river

If you have a friend with a vehicle or can rent one, you have several good options. Go to the Island Campement of Boubon, a half-hour drive up the Tillaberry Road. Cross the river for XOF50/person and then on the island there’s a pleasant, reasonably-priced bar/restaurant. You can stay overnight in huts for XOF5000. Another option is the Relais, a hotel campement on the river, open only on weekends. Just down from the Golf Club of Niamey on the Tillaberry road, they offer a reasonably-priced lunch, camel ride, and pirogue trip. Or just have a coke or beer and watch the river. The third option is Plage La Pillule, 10km south of Niamey on the road to Say, just past the peage. Take water and lunch and rent out a shady spot in someone’s garden along the river. Canoe rides also available. Walk up the wash 2-3km to the sand dunes. This “beach” is a favorite of well-off Niamey households.

River trips do not have to be expensive if you do not need to see hippos. Rent out a whole non-motorized canoe for about 1000F an hour on either side of the river. Expect to have to barter more around the Kennedy bridge and the hotels. To see the hippos, one way to do it is with Les Pirogues de l’Amitié, run by Sani Boureima, 93-80-69-51. From Grand Hotel, walk towards river. Turn into the first side street on the left and then go through the metal gate doors. They speak French, Zarma, and Hausa, and a tiny bit of English. The boat is a motorized, covered pirogue. You will have to bargain really hard. His starting prices are XOF25,000-30,000 for 2 hours to see the hippos, but Peace Corps volunteers have gotten it down to 15,000 with tons of bargaining and patience. The boat fits 10-12 people. A day-long trip is 50.000. You can also do a 2-day boat trip for XOF80,000, and you provide your own meals and camping stuff.

Other activities


Grande Marche

Market prices

  • Shirt material comes pre-cut and wrapped in a plastic bag, 1500-2000F for short sleeve (manches courtes, 1.25m) or XOF2000-2500 for long sleeve (manches longes, 1.5m). You can get it non-pre-wrapped too.
  • Linen is XOF1000/m.
  • Satin ribbon that is about 1.5cm wide is XOF25/yard.
  • Used socks are around 3 pairs for XOF1000. New socks are around XOF400-450 each.
  • Men’s thrift-shop pants: XOF1,500
  • Men’s pre-made shirts: XOF1,500F-2000
  • Sunglasses are 500F for the all plastic models and XOF600 for the kind with a little metal accenting the plastic.
  • Cheap earrings from China: XOF100 or 150.

One of West Africa's best, most diverse, and calmest big markets. The market spans a wide spectrum of objects for sale, from retail goods and packaged foods to wholesale boxes of imported goods to hot, fresh meals. Narrow, shaded, aisles in a grid pattern contain a mix of fabric, tailors, household goods, sports apparel, automotive parts, flip-flops, head scarves, baby clothes, and any manner of other goods. Goods and foods from around the country are offered for sale, and stalls offering imported items from West Africa and abroad are interspersed throughout.There's also a section devoted to handicrafts and traditional clothes, although other markets are as equally good or better to pick these. First constructed in 1950 and rebuilt in 1987 after a fire (costing over 5 billion francs!), the Grand Market attracts an estimated 20,000 tourists a year. Unfortunately, an electrical fire burnt over 1500 of the stalls in May 2009.

Petite Marché

The main fruit and vegetable market in the center of town, can be unpleasant due to hassle, harassment, pestering, crowds, and severely jacked-up prices for visitors. The "Supermarche Haddad" is set up like a Western supermarket and owned by Lebanese men and contains mostly imported European (which means expensive) packaged foods, meats sliced-to-order, alcohol, and health/beauty products. You can get many of the same fruits, vegetables, and some meats and durable goods from other calmer, more pleasant neighbourhood markets - the selection of speciality items and beauty products here, however, is good (cereals, cheese, cookies, etc.).

Other Good Markets

One of the cleanest and newest is the cobblestone-paved Marché Albarka – good place for new visitors for a “market warm-up,” and there’s an air-conditioned SahelCom internet cafe outside (500F per hour, 250F per half-hour). Another great one is Marché Bonkaney – friendly with a little bit of everything for sale. The Yantala market is pretty big and also rather chill. Nouveau Marché and Wadata Marché are other options. Wadatta has the added benefit of being right next to the Wadata Artisanal Village as an alternative to the Musée as it is free to get in. Of course, at night, try the Marché de Nuit (aka Night Market) in Yantala. To get to each of these, just tell a taxi the name of the market itself.


