Useful Phrases Every Tourist to Nigeria Should Know

With a population of close to 200 million people, it is really not a surprise that Nigeria is one of the most diversified nations in terms of human resources. No wonder it is often referred to as the giant of Africa. But for a country as big and as diverse as Nigeria, it is shocking that most people still skip it on their travel bucket list. Whichever way you may want to look at it, Nigeria is a fascinating country with lots of fascinating memories to offer to tourists and first-time visitors.

If you are coming to the West African country for the first time and you want to have a good experience, then one of the things you should do is try to win over the hearts of the locals as much as possible. How best can you win the heart of a people than learning to say a word or two in their language?

Most Nigerians will be fascinated to hear a foreigner speak the Nigerian pidgin. Yes, the Nigerian lingua franca is the English language, and most of the people you will meet in formal occasions speak fluent English, but every one speaks pidgin. Pidgin serves more like a local variant and of course it is a unique language of its own. Generally, it is a combination of English words, slang and a few local dialects. Before your next trip to Nigeria, try to learn one or two words in this unique language to help you get closer to the people.
To help you get started, we've compiled a list of the most frequently used pidgin phrases and their meanings.

For Use as Greetings

How Far (Hi / How are you?)
This is probably the most popular pidgin English phrase you will hear in Nigeria. A combination of two simple English words that comes with a lot of meanings, with each meaning dependent on the context of usage, but the most popular usage is as an informal greeting to people you meet in an informal setting. If anybody asks you how far,  don't start thinking that they are referring to some trip or distance measurement. No, they are actually trying to say hi, or at best know how you are doing.

Nothing do you (You are respected)
When you see young boys and girls tell you this during informal occasions, don't fidget, because they are only trying to accord you a measure of respect. The phrase is most often used as an informal way for mostly younger people to hail someone they respect but share a good relationship with. For most of the cases, when the young people tell you this, they expect you to feel some measure of respect and at least leave some tips for them.

No Wahala (No troubles)
Like the "how far" phrase highlighted above, “no wahala” is also used by different people to denote different things in different contexts, but the most popular context of usage is to say that there is no problem. It is even sometimes used as a direct reply to the question "how far". It means approval or some confirmation of well-being. When it's not used to answer greetings, it is used to tell you to go on with whatever you are doing without fear of possible trouble. When next a Nigerian asks you "how far", consider telling him or her "no wahala".

When Asking for Directions

Make you turn right / left (Turn right / left)
If you are ever lost or you miss your way to anywhere in Nigeria, don't worry, ask. Nigerians are generally warm and friendly people; hence they are always willing and ready to help you in your time of need. If you ask for directions from a Nigerian, you are most probably going to hear them say "make you turn right" for "take the next right turn" or "make you turn left" for "take the next left turn."

A simple thank you will do after they help point you in the right direction. This phrase can also come in handy for directing a taxi or a tricycle to wherever you are going to.

E don do (It's ok / stop)
Of course, there are times when you will need to instruct a person to stop what he's doing, and in such situations, this phrase comes in handy. It could be for telling a taxi that you've reached your destination or for telling a worker to stop what he or she is doing in an informal situation. Whatever the case may be, a typical Nigerian will stop whatever he's doing the moment you say "e don do" and wait for further instructions from you. Whenever a person tells you this too, understand that they want you to stop whatever you are doing for them at that moment.

At the Market 

This one too cost (Too expensive)
Generally, when you are at the local markets in Nigeria, sellers expect you to haggle over price, hence they will most often set the price higher than normal. When you hear the price beyond what you expected, don't panic, they expect you to haggle a little most of the time. You can of course start by telling them "this one too cost". This is generally a pidgin phrase that represents displeasure at the price for a particular ware. After using this phrase, most sellers will expect you to say what you can pay, hence if it is good enough, they will sell.


The pidgin English is such an interesting language that anyone would be tempted to learn it. Phrases like "go slow" for "traffic jam", " baff up" for "dress nicely", " make we shayo for “let's have a drink” are some other pidgin phrases that can also come in handy during your stay in Nigeria.

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