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Lagos Travel Tips

2.0 stars

Insider advice for your Lagos vacation


Paulo
Leaving Nigeria 3 stars
As always, please make sure you leave for the airport in good time! Upon arrival at the airport be very very attentive for scam artists. People will approach you to provide you with assistance, be it to carry your bags, assist you with check in, fill out a form, avoid the cues, etc

Accept help at your own peril! A colleague of mine has on 2 occasions been conned out of money (Approximately US$100) for agreeing to be helped! He was standing in line to check in when an “airport official” approached him and offered to check him in at the business class counter. He naturally thought great, and was quickly checked in. The official then asked him for money and when he refused and carried onto passport control he wasn’t allowed to go through until he had paid the official! So beware everyone is in cahoots!
My advice is being patient, friendly and firm. You usually arrive at the airport at least 3 or 4 hours before your flight, so no need to rush through. Once you have cleared check in, customs and passport control there are a number of shops at the duty free section. The airport lounges are also available at a fee but are usually quite crowded.

All in all Nigeria is certainly a fascinating country and I look forward to my next trip!


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Paulo
Doing Business in Nigeria 3 stars
Doing Business in Nigeria
As stated earlier Lagos is a thriving city and this emerging economy certainly provides a lot of opportunities. It does however pose its challenges. Our offices in Ikoyi only have electricity from 07h00 in the morning to about 18h00. During the day you will also experience regular power interruptions and the generators are permanently on stand by. Due to congestion on the roads, don’t set up more than 2 or 3 appointments a day, as chances are slim that you will get to them all.

The expat community in Lagos is quite large and here you will have the opportunity of meeting people from all over the world. The United States is Nigeria’s largest trading partner so you will find a lot of Americans and British as well. I was invited to attend a function at the US Embassy in Lagos. Always be sure to take sufficient business cards with you as this is the ideal opportunity to meet people and make new business connections.

Cocktail Function at US Ambassador’s residence

Another popular place to meet ex pats is also on the golf courses in Lagos. The ex pat community is a thriving community and if you are moving to Lagos, be sure to visit your local embassy who will put you in touch with the local community.


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Paulo
Accommodation in Nigeria 4 stars
Lagos is well developed in terms of infrastructure and there is certainly not a shortage of hotels. However please be warned to book well in advance. Expect to pay in the region of US$250 per night for a single room in a decent 3 star hotel. This will escalate to US$ 500 in a five star hotel. Once gain it boils down to supply and demand. A lot of foreign businessmen travel to Nigeria due to its booming economy so all the good hotels run at high occupancy rates. Some of the international companies have gone as far as renting a hotel for a 2 year period just to accommodate their employees / visitors!

Protea Hotels, a South African based company has over the past few years started establishing various properties in Nigeria’s main centers! This includes Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. Whilst in Lagos, in addition to the PH Ikeja, I also stayed at the PH Victoria Island. This is a very popular 4 star hotel in the heart of Victoria Island. In my opinion it is in need of refurbishment as it has been around for a while. I must say that the food at this hotel was excellent – the best I had during the entire trip! One evening I ordered prawns and got the largest prawns I have ever seen – they were practically the size of crayfish!
The dining room at PH Victoria Island
(Courtesy of Protea Hotels Website)
As Victoria Island is the CBD you will find various other establishments here like the Eko Suites Hotel – 5 star(One of Lagos’ oldest hotels), currently undergoing a complete facelift. There is also the PH Kuramo Waters – 4 stars - which is quite new and quite popular too! I tried to get a booking there but it was full! In November 2009 Protea also opened the PH Westwood in Ikoyi which according to colleagues who have stayed there is also very good Southern Sun (another SA Hotel Group) has also recently opened.
I also tried out the PH Oakwood Park on the Lekki Peninsula. This is quite far away from the business District and I will certainly recommend it if you have clients / business to conduct in Lekki. Otherwise be careful because it could take you up to 2 hours traveling to Victoria Island / Ikoyi from this hotel, and that is one way! The hotel though is fairly modern and also beautifully decorated. I didn’t particularly enjoy the food – as there were quite a few traditional Nigerian dishes on the buffet that evening, but the facilities were first class! I wouldn’t hesitate to return to this hotel at all!


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Paulo
Traffic in Lagos 1 stars
As this is one of the largest cities in the world with a very dense population, getting around the city is problematic at best! A number of highways link the various islands of this city to each other (Lekki Peninsula, Victoria Island, Lagos, Island, and Ikoyi Island) and although ferries also exist, these are very few.

