In April 2018, I had a great opportunity to travel to Nigeria to visit my friend Donna. She had recently moved from London to work in Lagos. And I probably never would have considered visiting Nigeria if I didn’t know someone there. Luckily, Donna invited me and I was happy to hop on a plane to Lagos. However, I would say that this destination is not the easiest nor the safest, so it is good to be prepared and stay alert. At the time, there were a lot of news stories about kidnappings of foreigners. And of course, there was also the terrible Boko Haram kidnapping of more than 100 students in Northern Nigeria in February 2018. Needless to say, my parents were worried when I told them of my plans to travel to Nigeria.
Despite all of the worries, I had a great and memorable trip. It was a mix of sightseeing and experiencing local life. We visited some local highlights, and the different areas of Lagos. Then we met with Donna’s family and friends, and I cheered on her flag football team at their games. Most memorable was the visit to try to send postcards from the Lagos post office. In fact, this inspired a whole project to track my experiences of Sending Postcards from Abroad! This current post is a short guide based on my 2018 travel to Nigeria.
- Lekki Conservation Center to see wildlife and take walks through nature. Suspended bridges, a treehouse and lots of monkeys!
- Fela Kuti musical show at the Terra Cultural Center gave us a bit of cultural history and great music and dancing
- Swimming and lounging at the pool at Radisson Blu Anchorage with a view of the river
- Nike Art Center to see local art in a beautiful house
- Quintessence for local shopping especially for crafts
- Dancing out at Cocoon Bar in Ikoyi with friends
- Trying the local foods and drinks
Before you go
- You will likely need a visa to enter Nigeria so apply early. First I did the application online. Then I had to go to the OIS office in person with my passport and photographs. It cost £148 for the visa and £72 for the processing fee.
- Weather in Lagos is tropical and almost always hot. It is also humid when it rains so beware of mosquitos
- Be prepared to tip as almost everyone, even in the bathroom will ask for a tip. Something for me? Something for the weekend? Something for my mother?
- Many people are religious, Christian or Muslim
- I flew from LHR to Amsterdam and then it was 6 hours to Lagos (same route on the way back) with KLM. There are direct flights but I was using miles.
- The immigration queues at Lagos airport were very mixed up so just keep moving forward in the right direction
- My priority luggage had been pulled off the belt and was sitting somewhere else so it took me awhile to find it
- The baggage claim area is chaotic and there are many guys trying to “help” with luggage
- One of the customs officers asked me if he could have some dollars. I said I didn’t have any and he let me through
- My friend picked me up with her driver. Traffic exiting the airport was terrible and took 45 minutes
- To get around town, the locals use Taxify (now owned by Bolt) which is like Uber
- Here I can’t be a lot of help for others, as I was able to stay with Donna in her apartment. Therefore I did not stay in a hotel. However, I can share my experience of staying in a local apartment.
- Luckily the air conditioning worked most of the time as it was hot even in April
- At times the electricity was on generators since the national energy grid was out
- We lost the running water for awhile so had to use buckets sterilised with Dettol disinfectant- don’t drink the tap water!
- Also we used the pool and ate at the Radisson Blu Anchorage which seemed like a really nice place near the water
In 2018 the exchange rate was 489 naira to 1 British pound. Currently in August 2021, the figure is 570 naira to 1 pound.
I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates
Food in Nigeria can be spicy! It is flavourful and there are a lot of different stews served with starches and pastes
Some of the best meals were breakfasts made by my friend’s cook Akpan. He made plantains, beans, meat, fruit and more. Yum!
Try a slushy Chapman (with Fanta and bitters) to cool down. And chin chin is a tasty snack made of pieces of fried bread
At the Terra Cultural Center I tried some local specialties – beef and chicken suya (bbq meat with a spicy seasoning), Pamii palm wine and Orijin herbal drink
Hans & Rene ice cream was divine especially in the hot weather
Delicious okra stew and cassava fufu (kind of like paste) at Yellow Chilli
From the side of the road, I loved the mini peanuts and coconut chips
Q: Do I need a tour guide?
A: No I don’t think it is necessary to have a tour guide but I would recommend having a reliable and trustworthy driver to get you around. It is not really walkable as places are spread out. Also there are not always pavements to walk along, and the weather can be very hot.
Q: Do people speak English?
A: Yes, English is the official language of Nigeria. There are many local languages as well, but most people speak English well but with varying accents.
Q: Can I travel solo?
A: Yes it is possible but you should ensure that you have a trustworthy driver.
Q: How easy is it to send postcards?
A: Travelling to Nigeria was the inspiration for my post on Sending Postcards from Abroad, where there are details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA. It was difficult to find postcards of Nigeria at any shops Finally, I found art postcards in a gallery. Buying stamps at the post office was quite an experience! The postal workers were very helpful but looked shocked that I wanted to buy stamps for postcards. In the end, we had to fit seven stamps on each postcard, as those were the only available denominations.
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