Nigeria - Is there something to see in Lagos?

The principal and the most busy place in Lagos

My research didn't show much useful information except that I was told that Lagos is a dangerous pothole. Using such information to stir up a visit with neutral expectations is not easy. I knew Lagos wasn't a city like Hong Kong but I just couldn't believe that in such a big city there is so little to see for visitors and that it should be so abnormal.

So aside from these prejudices, I was wondering, what are the interesting things to see in Lagos?

The conclusion of my trip to this busy place was, that there are some interesting corners in Lagos.It has, for example, several beaches, it has a busy city center with several buildings in the old colonial style and a big mosque.

It also has bridges, the streets are full of life and the people are said to be unique for African circumstances. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Tourist and Visitor Map of Lagos with things to see

Day 1 - Arrival in Lagos

Since there is basically no visa on arrival for anyone, a visa has to be applied for in advance back home and a personal visit to the embassy including an obligatory interview by the visa agent is mandatory for everyone. 

However, the interview was more like a bus stop the small talk and ended after 5 minutes. The bright green visa is then immediately pasted into the passport.

The flight from Ghana took two hours and landed in Lagos in the evening. It was normal flight operations and the immigration queue was not too long. While waiting in the queue I constantly remembered the Ghana taxi driver from this afternoon saying:

You going to holi-what in Lagos??? Holiday??!!!! Hahaha... who the hell is going to Lagos for Holiday?

SIM cards are now available in Nigeria for tourists and for little money. However, the SIM registration took a long time.

With the new data plan I ordered an Uber which went to the hotel. The hotel was a bigger one, but I quickly realized that difficulties with paying in foreign currency or by credit card were not a joke. Never had any problems getting money but in Nigeria changing money is definitely not fun.

I found the one and only exchange office at the airport, but I didn't exchange it there.

Impossible to pay with credit card

To be able to pay in the hotel the receptionist called someone and said I would like to change money.

10 minutes later a guy (the exchanger) with gold chains around his neck and huge sunglasses on his face came along. It didn't surprise me that the exchange rate was abysmal, but at least I could pay for the hotel.

Day 2 - Sightseeing in Lagos

After checkout, I saw what Nigeria really looks like, respectively Lagos. I didn't expect much and knew it was dirty, but it was more than just "dirty". The Uber taxi brought me from Ikeja to Victoria Island (VI). Here in this area, I will be staying today and tomorrow.

The journey from Ikeja to VI took about 1 hour. The traffic is extreme, even if it wasn't really rush hour anymore.

During the trip I tried to recognize somewhat beautiful things and/or peculiarities and beautiful sides within Lagos. I realized that a characteristic of Lagos is the traffic itself. The pollution and the chaos.

I realized that Lagos is definitely not the most beautiful city in Africa.

View onto the slums. The white part is pollution.
Up to the Mainland Bridge in LagosFrom the Akin Adesola BridgeView from a street in Victoria Island

Changing money is a big challenge in Nigeria

The first steps in Lagos I made from Victoria Island, after I checked in the hotel and bought donuts and coffee in a supermarket.

I first went to the first bank to change money but when I said "change money" I was answered with a whisper:

We dont change money here. Sorry.

Yes, it could be that in this bank it doesn't work but also the second and third banks had similar sayings as rejection reasons. In the fourth bank I was explained extensively:

Due to sanctions from other countries, its not allowed to change any currency to Nigerian Naira. However, if you wait a few minutes, I might help you.

A few minutes later another special strange-looking type of local came around the corner and asked me how much Naira I needed. This guy organized some cash for a premium exchange rate.

All this took a lot of time. Running from bank to bank, changing and so on. The time passed very fast already but good that I had more than two whole days.

An exclusive and expensive areas to live in Lagos
Victoria Island is one of Nigeria's busiest centresLagos UniversityThe favourite spot for Nigerians and foreigners to live and have fun

Walking through the Uptown "Victoria Island"

The name sounds like as Victoria Island is a beautiful archipelago with beautiful beaches and restaurants lurking at every corner. But the truth is that even though it is the uptown, the streets are very far and wide, there is a lot of traffic and there is constant honking of cars.

It's really loud in Lagos.

Victoria Island was the recommendation for "where to stay" I've heard before coming here. If in Lagos, then go to Victoria Island it was said, even if it is more expensive.

Well, there are several restaurants and supermarkets here, but it's not very nice or welcoming.

