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Lagos Travel Guide

Facts

Country – Nigeria 

Founded – 14th Century

Area – 999.6 Square Kilometers

Population – 7,937,932

Elevation – 22 Ft above sea level

Source, wikipedia

History

Lagos City is Nigeria’s chief port. It used to be the country’s federal capital city as well as the capital of Lagos State. This however changed in 1975 when Ikeju City was made the capital of Lagos State. 1991 saw Lagos lose its federal capital status to Abuja. It must however be noted that the city of Lagos is still home to several government agencies. The city of Lagos is located on several Islands, lagoons and sandbars. The four main Islands include Lagos, Victoria, Iddo and Ikoyi. All these are interconnected creeks, landfills and bridges that also connect the Lagos Island to the mainland.

The area that is today referred to as Lagos was initially inhabited by Yoruba people who practiced fishing and hunting. The original name of the area is Eko, a name given by the Benin Empire people after it attacked the Yoruba people after a disagreement. Rulers of the empire made use of the location as a war camp where defeated enemies were literally confined.

The first Europeans to have set foot in Lagos were the Portuguese with Portuguese Rui de Sequeira at arriving at the location in 1472. He immediately named the location Lago de Curamo, meaning place of lakes. Other Portuguese settlers later came in. Taking advantage of trans-Atlantic trade that existed between local kingdoms and empires with those from northern Africa, the Portuguese immediately established slave trade, which initially begun with captured slaves working on settler farms. Renaming the location Onim, the Portuguese soon established commercial slave trade where captured slaves were sold and transported to other countries including the US, Brazil, England and other Caribbean countries.

With anti-slave trade sentiments emerging from US and Britain, the end of slave trade became eminent. The British actually attacked Lagos from the sea in 1851 in an effort to suppress trade in slaves. The effort by the British to stop slave trade was however not successful as the trade continued to flourish. The British had no alternative but to take control of Lagos, which they did in 1861.

With its fall, Lagos immediately became a crown colony of the British until 1866 when it was incorporated into the United Kingdom’s West African Settlement, effectively becoming part of the British Gold Coast Colony (Ghana) that the British had already established. This continued until 1974 when Lagos and other hinterland areas ware placed under the rule of a British Governor who established the Southern and Northern protectorates with Lagos as the capital. It is the amalgamation of the two protectorates in 1914 that gave birth to the modern Republic of Nigeria.

Society/Culture

Initially inhabited by the Aworis (part of the larger Yoruba tribe) and the Ijebus, the larger Lagos is now home to millions of other native settlers. Note that Lagos State is predominantly a Yoruba-speaking state. The fact that the city remains Nigeria’s economic and financial center mainly because of its port activities has also meant that other native Nigerians have settled not only around the city but also in other parts of the state.

Apart from native Nigerians, Lagos is also home to thousands of other Nigerians with foreign descent. These include Chinese, Portuguese and Britons amongst others. The effect of this is that Lagos’s society is diverse. This diversity also means that the city’s culture is mixed.

A big percentage of the city’s 8.8 million people are native Nigerians of different ethnic groups. While some are Christians, others are Muslims. However, you will also find other religions in the city including Budhism and Hinduism amongst other religions.

The fact that Christian Missionaries first set foot and influenced inhabitants around Lagos means that communities around are highly educated with some of them having acquired their education in foreign countries. Although now old, these people ensured that their children who now make up a good number of professionals working in Lagos City received proper education. Lagos boasts of some of the best schools, colleges and universities in Nigeria. These include Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State Polytechnic, The University of Lagos, The Pan-African University and Lagos State University College of Medicine amongst many others.

Of special interest is the rapid growth of evangelical churches in Lagos, churches led by pastors who have come to gain the reputation of “as rich as oil barons’. Some of the pastors reported to be billionaires and millionaires include Dr. Fireman, Pastor Chris Okoite, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Believers Loveworld Ministry, Bishop Dangote and Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith World Outreach Ministry.

