A Local’s Guide to Lagos, Nigeria

A Guide To The Most Populous City in Africa, Lagos Nigeria

By Esther Akinsola

Eyo Festival celebrated by Lagosians
Eyo Festival celebrated by Lagosians. Esther Akinsola photo.

I grew up in Lagos, it’s been my home country my whole life.

Some call Lagos, Nigeria the city of excellence, others refer to it as the city of commerce others are intrigued by its long history of preserving culture and the things Nigerians hold dear.

The sight of busy bus stops, passers-by yelling at each other and the struggles of its people is an indication that you are in Lagos.

Some will argue it is the city of wisdom; the mindset is that the struggles of the city are enough to make anyone who has lived in it survive in any other part of the world.

Adelahu Ismail, a 52- year old driver who lives in Jos said: “Every day, plenty of people move to Lagos, most of them are villagers, they move to Lagos so that when they leave, they’ll be able to better their lives.”

The People

Lagos has a population of twenty-six million people, which is too much for its 351,861 hectares of territorial land. Lagosians recognize that the city is overpopulated and hence work harder so they can thrive in the city.

Lagos is warm and accommodating more than 72.2% of its population is Yoruba, 15.46% Igbo, 3.17% Edo, Ogoni 0.001% and 2.05% Hausa.

Lagos–the classic definition of no man’s land, this phrase is often used to emphasize the friendly and accommodating nature of the city to strangers, tourists and travelers, on average 1.39 million people visit the city yearly.

Myths about Lagos

Balogun market, Lagos
Balogun market, Lagos

Over the years, a couple of ideologies have sprung from the saying “no man’s land” Some interpret it to mean Lagos is governed by no one and any and everybody can rule it.

However that is not true, Lagos has a legal and governmental system consisting of a Governor, a speaker, thirty-nine Commissioners, fifty-seven Local government chairmen, and a traditional ruler referred to as the Oba of Lagos (King of Lagos).

According to Abimbola Rasheed, an employee who lives outside of Lagos, “Oh, Lagos the only thing I get to think of is the hustle of the town and its people who seem wired differently, quite crazy, my town is quiet so whenever I visit Lagos I know I’m in for an adventure.”

The Traffic is a Nightmare 

There was a season in Lagos when the traffic from daily activities and commuting around the city was a disaster but it’s been vastly improved with the introduction of BRT lanes, good roads and the deployment of regulatory bodies like LASTMA (Lagos State Traffic Management Authority). So the time spent commuting in the city has drastically reduced.

While there are many ways to get around in Lagos such as the Long Yellow bus (Danfo) Mini-yellow or white buses (shuttle buses), Red or Blue long buses referred to as BRT, and bikes, you might want to avoid taking bikes.

Third Mainland Bridge Lagos. Photo by Samson
Third Mainland Bridge Lagos. Photo by Samson

If it’s your first time in Lagos, my most preferred way of getting around is ordering a private ride via Bolt or Uber, I need not worry about being cheated or hopping on multiple buses to find my way, I also don’t need to walk to the bus stop (such a lifesaver!).

All I need to do is open the Uber app, type in my location and where I’m going and I’m matched with a driver immediately, I await the driver, cost calculation is done in real time and the application has map integrations so it’s easy for you and the driver to find your destination. On average, you can expect to spend between $3 and more.

Touts are Kings 

Mile 12, wholesale international market. Photo by Damilola Oyebanji
Mile 12, wholesale international market. Photo by Damilola Oyebanji

Area boys are popularly referred to as “Agbero” This is not true as there are orders in Lagos to ensure the smooth running of the city, enhance safety and curb the mayhem these touts can cause.

Geraldine Nnadi, an entrepreneur born in Lagos recounted her childhood mornings ” They were marked by loud sounds from the speakers of a mosque not so far from my house.

“Getting to school early meant leaving at least an hour early despite my school not being very far. The Lagos car traffic, particularly in the mornings and night, is quite a hustle, and to beat it requires smartness and early preparations; otherwise, you could be sitting in traffic for hours for a journey of probably forty-five minutes, thereby ‘carrying last’ (popular slang for tardiness).”

Lagos Experiences Long Bouts of Flooding

Lagos is surrounded by wetlands and lagoons and there has been a significant difference since the “Bubonic Plague’ in 1924 and most of its water bodies have undergone land reclamation. The city has a low-lying elevation making it prone to sea level rise and coastal flooding. Flooding mostly affects Lagos Island during intense rain from September to early October.

Lagos is Expensive 

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Cars moving on a major road in Lagos. Photo by Vincent Egbe

Compared to a few African cities maybe yes, but with the level of development going on in the city, I’d be gutted if it were cheap.

You can get yourself a meal in Lagos for as low as $0.8. Also, when we compare the two parts of Lagos, Lagos Island and Lagos mainland, the mainland is more affordable, provides you options to explore local cuisines and unarguably serves the best local cuisines too!