All the the diplomatic presence is in Lagos
Not much art in Lagos but some visible when driving through the StreetFree speech in Lagos is restrictedIt is the main business and financial centre of Lagos

A load of stress in the markets of "Lagos Island"

When leaving Victoria Island to the neighboring district "Lagos Island", there was a huge change happening in traffic and noise. 

The next level of noise approached. It's very noisy in the streets of Lagos in general, but here, it was just crazy loud. The noise is unbearable as the streets are up to 4 lanes and every vehicle is constantly honking.

In the streets further down into downtown, the noise from cars and buses gets replaced with the noise and shouting of the people. It sometimes felt like Nigerians tend to communicate by shouting at each other and the longer the conversation the louder it became.

Lagos Island can be visited at all times during week days between 8 am and 8 pm
Over a 100000 visit the markets dailyNigeria only has poor or rich peopleThe only artist house all over LagosMarks the beginning of the busiest marketWalking on the street with localsProblems can easily arise when taking pictures

The spectacular building "Lagos Central Mosque"

It is a large mosque in the middle of Lagos. The disadvantage, however, is that it is a big street and the traffic is very bad. It stands out from other buildings as it was the only nonconform building around.

While walking in these streets a small demonstration took place and it seemed these can escalate to violence quickly in Lagos. Out of nothing suddenly people started run around and at random people started to fight each other, while masses of people ran away. I asked some other people around what was happening:

Its demonstration because their community leader died these days. They are angry now and want to show that they not weakened because of this. Just stay away. But its normal in Lagos.

A minute later the police already arrived with huge machine guns on trucks. The situation was under control.

The most unique building in Lagos Island
Textiles, to clothing, to household itemsFormer president palace in LagosIn the most busy district just behind the Idumota clock

The time at "Idumota Clock"

It's a historical landmark.

It's easy to miss the blue clock as its a very small clock with about 5 meters in height. There were many markets around and I experienced another noise increase in this area.

I didn't want to spend a long time around here. Not a very enjoyable shopping experience because there were lots of people and cars everywhere.

5 meter in height and surrounded by hectic people
Lagos Island is overpopulated and conflicts escalate every minuteIn the market of Lagos IslandA cool landmark in the most busy Lagos on planet

A strange statue called "Eyo of Eko"

This was just beside the Idumota clock. While walking in the noisy crowd, I felt someone tapping my shoulder from behind. When I turned around, a huge character dressed in such an Eyo costume stood there and demanded money.

No face visible as all covered in the Eyo of Eko costume. Now that was enough action this afternoon. I wanted to get off here. Later by observing the scene, I found out that these Eyo-custome people are beggars, dressing like the Eyo-statue and approaching people for money.

The costume of the Eyo has a large hat with metal trimmings and the Eyo is draped in a white cotton cloth from head to foot (unfortunately in the heat of noise I forgot to take a photo).

Downtown is the myth of Eyo in form of a statue
Me in front of the street in Lagos IslandDirty and overcrowded in Lagos IslandFrom the bridge at the beginning of Carter Bridge

Observation of chaos at the bridge "Carter Bridge"

Even busier and more crowded around here than the other corners before, as this was the intersection leading to Lagos mainland in the north via Ijora Cause Way.

Roadblock and demonstration on the Ijora bridge
So many people and its easy to get lost in the streetView from the Carter Bridge onto the Lagos HarbourSitting under the bridge and approach people in Lagos

Day 3 - Handmade island for rich Nigerians

Although the A/C in this room did what it's supposed to do, it cooled way too much and caused me to have a cold approaching now. In the afternoon I had to leave Victoria Island and move to another part of town because from there, tomorrow the bus goes to Benin.

So I still had a few hours and wanted to have at least a short visit to a beach in Nigeria.

Beaches in Lagos

There are a few beaches along the coast in Lagos, but the most beautiful private beaches are only open at certain times. I asked in the hotel and the most beautiful beaches are "Elegushi Royal Beach Lekki Lagos", "Alpha Beach" and "Tarkwa Bay".

Since Alpha Beach was too far away and Tarkwa can only be reached by ferry, whose departure times I did not find out, the choice fell on "Elegushi Royal Beach".

Elegushi is a private beach of a Nigerian royal and since the chief of the family died the last days, the beach was also closed. In addition, there is that only entrance is granted, as long as one arrives there before 12 o'clock at noon and pays the entrance fee accordingly.