The 1970s oil boom saw Nigeria grow at a very fast pace, extending 40 kilometers from its initial Island location into the mainland. This meant erection of modern buildings comparable to any other city in the world. The architecture of these buildings is greatly influenced by European designs.

While Lagos City residents are accustomed to pre-packaged, tinned, frozen or canned food, traditional food in Nigeria is still very common in Lagos. You need to note that Nigerians like their traditional foods and you will find the same in major tourist hotels, restaurants and other food outlets. Such food includes sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, meat, lobsters, crabs, gambas and arrow roots. This does not however mean that you will not your preferred international cuisine; the same is readily available. Apart from food, you will also have access to Nigerian traditional alcoholic drinks such as palm wine. Some of the city’s notable restaurants include Reeds (Thai restaurant) and Santa Fe.

Art is very alive in Lagos. Lagos has traditionally remained Nigeria’s center of literary art with great writers and poets operating from the city. These include Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ben Okri amongst many other great writers. It is also in Lagos curios markets where you will find varied art works from all parts of Nigeria including sculptors, paintings and jewelry. Of special mention is Nigeria’s performance art that is very alive in Lagos. The Juju Dance in which traditional drums, percussion instruments and guitar feature is very popular in the city’s night clubs.

The city of Lagos happens to be the center of Nigeria’s thriving film industry, which has come to be known as Nollywood. While shooting of most films is done around Festac area, distribution of the same is from Idumota market located on Lagos Island.

Nigerians are mad about football and Lagos City has been the center of it all until recent times. Apart from such top football clubs as First bank and Bridge Boys F.C, Nigeria’s national football team the Super Eagles use to call the city their home, playing all their international matches at the Surulere national Stadium. The team has relocated to Abuja, playing its international matches at the larger Abuja National Stadium.

Some of the current notable football players include Victor Moses and Obi Mikel (both playing for Chelsea in the English Premier League), Peter Ose Odemwingie (West Brom-Albion), Obafemi Martins (playing for Levante in the Spanish La Liga), Joseph Yobo (Fenerbache, Turkey) and Ike Uche who plays for Villareal in the Spanish La Liga. Notable past players who made a mark in world football and are now retired include Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh and Stephen Keshi who is now a coach with the national team, the Super Eagles.

Economy

Even though Lagos City has lost its status as Nigeria’s Federal State capital and the capital of Lagos State, it remains the country’s economic capital. The Port of Lagos is one of the busiest on the African continent. The port is split into three smaller ports to handle varied cargo. These include the container terminal located on Apapa Port, Lagos Port on Lagos Island and Tin Can Port on Badagry Creek. The port offers employment opportunities to thousands of Nigerians and other nationals. Note that Nigeria’s oil exports are channeled through Lagos Port.

Nigeria has a booming telecommunications sector with many telecommunication companies having their headquarters in Lagos City. Such telecommunication giants as MTN, Globacom, Etisalat and Zain all have their headquarters in Lagos. The rapid growth in the country’s telecommunication sector has made it possible for the Nigerian government through the Nigerian National Space Research and development Agency based in Abuja to expand into space-based communications. Four satellites including Nigeriasat1, Nigeriasat 2 and NigComsat 1 have successfully been launched.

Nigeria has one of the most vibrant financial services sector on the African continent. Lagos Island continues to be home to many international and national financial institutions including banks, insurance companies, asset management companies, brokerage firms and investment banks.

Lagos has varied manufacturing industries. Of these, leather and textile manufacturing industries are the predominant. Textile produced in Lagos and such other cities as Kano, Onitsha and Abeokuta are some of the   finest you can find and while some of the textile is exported, a big percentage is used locally.

