What makes Lagos so special is probably the inherent variance in its description; the fact that no two persons can aptly describe it in the same way. Like New York, each man reads his own meaning into Lagos. A city that has been called the ‘megacity of the future’ and which could easily become the ‘Singapore of Africa’. When it comes to describing ‘Eko city’, too many adjectives come to mind but none quite clinches it. It is a place that needs to be experienced to be understood.
For a city that is the ultimate expression of modern urban living, you need an ingrained set of ‘how-tos’ to get you through the city. (And for the JJC’s , JJC is a slang used in Nigeria to refer to a stranger especially one that seems lost. JJC =”Jonny -Just – come” English equivalent of Johnny -Come – Lately).
No matter what you planned to do in Lagos, you must make a purchase at some point during your trip. Sellers are smart enough to spot travelers and foreigners, and they usually hike the prices of goods to the detriment of the traveler on a budget. Bargaining is expected and is seen as the natural flow of events from meeting a prospective buyer to making a sale. When you make a purchase, haggle for a price that is half of what the seller proposed. It may seem ridiculous but it’s a good place to start. Do not to bargain for a price that is not beneficial to the parties involved. A few hundreds might mean nothing to you but a day’s meal to the person you’re bargaining with.
Lagosians and Nigerians in general appreciate good manners above all else. When traveling in Lagos, greet people you interact with in the local language or say a simple hello or good morning. It goes a long way in getting familiar with strangers you encounter and in asking for help. Some may choose not to respond to you until you say a greeting so greet freely and don’t be shy.
How you dress determines how people respond to you when you ask for directions or while shopping at a store. If you overdress, you risk giving off the wrong impression and drawing unwanted attention to yourself. If you dress too scantily you risk breaking the local customs. Do dress to kill but don’t dress immodestly.
Be Mindful of What You Eat
Yes it looks tasty, and yes you want to eat it, but wait a minute. Food in Lagos is lovely, spicy and exotic but some of the food is made under questionable conditions. Be picky and only eat food cooked at restaurants where you can trust the water used and the hygiene of the chefs. Ask about how the food was made but don’t be nosy, if you don’t like the food, just walk away.
Learn a Few Phrases in the Local Language
After spending a few days in Lagos, some phrases should be stuck in your head. Common Yoruba phrases like “Eku aro”and “Bawo ni” are easy to remember and go a long way in making a good first impression. Many locals appreciate travelers speaking their native tongue but detest it when simple words are turned to mush. Try to learn Yoruba, but don’t murder the language.
Lagosians are opportunists who never fail to seize a chance to make a quick buck. You can use this to your advantage and tip locals for helping you but don’t give money to strangers. Some might come calling to you to buy something you don’t need or insist that you pay for a free service. Be vigilant. Count your money before you leave home and account for every purchase when you return.
It is very important to have a contact person as you explore the city of Lagos. If for one reason or the other you cannot secure a private vehicle and driver, ask your contact person to provide you with a trusted pick-up. At desperate times, do not board unknown vehicles that promise to get you to your destination, instead use an online service to book a taxi.
Finding your way around Lagos can be difficult for a newbie or Johnny Just Come especially in secluded places with unidentified streets. While traveling in Lagos, make sure to ask for directions from more than one person but don’t ask people who do not look responsible or you might risk being misled.
Most Automated Teller Machines dispense cash in N1,000 notes, the highest naira denomination, but try to break down your notes into smaller denominations before making little purchases like buying fruits, snacks or candy. Don’t give a hawker a N1,000 note for a N20 purchase or you may end up in a squabble or have to do away with your change.
Suddenly the music gets louder and all the waiters stop what they are doing and begin clapping...