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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Niger

Niger - Consular Information Sheet
August 17, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Niger is a developing, inland African nation whose northern area includes a part of the Sahara Desert. Tourism facilities are minimal, particularly outside the capital city, Niamey.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Travelers should obtain the latest information on customs and entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Niger, 2204 R Street NW, Washington D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-4224. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Nigerien embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: 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, there continues to be potential for disturbances, particularly by students, as the new government enforces economic reform measures. U.S. citizens should avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Niger to exercise caution when traveling in the northern part of the country. In January 2001, the region around Agadez and the Air Mountains experienced increased criminal activity by armed bandits. In these 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 this problem. However, travelers in northern Niger should consult local police authorities regarding their itinerary and adequate security arrangements. U.S. citizens visiting Niger are reminded to register with the U.S. Embassy in Niamey.

CRIME: Crime in Niamey has reached critical levels. Tourists should not walk alone around the Gaweye hotel, National Museum, and on or near the Kennedy Bridge at any time. This area is especially prone to muggings (day and night) and should be avoided. 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. Armed bandits are particularly active in remote regions in northern and eastern Niger, especially on roads between major cities. Use caution and common sense at all times to avoid thieves and pickpockets. Safe security practice information sheets are available from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Niamey.

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. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, .

MEDICAL FACILITIES: 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 bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventative medicines.

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. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Tap water is unsafe to drink throughout Niger and should be avoided. Bottled water and beverages are safe, although visitors should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water. Ice made from tap water is also unsafe to consume. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Niger is the poorest country in the region with road conditions generally worse than neighboring countries. 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, barely 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 city buses and taxis are available at a fixed fare in Niamey, most taxis and all buses are very old vehicles that 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 inter-city routes, but has recently been reorganized, so its availability, reliability, and safety are uncertain.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Niger, 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 http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. 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.

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 ankle-length garments.

PHOTOGRAPHY RESTRICTIONS: 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.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: There are no laws restricting foreign exchange transactions in Niger. The CFA, the money Niger shares with several other Central and West African Francophone countries, is fully convertible into French francs.

TELEPHONE SERVICE: Due to poor line quality, callers often experience delays in getting a line, and telefaxes are often garbled.

CRIME 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 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.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Niamey are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Niamey and obtain updated information on travel and security within Niger. The U.S. Embassy is located on Rue des Ambassades, mailing address B.P. 11201, telephone numbers (227) 72-26-61, 72-26-62, 72-26-63, 71-26-64, and fax numbers (227) 73-31-67 or 72-31-46. The Embassy's Internet address is USEMB@INTNET.NE.


*****

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 28, 2001 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Medical Insurance, Aviation Safety Oversight, Other Health Information and Children's Issues.



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