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A South African In Nigeria - Travel - Nairaland

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A South African In Nigeria by KLEINBASS: 9:21am On Aug 13
South African in Nigeria

Lagos is hot, humid and loud for any South African in Nigeria. Not in a tropical island sort of way really, more like you’re walking into a wall of heat and sound and you feel a little disorientated. My connotations with Nigeria before I visited the country were definitely not sunshine and roses…

Landing in Nigeria, Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos was what I had researched most ahead of my trip to Africa’s largest city. If Internet forums and reviews were to be believed, this is where I would lose all my life’s savings, luggage and dignity, so I was reasonably concerned about how my trip through Nigerian customs control would go.

Zippy yellow tuk-tuks are all over Lagos. Photo: Joshua Oluwagbemiga.

As it turns out, there wasn’t much to fear as a South African in Nigeria. The city’s airport is really just like very many others I’ve passed through. Yes, the queues are long, but have you been through Dubai? Yes, the security guards are intimidating, but have you flown to Berlin? Yes, people are pretty loud and ‘shouty’, but have you ever travelled in Africa?

After reading all the online forums and then making my way through customs myself, I can happily report that nobody has died waiting in those queues or been permanently detained and had to take up residence in the airport. So, you will make it through, just be patient and polite and wait until you’re instructed on where to go.

There is also the rumour that unless you pay a fixer to get you through the airport, you won’t make it. This is not true at all. I can assure you that the airport officials don’t want you waiting around in their halls for kicks, and are more likely to push you through than hold you back at the counters.

Travelling through Lagos
Lagos is an incredible city in so many ways. If there ever needed to be a physical testament to the survival instinct of human beings, I would probably start here. Despite poor infrastructure and terrible living conditions, there is a sense of pride in every person that I met during my trip to Lagos.

Half-built buildings sit next to huge glass office blocks, with luxe hotels dotted in between. Restaurants and roadside street food stalls all offer delicious-smelling treats and artists advertise their wares both on street corners and in polar air-conditioned galleries on Victoria Island.

It’s also a confusing city, but that’s what made it so fascinating for me. There is camaraderie and familiarity between strangers that contributes to the culture of Lagos. So while on the outside the shouting and constant bargaining and arguing can be exhausting for a South African in Nigeria, it’s all part of the city that would be rather dull without it.

Sadly, the city has very little in terms of discernible tourist infrastructure. Forget public transport, you’ll need a driver to traverse the crazy lanes of traffic and a local guide is pretty much a must if you want to really discover the city. Hire cars do usually come with a driver, and unless you’re either stupid-brave or used to the traffic, I would not recommend trying to drive yourself.

South Africa in Nigeria Kate Els
Ikoyi Island in Lagos. Photo: Kate Els.

Luckily, travelling as a South African in Nigeria for work does mean that I had access to local colleagues and was looked after from start to end. And since my trip, I have encouraged many friends and family that have been, to also ask for local recommendations from their hosts. It’s the easiest way to turn any work trip into something a bit more fulfilling, in any case.

What to see in Lagos
While it may not be easy to travel around Lagos because of the traffic, there are a number of places of interest that are worth visiting if you have the time and are in the area. I was lucky enough to cover quite a few of these, but have curated this list with some colleagues and friends that have travelled to Lagos in recent years:

Terra Kulture – An art gallery and restaurant on Victoria Island
Catch a yacht from Fiki Marina and cruise the rivers between the islands for a different view of Lagos
Lekki Arts & Craft Market – Get ready to bargain here
Nike Art Gallery – A three-floor gallery packed with local art
Lekki Conservation Centre – Get a bird’s eye view of the centre from its 400-metre suspended walkways

South Africa in Nigeria Kate Els
Curio shopping at Lekki Arts & Craft MArket. Photo: Kate Els.

Other places worth mentioning include Elegushi Beach, the National Museum, MUSON Centre, Freedom Park, the New Afrika Shrine, and Kalakuta Republic Museum.

South Africa in Nigeria Kate Els
Exploring the islands by water. Photo: Kate Els.

Eating in Lagos
Everybody that I knew that had been to Lagos said that I should expect to eat terrible food. So with that as the foundation, I embarked on eating everything I didn’t recognise. I am at least pretty adventurous with food, so at least I had that going in my favour for this trip.

What I did find is that Lagos has a heavy focus on seafood, which I didn’t expect (yes, I realise it’s on the coast). Some of the largest prawns I have ever seen graced my plates and the fresh Croaker, a white flesh fish, was absolutely delicious. I’m also sure that I could survive the rest of my life just eating different styles of Jollof Rice – a spicy tomato rice dish with seafood and sometimes vegetables – it was that tasty.

South Africa in Nigeria Kate Els
Grilled Croaker served with spicy chilli sauce. Photo: Kate Els.

I have to admit that as a South African in Nigeria with a westernised palate, I didn’t love all the food. The typical Nigerian stews are quite strong in flavour and most have the addition of a fermented shrimp paste which can totally overwhelm your taste buds. I would say try the snails if you’re up for it, they’re usually cooked in a spicy tomato sauce but can be quite rubbery. I was told Nigerians typically like them cooked to this state, and describe them as ‘crispy’.

If you’re expecting familiar Westernised food, you’ll easily find it on the hotel buffet, but it absolutely worthwhile trying a few local dishes. ‘Beef’ is also an interchangeable term for cow and goat meat, so make sure before you order so you don’t get a surprise.