Weather/Climate

Generally, Lagos experiences tropical monsoon type of climate characterized by dry and wet weather conditions at specific times during the year. The city experiences two rainy seasons in a year. While heavily rains occur between April and July, the period between October and November brings light rains over the city and its surroundings. The city usually remains dry between December and March with another short dry spell in the months of August and September. Dry spells in Lagos are usually characterized by harmattan winds that blow from the Sahara Desert in the north. While temperatures in the city can be as high as 37 degrees centigrade during dry periods, the same can be as low as 13 degrees centigrade during rainy seasons.

Getting Around

Getting There

You can easily travel to Lagos by road if you happen to be in any one of Nigeria’s cities and towns or when in any of the neighboring countries. Note that road network in Lagos State in general is very extensive with traffic jam being a major problem. Apart from traffic jams, traveling by road can be long and tiresome as the city is located deep in the south. Traveling into the city by bus or car means that you will likely use the Lagos-Ibadan, Trans-West African Coastal Highway that connects the city with Benin, Trans-Sahara Highway that comes in from Algiers, Lagos-Abeokuta or Lagos-Badagry Expressways.

Because traveling to Lagos City by road can be a challenge, the other alternative at your disposal is to fly into the city and land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, reportedly one of the largest and busiest airports on the African continent. Located toward the north of Lagos in Ikeja, the airport receives both national and international flights from different parts of the globe including Kenya, South Africa, Europe and US amongst others.

Getting Around

By bus - Lagos City authorities have of late established a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that makes it easy and comfortable to travel around the city. Established in 2008 with the aim of transporting about 10,000 people every hour, the system has become very popular, meaning that the buses are usually congested during peak hours. The buses however use specific lanes free of congestion. You will need to be careful with your luggage when using the buses.

Apart from BRT system, there are also other buses that you can use to visit other towns close to Lagos. Such bus companies as Greener Line Transport, ABC Transport and Young Shall Grow connect Lagos City with other cities and tows in Nigeria. Rail transport is available but the same is not only limited but very slow and irregular. The service currently available is that which connects Lagos City to Kano and Port Harcourt.

Car hire - Perhaps the best way to move around In Lagos is to hire a car from the many car hire companies with offices all around. While hire charges can be high, a little haggling will see you pay almost half of what is initially quoted. It is highly advised that you hire a car and a driver who knows the city well. The other option is to make use of taxi service that is available from any corner within the city.

By Ferry - Moving from       Lagos Island to the mainland and vice versa will however not require use of a vehicle. Lagos State Ferry Services Corporation connects the same with modern ferries that you can use. You will also have access to privately-run boats that are however irregular. There are also many motorbikes within the city that you can use. Locally known as Okada, the motorbikes are very suitable for short-distant travel. They are not only cheap but fast as well.

Motorcycle – Like in other cities on the African continent, you will find many motorcycles in Lagos City offering short-distant transport service. They are not only fast but very affordable as well. They are however only appropriate for short distances. You will need to take precautions when using the same by ensuring that you are provided with a helmet.

Security/Crime

Unlike before when Lagos City experienced high crime rates, modern Lagos is very secure to visit. Lagos State government has invested heavily in security systems including installation of CCTV cameras on the streets in addition to police patrol cars that police the city round the clock.. This does not however mean that you should not ensure your personal security when visiting the city.

Like in every other city, petty street theft is common on Lagos streets. Such include snatching of purses, bags and cameras. It is therefore very important that you do not flaunt you valuables when in public places. You will also need to be careful with sweet talkers you will likely come across on the streets. Note that Nigeria is full of conmen and drug dealers.

However, here are a few tips that also apply to cities throughout the world to avoid the agony and frustration of being robbed.

District and Suburbs

Unlike other cities around the world, Lagos City does not have an overall city authority. The Lagos City Council that used to exist was dissolved in 1976, effectively dividing the city into several autonomous areas with their own districts and suburbs. They include:

LAGOS MAINLAND

The mainland area of Lagos has become the city’s nerve center. Of the mainland suburbs, Ikeja is the main one.

