Zinder is a city in Southern Niger.
Zinder was the capital of Niger until 1927, when it moved to Niamey. It remains the second largest city by population in the country.
Finding a taxi is next to impossible unless you have someone at hand who can help you find one.
Taking a bus to Zinder is the best way and, if there are no problems, the trip from Niamey takes 12 to 13 hours. The bus makes frequent stops, about every hour and a half, and a stopover is long enough to buy street food or hit the toilet. SNTV line is the premier one -- they even have a brand new bus, with air-conditioning. It costs 12,500 francs from Niamey, and the return trip is 11,500. "Air" is another good bus line -- they even hand out snacks on the trip. "Rimbo" and the others are sometimes quicker but more dangerous because driving fast in a country with tons of livestock is pretty scary.
Cabou-cabous (motorcycles; "taxi-motos", in French) are scary, but pretty much the only hired ride available to get around. There are maybe two taxi cabs, but you see them once in a blue moon. The cost of a cabou-cabou ranges anywhere from 150 francs for a short distance to 200 francs for longer ones. They don't have helmets, and don't worry about finding one.
There's not much to see in the city, except maybe the 'Sultan's Palace', a pretty cool building. (Made out of mud brick, this Palace is not your typical palace of sorts.) The market looks pretty impressive for its sheer size alone. There is a small museum displaying some genuine articles which speak of an interesting past.
Check out the market and the stadium for wrestling matches.
- Check out the French Cultural Center (CCFN, in French: Le Centre Culturel Franco-Nigerien) on the way down to the market. They have regular events, shows, and decent food/beer in the evenings.
- Pass by the pool on a hot day, located at the French private Club, near the museum. Small entrance fee.
In the market you can find a lot of generic Nigerien stuff, but the clothes section is a lot of fun. Called 'Dead Man's' because Nigeriens assume that the only person who'd give away perfectly good clothing is a dead man, chances are you might see the logo of your own college or high school on a shirt. Shirts from Nigeria are also interesting, sporting Sadaam and Osama Bin Laden. Funny, but unwearable in the US, most likely.
Another great place is the Artisan Center, located in Zinder's southeast area, on the road to Maradi. There you can find leather-workers, silver-smiths, tailors and a store that sells shoes, wallets, silver, paintings, etc. If you are in Zinder, you must go to this place. Be sure to haggle though, because they usually charge close to double of what you can get them down to. If you go to the silver-smith Moumouni and say you're friends with Chewbacca, it might be easier to haggle, since I've bought a bunch from him.
Many good restaurants.
- Chez Ramatou (located near Hotel Damagaram and the post office). sells street food with great sauce and has everything from cous-cous to rice and beans. The sauce can be kinda spicy, so watch out for green peppers.
- Hotel Damagaram now has pizza (some 15 different types of it), a calzone to die for, and other dishes. Drinks are priced very well, and their brochettes (shish-kabobs) are very good.
- Le Palmier has a great butter and steak, and their cous-cous is to die for. They even have milkshakes. Good prices!
- Mourna has great pizza and even an English speaker from Kano, who speaks fluently. The drinks are way overpriced, but the food is good. You can get also tuna or ground beef pizzas.
Not really any place to splurge.
Alcohol is hard to find in Niger, as it is a predominantly Muslim country.
- Hotel Damagaram, ☏ +227 20 510 303. The best. It has a restaurant/bar and AC and TV in the rooms. One night will run you about 17,000 francs, pretty much standard for hotels in the region. It's located near the bank and the post office. The swimming pool is about a ten-minute walk away.
- Hotel Amadou Kouran Daga, ☏ +227 20 510 742.
- Hotel Central, ☏ +227 20 512 047.
- Gamzaki De Zinder, RN1, Zinder, ☏ +227 20 510 280, +227 96988331, +227 93204101. Check-out: 12h. Clean rooms. You can have a drink on the upstairs terraces and enjoy fresh evening breeze! Secure parking in internal courtyard. No food served. 30000 FCFA.
Zinder is an incredibly laid-back town. It's not as scary as Niamey, and the most hassle you might get is from the people asking for money or gifts. That's not saying bad things don't happen, but they are incredibly rare. When walking about at night walk with a friend, stay under the street lights or in the well-lit areas.