South Africa in Nigeria Kate Els
Crispy snails. Photo: Kate Els.

Food is certainly more expensive in restaurants in the suburbs, including Ikoyi and Victoria Islands, that are frequented by travellers in Lagos. Expect to pay up to 2-3 times more for a meal than you would at home. My favourite restaurants were Terra Kulture and Yellow Chilli.

South African in Nigeria Kate Els
Terra Kulture in Lagos. Photo: Kate Els.

Nigerian visas, money and travel tips for any South African in Nigeria
Most South Africans are surprised to hear that you need a visa to travel to Nigeria. The sad reality is that the visa process for Nigeria is both costly and highly detailed. There is a lot of paperwork necessary and because most South Africans are travelling to work, a business visa is required.

This does up the cost of the visa, and with the assistance of a visa agency (which I would highly recommend), you can expect to pay in the region of R8 000 for the visa. This does sadly make Nigeria an unlikely leisure tourism destination for South Africans.

It is also extremely difficult to get hold of Naira (the local currency) in South Africa. I opted to take over US Dollars to cover meals and the like and exchanged this at my hotel. The rate was fair at the time and they were happy to exchange the Naira back that I had leftover when I left. Airport exchanges are notoriously expensive the world over, so rather contact your hotel in advance to see what they can offer.

When it comes to safety, there are concerns about travellers in Nigeria. Because I was travelling with a local host, and stayed mostly in higher-income suburbs, I did not feel anxious about security at any time. Yes, of course you need to take precautions and make sure not be out on the streets alone at night or flash expensive equipment, but overall I found most people were just being friendly when they wanted to speak to me.

If you travel as a South African in Nigeria, most companies sending employees over will have some policy in place with regards to security, hopefully these allow for some flexibility in terms of eating out and visiting places of interest, otherwise you’re missing out!

Have you been to Lagos? Let us know about your experience of Lagos, Nigeria in the comments below…

Categories: Destinations, Travel
Tags: Africa, Afritravel, Lagos, Nigeria, Travel, visa
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Re: A South African In Nigeria by KLEINBASS: 9:24am On Aug 13

Re: A South African In Nigeria by Amuocha: 9:41am On Aug 13
But where is lalasticlala sef undecided

1 Like

Re: A South African In Nigeria by Cletus77(m): 12:29pm On Aug 13
Thank God the op was being fair in describing the city..If Nigerians could leave tribalism and develop one city at a time, Nigeria with most Largest cities in Africa would have been massive wealth generating cities
Re: A South African In Nigeria by okeyglm: 1:29pm On Aug 13
op, why didn't you utilise visa on arrival status as an African. I think we have such for business travellers and for au countries apart from ecowas countries.
Re: A South African In Nigeria by siofra: 4:51pm On Aug 13
You don't need to be diplomatic smiley
Write trash abt Nigerians on nairaland and you will be praised
But just tribalise it and you'll know that words can kill
Re: A South African In Nigeria by Lexusgs430: 5:08pm On Aug 13
Nongo123..... See your pipu o....... grin
Re: A South African In Nigeria by nongo123(m): 11:06pm On Aug 13
Nongo123..... See your pipu o....... grin

I'm always here whenever I'm free. I might not be contributing but I'm observing.
Re: A South African In Nigeria by meobizy(m): 3:28am On Aug 14
I’ve booked this to read later.
Re: A South African In Nigeria by realestniggah: 6:38am On Aug 14
The country is trash we know.. You don't need to sugar coat it


Re: A South African In Nigeria by geloorrrrdd(m): 10:08pm On Aug 14

Your filthy brothers have turned it into a jungle with their barbaric nature of living so jungle justice they deserve. No wonder places like Lagos are such filthy dumps you people have no sense of being human beings.

I'll find you in Lagos, and i hope you repeat this in my presence.
Re: A South African In Nigeria by KLEINBASS: 10:15pm On Aug 14

I'll find you in Lagos, and i hope you repeat this in my presence.

Oh really, some comments are emotions driven. But what I can say is from my observations there is a difference between Nigerians in Nigeria and Nigerians in south Africa. If you see what the Nigerians in south Africa have turned into you will be ashamed..

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Re: A South African In Nigeria by geloorrrrdd(m): 10:24pm On Aug 14

Oh really, some comments are emotions driven. But what I can say is from my observations there is a difference between Nigerians in Nigeria and Nigerians in south Africa. If you see what the Nigerians in south Africa have turned into you will be ashamed..

Yes, i know. But y'all make it seem like all Nigerians are drug peddlers, criminals and all. Most of us find that hasty conclusion quite offensive. Well, enjoy your stay in Lagos, fam.
Re: A South African In Nigeria by KLEINBASS: 10:28pm On Aug 14

I'll find you in Lagos, and i hope you repeat this in my presence.

I condem every xenophobic action or mentality, but what gets me carried away is that most commentators condone the act of those scumbags who are painting the image of Nigeria. The truth is one bad egg in a foreign land is too many to damage the image of the country. Am guilty of generalizing some times but the truth is in a Nigerian dominant section we have a serious problem with drugs, building hijacks, scams jus to mention few..but mostly is the uniformed reporting in Nigerian media that gets me carried away

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