Ikeja

The suburb is located some 20 kilometers north of Lagos City and although its establishment was meant to serve as the city’s industrial center, it has turned into one of the city’s major residential locations. The suburb has vital amenities and good infrastructure. Housing units in the suburb include luxurious homes in what is referred to as government area and flats of different sizes and styles. It has several shopping outlets, markets and recreational facilities. Note that apart from hosting Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja is the capital of Lagos State.

Surulere

Surulere suburb is located some 20 km from Ikeja. It is a vast and densely populated area with most residential buildings gradually being converted to commercial buildings. The suburb has come to be known as sporting city due to its hosting of National Theatre, Surulere National Stadium and other sports facilities. Various markets and shopping centers are to be found in Surulere including Tejuosho market and Ipunri shopping complex. Due to various facilities available, Surulere is generally a secure suburb with several police establishments around.

Ipeba

Located some two kilometers from Ikeja is the well planned and organized Ipeba suburb. This is a low density populated residential suburb where you will find some of Lagos’ rich individuals. It is one of the most secure suburbs in Lagos. The suburb is fast becoming Lagos’ leisure, entertainment and shopping center.

Omole

Six kilometers toward west of Ikeja is Omole suburb. This is a relatively new suburb that is largely private. Apart from excellent roads, the suburb has well lit streets and paved sidewalks. It is another suburb that is very secure as several police posts are located within.

Ogba

Further west of Ikeja past Omole suburb lies Ogba suburb. This is a densely populated suburb that is home to both low and high-income families. While most flats and other housing units are unfurnished, they are generally very pleasant. Its main market day happens to be on Sundays when it suddenly comes to life with many businessmen from all parts of Nigeria coming in to sell their wares.

Ikorodu

Located some 26 kilometers from Ikeja lies Ikorodu suburb whose location makes it one of the most visited places in Lagos by tourists. It has a beautiful lagoon shoreline lined with palm groves. It has some of Lagos’ beautiful beaches in Baiyeku, Ipakodo and Ibeshe. This is in addition to many shopping outlets.

Lying across Lagos Island on the mainland is Iddo, a small suburb that also serves as railroad terminus. The suburb is not all that populated.

GREATER LAGOS

The greater Lagos area is further inland. The area includes Isolo, Agege, Egbeda, Bariga, Iju Ishaga, Ketu, Ipaja, Ejigbo, Mushin, Oshodi, Ikotun, Ajah, Maryland, Ikotun, Somolu and Oworonsoki.

Of these, Ipaja is the notable suburb. It is a densely populated suburb west of Lagos City with most housing units being state owned. A big population coupled with poor roads makes the suburb one of the most uncomfortable to live in because of heavy traffic jams during peak hours.

ISLANDS OF LAGOS

The Islands district is made up of three main islands; Lagos Island, Ikoyi and Victoria Island. Of these, Lagos Island is the largest and has several high-rise buildings.

Lagos Island

It is on Lagos Island where you will find the famous Idumota and Balogun markets, the National Museum of Nigeria, Christ’s Cathedral, Oba Palace and the historical Tinubu Square where the north-south amalgamation ceremony was held in 1914.

Located west of Lagos Island is Apapa suburb. Apart from being the main sea port, Apapa suburb is also home to thousands of families who otherwise rely on public transport systems to move around the city.

Ikoyi Island

Toward the east of Lagos Island lies Ikoyi Island, home to some of the wealthiest individuals. It is connected to Lagos Island by a landfill. It is on Ikoyi Island where Nigerian government federal headquarters used to be located before it was moved to Abuja. The Island continues to host several government agencies including police, military and prison. You will also find various hotels, restaurants and night clubs on the Island.

Previously inhabited by British colonial rulers, Ikoyi later became home to Nigerian military rulers after the country attained independence. It is now home to expatriates working in the city. Houses here still occupy large compounds. Most houses are hover being brought down to pave way for construction of high-rise residential buildings.

