Ilorin is the capital city of Kwara state in North Central Nigeria. In 2020, it was home to an estimated 950,000 people.
The city is a confluence of cultures, populated by the Fulani, Yoruba, Hausa, Nupe, Bariba and Kanuri tribes from across Nigeria, as well as foreign nationals. The city retains a strong Islamic influence, although Christianity is now widely practised in the cosmopolitan part of the city due to the significant immigration of people from other parts of Kwara State and the rest of Nigeria. English is commonly spoken and understood among the populace. However, Yoruba is the mother tongue of much of the people, and Hausa speakers may be found in some areas, particularly among roadside sellers of food and vegetables.
The city of Ilorin serves as a gateway between the northern and southern part of Nigeria.
The Ilorin international airport is also used for domestic flights to other cities within the country and international flights to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah.
- 1 Ilorin International Airport.
Rail services in Nigeria are still very slow and unreliable but several routes have reappeared. Nigerian Railway Corporation have daily services from Ilorin via Ibadan, and an overnight service from Kano via Kaduna a few times per week. A new higher speed railway is under construction and is expected to be completed in the 2020s, resulting in increased speeds and frequency.
Several bus companies like Young Legacy, Mufsuf Motors, Kasmag line, Okin Express offers daily services from almost all major cities (Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kaduna, Kabba, Lokoja, Sokoto, Kano, Makurdi, etc.) around the country. While buses usually are quite comfortable, journey times are very long.
There are also independent transporters under the aegis of the national union of road transport workers (NURTW) and road transport employees association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in various parks, such as Post Office, Offa garage, and Maraba who travel to various towns within and outside the state.
If travelling around Ilorin, be sure to be accompanied by a tourist guide who is familiar with the routes. For the most part, it's safe to move about during the day. If you are going out at night, be sure to go in groups, and stick to known routes.
Ilorin now has decent mass transit buses, courtesy of the Maigida Soludero Mass Transit (MST) schemes. The MST buses have their major terminal at Post Office area of Ilorin, and offer travel services to the University of Ilorin, Offa garage, Kwara State Polytechnic, Tanke, Oyun, and Sango. The tickets for the MST can be purchased at the bus stops before boarding. Tickets range from ₦50-150, as of 2021.
The road network of Ilorin city for most part is good, but there is sometimes traffic congestion and parking spaces can be scarce, especially during working hours. Be sure to be on the lookout for road signs, in order to avoid entering one-way roads or streets. KWARTMA (Kwara State Road Traffic Management Authority) is the body responsible for managing traffic in most of the traffic congestion areas. Make sure to follow traffic rules. There are car parks around in hotels and shopping malls, most of which provide free and safe parking.
One of the easiest ways to get around Ilorin city is by taxi. Taxis are relatively cheap and cost about ₦50-100 per drop. Ilorin city taxis are painted green and yellow and most of them are Mazda cabs.
For traveling short distances, you can use motorbike taxis called Okada. These motorbikes are quick, cheap, and save a lot of walking. Okada accidents are common but safety equipment is now provided because the state government and the Federal Road Safety Commission have mandated it. Before you try and negotiate any transportation fare, always confirm the fare from a local. If you have a Nigerian friend, let them negotiate for you as the quoted fare differs greatly for locals and foreigners.
Safety helmets are a must at all times for both the rider and passenger. Majority of the times these are ill-fitting.
The city also has a range of tourist attractions such as the Sobi Hill which is said to have offered protection to natives during intertribal wars in ancient times. The Okuta Ilorin is located in Asaju's compound, Idi-Ape Quarters. It is the stone on which Ojo Isekuse, one of the founders of the city, used to sharpen his metal tools. It was actually called "Okuta ilo irin" (meaning stone for sharpening metals). It is from this tool, the town Ilorin derived its name. The stone was a deified object of worship, and sacrificial offerings were made to it in the past.
Pottery is a big business in Ilorin. The city has the biggest traditional pottery workshops in Nigeria. They are located in the Dada area of Okelele, Eletu in Oju-Ekun, Okekura, Oloje, Abe Emi and Ita Merin.
The traditional textile industry also thrives in Ilorin. In various parts of the city, aso-oke, textiles hand-woven on simple looms, are made in large quantities. Aso-oke is purchased by traders and fashion designers from Kwara State, other parts of Nigeria and abroad.
The cultural center houses the Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture, its performing troupe, and a gallery with artworks and antiquities. Souvenirs of cultural and historical values are also available.
The National Commission for Museum and Monuments has one of its centers in Ilorin, with interesting cultural and ethnographic objects from Nigeria's many cultures. The Esie Museum is of major note.
Metropolitan Park, a recreational park, is located on Unity Road. The Kwara State Stadium Complex has an Olympic-sized swimming pool with facilities for diving. A purpose-built baseball park is located in the Adewole area of the city.
