- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Lagos Guide (PDF)
A move to Nigeria will surely be a unique experience for expats, particularly those moving to Lagos. Nigeria's largest city, Lagos boasts a variety of fantastic beach resorts, upmarket boutiques and a lively nightlife. That said, Lagos, as with any big bustling city, has plenty of negatives to go with its positives.
We list a few pros and cons below to help prepare expats for their relocation to Lagos.
Lifestyle in Lagos
+ PRO: Diverse options for eating out
Lagos is a melting pot of cultures with Western, Asian and African influences. The city's food and eateries are equally diverse, with a broad selection of international and local dishes to feast on.
+ PRO: Vibey atmosphere
Cultural identity is important to Nigerians, and people from Lagos are happy to welcome foreigners. With a friendly culture comes a love for going out, dancing and having a good time. Lagos is also at the heart of Nigeria’s film-making industry, also referred to as Nollywood. All these factors culminate to produce an exciting lifestyle and environment to keep expats and locals entertained.
+ PRO: Cheap shopping and clothes
Although costs in modern malls are expensive, clothes can be made by local tailors at a much lower rate. Not only is this cheaper, but expats can have unique creations tailored just for them out of the material of their choice. Nigerians are fashionable people and expats can fit right in with locally-designed clothing.
+ PRO: English is widely spoken
Over 500 languages are spoken in Nigeria, with Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba being main national languages. Despite this immense diversity present in one country, English is the official language, which eases doing business and general aspects of life for many expats.
- CON: Culture shock
There is glaring inequality in Lagos, with the richest of the rich seemingly worlds away from the majority of the population living in informal settlements and slums. While expats are likely to stay in gated communities, this puts them in a bubble and separates them from reality. They may experience some internal turmoil and guilt when they realise the extent of the wealth gap and their own privilege in the country, but changing this is not within expats’ control and need not create feelings of culpability.
Working in Lagos
+ PRO: Attractive salaries and work packages
While negative media on crime and life in Nigeria could influence foreigners' thinking, major companies in Lagos still manage to lure expats with glamourous contracts and lucrative salaries. Although Lagos is not Nigeria’s capital, it is the business hub of West Africa and, as such, salaries are high. Additional perks for expats working in Lagos may include accommodation expenses, children’s tuition fees, health insurance, a car and driver, and flights home.
- CON: High cost of living
Despite major inequality with a large proportion of the city’s population living in poverty, the cost of living in Lagos is on the pricey side. Costs are further pushed up by a need for health insurance, private healthcare and high international school fees.
Accommodation in Lagos
+ PRO: Stress-free accommodation arrangements
As part of lucrative expat packages, employers often arrange accommodation and may go as far as covering the costs of this. Otherwise, relocation companies can also ease the house search. Often, accommodation is in gated complexes and communities with glamourous amenities that include WiFi, gyms, tennis courts and swimming pools.
- CON: Problematic electricity and water supply
Unfortunately, power cuts occur quite often in Lagos regardless of the area expats live in, and this is something they will have to adjust to. Generators and power inverters are a necessity both for doing business and maintaining one’s household. On top of this, despite the city being surrounded by water, access to clean water is low, especially in informal areas. Expats often rely on boreholes for their water supply
Healthcare in Lagos
- CON: Be prepared to look abroad
While private facilities in Lagos provide a decent level of healthcare, serious medical procedures and treatment may require air evacuation abroad, to South Africa, for instance. Expats should ensure that their medical insurance covers this.
Weather in Lagos
+ PRO: Year-round warm weather
Temperatures across Nigeria are consistently warm because of its tropical climate and geographic location close to the equator, and make for pleasant conditions year round, perfect for lazing on the beach or exploring nature reserves.
- CON: Flood risk
Not only is Lagos along the coast and affected by rising sea levels, but its long rainy season also brings many days of heavy rainfall, which could lead to flooding.
Safety in Lagos
+ PRO: Robust security in complexes
Given massive inequality and social issues, crime is undeniably an issue in Lagos. However, the complexes and compounds that expats tend to stay in will usually have armed guards, security cameras and access control. This 24-hour security helps to make expats feel safe in their homes.
- CON: Violent crime across Nigeria
There are frequent reports of kidnappings, muggings, car-jackings and armed robberies in Nigeria. Expats may stand out as foreign nationals and their perceived associated wealth may make them targets for muggings, so it's best to always be vigilant. Expats should heed advice from their employers, hosts and embassies regarding safety especially at night around the city and if they plan on travelling outside of Lagos.
Getting around in Lagos
+ PRO: Several options for getting around
Lagos is home to popular yellow minibuses called danfo as well as a Bus Rapid Transit system. For those living or working on one of the islands or wanting an escape to the sheltered Tarkwa Bay Beach, ferry and boat transport are developing and a great way to dodge traffic.
- CON: Nightmarish traffic
For expats averse to traffic, driving in Lagos will not be fun. Alongside overpopulation and increased car ownership, there are many cars on the road, poor road infrastructure and undeveloped public transport. Traffic can often come to a standstill during rush hour, and we'd recommend expats find accommodation near their workplace. Another option is to hire a personal driver – sometimes companies offer this as part of a lucrative relocation contract.
Education in Lagos
+ PRO: High-quality international school education
International schools are perfect for expats with children who wish to continue their home curriculum and meet other expat and local children and their families. Modern technology and facilities allow for the best educational experience while extra-curricular activities can develop students’ skills and interests.
- CON: Expensive fees
As is the case worldwide, international schools typically come with a hefty pricetag and stiff competition for places. Expat parents must be willing to put aside a sizeable amount of their salaries for their child’s education, though it's also worthwhile trying to negotiate this expense with their employer as part of their relocation package.
►To help plan finances, see the Cost of Living in Lagos
►Check out the Areas and Suburbs in Lagos guide if looking for places to stay
"The Nigerian people make Nigeria a nice place to live. They love to love people. Upon our arrival there wasn't one person that didn't have a smile on their face." Read Keli's interview for more insights into quality of life in Lagos.
"Although most people are very friendly, there are many very poor desperate people and robbery and muggings are common." Read Meredith's interview for more on the ups and downs of expat life in Lagos.
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
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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