From Ikeja I moved to the Protea Hotel Victoria Island which is located approximately 5 minutes drive from my office in Ikoyi. During peak hour this turned into a 90min drive. A 20 – 30 km trip to the Lagos Airport from Victoria Island can take up to 4 hours in traffic, so please be warned! When returning to the airport, my boss left the office in Ikoyi at 15h30 to catch a 23h00 flight!

The road infrastructure is in a relatively good condition by African standards but the congestion is beyond most people’s imagination. Apart from cars, buses and taxis the only really quick way of transport is by motorcycle. There are hundreds of motorcyclists weaving their way through the streets of Lagos and many of them provide a taxi service. It is therefore not surprising to see 3 or 4 people on a 75cc motorbike weaving its way through the cars. I even saw a woman on the back of a motorbike breast feeding her baby!

The only time that traffic seems to ease up is in the small hours of the morning. I had to return to the airport for a 08h00 flight to Ghana and was picked up from my hotel on the Lekki Peninsula at 04h30. It took us 35 min to get to the airport. During the day, that same trip could take me up to 6 hours!

A memorable moment was when we were driving to the hotel late afternoon in peak hour. Our driver decided to take a short cut down a sandy road as we had a 4X4. This route was regularly used by many people who drove 4x4’s and we were one of many attempting this route. As we were going along I noticed a lot of youths in the vicinity and was told that these were the “Area Boys” (local gangs). They were running across & in front of the 4x4’s forcing us to slow down. As a result we got stuck in the sand! They then had a tractor and were asking for up to US$100 to pull us out! Fortunately for us we were assisted by another 4x4 driver (Toyota Land Cruiser) who pulled us out. He was only charging about US$10 for 5 min work. He was coining it! Apparently he had dropped his boss off earlier and was using his time off to make a little extra. This again showed the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians! You just have to love them 


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Paulo
Nigeria, The Country 3 stars
Nigeria was discovered by the Portuguese in the 1400’s and Lagos was named after the town of Lagos in the Algarve, Portugal. The name has stuck over the centuries despite being colonized by various other countries, culminating with Nigeria falling under British Colonial Rule. In 1960 Nigeria gained its independence and formed the Federal Republic of Nigeria, mainly due to the many diverse indigenous tribes and religious beliefs, which still exist today. Unfortunately this diversity resulted in its first 40 years of independence being plagued by military coups and the country was mainly under martial law. Since 1999 / 2000 civilian rule has once again taken over, but the challenge of any government is to keep the myriad of parties within Nigerian society happy, thus allowing a peaceful co-existence. This proves to be one of its biggest challenges.

This is the most densely populated country on the continent with a population of approximately 154 million. Its war torn history is not surprising considering that this is a country of 250 ethnic groups who between them speak a total of 521 different languages! The official language though is English mainly due to the fact that a large part of the country was formerly a British Colony.

The economy is probably the strongest on the continent and its main trade partner is the United States. The main economic centers are centered around Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. As an emerging economy it is a country rich in minerals and its main export is oil. It has until recently been Africa’s largest exporter of oil and is said to have some of the largest oil reserves in the world. Subsequently the major concentration of its vast population is centered around these major cities that due to foreign investment have a relatively good infrastructure. The rest of the country is a lot less developed. Despite the strife, high crime rate and other socio economic challenges that Nigerians face it is heartening to see a nation proud of its origins and its country! The people of Nigeria are generally very friendly and warm.


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Paulo
Arriving in Lagos 2 stars
After an uneventful 6 hour flight from Johannesburg we landed at Murtalla Mohammed International Airport in Lagos. This is by far the largest city in Nigeria and also the former capital of the country. The capital is now Abuja which is located further inland. The main reason for this was to encourage urbanisation in the interior of Nigeria. This was a very audacious move but has proved quite successful. It was also necessary because Lagos is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Speaking to the locals I heard guestimates of between 15million to 40 million people living in Lagos! (To put things into perspective that is between 30% - 85% of SA’s population in ONE city!)

But more on Lagos later…

Getting off the aircraft you proceed directly into the terminal building and then onto passport control. Please note that there is an escalator and a set of stairs going down to passport control hall, which is pretty small. So if you have 200 – 400 passengers coming off a flight there will definitely be a long cue. Beware you don’t get stuck on the escalator as they don’t switch it off…. So what naturally follows is a pile up of humans!!!!! So be wary of this and as always please be PATIENT! Fortunately the wait is only about an hour to get through passport control. Thereafter you collect your luggage and then proceed out of the airport building where you will be met.

