Getting Around in Lagos
The growing population and rapid development of Lagos have placed strain on the city’s public transport system, and traffic congestion and pollution add to the chaos of this massive city.
The most common forms of public transport in Lagos include taxis, buses and motorbike taxis, known locally as okadas. All of these forms of transport are generally unsafe and unreliable due to poorly maintained vehicles and reckless drivers.
Most expats don’t use public transport in Lagos, rather opting to have a personal driver.
Driving in Lagos
Most companies provide their expat employees with a car, a driver and, in some cases, a security escort. While expats are allowed to drive in Nigeria, most prefer to employ professionals to drive them around. This is generally the safest option, as the driver is able to navigate the city easily and is familiar with the local environment and road conditions.
Traffic congestion is a massive problem in Lagos, and despite recent improvements to public transport and road networks to try and ease this, it can still take hours to travel just a few kilometres. Expats should therefore plan their journey well in advance and ensure they give themselves plenty of time to get to their destination.
Expats wishing to drive in Lagos should note that international driving licenses are not recognised in Nigeria, so while they are able to drive for the first three months with their national licence, foreigners will need to apply for a Nigerian driving licence to continue driving thereafter.
Public transport in Lagos
Okadas are motorbike taxis that can carry one passenger, although it’s not unusual to see several squashed on with the driver at one time. They are generally cheaper than regular taxis and are the fastest way of getting around Lagos. However, travelling on an okada can be a hair-raising experience as they weave through the congested roads at high speeds, often ignoring the rules of the road.
There have been a number of attempts to restrict okadas on major roads and bridges in Lagos and they are banned from the city’s roads at night. This has been met with much resistance in recent years, with okada drivers protesting these regulations.
A number of buses are in operation in Lagos, including Danfo buses, Molue buses and a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT).
Danfo buses are yellow minibuses that travel set routes around the Lagos mainland and on the islands. These buses are often overcrowded and not always reliable. Due to safety concerns, the local government has attempted to restrict or ban danfos on Lagos streets, but they remain one of the most popular modes of transport.
Molue are larger commercial buses, also painted yellow. These buses are also usually overcrowded, and it’s not unusual to have preachers shouting the gospel or hawkers trying to sell their wares to passengers inside the bus. Pickpocketing is common on these buses and expats should keep a close eye on their valuables at all times. Due to numerous issues, Molue buses have been banned from operating in certain parts of Lagos, including the city's central business district.
The BRT is a relatively new system that has somewhat improved the transport and eased traffic congestion in Lagos. BRT vehicles, painted red or blue, operate on segregated or priority lanes between the mainland and the islands of Lagos. Travelling on the BRT can be a frustrating experience, as long queues are common at BRT stations and the buses are very overcrowded, particularly during rush hour. Many BRT buses are also in a poor state and in need of maintenance.
There are a number of taxi companies that operate in Lagos; these are either metered or have fixed fares. It is possible to hail a cab from the street, although a safer option is to phone and order one ahead of time. Expats should negotiate the fare before entering the taxi, or make sure that the meter is working.
Despite the abundance of waterways in Lagos, ferries are not as popular as road transport to get around the city. There are a few regular ferry routes between Lagos and Victoria islands and the mainland. Private boats also operate some passenger services on the lagoon and on some creeks. The local government has been working to promote water transport in Lagos and ease road congestion by building a number of jetties.