is it safe to walk around in lagos

Nigeria is a country with a population of 190 million people, and 21 million people live in Lagos. Around 50% of the population live in extreme poverty.

So, is it safe to walk around in Lagos?

Click. The sounds of four car doors locking shut. I became very familiar with this sound over the next four days in Lagos. It began with our first Uber ride upon our arrival at the airport to our hotel – Villa Thirty Three.

During that first drive through the city, I realised why this happens here.

Any time of the day or night, Lagos is filled with people of all ages, the elderly and very small children begging at our car windows while we wait for the traffic lights to change.

So many of them are in wheelchairs or missing limbs and they’re knocking on every window pleading and begging for money or food.

It seems that any time anybody gets into a private vehicle here, the first thing they do is lock all the doors for personal safety and security.

The poverty in Lagos is overwhelming

The amount of people clearly struck by poverty is overwhelming. I’ve experienced many very poor cities around the world, however, in Lagos, I found it hard to oversee the magnitude of this problem.

Perhaps I wasn’t prepared for this issue to be so big or maybe it’s because from what I have learned, Nigeria has so much money from the oil it produces. So what actually happens to this money and what is it spent on?

It’s clear to see that none of this trickles down to the poor people, they’re left to continue begging and sleeping in the streets.

It’s a big city. What area should you choose to stay in Lagos?

Before we booked our hotel in Lagos, we had to consider the location and price. Everybody told us to stay on Lagos Island or close-by to have the best experience here.

Any way you look at it, Lagos is an expensive city and the hotel prices reflect this.

We would have loved to stay at The Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel because this hotel is in a top location and the facilities are fantastic, but our budget doesn’t allow us to do so.

Our hotel in Lagos

We booked a mid-range hotel – Villa Thirty Three for USD 55 per night. This hotel is located in Lekki, not far from Lagos Island. It’s in a good location, and it was very clean and comfortable.

We soon realised that the location doesn’t matter so much in this city, as walking anywhere in Lagos isn’t encouraged or advisable.

There was one day when we booked an Uber from our hotel and the driver parked two blocks away and wouldn’t come to the correct address of our hotel.

After 20 minutes back and forth of texting him and asking him to drive to the correct address and him not reciprocating or to cancel the order as requested him to, we had no choice but to leave our hotel and walk the two blocks to go and find his car.

It was an interesting walk.

is it safe to walk in lagos
Included breakfast in our hotel. It was good too!

But really, is it safe to walk around in Lagos?

As soon as we left our hotel and said goodbye to our security guard, we reached the end of our quiet street on foot. Immediately, the main road was hectic.

We encountered countless men hassling us relentlessly to buy random goods, passport photos, lightbulbs, DVD’s etc. They were very persistent, however, we kept our belongings firmly lodged in our pockets and walked with purpose, we’re used of this by now.

We knew that Lagos has some of the highest crime in the world, often muggings and petty theft, so we wanted to avoid being targeted by this at all costs.

The toughest thing for me was to brush past many small children tugging at our hands and clothes, begging for food and money.

We found the driver and immediately got into his car to shake off all the attention we’d drawn from that five-minute walk. We explained to him that he’d put us into a difficult position by making us walk to him and not picking us up the address we requested.

He told us he was experiencing problems with his Uber App at the time as the network in Lagos is sometimes very poor. Our pick-up address wasn’t showing correctly on his App.

Security is taken very seriously in this city

Over the next few days in Lagos, we noticed many things about this city that were unexpected. Apart from most businesses, hotels and homes being locked behind secured gates and walls, the same thing applied for cafes and restaurants.

Whenever we took an Uber to just go for a coffee or to a decent restaurant to eat lunch, our Uber would wait until the guard would open the large security gate and drive us into the parking area to exit the car and then enter the building. All this to just go inside a simple cafe! Wow.

Uber is a life-saver in this city

Needless to say, we took Uber all over the city to get anywhere and everywhere. This was the one things we were thankful for in Lagos, as taxis are hard to find and they charge foreigners a much higher fare. We realised very quickly that this is a city that you simply don’t just walk from A to B.

This need for intense security is also the thing that I disliked the most about Lagos. One of my favourite things to do in a new city is to just walk around and explore on foot – this was something we knew we couldn’t do here.

Uber is great in Lagos, however, the traffic was often gridlocked at certain times of the day. It’s certainly a big ask for 21 million people to move around a city that doesn’t have any other public transport options except for minivans, motorcycle taxi and buses that are busting at the seams with locals trying to get across the city.

People trying to get to and from work are literally hanging off the sides and back of vans in order to get home.

The traffic in Lagos sucks

It seems that everyone who drives in this city just chooses a speed they like and they roll with it. One moment you’re driving along at 80km and then it’s 130km. If people just stuck to their allocated lanes, at an appropriate speed, things may work better. Yet in keeping with true African form, four lanes of traffic going one way are never enough.

Nigerians will try to make at least six lanes from that space on the highway. I’m certain this contributes to the fact that the roads are so gridlocked here. In an ideal world, a metro system in Lagos might alleviate the congestion.

Trash is a huge problem in Lagos

This is somewhat a pattern in most West African countries we’ve previously travelled through. Trash is absolutely everywhere! It stinks, it’s visually unpleasant and it will not disappear if people keep littering so carelessly.

It didn’t look quite so bad until one day it really poured down rain for an hour or so and immediately the draining system couldn’t handle the amount of water and the roads flooded.

Just like that, hundreds of plastic bottles and bags and pieces of litter started bobbing on the water, filling the streets and drains with garbage. sigh

Street food is good here

As we waited in gridlocked traffic, watching the rain pour down and the garbage building up before us, I look over to see street life as it is. There are ladies with old make-shift umbrellas set up on the side of the road.

They’ve got small drums full of burning coal and they’re cooking pots of food. This is street food in Lagos and it’s the food that many Nigerians live on. This is an expensive city, therefore food is pricey also. The exception is the Nigerian street food.

There’s another pair of men with a similar setup. They don’t have umbrellas, instead, they’re relying on shelter from the rain under a large tree. They’ve got a big pot of oil and they’re frying simple ‘akara’ (beans cake).

These are deep-fried beans ball made with grounded beans mixed with pepper, onions and other spices. They’re hugely popular in Nigeria plus, they’re cheap and tasty.

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Nigerians are friendly people

To sum up, our time visiting Nigeria was shorter than we had intended. We experienced some real hassles with getting a visa to visit Nigeria from the embassy in Cotonou, Benin.

Based on our visa research, this was ‘the place’ to obtain our Nigerian visa easily. Unfortunately, their process has recently changed, and they stopped issuing visas for non-residents.

We had a tiring and frustrating time trying to secure the visa and then again entering the country from Benin. More about that below.

Of the Nigerians we did meet in Lagos, I found them to be friendly people. From our hotel receptionist, the many security guards, and the people who served us food, we felt welcomed.

This was refreshing for us and something we will remember of our time spent in Lagos.

Lagos is a tough city to explore on your own. It would be more enjoyable if you had a friend or guide to show you the highlights.

Travel Tips for Africa

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