ABOUT Niger is an arid, landlocked country of the Sahel with a population of 12 million. It is bordered by Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Chad and Libya. Niger is a former French colony which was granted independence in 1960. The land is mostly desert plains and dunes, with rolling savanna in the southeast. 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". To the south is Nigeria. The road systems in Nigeria are relatively poor compared with North American and European countries, but often still passable. The "okada" (motorcycle) is not for the faint-hearted (there used to be no helmets but as a law the rider is required to have two helmets for himself and a passenger) and should only be used for short distance journeys. "Okadas" will get you to where you want to go quickly and you will get there in one piece. In Lagos, there are lots of buses and taxis. There are two main types of buses, the molue and the danfo. Most smaller cities have more taxis than buses, and they are quite affordable. For travelling from one city to another, you go to the "motor park", find the taxi that's going to your destination, and wait until it "fills up". The price is fixed, you don't have to negotiate. Some drivers may have a risky driving style however - practically this means that the only rule consistently adhered to (by cars, not necessarily motorcycles), is keeping on the right.

CLIMATE Niger is one of the hottest countries in the planet. It has the Saharan desert in the north, the Sahel to the south of the desert, and the Sudan in the southwest corner. The intense heat of the Saharan zone often causes the little rainfall to evaporate before it hits the ground. In the east annual rainfall is only 0.79 inches. The ‘rainy season’ is from May through October, with most rain in July and August. At Niamey, the average maximum daily temperature fluctuates from 31 C in August to 41 C in April. Nights are cooler from November to February.

BEWARE Niger there is a high threat from terrorism. Terrorists have been involved in kidnaps in the region and we believe that further kidnap attacks are likely. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) operates directly or through criminal gangs who carry out kidnappings on their behalf or pass on their kidnap victims for monetary gain. Attacks have occurred across a wide area of the Sahel region, including Mali. Extreme poverty means that levels of crime, especially in the capital Niamey, are high. Thefts, robberies and residential break-ins can occur at any time. You should therefore take precautions to keep safe important items such as money, passports, jewellery and mobile phones. The areas around the Gaweye Hotel, National Museum and Petit Marché in Niamey are particularly prone to muggings and you should not walk alone there, or cross the Kennedy Bridge on foot at any time. Walking at night is not recommended due to the lack of street lighting. Bandits are thought to be operating in the border area with Nigeria south of Zinder. You should take special care and avoid crossing the border with Nigeria during the hours of darkness. Attacks against tourists are known to take place at El Meki between Agadez and Timia.