Welcome to Calabar. Planning an experience around the city can be part of the fun, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover. Below, you’ll find quick overviews on the city’s essentials and other basic information you need to learn about Calabar.
Where is Calabar?
Tucked into Nigeria’s southeastern corner, the capital of Cross River state has a rich history and is well worth a trip. Originally a cluster of Efik settlements, Calabar was once one of Africa’s biggest slave ports, and later a major exporter of palm oil. A popular stopover for travellers heading to Cameroon, this tourist-friendly city has a fantastic museum and an excellent primate-conservation centre.
The city is watered by the Calabar and Great Kwa Rivers and creeks of the Cross River, it hosts Carnival Calabar – Africa’s biggest street party, houses special tourist attractions like the Mary Slessor house, Marina resort, the drill ranch, Tinapa resort, kwa falls,Chief Ekpo Bassey’s House, The Slave History Museum, Duke town church among others.
Cross River State belongs to the tropical rainfall belt where rainfall is usually seasonal and at times very heavy. Humid tropical climate of about 1300 – 3000mm rain fall and 30°C mean annual temperatures prevail over Cross River State, except on the Obudu Plateau, where the climate is subtemperate, with temperatures of 15°C 23°C. The vegetation ranges from mangrove swamps, through rainforest, to derived savannah, and montane parkland
Calabar has a resort feel, and a better range of hotels than most Nigerian towns. It is a popular weekend getaway for Nigerians resident in other states. So if you need to get here we’ll advice you book where to stay in advance.
Time : Local time is GMT plus one hour. (GMT +1)
Weights & Measures : The metric system.
Electricity : Power Supply is 220V. Plugs are square British three pin.
Currency : Nigerian Naira (₦)
By water: Fakoships sails every Wednesday and Friday around 7am to neighbouring countries like Limbe in Cameroon, Gabon and Equitorial Guinea. There are also daily boats to Oron in Akwa-Ibom state and a few other riverine locations along the shore of Cross River.
By land : There’s one major entrance into the city with a main connection at Odukpani junction where travelers from the Calabar –Ituhighway connects with those from the Calabar-Katsina Ala highway. These two major routes connect the city to all other parts of the country.
Buses, Cabs and Motorcycles are available to move around the city of Calabar. The roads are well paved and tarred and there is relatively less traffic on the roads compared to cities like Lagos.
Visas: If you require a visa to visit Nigeria you can find more information from the Nigerian immigration official website.
Currency Exchange: The most reliable place to change your Forex is at Bogobiri. You’ll find dozens of Hausa owned exchange houses engaged in the trade along the long spanning street that connects Mary Slessor to Barracks road. Most of them would approach you offering the service on the street. We recommend you act smartly.
ATM: ATMs are increasingly widespread and many are connected to international systems such as MasterCard or Visa. GTB is the most reliable.
Internet Access : Decent connections are widespread via LTE and 3G connections. You can also use public cyber cafes for around N200 per hour.
Drinking & Nightlife : There’s a cluster of bars and clubs in the Marian district. You can also look up some recommendations from our nightlife cravings.
Bargaining : Like in other Nigerian cities, bargaining is a handy skill, whether you’re shopping in a market or negotiating with a taxi driver: always ask the price before getting in.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers : Homosexual sex is illegal in Nigeria. The “Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill’ permits 14-year prison sentences for those entering into a same-sex marriage, or those witnessing or supporting a same-sex marriage. There are 10-year sentences for those who operate gay clubs and organisations.
Travellers with Disabilities : There are really no special provisions made for disabled travellers around the city. Powered wheelchairs are few and far between. Disabled visitors might encounter a lot of challenge moving around without assistance. Locals are likely to be helpful though, and it can often be very cheap to hire people to help with lifting and so on.
In general greetings and communications are warm and relaxed.
Greetings may be extended and elaborate, and elders are greeted first.
If you’re visiting a home, bring fruit, nuts or chocolate: don’t bring alcohol to a Muslim home.
Some Muslims do not shake hands with people of the opposite sex.
If you are eating communally with your hands, always use the right hand.
Do not give or take bribe. This is a punishable offence.
Drug use, possession and dealing is likely to result in a lengthy prison sentence or heavy fine.
Avoid taking photos of government buildings, ports, airports, military personnel or police.
Hotels Tip ₦1000 or so for help with bags
Restaurants For decent service 10% is customary
Taxis Tips are not expected, but add one for good service Cash
Some Sample Rates
Hotel : ₦5,000 to ₦75,000
Taxi: From ₦500
Food: From ₦300
Local bus ride: From ₦50
General business hours are from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Banks 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Government offices 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday
Shops and supermarkets 7.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, 7.30 to 1pm Saturday
Sanitation days are held on the last Saturday of the month – traffic isn’t allowed before 10am for street cleaning.
The Nigerian postal service is notoriously slow. Worldwide postcards cost about N80. For parcels, use an international courier like DHL or FedEx. They both have offices along Marian Road.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in public places and is punishable by a fine.
There is little in the way of tourist information or useful city maps on the ground in Calabar. Some private agencies can be helpful.
Emergency & Important Numbers