Lagos, Nigeria - Stein Travel
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Lagos

It is hard to believe that Lagos, Nigeria's biggest, busiest city with a population of roughly 8 million and counting, had its origins as a small Yoruba settlement. Spread over several large islands on a vast lagoon (hence its name) and the mainland near the Gulf of Guinea, Lagos is Nigeria's principal port and its commercial and cultural centre.

The former capital grew to prominence when it was 'discovered' by the Portuguese in the late 1400s and became a central trading post for the area, also serving as a major hub of the international slave trade. When the British annexed the city in 1861, they effectively put a stop to the slave trade, but took control of the trade and industry of the area. Once Nigeria gained independence in 1960, Lagos experienced a boom which swelled the city's population considerably and today, Lagos is one of the world's fastest-growing cities, with a full and complex tapestry of religious and ethnic groups.

The sprawling city is chaotic, crowded and lacks any major tourism infrastructure. Most visitors come here for business and there are few sights in the tourist sense. Streets are congested, drivers are maniacal and blackouts are common. However, the convoluted history of the city, and Nigeria as a whole, contributes to its exotic flavour. Lagos has an interesting National Museum, National Theatre, several markets and some decent beaches to explore.

Information & Facts

Climate

Lagos has a tropical savannah climate with two rainy seasons, the more intense one occurring from April to July and a milder one from October to November. During August and September, Lagos experiences a dry season as well as again between December and March, which is accompanied by Harmattan winds from the Sahara Desert. The hottest month is March, where average daytime temperatures reach 84F (29C), while July is the coldest month. The best time to visit Lagos is during the cooler dry season, between August and September.

Eating Out

Whether you're a business traveller or a sightseeing adventurer, the Lagos restaurant scene has something for everyone. Foodies will delight in the range of restaurants available. With choices ranging from exotic Nigerian fare to traditional Thai cuisine, diners will have a difficult time choosing between the many restaurants available in Lagos. Most trendy and reputable restaurants are located on Victoria and Lagos Islands and the Lekki Peninsula.

Getting Around

Getting around Lagos can be a thrilling and unpredictable experience. Walking is not advised unless you can convincingly blend in with the local populace and are trained in karate. Your best bet is to hire a private car and driver, and negotiate a fee of around N4, 000 for four hours and N700 hourly thereafter. Drivers are available outside most hotels; ask the concierge to recommend one. Taxis, painted yellow with blue stripes, are reasonably safe and reliable; journeys cost from N200. A charismatic option for getting around Lagos is to use one of the plentiful yellow VW buses. These ancient hulks are irregularly maintained, to say the least, but still used by millions of locals everyday. The fastest and most unpredictable mode of transport are the motorbikes ( okadas) which charge around N50 for a ride. Drivers are almost exclusively unlicensed. The city's main transport hub is Ojota Motor Park, 8 miles (13km) north of Lagos Island. Buses and taxis leave from here to destinations all over Africa.

Kids Attractions

Given that most travel to Nigeria is business-related, there aren't many attractions specifically catering to family travel. However, if you are travelling with kids then there are a number of attractions that will keep them absorbed. Lagos beaches offer a space to throw a Frisbee or simply relax for the day, while Lekki Conservation Centre is a great place for kids wishing to see monkeys, crocodiles and even the occasional giant rat!

Language

English is the official language in Nigeria and is widely used, though many other languages are also spoken.

Money

Nigerian currency is the Naira (NGN), which is divided into 100 kobo. Approved exchange facilities include the major hotels and the airport, but official rates are very high. It is illegal to change money on the street. Credit card fraud is a problem and visitors are advised against the use of credit cards throughout the country. Credit card facilities are also limited. Facilities for changing travellers cheques are also very limited. Prior to travel, visitors should ensure they have a variety of currency options available to them (Sterling, US dollars or Euros) in cash. Travellers should be aware of the prevalence of commercial fraud in, and emanating from, Nigeria.

Night Life

With pumping discos, late night bars and live music venues, Lagos is fast making its mark as the nightlife capital of Nigeria. The nightlife scene tends to start late in the evening and keep going until the sun rises, with most clubs only beginning to fill up at about 11pm. The main nightlife destinations in Lagos include Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Mainland Lagos has a couple of great bars but only for the more adventurous as safety can be an issue.

Popular late night bars and clubs in Ikoyi and Victoria Island include Kuramo Sports Cafe, Bambuddha and Club Towers Priv'E. Awolowo Road attracts a number of diners and late night drinkers, and Nigeria's resident expat population tend to migrate toward Pat's Place. Popular venues on Mainland Lagos include Motherlan' and New Afrika Shrine.

Shopping

Shopping in Lagos is a colourful affair. Whether it's markets, malls or boutique stores, the city has something for all shoppers. When planning your trip to Lagos it is best to put aside at least a day for exploring the various shopping opportunities on offer.

The larger shopping malls are located on Lagos Island and the Lekki Peninsula. Shoppers wishing to find clothes, jewellery, electronics and high-end souvenirs should head to Victoria Island's Palms Mall, Megaplaza and Park 'n Shop. Lagos has a great selection of mementos and gifts for friends and family back home. Visitors wishing to buy masks, crafts, paintings, statues and local jewellery will be in their element at Oyubo Market, which is located 8 miles (14km) from the city centre. The market is divided into a food section and a handicraft area. Many of the city's hotels, particularly the Meridien Eko Hotel, have great gift shops, and traders stationed outside the hotel.

Bargaining is essential at the markets in Lagos. A general rule of thumb is to offer a third of the asking price. Most seasoned hagglers will agree that starting at a third of the asking price and settling at half is the best way to get the item you are after.

Sightseeing

Lagos has a number of great sightseeing opportunities, but for some the noise, hustle and bustle of the city's streets and markets will seem enough of a sightseeing experience. Lekki Market is the best place to experience what city life in Lagos is all about. After a few days in Lagos many visitors may feel the need for some peace and quiet, there are a number of great attractions a short one hour drive from central Lagos. A trip to Eleko Beach offers the perfect respite from the traders and 'chancers' of the Lagos streets, or visit Sungbo's Eredo to see the largest pre-colonial construction Africa has to offer. A trip to Lagos wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Lekki Conservation Centre on the Lekki Peninsula. Finally, Nigeria's National Museum on Lagos Island houses a collection of relics and treasures from across this fascinating country.

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