A Quick Guide to Surviving in Lagos, Nigeria

Becoming Eno

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I initially named this Lagos living for Dummies then, Surviving Lagos 101 but I guess I finally stuck with a quick guide to surviving in Lagos. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this. Let me know in the comment section.

In October 2020, I finally went through on a very bright idea I had to pack up the few things I had to my name and relocate to one of the busiest cities in the world, Lagos. And for the past 3 months, I am proud to say I have been, successfully, living the Lagos life and even though this was not my first time in Lagos, it has been pretty tough adapting to the day-to-day life here and living like a true Lagosian.

When I first arrived, the first problem I had was transportation and I am proud to say I have sorted myself out by 55% compared to -30%when I got here. I have gone from spending about N8,000 (about $19),courtesy of having to uber to every single place I have to go to, a day to N3,000 (less than $9) in a week.

First point – Learn how to use public transport and the routes.

It has helped me save a lot of money and made me more familiar with areas in Lagos. I think public transport is extremely interesting and played a key role in my memories this summer as I met a lot of interesting characters either waiting for a bus or on a bus.

My favourite means of transportation is the keke napep (local tricycles that seat 3 people at the back and the driver in front) except when its packed to maximum capacity with people who happen to be in the same body frame level as me, then it is just plain uncomfortable.

However, due to the current state of things, there being a pandemic and all, you definitely want to mask up and opt for BRT buses which operate like regular buses in the US with a schedule and all.

Second point – will be to learn the local lingua or ‘Yoruba pidgin’ as a colleague at work back in 2016 called it. These are the phrases you need to survive/ shine eye/ not come across as a JJC and make you easy target for the people who go round preying on the ‘fresh meat’.

They are the simple; O wa. Ori e ope. Elo ni? Kini? Pa pa pa. Se kia and the basic greetings. These have saved me more than twice. They give off the impression that you are not a first timer.

It is like learning the slangs and commonly used phrases in any city you go to.

Third point – Always pay attention to your surroundings, because not everyone looking your way has your best interests at heart. Especially if you are moving around solo.

Let me give an example. One day I was going to meet up with a friend at the city centre and my normal route usually takes me to the outskirts of the centre and I can connect that stop home easily. It is like N50 – N100 (25cents) from there to where I was supposed to head to. I was looking for the spot where the vehicles that go that way usually park but was not paying attention to my surroundings so much. A keke driver (tricycle) then signals for me to come over which I do (instinctual move), and he goes all “sister enter the keke, some men dey follow you for back” which translates to telling me to get in quick as some men have been following me for a while, and out of the corner of my eye I spot a bunch of men I saw from when I alighted the bus at the first stop and I hop in just to have them run after our keke like all them fast and furious movies. He saved me from getting my properties forcefully parted from me that day and this girl stayed grateful to him. Moral of the story pay attention.

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Fourth point – Learn how to cross the roads fast.

I am used to clear roads and drivers that actually slow down/ stop to let you cross and who observe zebra crossing rules but all of that changed in Lagos. You have got to ‘shine your eye’ because if you are waiting for everyone to take a chill pill for you to strut your stuff across the road, you will end up road squash. I have had to learn how to time the spaces between moving vehicles and know when to dash across like a pro and even graduated to crossing expressways.

You can not rely on traffic lights and it is not every time that cars will slow down to let you across even though you have the right of way. So, get those leg muscles toned and read to do a quick sprint every now and then.

Fifth point – Know the people in your area and be friendly with them.

This has its benefits and disadvantages especially if you are female.

Lagos deals with many small communities and knowing the lad who sells tomatoes or the man who owns a drink shop helps with building relationships with people. It is nice to have people greet you with a familiarity when coming back from wherever you went to, but you should know where your boundaries lie.

People knowing you can mean they sometimes will give a helping hand if you are ever in need or are stranded. However, it could also mean having to deal with unwanted attention from shady characters who feel that their offer of friendship and more is compulsory, and you have no right to refuse them.

Sixth point – Always be prepared for sudden weather changes.

I learnt the hard way. After being caught in the rain a couple of times even after google weather had a forecast of a sunny day, I took to carrying an umbrella in my bag everyday whenever I was going out.

It feels great knowing I have one up on the weather, but I wished I could carry around a pair of rubber flip flops like my friend for when the roads got messy so that this way, I do not have to worry about messing up my shoes.

Fin., I hope these points help someone if in any instance, Lagos is a destination you end up in and you enjoyed reading too.

Till next time, take a walk for fresh air!

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Hi there, I'm Enoabasi but almost everyone calls me Eno. I am a 24 year old Nigerian female living solo in Lagos, Nigeria who loves to write about my life and everything in-between. Expect posts highlighting West African lifestyle and travel! Follow to read my work and support this journey.

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