A word of caution here – when traveling to Nigeria make sure you know who is meeting you. If you have not met that person before please ask them to e-mail you a photograph or mobile phone number so you can speak to the person as you exit the terminal! There are many scams that go on and there are too many stories of people being picked up by the wrong people and being mugged / kidnapped! A story I have heard (could be an urban legend) is that as you walk out a local will approach you and ask if you are Mr. Smith. When you politely reply that you are not Mr. Smith but actually Mr. Joe Bloggs they apologize and walk away. A minute or two later you will be approached by another individual who will address you by your name Mr. Joe Bloggs and you will happily go with them, thinking that they are your official pick up – only to leave the airport, driven to a quiet area and mugged of all your belongings!

Once you have been met by your official driver you will proceed to the airport parking lot to your vehicle. Do not leave your luggage unattended and stay with your escort at all times. There are even scam artists posing as policemen / airport officials in the parking lot! Arriving at your vehicle is always a pleasure to get into air-conditioned comfort! After all Nigeria is located just above the equator and temperatures tend to be hot and humid!

Traffic congestion in Lagos is truly an experience and you should get your first taste as you make your way out the airport grounds! Just be PATIENT! Road rage is not going to get you anywhere quickly! I was fortunate to arrive in Lagos on a Sunday evening and my hotel was located about 15min from the airport in the suburb of Ikeja.

The Protea Hotel Ikeja is a beautiful new property and I was pleasantly surprised that I had been allocated the Presidential Suite! This hotel is a true 4star property and the staff is welcoming, friendly and very attentive to their guests. The buffet dinner was still being served although it was after 21h00 already. Please note that Nigerian food, although tasty, is distinctly different to what we are used to in South Africa. The food is also quite spicy so be aware of what you are eating or you may get a runny tummy! Not a good idea at anytime, especially in Lagos where you tend to spend more time than usual in a car stuck in traffic, so please be warned!

Unfortunately I only spent one night at this beautiful hotel as the following day I moved to Victoria Island. In Lagos it is advisable to find a suitable hotel as close to your place of business as possible. This is critical as you will spend a lot of time stuck in a car if you need to travel around Lagos! So please save yourself the stress!


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Paulo
Visa to Nigeria 1 stars
Visa to Nigeria
This is the most comprehensive form I have had to apply for! They want information on everything! So make sure that your application is filled in correctly together with the applicable letters of invite, proof of return tickets, company letters, etc.

At the time of writing this blog I have just been notified that South African 1st time travelers to Nigeria will now have to put down a R6000 deposit at the time of their application. This is in addition to the normal visa fees. Once you return from Nigeria, you submit proof that you have returned to SA and the Nigeria High Commission will then process your refund! Unfortunately there is no apparent time frame in which your refund will be re-imbursed to you, so please be patient!

Before you start screaming, ranting and raving at this injustice, please take into consideration that the reason for this is because most countries, like people work on a quid pro quo basis, i.e. “I scratch your back- you scratch mine” basis. South Africa Embassy in Nigeria asks all Nigerian visitors to our country for a minimum deposit of US$1000 and this has been in practice, so they say for a number of years, so it’s no surprise that this has now come into effect. It’s frustrating, it’s costly, it shouldn’t be this way, but the fact of the matter is – IT’S THE LAW, SO DEAL WITH IT!

To ensure that you get your visa on time, send in your application approximately 3 weeks before your date of travel to be on the safe side!


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Paulo
The adventure begins 2 stars
Nigeria – hmmm after all the things that I have heard, all the things I have seen, all the articles I have read… I finally get to visit this country! Being a South African all the above is certainly not a positive picture…
Nigeria – the most populated country on the African continent!
Nigeria – Home to the 419 scam artists
Nigeria – Beware the Nigerian drug lords that are taking over SA’s cities
Nigeria – land of Africa’s football superstars

So now it’s finally time that I get to find out for myself what all the fuss is about! I must say although excited, I did feel a bit of trepidation as this was also to be my first trip on my own, as my colleague had departed 2 hours earlier on Arik air.

Arik Air is a new airline in Africa and from all reports I have heard it certainly is going to be an airline to watch. At the airport listening to many South Africans that have traveled to Lagos, Arik certainly seems to be gaining a lot of market share on our own national carrier, SAA. Generally speaking a lot of them prefer Arik because the flights are comfortable and generally less costly. So let’s hope that they maintain that competitive edge to SAA, as it can only benefit the customer!

My flight to Lagos was uneventful, although I was surprised to see that SAA are using a Boeing 747/400 on this route as opposed to the more modern Airbus. Lagos is after all one of SAA’s more profitable routes. Fortunately I could move seats as the flight was not completely full and my little TV was broken.

But before I tell you about the trip, let me start with the visa application process…


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