Abuja, Nigeria - Stein Travel
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As a purpose-built city, there is something rather contrived about Abuja, the relatively new capital of Nigeria. Laid out in a crescent shape, it is situated in the heart of the country in an area called the Federal Capital Territory; a location chosen for its neutrality in a country rife with ethnic and religious clashes.

Divided into four districts, with designated business and residential sectors, the city has leafy, wide roads, high office towers and large apartment blocks, and is infinitely less congested and polluted than Lagos, the former capital. Much of the city is still being built and its population is small, making it a rather characterless place that lacks the colour and bustle of other Nigerian cities. However, it must be noted that for tourists not used to travelling on the African continent, Abuja makes for a far more gentle introduction to a holiday than in Nigeria than Lagos does.

The dominant feature on the landscape is Aso Rock, an ancient 400-metre high outcrop on the city's outskirts caused by water erosion, and which looms behind the attractive Government buildings. There is, however, little else on offer in the way of tourist attractions in Abuja, apart from nearby Zuma Rock, the National Mosque, the National Church, Parade Square and the Wuse Market.

Abuja is often used as a jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the country, and most visitors only take a day or two to take in its limited sights. Perhaps as it grows in stature and size, Abuja will become more of an international tourist destination in its own right.

Information & Facts


Abuja experiences a three seasons each year, namely the very warm and humid rainy season (from April to October), a dry season (October to April) and a windy season in between known as the Harmattan season, when the dry and dusty West African trade wind of the same name blows through the city, coupled with intense cold. Sometimes the dust storms severely limit visibility and can even block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog. The rainy season in Abuja runs from April to October and during this time average daytime temperatures reach around 28°C to 30°C (82°F to 86°F) while nights are relatively warm. In the dry season, daytime temperatures in Abuja can soar as high as 40°C (104°F) and evenings can be chilly with temperatures dropping as low as 12°C (54°F).

Eating Out

Abuja's restaurant scene might surprise visitors to Nigeria who are expecting to have to 'rough it' on the dietary front. Indeed, in a city filled with foreign businessmen, Abuja's best restaurants succeed in turning out international-quality fare.

Most of the best establishments are located in the financial district, surrounding the affluent area of Maitama. Head to Chez Victor for outstanding French cuisine (try their filleted grouper fish), or to Ciao for authentic Italian food with a wine-list to match. It is common to see expatriate workers in Abuja filling the dining rooms of the city's swanky hotels (such as The Sheraton) as well. Less pricey options include Spice Foods, which turn out delicious and predominately vegetarian Indian fare; and Wakkis, who excel at curried prawn dishes.

Getting Around

Although much less chaotic and stressful than Lagos, it is still not recommended that travellers drive themselves around Abuja. The pre-planned nature of the city's design and its relative compactness make certain areas explorable by foot, but this should not be done in isolation or after dark. Private taxis in Abuja are generally safe; motorcycle taxis (okada) less so. Tourists to Abuja can look into hiring a private driver to ferry them around the city: this should cost a maximum of NGN 7, 000 for the day. Note that since Abuja is a relatively new city, many taxi drivers will not be intimately familiar with all parts of the city - it is a good idea to take a map along with you, and to point out your desired destination to your driver.

Kids Attractions

Since the large majority of foreign visitors to Abuja are businessmen, the city is not blessed with a wealth of kids attractions. In fact, many of Abuja's best sights will be unsuitable for children, either because they will not find them especially interesting (Zuma Rock, the National Mosque); or because they might feel unsafe and intimidated (Wuse Market).

Abuja is, however, home to Wonderland - the region's first ever amusement park. Featuring rides, shows, games and even faux castle walls, the entire family will enjoy a day out at Wonderland - and it is a great place for expatriate families in Nigeria to meet each other and allow their children to socialise in a safe and comfortable setting.


English is the official language in Nigeria and is widely used, though many other languages are also spoken.


Nigerian currency is the Naira (NGN), which is divided into 100 kobo. Approved exchange facilities include the major hotels and the airport, but official rates are very high. It is illegal to change money on the street. Credit card fraud is a problem and visitors are advised against the use of credit cards throughout the country. Credit card facilities are also limited. Facilities for changing travellers cheques are also very limited. Prior to travel, visitors should ensure they have a variety of currency options available to them (Sterling, US dollars or Euros) in cash. Travellers should be aware of the prevalence of commercial fraud in, and emanating from, Nigeria.

Night Life

Abuja's nightlife scene lags far behind Nigeria's other main tourist and business destination Lagos', yet still features a few decent bars where tourists can unwind after a hard day's sightseeing. Unfortunately, most of Abuja's nightlife remains rather segregated between bars frequented by expats and 'local bars' - which aren't considered completely safe for visitors to Abuja. A good bet is the Elephant Bar (attached to the Sheraton Hotel), where the drinks may be overpriced, but at least there is always some great live music going on.


The best places to go shopping in Abuja are certainly the local markets, of which the Wuse Market is the most established and the most foreigner-friendly. Everything you can think of is available at the Wuse Market, and it is a wonderful place to buy Nigerian souvenirs such as adire (patterned, dyed cloth), batiks and pottery from the southwest, leatherwork and kaduna cotton from the north, and carvings from the east. Traditional beadwork, basketry and ceremonial masks are also popular choices. You are expected to bargain at the Wuse Market: initially offer a third of what the vendor quoted you, but be prepared to part with half of the original asking price.

For those not keen on braving a local market, Abuja abounds with ritzy shopping plazas - largely designed for wealthy Nigerians and for foreigners doing business in Nigeria. The best of these include the Ceddi Plaza, Banex Plaza and Maclewis Plaza.

There is a wonderful fresh fruit market in Maitama, one of the wealthiest areas of Abuja. Again, the majority of this market's clientele are foreign businessmen working in Abuja.


Primarily a destination for business travellers to Nigeria, Abuja is a little short on must-see tourist attractions. It is, however, a docile and welcoming city - and offers a gentle introduction to Nigeria for those nervous of flying directly into Lagos.

While in Abuja, be sure to check out the Wuse Market, where souvenir shopping is the order of the day; and the Abuja National Mosque, a gorgeous building with an enormous dome and towering minarets.

Finally, tourists to Abuja are urged to make the short excursion out to Zuma Rock - an outstanding geological feature, which appeared on the shortlist of the New7Wonders campaign.

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