Victoria Island

Toward the south of Lagos Island lies Victoria Island that is also connected to Ikoyi Island by creeks. It connects to Lagos Island through a bridge. Apart from shopping outlets, Victoria Island is home to luxurious apartments and condos. It is also on the Island where you will find Bar Beach, a reclaimed area of the Atlantic Ocean.

Victoria Island has come to be associated with expatriates working in Lagos City. Previously a slum area, Victoria Island now has modern furnished apartments and is fast growing toward the Lekki Peninsula with traffic jams during peak hours being a serious problem. There are also various manufacturing and hospitality industries on the Island including confectionaries, five-star hotels and shopping outlets.

Lekki Peninsula is toward east of Victoria Island. It still features relics of both Portuguese and Brazilian architecture though modern flats are fast coming up. Most of those living in Lekki are well to do and therefore do not rely on public transport systems. Its Ilasan market is famous for fresh fruits and vegetables not only from Nigeria but other parts of West Africa as well.

A recent development in Lagos is the construction of Eko Atlantic City. This is a 21st century city whose construction is on an area reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. The new city is intended to be the center of Lagos’s tourism center as it is planned to have varied accommodation facilities intended to be used by tourists visiting Lagos City.

Places of interest

The fact that tourism in Nigeria is not yet well developed gives you a good opportunity to experience some of its attractions in their natural state. There are however some locations that have already become very popular with tourists. One such location is the Azumini Blue River in Abia State.

Azumini Blue River - is one river on the African continent that still has crystal clear blue water. Various relaxation facilities are strategically positioned on its beautiful sandy beaches. There are a number of activities you can indulge in when visiting the river including canoe riding.

Yankari Game reserve - apart from beautiful savannah woodland, you will also have a chance to sample wild animals including lions, buffalos, antelopes, waterbucks and baboons amongst others. It is also within the reserve that you will find the famous Wikki Warm Springs that is open 24/7. Bathing in the warm water gushing from a cliff is a memorable experience. There are other activities you can partake in while in the reserve including playing tennis and squash. You will also have the opportunity to sample some of Nigerian birds.

Nigeria has varied national parks that you will need to consider visiting.

Gashaka-Gaunti National Park in Taraba State is a must visit. Located near Mambilla Plateau, the park is in a mountainous area and offers you a good chance to sample buffaloes, lions, hyenas and leopards amongst other wild animals. The fact that the park is located near River Kam also gives you the opportunity to sample hippopotamus.

Cross River and Kanji National Parks in Kwara State are also worth visiting.

Obudu Ranch – is one place you should not fail to visit when in Lagos City. Even though you can access it by flying into Calabar City, you need to drive for a chance to witness what has come to be known as Nigerian Amazon, one of the best scenery on the African continent. Driving under dense tree canopy and occasionally emerging to sample the rolling hills is an experience you cannot miss. Obudu ranch in itself is a different experience as you will have a chance to partake in different activities including hiking, playing golf, badminton, tennis, swimming and bird watching.

Anambara State will be worth your time and expenses for a chance to see what nature can provide. You will need to take your time to visit the Ogbunike Cave naturally divided into different sections. The best way to do it is to be accompanied by a local guide for an opportunity to hear stories that relate to the cave’s different sections. It is also in Anambra State where the Rojenny Tourist Village is located. This is one place you can visit not only for that much deserves rest and relaxation but also participate in different sporting activities.

Borno State - Your visit to Lagos should ideally expose you to a different type of climate from that which you are used to. The perfect way to experience this is to travel to Borno State in the north-eastern corner of the country. Apart from experiencing extreme weather conditions associated with the fast approaching savannah desert, you will have a chance to visit Lake Chad that marks the boundary of three countries; Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. A visit to the fishing villages around the lake will offer you the opportunity to eat fresh fish roasted by the lake side.

