Bordering some seven African nations, Niger, a former French colony, is one of the least developed nations. That's not to say you won't find it an exciting place to backpack for the well-seasoned traveler.

Niger lies along the Niger River, encompassing some 1.26 million square kilometers with a population of just under 13 million people; 95 percent of whom are Muslim. It's a good idea right from the start to say that women travelers should avoid wearing clothing that's too revealing. And despite being a Muslim country, you'll find alcholic beverages available, although with some restriction.

Restrictions apply to driving around Niger, as roads are closed to tourists without special permission. If you're outside the capital city of Niamey you're required to hire a chauffeur.

Niamey has some wonderful sites, including the National Museum that's also a Botanical Garden and Zoo, the Great Mosque, and horse & camel races. Shoppers will fall in love with the long named Centre de Metiers d'Art de Niger--where you can buy all sorts of bargain leather goods, silver jewelry, and swords.

Bush taxis are another option when heading out of Niamey, albeit quite a slow one. No one ever said life moves fast in Africa. Consider a healthy change from the frantic, fast-paced goings on in the Western World.

One change from the West is that it's illegal in Niger to take a different route than the one you're allowed to travel. No turning off to take a "scenic route". You'll often find that many roads aren't passable during the Rainy Season that runs from November to April; and you must report your whereabouts to the local police in any place you spend the night.

Flying isn't an easy option either, as the country has no national carrier for international or domestic flights. There are charter flights available if you're interested.

All of these "obstacles" are well worth the efforts to see Niger, a country that's famous for its "W" National Park where buffalo, lion, baboons, and jackals all play--maybe not all that nicely, but affording you the chance to see these incredible animals in their natural habitat.

What's even more amazing is you'll find some of the continent's most exotic animals like giraffes and lions high in the Air Mountains.

The city of Agadez is wonderful to see too. From the mosque's minaret you'll have an eagle eye view of a caravan trade city. And in Zinder, Niger's former capital city, is the Sultan's Palace and Mosque.

All you need to do before you see all this is a passport and visa (no visa required if you're from Denmark and Finland), a return ticket, and make sure you're vaccinated for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Tetanus, Malaria, Hepititis A & B, Tuberculosis, Cholera, and Diphtheria.

Once you're here you should avoid dairy products, avoid swimming in fresh water, make sure your meat and veg is well-cooked, your fruits are peeled, and you use bottled or boiled water to brush your teeth or make ice.

Despite being what's called a Third-World country, Niger's a wonderful place to get out of your comfort zone, giving you a chance to experience the true African bush and more.

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