Due to the summarization of obstacles to visiting a normal beach, I went to visit the archipelago "Eko Atlantic City View Point" instead of a beach.

It's not a beach, but it edges at least to the water.

Dirty water in Lagos these days

With a moto-taxi to the "Eko Atlantic View Point"

But I didn't get far.

Quickly I realized that this is not a very well-known place for the locals, because the moto-taxi driver didn't know exactly where to go, and then at the crossing to the road an iron grid was standing in front of it with security people beside.

Of course, they didn't want to let me in. After I asked whether I could get in, the annoyed security agent said:

Look, this neighborhood is private. Eko Atlantic is only accessible to invited people. For a few Naira you can buy an invitation from me.

I didn't want to pay him a bribe, but I still wanted to take a look at Eko Atlantic because I knew there was a nice view of the coast of Nigeria at the end of the road. After some small talk he said then:

I give you 15 minutes to walk around. But you won't get far because the road is very far.

So I took the chance and marched in a hurry towards the View Point. But the road was indeed too long. I didn't get far and I didn't see much.

In 10 years everything here will be covered with skyscrapers and high-end apartments. Then the contrast between rich and poor will become even more obvious in Lagos.

Under constructions and no access to visitors
Crafted metal plates in front of Eko View PointThis is the new resident area of the future of LagosNo poor people are allowed to live in Eko Atlantic City

Amuwo and the "ABC Busstation to Benin"

In the afternoon I ordered an Uber and wanted to go to Amuwo. Amuwo is west of Lagos and there is the bus depot of ABC, which offers big tourist buses for international trips.

I will go to Benin tomorrow with the ABC bus company and the departure from Lagos is planned at 6:30am in the morning. I have a hotel next to the bus station and will only have to walk around the corner tomorrow.

The journey from Victoria Island to Amuwo is not that far in kilometers, but in relation to the time needed, the distance takes a long time. It took me almost 2 hours for the 12 kilometers and it wasn't even rush hour yet, but the traffic is extreme.

Real chaos on huge and wide roads. Suddenly out of nowhere trucks and vehicles were stopping in the middle of the road, massive potholes or even floods caused by broken hydrants.

It seemed to be normal for the locals, nobody seemed to care, or they'd given up.

People get killed on Nigerians Roads because they dont know how to wear helmets
A new bridge is built to take the load from the Carter BridgePassing via Highway the busy corner of Lagos IslandSome get all the cash while other have to clean their windowsThis is the entrance to the chaos market in Lagos IslandMany people cause lots of stressGood advertisement opportunity to get rich in Nigeria

Day 4 - Going to Benin by bus

Yesterday evening I was warned not to walk myself from the hotel to the ABC bus station this morning, even if it's only about 150 meters around the corner. There would be too many thieves in this area and since it was still dark I should take a taxi.

The ABC bus station is on Alakoso Avenue.

From here the big buses go to Benin, Togo, Ghana. ABC is the biggest and probably most reliable bus company in these countries.

The ticket to Cotonou (Benin) costs about 30$ and could even be bought a week in advance via the website with a credit card.

Amowu yesterday around the bus station.

Good buffet style restaurants in Amuwo
Amuwo is the place where the ABC bus leaves to BeninThe streets are horribleNot expensive for tourists but can be dangerous

With the ABC-bus across the border to Benin

From Lagos to Cotonou it is only 120 km and according to the timetable, it should take 4 hours.

However, I quickly realized that the trip would take a lot longer, the potholes in the main roads are massive, almost as if bombs had hit everywhere. All the traffic circles around them, no matter if the car, truck or the ABC bus. 

In addition, there were several checkpoints and each time the entire load including passengers was checked.

Corruption everywhere

No need to look closely to see how often bribes from bus and car drivers went to the "police". So obviously. So far I never saw such an obvious and open bribe system as compared to here in Nigeria.

The whole trip to Cotonou SHOULD take 4 hours, but after 4 hours we were only at the Nigeria-Benin border. And now the border was closed today without warning.

Also here the same at the border, corruption, teasing, and visible provocation by officials and police, unbelievable how normal this is here in Nigeria (and West Africa).

Finally, some hours later the border to Benin opened again.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Sven, I really enjoyed reading about your experience visiting Lagos.

    Yes the corruption is really bad in our country and it's not getting better anytime soon unfortunately.

    On the bright side, there are a few other beautiful cities in the country like Abuja and Calabar, I'd recommend those over Lagos for tourists.