Niamey's main market

As in other parts of West Africa, Niamey has a good selection of bright colorful pagne fabrics. Each pagne is 2m and it is generally sold in 3-pagne sets (in other words, 6m.) Sometimes they will sell you either 1 pagne or two pagnes, but other times they will only sell in 3-pagne increments. There is a wide selection of pagnes (30 or more shops/stands) just 1/2 block down the street from the Porte Principal of the Grande Marché. 90 percent of them in that section cost XOF5,000 for 3 pagnes. If you only want one pagne and they are willing to cut, it should cost XOF2,000 for just the one. If it is ENITEX brand (made in Niger), it is a bit cheaper - 3 pagnes cost only XOF4,000, or one for XOF1,500. There are a few brands that are more than XOF5,000 (XOF7,000, XOF12,500 and up) especially from shops within the Grande Marché.

Other stores and markets


Be sure to try all the local specialties rather than only sticking to ex-pat restaurants. Niamey food is incredible, unique, and not-to-be-missed. You didn't come all this way to eat the same food you get at home.




Other food tips

Pots and pans in a Niamey market

almost across the street from the travel agency SatGuru, but further east.


They love Nescafe

Keep in mind that drinking alcohol is generally forbidden in Muslim culture, so take extra care to keep drunken inappropriate behavior behind closed doors and out of the public eye. Most of the Western-style restaurants above also serve drinks, 'Restaurant Atlantique in particular have an amazing river view, especially great around sunset. (See the "Eat" section)

Sorghum beer bars

There are three Burkinabé millet or sorghum beer bars (called dolo or tchouk),all in Yantala Ancien, behind the French Embassy. The easiest place to start is to have a cab drop you off on the paved road that runs along the east wall of the French Embassy. Start walking along the dirt road that runs along the North (back) wall of the Embassy. You will pass a Christian Pentecostal church. Take the right after the church, then another immediate right, then the next left. She runs the operation out of her courtyard, is really nice if you are kind to her and her kids, and she will help keep the drunks at bay. Late afternoon is a great time to go. It is also a great cultural experience as almost everyone there is from Burkina. Take some ice if you want cool dolo. She has dolo Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and sometimes Monday. Two different women make it on the other days of the week as well as the weekend. For the other two, it is best to go to the first lady, pretend like you did not know she was not serving that day, and tip a kid 50 francs to take you to the next location. Or, from Rond Point Yantala, walk towards the French Embassy a few blocks and then veer off on a diagonal road to your right. Take the next right, then a quick left into her compound at the end of a long and narrow path between her houses. The only problem is there are two diagonal roads… try the first one and then ask someone if you get confused.

Other bars

Niamey Nightlife


The Universite Abdou Moumouni de Niamey was created 1971 and is the only public university in Niger. As of 2008, it welcomed more than eight thousands students. The university has five faculties.



Niamey by night

Budget & Mid range


If you stay near the river, you can get a view like this before bedtime



Proper attire: Dress is much more conservative than other West African countries. Look around to see how the majority of local people dress, and you can see it is offensive if you are not dressed conservatively. Shorts, above-the knee skirts, and tank tops should basically never be worn in the capital, in Hausa regions, or up north. This will also help cut down on harassment. Note, as well, that people in Niamey dress up as nicely as they can afford to, so it's not recommended to dress like you are "slumming."

Giving gifts: Think carefully before giving out “cadeaux” (gifts) or money to kids or even adults that you do not know personally, especially those that ask for one (genuine beggars excepted). Be aware that after you give out cadeaux, future travelers after you for the next 10-20 years will be targets for unceasing and increasingly obnoxious demands for cadeaux, and Westeners will be seen only as a source of gifts. The annoyance you cause future visitors is probably not worth the trinket. Instead, give it to a reputable local charity or school to be distributed, or a family that has done something nice for you.

Stay Safe

General: Niamey is a safe city but be aware of several things:

Con artists: A frequent scam, anywhere in town but especially near Petit Marché, involves someone coming up to you and acting like he knows you well. He says his car or motorcycle got in an accident and he needs 10,000F to fix it, or variations on this theme. If you don’t know the person beyond a shadow of a doubt, don’t believe him or her.


Embassies & Consulates

Visa Extensions

Visa extensions are granted at the Direction de la Surveillance du territoire on Rue Heinrich Luebke. Bring two photographs and the appropriate fee. Expect one day service, although a small gift could probably get you same day service.

Go next

One of the last wild giraffes in West Africa peeks under a tree
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