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The growing population and rapid development of Lagos have placed a 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. While these modes of transport are an option and add to the buzzing atmosphere of Lagos, drivers can be reckless. So, most expats don’t use public transport in Lagos, rather opting to have their own car, often with a personal driver.
Driving in Lagos
Getting around by car is the most feasible option for expats, though this doesn't necessarily mean driving themselves.
Expats can drive for the first three months of their stay in Lagos with their national licence from home (or up to a year with an international driver's licence). Thereafter, they will need to apply for a Nigerian driving licence to continue driving.
Lagos roads are chaotic and congested, and while expats could drive, many prefer to employ professionals to drive them around. Expats working in Lagos may have the fortune of their company providing them with a car and a driver. This is generally the safest and most convenient option for getting around as the driver can navigate the city easily and is familiar with the local environment and road conditions.
Traffic congestion is a massive problem in Lagos, and despite 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 plan their journey well in advance and ensure they give themselves plenty of time to get to their destination – even if it's just to drop the children off at school.
Public transport in Lagos
Public transport in this Nigerian metropolis could surprise a new arrival. Infrastructure improvements for public transport in Lagos have been slow and plans to develop the Lagos Rail Mass Transit urban rail network has experienced many delays. Nevertheless, some forms of public transport are perfectly adequate.
The Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a modern bus network that has replaced some of the older molue and danfo buses and somewhat 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 stations and the buses are overcrowded, particularly during rush hour. Still, with a little patience, the Lagos BRT effectively gets passengers from A to B.
Despite the abundance of waterways in Lagos, ferries are not as popular as road transport to get around the city – this does, however, mean that heavy road traffic can easily be avoided by taking water transport.
There are regular ferry routes between Lagos Island, Victoria Island and the mainland. Lagos residents and expats can get on a boat or ferry from the Five Cowries Terminal, a jetty with modern facilities and a waterfront bar. Private boats also operate some passenger services on the lagoon and some creeks. The local government has been working to promote and invest in water transport in Lagos to ease road congestion by building several jetties.
Taxis in Lagos
Multiple taxi companies operate in Lagos; these are either metered or have fixed fares. Expats should negotiate the fare before entering the taxi, or ensure that the meter is turned on. It is possible to hail a cab from the street, although a safer option is to phone and order one ahead of time. Ride-hailing applications, such as Uber, are a common, user-friendly way of getting around 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 one of the fastest ways of getting around Lagos. 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.
Kekes are three-wheeled vehicles that operate in Nigerian cities and provide an alternative means of getting around. Also known as auto rickshaws, many local commuters travel by keke daily.
Note that both kekes and okadas have faced restrictions in city-centre areas in Lagos and on major roads. This has been met with much resistance in recent years, with drivers protesting these regulations.
Cycling in Lagos
Though bicycles were once a common sighting on the roads in Nigeria, motorised transport has, for the most part, made cycling difficult and unsafe. Lagos does not have extensive cycling lanes and the busy traffic and resulting air pollution mean poor conditions for cyclists. That said, Lagos does host regular cycling events and competitions, and expats can find cycling groups through social media platforms. There have also been pushes from these cycling groups in Lagos to create more space for cyclists on the roads.
Walking in Lagos
Many residents in Lagos get around by walking, particularly if they just have to go a short distance, but this is not to say the city is walkable. Sidewalks and pavements are not all well maintained, while crossing a road comes with its own dangers, such as vehicles that won't simply stop to let someone pass.
Sadly, the city does not particularly accommodate for pedestrians, especially by comparison with other global cities. Some new arrivals may be nervous to walk at all and prefer to travel by car, while others may enjoy strolling around areas in Lagos Island or Victoria Island. For expats that do wish to walk around the city, we recommend not walking alone at night and being vigilant at all times.