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Getting around in Nigeria can be challenging. Driving is often a dangerous and painstaking affair, and though public transport is available, it doesn't come highly recommended. Most expats lured abroad to a posting in this African destination are provided with a car and driver, but it's still best to familiarise oneself with the rules of the road.
Driving in Nigeria
Most companies provide their expat employees with a car, a driver and, in some cases, a security escort. While expats are allowed to drive, most prefer to employ professionals to navigate the Nigerian traffic. Congestion in Nigeria’s urban centres can last hours and some commuters will even leave the house as early as 4am to avoid it. Other safety concerns include occasional instances of kidnapping and armed robbery, but these aren't common.
Foreigners are advised to ensure that, when being collected by a driver, they do not give their name or their employer’s name until they have verified their driver’s identification. A friendly face and plenty of distractions may lull one into thinking they have climbed into the right vehicle, only to find they are being held up, relieved of all their cash and delivered right back to the pick-up point.
Expats can drive in Nigeria with their national driver's licence for up to three months and on an international driver's licence for up to a year, after which time they are required to have a Nigerian driver's licence. Most employers can make the necessary arrangements for this.
Public transport in Nigeria
There are numerous options when it comes to public transport in Nigeria but, generally, these can be unsafe, unreliable and not recommended for expats.
Numerous bus companies operate in Nigerian cities but, again, safety is a concern due to poor maintenance of vehicles and low driving standards. While long-distance transport infrastructure is underdeveloped, there are intercity buses, such as those operated by ABC Transport.
The once-popular large yellow molue buses used to operate along fixed routes in and around urban areas, but have mostly been phased out. Now, Lagos is home to a Bus Rapid Transit System while Abuja has upcoming projects to improve its bus infrastructure.
One of the most popular means of getting around Nigerian cities are the yellow minibus taxis, known as danfo in Lagos. There is an on-going process of implementing a new system to replace danfo with more modern, larger, eco-friendly and air-conditioned buses. Meanwhile, danfo has also evolved into party buses operated by a private company – a great way to experience the nightlife in big cities.
Rail transport in Nigeria, like other means of transport, is not well established for passengers. In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), development of the Abuja Light Rail is underway. As West Africa's first rapid transit system, this train connects Abuja to Kaduna, as well as Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, and there are plans to continue growing. It's best to check the latest news on train schedules and safety regulations.
Taxis in Nigeria
Taxis are plentiful in Nigerian cities and offer a viable means of transport for expats. Taxis are either metered or have fixed fares. It is possible to hail a cab from the street, but a safer option is to phone and order one ahead of time. We suggest negotiating the fare before entering the taxi or making sure that the meter is working.
Ride-hailing applications including Uber operate in Abuja, Lagos and Gulu.
Okadas, motorbike taxis that hurtle down highways weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds, regularly transport locals in and around Nigerian cities. Although these are arguably one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get around, safety is not guaranteed. In some Nigerian cities, including Abuja, okadas have been banned from operating in certain areas or at specific times of the day.
Kekes or tricycles are auto rickshaws that provide a quick way to zip around traffic in Nigeria and travel short distances. As with okadas, some cities have bans or regulations controlling where kekes can operate.
Air travel in Nigeria
Due to Nigeria’s vast size, as well as numerous safety concerns, travel between cities is best done via air travel. The country’s two main international airports are Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. Other cities, including Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu, also have international airports.
Several international and regional airlines, such as Arik Air, offer services to and from Nigeria and smaller charter services offer transport to more remote destinations. Expats should choose their airline carefully, though, as local Nigerian airlines have a dubious record or are unreliable.
Boat travel in Nigeria
Given Nigeria's geographical nature, lying on the Gulf of Guinea, travelling by boat is an option. Nigeria's main ports are in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar. Water transport is developing, and part of this includes recent investment in ferry services, particularly in Lagos.
►For an overview of the Nigerian healthcare system, see Healthcare in Nigeria
►For more on transport and driving in Nigeria's commercial capital, see Getting Around in Lagos
"Public transport is not as connected as say in London. Once you know how it works you are fine... while I drive I also use public transport a lot and have a lot of fun on it. I love the Keke and regularly use the Motos (buses). A car gives you more independence and I drive myself here which is a lot of fun." Read more on getting around in our interview with Ann.
"I would definitely recommend owning a car and hiring a driver if you are planning to live in Lagos. The driving there is very dangerous and it helps to have a local at the wheel who knows which areas to avoid..." Find out what Meredith Salinas had to say on transport in Nigeria in this expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Nigeria?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Nigeria. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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