Travelling with a Naija passport is HARD no lie, but it is NOT impossible. I mean I am clearly a testament to the fact that it can happen. I have been to almost 90 countries on 5 continents and on track to do 100 countries by next year, if all goes well. You can read more about some of the challenges I have encountered as a Naija traveler in my article- Expect Delays.
I won’t reveal all my strategies in this article; I may choose to do additional articles, so this will just whet your appetite. Who knows? I may finally decide to go full time on my global travel consulting and y’all can hire me then, to handle all your travel needs. So leaving room for any of the future possibilities, I will still give you some tips here so you don’t hiss, roll your eyes and wonder why you have wasted your time reading so far…
Demystify the visa process….
For those that didn’t know, there are over 30 countries that Nigerians can go visa free, or visa on arrival. If you want to start their adventures and not deal with the hassle of visas, this is a great start.
From Barbados to Seychelles to Sri Lanka, every country has something to offer, and so life does not always start and end with the UK or America – countries that are very difficult to get visas for; try getting your travel fix by visiting these other places.
If you happen to have a US visa, then additional countries open up for you to visit (mainly islands such as Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) but that is another way to leverage one visa and see other places. If you have a UK visa, then certainly you can also go to Wales, Scotland, and Northern Island. With the Schengen Visa, you can go to about 25 or so countries in Europe that are part of the member states and even some additional ones like Croatia, Cyprus, etc that are not, but will allow you to visit with a Schengen visa.
So, do your research; the more you know, the easier it is to navigate all the intricacies of visas and the accompanying stress. There are also strategies to put into play to ensure a successful visa application, so feel free to reach out and I can share a few.
Do not fall for the danger of a single story!
Yes, with a Nigerian passport, you will be treated with disrespect in certain countries, and being Naija you want to set them in their place, but honestly don’t even bother exchange.
As Michelle Obama said, when they go low, we go high. When I travel with my friends who are American, they get mad on my behalf; they are confused at my calm demeanor in the face of foolery, but I just smile and tell them to stay in their lane and not bring their first world privilege to my green passport and get me thrown out of the border control office.
Basically a few unsavory characters have tarnished the Nigerian brand globally and there are those that will take joy in letting you know it and trying to embarrass you, but I just consider them as ignorant and move on.
I was visiting my good friend in Kenya and we were stopped by a police officer at the airport who then proceeded to interrogate us and then disparagingly said; “a kikuyu (my friend’s tribe in Kenya) and a Nigerian together, no good can come of this!” Mind you, she then tried to ask for a bribe which made me wonder who was up to no good now! Nonsense! But, things like this happen. You can’t get mad and then let it ruin your adventures, you just move on. If I focused just on the bad stories then I won’t ever get the chance for a good story!
Don’t go into debt to travel
While for me travel is interwoven into every facet of my soul, I always remember to tell myself, it is a “want” not a “need” and so if I can’t afford to do it then I shouldn’t.
The key to this is to once again know what is possible for you, given your specific situation. I have friends that only travel first class and five star hotels. I also have friends that backpack and couch surf their way through life. Determine what is most important to you and make your own unique travel experience within those parameters without caring about other people.
These days, everyone does it “for the gram”, yet whether you took a bus or a plane, you are still going to see the same monuments, structures and places.
Also, delay is not denial. You may not be able to travel now but you can still dream about doing so, come up with your list, start saving and hopefully in the future it will be possible. Also once again, if seeing the world is your goal, then it once again doesn’t have to be somewhere far away, taking a bus to visit Olumo rock, or go and see Obudu ranch or even go to Badagry and explore the slave museum, it is just as valid as sitting in a water hut in the Maldives. Its your experience and that makes it special so forget the perfectly curated pictures on social media, I choose to look at those like they are a movie, entertaining but I never walk away feeling depressed about my own life because it is their journey not mine. Live your best life in whatever way you can. Ensure the most important basics of your life are covered and if after that you can find some extra to put away then start putting it somewhere and eventually that will become enough at some point to take you somewhere.
Make Friends/Expand your network
I consider myself blessed to have had the chance to meet people from all over the world through different things. Nigeria attracts a ton of foreign nationals from other African countries, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Get outside your comfort zone and meet other people.
Everyone makes fun of me because I basically am an extrovert, so I am always talking to people and end up with a million besties all over the place. This ends up serving me well in a multitude of ways that I never even anticipated. It means I have access to a global experience even in my own town. I get invited to their homes and try their own cultural foods. I get invited to their weddings. I learn about their countries in unique ways that are more engaging than just doing research online.
I end up having a global accommodation network, which is certainly great on saving hotel costs… but also gives you an incredible local view of the countries outside of the usual tourist paths. I too have hosted several friends from the US in my home in Lagos, and so it works out both ways. Obviously don’t go on a global friendship hunting spree to get this benefit. It has to be organic and built on mutual respect and trust, before people welcome you to their homes; but if you just find yourself being open to interacting with foreign people, no matter how uncomfortable it is, you find out that we all have something in common.
Have Fun, Be Safe & Be Respectful of the local culture!
This goes without saying but travel should be fun. You shouldn’t be on a path to compete with anyone and just rush through places in an effort to hit a number. I didn’t even bother counting how many places I had been until recently when friends asked me. It wasn’t anything I did for a number, but basically for over 3 decades had just been enjoying the experience and taking opportunities to do so before the “travel wave” became a thing. I will continue to do it after it’s no longer “cool”.
When people wonder about my sanity being a young black female travelling the world sometimes by myself and sometimes with friends because of safety concerns. I mean some of the concerns are real and I advise people to use the common sense approach in any country. I also don’t choose to go into some obvious countries that are in an active war situation, but truly where in the world is “safe”? From natural disasters to random acts of terrorism to just being in an accident, just living life comes with its own dangers. So don’t walk around dangerous areas at night alone. Don’t be too flashy in poor neighborhoods. Don’t carry cash needlessly, around. Let people close to you know where you are, etc etc and for the most part, you should be fine.
Finally, you should always be aware of the laws of the countries and obey them. Also, if you have ever over stayed your visa or committed a crime a crime in another country then your chances of being allowed to explore other countries are limited.
There are some obvious things once again that we all know are not allowed – such as smuggling drugs, human trafficking or even bringing in certain foods, but some countries have nuances such as public display of affection in several countries in the middle east or chewing gum in Singapore, so be sure to know what the laws are in the countries you visit so you don’t unknowingly break them. Once you have one black star on your record, it is a downward spiral and makes it extremely challenging if not impossible to revisit that country or others in the future.
I hope these tips help you as you think about starting or expanding your global adventures! Feel free to follow my journey (hopefully a successful one) to visiting 100 countries and get additional travel tips via my Instagram page: GloballyGbems