- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Lagos Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Lagos will find themselves in a crowded, chaotic and noisy metropolis that is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. Lagos is made up of the mainland and a collection of islands that are separated by creeks and the Lagos Lagoon, which flows out into the Gulf of Guinea. Bridges connect the islands to the Lagos mainland and smaller sections of some creeks have been sand-filled and built over.
There are only a handful of areas and suburbs in Lagos that offer expats a reasonable quality of life in terms of accommodation, amenities and convenience. Most expats living in Lagos reside on Victoria Island and Lagos Island, while more affordable areas can be found on the mainland.
Most Lagos residents live on the mainland of Lagos, which consists of several districts, including Ebute Metta, Mushin, Surulere, Agege, Oshodi, Yaba and Ikeja.
Ikeja is the capital of Lagos State and is one of the most exclusive residential areas on the Lagos mainland. Ikeja was once a well-planned and quiet residential suburb, initially built during the colonial period to house the upper classes. The Government Reserved Area (GRA) of Ikeja, in particular, is still home to several high-ranking Nigerian officials and their families.
Large residential properties can be found here, with accommodation typically in the form of detached houses, bungalows and semi-detached duplexes – perfect for expat families.
Over the years Ikeja has developed into a prime commercial and industrial area, with some houses being turned into office complexes. It is also home to Nigeria’s main airport, Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Most roads in Ikeja are paved and the neighbourhood is seen as secure, largely owing to the presence of the Police College and the Ikeja Military Cantonment.
Ikeja boasts many entertainment options, including nightclubs, restaurants and bars, the Lagos Country Club and many fancy international hotels. The Ikeja City Mall, one of Nigeria’s newest and largest malls, is also located in the district and hosts many international brands.
Located to the west of Lagos Island is the port area of Apapa. This area offers cheaper accommodation than the other more popular expat areas of Lagos. Apapa has large, old colonial houses and some modern apartment blocks. The area is popular with local professionals and, as Nigeria’s main seaport, security is high.
The neighbourhood of Surulere is perfectly suited for young working professionals and social butterflies on a budget but with a preference for liveliness. From its classy cocktail bars and clubs to traditional street food stalls, Surulere buzzes with activity. Home to Nigeria’s National Arts Theatre which holds dance performances, international concerts and renowned plays. Surulere is well connected to all essential amenities and has a great social scene, so its distinguishing factor from island living is the lower rent available in small apartments.
For a trendy vibe, we suggest checking out Yaba. Afrobeats, a musical genre which originates from this West African region, pulses throughout Yaba’s vibrant clubs and bars, and upscale restaurants are also dotted around the neighbourhood. Students and young working professionals are drawn to Yaba thanks to its potential with the start-up tech sector and its closeness to the University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology.
Island living in Lagos
Lagos Island is the main commercial and administrative area of Lagos. It is the oldest part of the city and is connected to the mainland by three large bridges: Eko Bridge, Carter Bridge and the Third Mainland Bridge.
The central business district of Lagos is located on Lagos Island and the area is home to the offices of many multinational corporations. Lagos Island is the city's financial district, and shopping malls, clubs and supermarkets litter the streets. The western side of the island is the wealthy commercial side, while the eastern side is poorer and less developed but hosts the main markets.
Lagos Island is overcrowded, and traffic congestion remains a constant problem. Attempts have been made in recent years to ease congestion by building new roads out over the lagoon. While many homeowners have a car, boat transport is a common and quick way of getting around between the islands and the mainland.
Ikoyi is in the east of Lagos Island. It’s a quiet and peaceful cosmopolitan residential area, particularly during the week, while over the weekend, its buzzing nightlife is embraced.
Ikoyi is home to some of Nigeria’s wealthiest residents and the most established expat community in Lagos. It has many high-rise apartment buildings, five-star hotels and one of Nigeria’s most popular golf courses. Large residences built during the colonial era stand next to modern luxury condos and apartments and extravagant mansions. Banana Island, one of the area’s most affluent neighbourhoods, has been referred to as a ‘billionaire’s paradise’.
Many multinational corporations in the oil and gas industry rent or own property in Ikoyi for their expat staff. The area is also popular with the diplomatic community. Ikoyi affords closeness to good schools, golf courses and country clubs, making it an attractive location for foreigners living in Lagos.
Ikoyi has a range of luxury shops, pharmacies, supermarkets and shopping centres, including Kingsway Mall, many of them concentrated on Awolowo Road. The commercial section is found in the southwest of Ikoyi.
Although utility provision is sometimes better in Ikoyi than the rest of the city, poor road infrastructure and shortages in electricity and water supply are fairly common.
Victoria Island (sometimes referred to as VI) is located to the west of Lagos Island. The island, once surrounded by water, has transformed over the decades, having built a land bridge connecting Victoria Island and the Lekki Peninsula as well as the highway connecting Victoria Island to Epe.
It is a residential as well as commercial area. There are many shopping centres, restaurants and offices here, and luxury apartments abound. VI is one of the most affluent areas of Lagos and has some of the most expensive real estate in Nigeria. Residents of Victoria Island include wealthy Nigerian businesspeople and management professionals, and many of the city’s expatriates.
Once a peaceful and quiet part of Lagos, Victoria Island is now an important centre of banking and commerce in Nigeria, and many Nigerian and international corporations have their headquarters on the island. This redevelopment has left the island congested and traffic a constant problem.
Victoria Island is also a diplomatic centre of Nigeria, with numerous foreign embassies and consulates located in the area. There are good hospitals on Victoria Island and most of the international schools in Lagos are located here – yet another drawcard for expats.
For some much-needed relaxation, the sheltered Tarkwa Bay Beach is a short boat trip away, offering leisure activities and water sports.
Lekki lies west on Victoria Island and is adjoined to the areas of Ikoyi and Epe. Wealthy residents are homeowners or tenants living in modern houses and apartments, while certain neighbourhoods hold affordable accommodation.
Younger residents are drawn to Lekki for its trendy clubs and upscale restaurants and bars offering a great nightlife atmosphere. Families equally enjoy the safety and proximity to international schools.
►To learn more about expat housing in Nigeria, see Accommodation in Lagos
"The best places to stay in Lagos are Victoria Island and Ikoyi, as most of the entertainment options (restaurants, malls, cinemas) are located there. Ikeja, specifically Maryland, is a safe place to stay. Many Indians also prefer Ilupeju, a typical Indian locality." Read more in our interview with Anvaya.
"Banana Island is the most expensive place to live in Lagos and considered the safest. Living on Banana is like living in a different world because of the huge compounds with well-groomed streets and a general lack of traffic." Find out about more recommended suburbs in our interview with Keli.
Photo credits: Yaba by Stephen Olatunde; Victoria Island by Ib Daye. Both sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Lagos?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Lagos. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.