Lagos is the economic and cultural powerhouse of Nigeria, all this thanks to the rise of oil money.
Lagos is a hub of arts and music that will keep you on your feet whether you like it or not.
From the bumper-to-bumper cars, noise, elevated motorways, the city named after the Portuguese word for lagoon, was Nigeria’s capital until 1991.
And for a traveler it is a perfect destination, so here is my list of tips and tricks to exploring Africa’s largest city.
1. DRESS MODESTLY.
Sometimes you will need to ask for directions or buy something from someone and how you dress will determine how people will respond to you.
If you dress in skimpy clothing you risk breaking the local customs, overdressing on the other hand will risk giving off the wrong impression and thus attracting the wrong people to yourself.
Ensure that you have taken vaccine for Yellow fever as International regulation makes it mandatory before entering some countries, including Nigeria.
You are needed to hold an International Certificate of Vaccination (yellow card) that has been approved by a validated vaccination center.
3. PRE-ARRANGE YOUR PICKUP
Always arrange before-hand your car – pickup and note down the name of the person and phone number of whoever is coming to pick you up at the airport.
4. BE MINDFUL WHAT YOU EAT
It all looks tasty and so appealing that you will want to sink your taste buds in it, but wait a minute. Food in Lagos is spicy, lovely and exotic but not all is prepared under very favorable conditions. Be choosy and only indulge food prepared at restaurants where you can trust the chef’s hygiene and origin of water used to cook. Be picky but not nosey.
5. GET READY TO BAKE
The weather in Lagos is hot or humid all year round. Not warm, hot. Only from mid-December to January does the city cool off, but still the Harmattan winds bring a plague of dust instead. Sunglasses and hats will always help out big-time.
6. YOU WILL NOT BEAT THE TRAFFIC.
Lagos is Africa’s largest city, and it is growing rapidly. Long car traffic jams are an inevitable part of life. Although Lagos state has a capable traffic management agency, sometimes the beast gets tamed, particularly from 6-9 a.m. and 4-10p.m. So always plan ahead.
7. PARTY IN LAGOS
Lagos parties hard and you have not experienced the city unless you have spent a night or three wide awake. Weekends start on Thursdays from 6p.m. with beers and chicken wings at a live music venue or bar. Mostly at the New Afrika Shrine, or Freedom Park, a former colonial prison-turned-concert-venue with an amphitheatre where you can experience music Greek-style.
Nigeria is one hour ahead of GMT, meaning that during daylight savings, it would be 12 p.m. in London, 1 p.m. in Nigeria and 8 a.m. in New York.
The Nigerian unit of currency is the Naira, with notes issued in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Naira denominations. Visitors may bring unlimited amounts of foreign currency, provided a declaration of such currency is made to the customs. Foreign currencies may only be changed at authorized banks.
10. AIRPORT CUSTOMS
Visitors to Nigeria are allowed 4 liters of alcoholic beverage and 200 cigarettes duty-free. Visitors may export souvenirs, although some articles (e.g. animals’ skins and antiques) require an export permit. Illegal drugs of any prescription are not allowed into Nigeria.
English is the official language of Nigeria and it is used at all levels of administration such as law, commerce and education. It is spoken with varying degrees of fluency by 50% of the population, making Nigeria the largest English speaking country in Africa. However, there are three major ethnic languages, Hausa, widely spoken in the north, Yoruba widely spoken in the west and Igbo widely spoken in the east. Other languages include, Kanuri, Edo etc.
12. CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMODATION WISELY
Travelers and tourists are very welcome in places like Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki where security and basic amenities are well in place to provide comfort to those who can afford them. Some other places in Lagos are not so friendly to visitors so find out what areas to avoid and do not lurk around in such places at odd hours.
13. BE OPEN TO BRIBES
The economy of Lagos is a mirror of the current state of the national economy. With over 70% living on less than a dollar a day, some officials thrive on the little amount the residents of Lagos toss their way. If you are travelling within and through the boundaries of Lagos, be prepared for encounters with law enforcement officials. If such encounters do not go well, you can backup your argument with some little Naira when words are not enough.