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Lagos Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +1

Electricity

Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. Round and square three-pin plugs are used.

Language

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

Travel Health

When travelling to Nigeria, an international vaccination certificate against yellow fever is required. A Cholera vaccination certificate is also required if coming from an infected area. As a precaution against cholera, visitors should drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Anti-malaria prophylaxis and TB inoculation are recommended, and at present there is a high risk of polio infection in northern Nigeria. Visitors should seek the latest medical advice on inoculations at least three weeks prior to departure.

In major cities, private hospitals offer good facilities, and private clinics are found even in the smallest towns. As in many countries, costs for medical services or hospital care must be shouldered by the traveller. There are government hospitals throughout the country, but apart from emergencies, the hospitals are more geared to serving the local population. Individuals needing specialised treatment for acute illness or severe injury are usually evacuated to Europe or South Africa. Good, comprehensive insurance is strongly advised, and should include evacuation. Pharmacies abound in Nigeria, even in supermarkets, and are open during normal trading hours.

Tipping

In restaurants, a 10% tip is adequate if a service charge hasn't already been added. Negotiate taxi fares before embarking on a journey; remember that fares are usually increased for tourists so tipping isn't necessary. Porters should be tipped accordingly.

Safety Information

Numerous hazards await unwary and uninformed visitors, from bogus greeters at the airport, to scams attempting to extort money from visitors' relatives back home, and even kidnappings for ransom. Violent street crime, armed robberies, muggings and car jackings are prevalent in Lagos and elsewhere in the more populous southern regions of the country. Visitors should ensure that their local hosts and/or family and friends at home know their travel plans.

Public transport is potentially dangerous with poorly maintained buses and taxis, and fraud and criminal activity rife among drivers. The reliability of domestic airlines has also been questioned after numerous accidents. Fuel shortages often occur, and road travel may be hazardous due to the risk of armed robbery and car jackings, particularly in traffic jams and rural areas. Visitors should avoid travelling at night, and should consider driving in convoy through rural areas.

There are frequent outbreaks of civil unrest and violence in Nigeria, usually caused by ethnic tensions, and strikes often cause disruption to transport and other services. Travellers are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations, and to be extremely cautious in the northern region of Nigeria. Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Bauchi States should all be avoided to due frequent violent attacks, as should Kano City and Warri City. The Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa States should also be avoided, particularly the riverine areas and Port Harcourt, due to hostage-taking and terrorist threats. All but essential travel to Akwa Ibom State should also be avoided, as oil facilities have been attacked and expatriate oil workers seized.

Local Customs

Nigeria has a relatively formal society and it is appropriate to address Nigerians by their surnames until you know them very well. Beachwear is only appropriate for the beach. Nigeria has the largest Muslim population in Africa, concentrated mainly in the north. Women should dress modestly, and avoid wearing trousers, and all visitors should exercise discretion in behaviour and dress, especially when visiting religious sites and during the holy month of Ramadan.

Time is a different concept in West Africa than in Europe or North America. Being 'on time' to a Nigerian could easily be a couple of hours after an agreed start-time. Evening social events tend to start late and often continue into the small hours. Photography in airports may lead to arrest. Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria.

Business

Those looking to do business in Nigeria, and especially those who've never done business on the African continent before, will certainly have to prepare themselves to face unique challenges. Although great strides have been made within Nigeria's corporate landscape, the country still suffers from massive corruption and a debilitating lack of infrastructure, which can make doing business there difficult. The management style typically found in Nigeria is extremely hierarchical. The boss - invariably male, and always of an older generation - will expect and will receive respect from all those working beneath him, and will never be publicly criticised. However, this does not necessarily mean that all decisions are made on this authority-figure's whim; business relationships are extremely important in Nigeria, and often, compromises can be reached.

In general, Nigerian business leaders will lead firmly, giving their employees instructions that are expected to be followed closely. Teamwork, and the ability to work together toward clearly-defined goals, is considered a more valuable asset than independent thinking or individualistic efforts. Business meetings in Nigeria are very social occasions, providing the framework within which solid interpersonal connections are to be made. Bear the following in mind: respect for elders is huge in Nigeria; even if one is more qualified than older colleagues, there is no surer way to cause offence in Nigeria than by disrespecting members of the older generation.

In Nigeria, especially for men, it is important that business dress reflects status; men tend to wear dark, stylish suits and a tie, and don't hold back on the accessories. Dressing for work in Nigeria can be trickier for female expats, especially those used to the more relaxed dress codes of the UK or America. Nigeria is a very traditional country, and therefore, skirts above the knee and cleavage-revealing tops are unacceptable in the office environment, as is the exposure of too much skin around the collarbone and shoulder area.

There is no specific protocol for the exchanging of business cards in Nigeria - although it is considered rude not to study the card in the presence of the person who gave it to you. Make sure any tertiary education or qualifications you have received are printed on your card, and that your title is prominently displayed. In a country of so many different ethnic groups and dialects, English has emerged as the de facto language of business in Nigeria. Business hours are generally from 8am (or 8.30am) to 5pm, from Monday to Friday. In the northern (predominately Muslim) part of Nigeria, Friday is a day of rest.

Communications

The country code for Nigeria is +234. Full international direct dialling is available. There are good GSM 900 and 1800 mobile phone networks covering Lagos, Abuja and some other major towns. Internet cafes can be found in major cities.

Duty Free

Travellers to Nigeria over 18 years old do not have to pay duty on 200g of tobacco products, 1 litre of spirits and 1 litre wine, perfume or eau de Cologne for personal use and gifts to the value of NGN 50,000 (excluding jewellery, photographic equipment, electronics and luxury goods). Prescription medication and pharmaceutical products should be accompanied by a letter from your GP as well as the original prescription, and should not be carried in your checked luggage.

The following items carry substantial duty levies: cameras, projectors and other electronic goods, unless visitors can provide proof of possession for at least three years or can submit a certificate of re-importation. Prohibited items include beer, mineral water, soft drinks, sparkling wine, fresh fruit and vegetables, textiles, mosquito netting, jewellery and precious metals, cereals and eggs. Flowers, plants and seeds often need permits and the rules regarding specific species often change, so it is best to check the situation as close to your time of travel as possible.

Our Travel Expert

Fola is a London based teacher, with a great love for Nigeria. Her interest in Lagos began while writing her dissertation at university based on the formation of British Nigerian identities. She travelled to Nigeria for the first time at the age of 21 and spent much of her time exploring her mother's home town in Ondo State. Since then Fola has travelled to Nigeria many times and worked and volunteered in the country.

>Read Folasade's tips on Lagos
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