This is a guest post written by Jumoke Smiley, a Nigerian local who lives between Lagos and Ibadan. She’s an avid traveller, travel writer, podcaster and experienced curator who runs an amazing tour company The Smiley’s Place Travels. Smiley’s Place Travels curates tours and experiences all around Nigeria, including Lagos and West Africa.
Lagos has the best vibes from its warm locals to its rich history and culture. It is home to the Afrobeat, the music genre taking the world by storm, some of the African tech unicorns, hundreds of beach fronts, and lots of islands, amongst others.
It is considered to be a city but visitors often forget Lagos is a whole state. Lagos consists of 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs), and these LGAs are all buzzing and super busy. Navigating Lagos on your own can feel chaotic and overwhelming for first-timers.
Visiting for the first time? Here are 10 tips to help you navigate through Lagos like a local.
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- How To Make Efo Riro – A Taste of Nigeria
1. Best Time To Visit Lagos
The best time to be in Lagos as a first-timer is December, to experience Detty December. Detty December in Lagos can’t be compared to any other in the world, although it comes with much more traffic than usual in Lagos. It’s a season when the Nigerian diaspora returns home for enjoyment. The festivities are lined up with fun activities that range from clubbing, concert-going, beach parties and carnivals to sightseeing.
Depending on your personality, or if you’re an outgoing person who loves to be outside and enjoys the nightlife, music, and so on, you should visit from November to December. These months are the best time for anyone to be in Lagos.
The optimal period for visiting Lagos falls between November and February when the weather is drier, less air humidity, and the temperature is cooler, thanks to the harmattan winds. On the other hand, June and July are the wettest months which experience intense downpours leading to potential flash floods and considerable traffic congestion in certain city areas. During this period, prices tend to be lower compared to the peak and shoulder months.
2. You Will Need Data To Stay Connected
To have access to 24/7 data even outside your hotel/accommodation, you need to buy a SIM card. There is no WiFi connection on the streets and internet access might not be consistent everywhere. To get a local SIM card requires registration in which you will need to bring your passport with you and may need a National Identification Number (NIN) number. This is because the sim card will be registered under your name and passport details.
Alternatively, you can get an e-SIM which allows you to activate a cellular plan from a carrier without needing a physical SIM card. It beats the stress of having to go through the process of registering for a SIM card. Plus as soon as you land at the airport, you’ll be free to use the internet right away, connect with your loved ones and check your favourite apps. Use the code ‘TRAVELWITHJOYCE‘ and get 5% off your data plan with Ajo.
You can also invest in a MiFi (portable mobile Wi-Fi hotspot) if you are planning on staying in Lagos for a long time. 1GB of data costs N300 which is less than 50 Cent and with $1 you can buy more than 2GB of data.
3. English Is Widely Spoken
English is the official language in Nigeria and in general, English is spoken widely in Lagos, but learning a few basic phrases in local languages like Hausa, Yoruba, or Igbo can be helpful and appreciated. You’ll also hear locals speak Nigerian Pidgin English which is a Vernacular English-based language using broken words most popularly spoken across Nigeria and also in West Africa. If you travel through West Africa, you will hear Pidgin being spoken but might sound a bit different from Nigeria’s Pidgin depending on the local language elements incorporated into it. With over 250 ethnic groups speaking more than 500 languages and dialects, Pidgin English is a language that unites Nigeria linguistically.
4. Vaccination and Medications
One of the necessary vaccinations to be taken before travelling to Nigeria is the Yellow Fever Vaccination. You can also bring your first aid medicines if need be. According to the International Health Regulations (2005), travellers aged 9 months or older arriving from countries where there is a risk of yellow fever transmission must possess a yellow fever vaccination certificate. This requirement also applies to travellers who have transited through an airport in a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission.
5. Pack For Hot and Rainy Weather
The weather in Lagos is mostly hot with an average temperature of 29°C. However, Lagos experiences a rainy and dry season and even in between these seasons, it’s mostly hot but cloudy days with cooler weather that shouldn’t be underestimated. Bring items like closed-toed hiking sandals, light and loose linen or cotton clothes and wear sunscreen! If you’re travelling during the rainy season, bring a cardigan or a thin sweater you can easily remove when the weather gets too hot and bring a small umbrella with you.
Travel Tip: Don’t wear military or combat-style clothing or prints as this is against the law in Nigeria and can be seen as impersonating the military.
6. Cash Is King
The official currency is the Nigerian Naira (NGN). In many establishments, you can make payments with your debit/credit card. It’s important to notify your bank before you travel. However, you need to carry cash with you as cash is preferred especially when shopping in local markets, and food stalls and using public transport.
7. Try Nigerian Foods When In Lagos
When you’re in Lagos, try out the world-famous “Nigeria’s Jollof Rice”, Ofada Rice, and its sauce, Abula. You should also taste the following soups Edikaikang, Egusi, Efo Riro and Ogbono. These soups should be eaten with any swallow (staple food). Eating local foods is a great way to experience the culture.
Eforiro & pounded yam
If you’re with someone familiar with Lagos, you should try out Danfo buses, Keke Marwa (Tuktuk), BRT (these are the buses you would get and fund your payment card to use), and Okada (bike). However, if you’ll be alone or it’s your first visit to Lagos, you should use Bolt, In Driver, or Uber as these are more comfortable transportation options within Lagos. If you plan on using any ride-hailing services while in Lagos, drivers in Lagos always call you before they start coming to pick you up at the start of your trip. Always share your journey with a trusted friend or family member and opt to pay by cash instead of debit card as most drivers prefer cash.
9. Drink Bottled Water
It is crucial to stay well-hydrated by consuming lots of water. Opt for bottled water and avoid drinking water from clear sachets. You can buy a pack of bottled water from supermarkets like Shoprite for N750 ($1.69/ £1.37) for 12 bottles. Avoid drinking water directly from the tap, if you must boil the water or filter your water to make sure it’s clean.
10. Hire a Tour Guide to Explore Lagos
Exploring Lagos with a tour company based in Lagos is a great way to take the stress out of planning. Lagos offers a variety of things to do, from historical tourist attractions such as Badgary to cultural tours. Whether you enjoy market shopping, adrenaline-pumping adventures, buzzing Lagos nightlife experiences or visiting art galleries and a popular Owambe (a party, Nigerian style), there’s something for everyone to enjoy on their trip to Lagos.
Reach out to The Smiley’s Place Travels to book any of these tours or a bespoke package in Lagos, Nigeria.
Would you love to visit Lagos anytime soon?