Lagosians are Tricky 

Not everyone in Lagos is a criminal of course. As a tourist, you will always have questions especially when you didn’t book a guide before visiting (You can call to book a guide +2348101105576).

There are more good-hearted people in Lagos than the bad ones. If you ever have to ask questions in Lagos, go to the nearest store/local food joint or a security guard of any organization close to you. It’s impossible to not see any of these people around you. Also, no one is taking your purse from you in this city!

 Hotels in Lagos

Book a hotel: An average hotel in Lagos costs $30 per night, there are also high-end hotels like Eko Hotel and Suite which costs about $150 per night. It is best to visit Lagos between November and  February, these periods are classified by low humidity and cooler temperature

Come to Lagos with light, comfortable clothes, it’s not cold here.

I’ve lived in Lagos for over 24 years and if I have to visit places over and again here are the places I’ll take you.

Freedom Park 

Freedom Park, Lagos
Freedom Park, Lagos

The gate fee to this historical park is $0.5 for an individual, the park gives credence to the patriotism of our fathers as a nation, once the ruin of Her Majesty’s Board Street prisons, now a historical movement for the preservation of the culture and heritage of Nigerians. This park is noted as a place of expression you can expect to see green scenery and a rich art and cultural space. Freedom Park was recently awarded the “A tourist destination in Africa Award.”

The park is located on Lagos Island aside from one-off bookings, one can also reserve their membership, the park holds festivals all year- round and costs $0.9 to get in. You expect to enjoy fishing, games, film screening live performances and monthly performances and visual art exhibitions. This structure takes you back in time and for a couple of us who understand the history of Nigeria and its independence, we again appreciate men who held the forte for us to be free.

 New Afrika Shrine 

New Afrika Shrine, Ikeja Lagos photo by Taofeek
New Afrika Shrine, Ikeja Lagos photo by Taofeek

What is the Nigerian music industry without the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, I’ve not seen a more potent political and musical force, willing to give his life for all he believed in.

The shrine was home to Fela before he passed away in 1997 because the land was only for Fela for the duration of his life.

The family opened the New Afrika shrine in 2000, with the goal to acknowledge and preserve the contribution that Fela and the shrine made to the local community and a space for people to gist about post-colonial Africa.

The shrine is open every day and is free to access, all you need to do is come in, listen to good music and chat while at it. Get ready to be thrilled by amazing performances by Femi, Seun or Made Kuti.

 The Slum called Makoko

A drone image of Makoko photo by Juliamac-Farlane
A drone image of Makoko photo by Juliamac-Farlane

Want to have a transformative visit to Lagos? Get on the water and visit the slum called Makoko. It is in Lagos but its structure and the way of life of its people make it seem otherwise.

The slum inherited its name from the police and means “Criminal” Does this mean the inhabitants are criminals? No!

While the structure dates back to the nineteenth century it does not receive the recognition it deserves. The slum cs has more than 250,000 residents and their primary profession is fishing.

“I love fresh fish and I don’t mind riding the canoe to Makoko to get it every Saturday — Makoko reminds me of our continuous effort as humans to be better people. I’ve grown to call some of the fish sellers my friends and you get a good bargain too!”

You can book a Makoko Village floating tour here costs about $300.

What You Are Missing

A common meal among Lagosians made from yam flour, jute leave, bean soup and meat
A common meal among Lagosians made from yam flour, jute leaf, bean soup and pepper stew

Not only does Lagos have rich culture and history, entertainment hubs and beautiful scenery plus good food.

Beautiful Beaches

Lagos is home to most of the beautiful beaches in Africa, clear water and pristine sands.

Famous beaches include Bar Beach, renowned for sunbathing, swimming and water sports. Lekki Beach, Elegushi Beach, Ilashe Beach, Tarkwa Bay Beach and Oniru Beach are others to enjoy.

Exciting Nightlife 

Seafood market Makoko, photo by Victoria Pepple
Seafood market Makoko, photo by Victoria Pepple

The city of Lagos never sleeps from Quilox and hard rock cafe Lagos, enjoy the fun all night.

Sumptuous Meals

From a range of local to international cuisine, there’s some for everyone from street food to fine dining Lagos leaves no one out.

Popular local dishes you should try if you are in Lagos are Amala (Yam flour), Ewedu (Jute leaf), Gbegiri (Beans soup) and Stew of your choice, Ofada rice is a local rice produced only in Nigeria or jollof rice or the spicy skewered meat snack sold by street vendors.

Shopping in Lagos 

Thinking of the perfect gifts to buy back to your country or want to experience what shopping in a different country is? Lagos is home to popular markets like the Balogun market and the Lagos Island market. Lagos also has a range of modern malls from Shoprite, Spar and Palm Shopping Mall.

It’s an experience to make your stay worth it!

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