Ilorin is the capital city of Kwara state in Southwest Nigeria.
The city of Ilorin serves as a gateway between the northern and southern part of Nigeria.
You can fly in from other Nigerian cities (Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna).
The airport is also used for international flights to Saudi Arabia for hajj and Umrah.
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, Sokkoto, 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 2018.
The road network of Ilorin city for most part is good, but sometimes traffic congestion and limited parking space especially during working hours is rife. 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 exists car parks around in hotels, shopping mall, and most of them 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 per drop. Ilorin city taxis are painted green and yellow and most of them are Mazda cabs.
For travelling short distances, you can use motorbike taxis called Okada. These motorbikes are quick, cheap and save a lot of walking but they are also very dangerous. Okada accidents are very common but safety equipment are now provided because the state government and in fact the Federal Road Safety Commission has mandated it. If you want to take the risk, you can safely halve their first price, and usually there are lots to choose from. Before you try and negotiate, 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(for obvious reasons). Choose an older driver as the younger ones are cowboys.
Safety helmets are a must at all times for both the rider and passenger. Majority of times these are ill-fitting and sometimes even absent.
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. Expect any brand names in these informal markets to be fake, and should you wish to purchase them, aim for a very low price. If you hold a Visa, MasterCard or Maestro Credit/Debit card you can withdraw cash in naira from various ATMs around Lagos. Visa machines can be found at Standard Chartered Bank. MasterCard/Maestro machines are found in Ecobank and some Zenith Bank branches.
Foreign currency, U.S. dollars, pounds sterling, or euros can be exchanged in various places, usually near large hotels 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. Be wary of your safety in money changing areas, and take care to make sure you are not followed when leaving them.
There are formal Bureau De Change existing 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, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria
- Ace Supermarket: Unity road, Ilorin
- Martrite Supermarket: Bola Saadu House, 10 Ahmadu Bello Way Ilorin
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.
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.
Ilorin still has its fair share of odd people: street beggars (both the old and young), and people with psychological disorders. If someone approaches you for money, do what most people do: completely ignore them or continuing to walk at a brisk pace.
There are a few police officers who are corrupt and inefficient so it is best that you stick to the law and avoid going anywhere off the beaten path without a trusted guide, especially if it is a first visit.
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. On certain days you cannot make a phone call at all or you will not be able to recharge your phone for the most of the day making business very difficult at times. But its occasional and that is the reason if you want to stay long term, make sure that you have at least two phones or a dual sim phone.