Esther Unravels The North | Train Ride

If you follow us on instagram, you must have seen our unraveller weaving her away around Northern Nigeria. Esther is back safely in Lagos and is prepared to tell everyone about her trip. From Nok to Yankari, in a series of posts you’ll be reading on how she went unravelling the north solo.

Esther likes to describe herself as a lover of life and a fitness/travel enthusiast. She also loves meeting new people and we love here at Unravelling Nigeria because she has proclaimed herself as our evangelist and makes it a point to join our trips when she can. You can follow her on instagram here. Read and enjoy.


Just as things happen randomly…  My journey exploring Northern Nigeria was random.

One day just like every day, I woke up to the realization that I literally do not know much about the northern parts of my country and I wanted to get first hand stories (not Wikipedia or Google versions) plus I needed to get out of town to ease work pressure. What did I do?

I looked up the Nigerian map, the railway system and the historical sites in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau and Bauchi States. I decided to embark on a train ride with a 100% open but positive mind.

So the story begins…. I’m going to  give a story on each location so you can walk with me on my wanderlust adventure.

The Train Ride

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Take off at Iddo, Lagos


On October 21st, I bought a ticket and boarded to Kano from Lagos terminus, I was pretty excited as I had never gone on a train ride in Nigeria (and the first class was pretty ok) and was looking forward to the experience. The people and sounds from the platform to inside the train were astonishing! By noon we were off and left according to schedule. The train is always scheduled to stop at major stations/junctions so people can drop off or join the journey. Below are pictures of the major stops.

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At Ibadan Station, Oyo State

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Night time at Osogbo (Osun State)

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Midnight stop at Offa, Kwara State

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Alas we got to Jebba (Niger State) in the morning. I missed taking a picture at the Ilorin Station as I was bone tired.

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Say hello to Mokwa


From the 1960’s to the mid-1980’s, Mokwa was a thriving station as farmers and an array of  manufacturers  would always be on hand to transport their goods/services to the far west or up north for transactions. Fast forward to present day, Mokwa is a ghost town in rural Niger state with dilapidated infrastructures, trains and rail tracks of its glory days.

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Abandoned cargo trains that were used to convey industrial goods from Western to Northern Nigeria in the days of the thriving and functional economy


Our delay was for almost 24 hours at this location as there was a faulty train ahead in Minna and since it’s a single track rail line, we had to wait for the other train to be fixed and moved before we could continue the journey.

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I was told this office used to be  a busy and important location for ensuring rails are on track and safety is ensured.

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After spending endless hours at Mokwa, we finally got to Minna (Niger State) in the middle of the night. I literally jumped from sleep mode to pin this location to my radar.

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Location: Kaduna Junction in Kaduna State; This is the point where trains head off to the various geographical cardinal points i.e. North, East, South, West

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This is Zaria (Kaduna State). It’s the ‘headquarters’ of the Nigerian Railway Corporation. At this point I was really really tired and had gone without a bath for 2 days.


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We finally arrive Kano State after 2 nights and over 2 days in the train

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As a cool kid, I was given the honour of posing with the train in the background at our final destination


My personal take…

  • Be open minded to the journey and try to overlook the short comings of the railway management as they really do have some shortcomings.
  • I advise on 1st class ticket (it’s pretty comfy and humane), don’t bother considering otherwise.
  • Make sure you travel with some kind of insulators (sweater, hand gloves, socks, muffler, head warmer etc.) as the air conditioning system is freaking cold at night.
  • People are generally nice and friendly in 1st class and they could be kind as well (they were to me).
  • Make sure you travel with some form of I.D, medicine for allergies or headaches, enough cash (there are no ATMs or POS on the ride), snacks and water.
  • Be ready to eat good/bad street food (depending on your taste) as there isn’t any fast food on the way.
  • Just have a positive disposition on alert all the way.
  • On this is route, 1st class in N4,700 ($23.61) while regular is N2,700 ($13.56)