Unless you are in a supermarket or restaurant/bar with fixed prices, you will be expected to negotiate the price you pay for an item down to the lowest the vendor would sell. When you are stuck in traffic, expect to see hawkers selling drinks and other forms of light refreshments.
If you hold a Visa, MasterCard or Maestro credit/debit card you can withdraw cash in naira from various ATMs in Ilorin.
Foreign currency, U.S. dollars, pounds sterling, or euros can be exchanged in various places, usually near large hotels e.g Kwara hotel and the airport. These are not formal bureaux de change and you will need to negotiate the exchange rate. It is strongly recommended that you count your money in front of the exchanger, and don't be afraid to walk away if you are not happy with the deal.
There are formal Bureaux de Change in the various banks, and you can be rest assured about transacting with them, although their rates may be slightly higher or lower than the rates outside. Some of the good places for shopping are:
- Palms Shopping Mall: Plot 1, Fate Road, G.R.A, Ilorin South Local Government Area.
- Ace Supermarket: Unity road.
- Martrite Supermarket:Bola Saadu House, 10 Ahmadu Bello Way.
- Kwara Hotel: along Government house, before Challenge Ilorin.
- Edinwo Supermarket, Tanke road.
Tanke Region Ilorin is one of the best places you can't go around with an empty stomach because there are a lot of places to eat. Here are the few places to eat at TANKE
- T&K - Traditional foods are sold here.
- Yakoyo- a restaurant where diverse foods are sold both traditional food and continental food.
- Clay Pot- A restaurant where diverse foods are sold traditional food and continental food.
- Item 7- only Continental food is sold here.
- Liyagold- This is a restaurant and a mall combined in a build, the down section for a restaurant where guest order for foods mostly Continental Cuisine while the upper section is the mall open for shopping.
- Chops & Girlls- A night restaurant where snack and chucks are sold.
- Iya Yusuf Restaurant (Tuwo spot), University Road Tanke. A restaurant where you can get your Nigerian traditional foods.
Drinks are available all over Ilorin. The major hotels have bars and restaurants where drinks can be purchased.
Frootify - a shop outlet where smoothie and other fruit juices are made and sold to shoppers. Located at Tanke axis of Ilorin South.
Locale Nutri C - a shop outlet Where juices are made with side snacks which are sold to people. Located along university road Tanke
Ilorin has some great hotels and guesthouses, meanwhile many more are being built. The cost of booking a hotel in Ilorin is cheaper when compared to other Nigerian cities like Lagos, Kaduna, and Abuja.
- WhiteField Hotel: Plot 37 Gerewu Rd, off Western Reservoir. Free Wifi, room service, restaurant and bar.
- Crystal House International Hotel: No 28 Sulu Gambari Rd, GRA. Free parking, free wifi, restaurant and room service, fitness center, massage, relaxation area, golf course.
- White field Hotel. A reserved place to sleep. The hotel's facilities include free parking, free wifi, a restaurant and room service.
- Kwara Hotel, 9A, Ahmadu Bello way, GRA, toll-free: . Kwara hotel is located in a serene environment with wifi,outdoor pool,fully airconditioned rooms,restaurants and bars,halls for different events. ₦16,200-46,000.
In general, Ilorin has become a much safer place to visit than before, except for occasional clashes and violence, the state of security in the city has relatively improved with the state spending huge budgets on security with police patrol cars, CCTV cameras (though this isn't always the case). But beware of deals or businesses that sound too good to be true (especially e-mails soliciting your help), and do not openly flaunt your possessions, especially in public places.
While it is rare for a tourist to be a victim of a violent crime, it is still wise to stay safe and be alert, especially during late night outings. Stick to crowded streets and make sure to go out in groups as against going out alone.
The people of Ilorin are generally nice and friendly people, most of whom will readily offer directions to you if you are lost.
Nigeria has both GSM & CDMA Networks. Most of the International GSM Networks are served here on Roaming Partner Basis. Local pre-activated GSM (SIM) connection can be purchased from anywhere in entire Country at very cheap rate. ₦200 for a SIM.
- 9Mobile Services: Calls, SMS, GPRS and some most advance feature can be found only on this network.
- Airtel: Airtel is the former Zain (which was formerly CelTel). Services: Calls, SMS & GPRS Services.
- MTN: Services: Calls, SMS, DATA (Internet) & GPRS Services.
- Glo: Services: Calls, SMS, DATA (Internet) & GPRS Services.
- Multilinks Telkom: Services: Calls, SMS & DATA (Internet).
- Visafone: Services: Calls, SMS & DATA (Internet).
- Starcomms: Services: Calls, SMS & DATA (Internet).
In Nigeria SMS (Short Messaging Service) is known as "Text".
The networks in certain parts of Ilorin city can be very erratic at times. But it's occasional and that is why if you want to stay for a long term, make sure you have at least two phones or a dual sim phone.