Oguta Lake Holiday Complex in Imo State is a must visit location when in Nigeria. It is actually one of the best locations in Nigeria to visit as a family. The complex has varied recreational parks and cruise boating facilities. If you are into golf then the 18-hole international golf course will serve you well.

The Bar Beach - if you prefer to spend some of your time on beaches then Lagos City has it all. The Bar Beach in Victoria Island named after the many sand pits featured along the coastline of Lagos is one of the most popular beaches frequented by both the locals and tourists alike.

Niteshift Coliseum Club is one place to experience Nigerian and in particular Lagos City night life. The club is located on Salvation Way in Ikeja and is regularly frequented by company CEO’s and senior government officials. It is one of the most secure locations in Lagos City.

Short Distance Excursions

The fact that you have limited time when visiting the city of Lagos does not mean that there is nothing you can do during your spare time. There are a good number of locations within and around the city that you can visit. A good location to start is at the National Museum located right at the center of Lagos Island. You will have the opportunity to sample some of the finest bronze sculptures that you can find. This is in addition to Ivory carvings associated with the then Benin Kingdom.

The Didi Museum is another that you will need to pay a visit to. One of a few private museums, the museum offers you the opportunity to sample varied types of contemporary African artworks including rare antiques of gems, wood carvings and bronzes.

A visit to The Government of Yesterday and Today Gallery will be worth your time. This is where you will learn about Nigeria’s past rulers including those from the military. One special exhibit here is the bullet-ridden Mercedes Benz car in which President Murtala Muhammed was assassinated in 1973.

If you like surfing then head to Meia Praia, a good location to sharpen your surfing skills. The place is also ideal if you wish to learn surfing. Surfing lessons with use of appropriate equipments are very affordable. You may choose to relax in the evenings at the Praca de Gil Eanes. Though entertainment here is on the street, there are several bars and restaurants nearby for your convenience. One drink that you need to consider trying in any of the restaurants is Moscatel wine, a locally made wine that is otherwise very strong.

If you have never thought that you could sail on land then Lagos City provides you with the opportunity to land sail or eco-kart. You will be able to do this on a special track found between Vila do Bispo and Lagos. You can thereafter head to the sea to tour grottos found around the rocks and cliffs along Lagos coastline. Regular boat trips are always in wait.

A visit to the Lekki Conservation Center will certainly be appropriate. Established in 1990, the center aims at preserving not only Nigeria’s but also the region’s delicate eco-system for posterity. No entry fee is applicable and you will have the opportunity to sample varied animals including crocodiles, bush bucks, giant rats and Mona monkeys.

Located several kilometers toward the west of Lagos City near the border with Benin is the town of Badagry. This is a time you need to plan visiting when in Lagos. Established way back in the 15th century, Badagry became a major port for transporting captured slaves. It is also at Badagry that Christian missionaries put up the first permanent building in Nigeria. The town boasts of a number of historic sites. A number of buildings have been preserved to enlighten the world of both slave trade and missionary work along the West African coastline. Some of the items you will have a look at include slave chain relics, war cannons and other artifacts all preserved at the museum of slave trade.

A visit to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city since 1991 will be worth your time. Located at the center of the country, you will have the opportunity to sample both the Zuma and Aso Rocks. These are natural rock formations that are a big attraction in the city. Located at the foot of the 400 meter high Aso Rock is the Abuja Plant Nursery, a botanical garden rich in flowers, fruits and varied trees. You will also access the National Arboretum.

There are various golf country clubs where you may choose to spend some of your time in. Such include IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja, Port Harcourt Golf Club in Port Harcourt and Ikoyi Golf Club in Ikoyi.

Apart from main markets from where you can buy gift items, Lagos City also boasts of some of the best shopping malls you can find. Some of the notable shopping malls include the Palms Shopping Mall that also doubles up as an entertainment mall, the new Ikeja City Mall, Falomo Shopping Mall in Ikoyi and the Gbaja Shopping Mall in Surulere.