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Traveling in Nigeria - Lonely Planet


There are a multitude of ways to get around Nigeria. Millions of Nigerians use various kinds of public and private mass transit options each day, ranging from taxis and buses to motorcycles and tricycles. Wherever you are in the country, you can always get to where you want to go – and often cheaply too.

For first-timers, traffic in major cities like Lagos, Benin City and Onitsha can seem chaotic but is actually surprisingly efficient. Visitors often need to adjust for a day or two but soon find themselves happily going with the flow.

Minibusses and cars are great budget options for daytime inter-state journeys, whilst coaches leave overnight for longer drives of 10 hours or more. Whichever option you choose, here’s a guide to getting around Nigeria like a local.

Busy Streets bustling with commercial activity in Ajegunle City, Lagos State Nigeria

It may look chaotic, but it doesn't take long to get used to the traffic in Nigeria © Tayvay / Shutterstock

Hop on an okada for short journeys

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To get to a destination fast, Nigerians skip the traffic on an okada (motorcycle taxi; known as achaba in the north). Motorcycle taxis are found practically everywhere – usually at dedicated spots on neighborhood streets and on main roads.

Riders will typically wear uniforms, which differ from state to state, but the most common is a short-sleeved reflective jacket. In some places, okada drives queue up like taxies in a rank; in others, it's a more rowdy affair with stiff competition for passengers, especially at rush hour. They are easy to book: simply approach any driver, or flag them down if they’re on the move without a passenger, and tell them your destination.

The Federal Road Safety Corps mandates the use of helmets, but there is little monitoring or enforcement. Other states, like Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Rivers, Enugu, and the Federal Capital Territory, have banned them outright. In Lagos, Nigeria’s most populated city, okadas are restricted to suburban areas. In Yola, in the northeast of the country, achabas are found mostly in rural communities.

nigeria-shutterstock_1635755839-RFE.jpeg

Tricycles are useful for getting to smaller neighborhoods in Nigeria © Shutterstock / shynebellz

Take a keke for neighborhood trips

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In many Nigerian cities, kekes (tricycles) complement okadas in shuttling residents around. Safer and more fun than an okada, kekes are good for short rides that last less than half an hour.

In places where okadas have been banned, such as private estates and gated residencies, kekes are the only alternative. In the northeastern city of Jalingo, there are hardly any taxis or okadas, so visitors are likely to rely on kekes. Some cities enforce a curfew on kekes. They have to be off the road at 6pm in Jos, and 9pm in Lagos.

If solo or in a small group, flag down a ‘drop’

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If you’re traveling a short distance and are either solo or in a small group, hail a ‘drop’ (a private cab or keke). Drivers “blowing empty”, as the locals describe it, are usually on the lookout for fares on the street. You can flag one down by waving your arm and saying “drop” to the driver.

Tip: how to spot a licensed cab
Although the color of licensed cabs changes from state to state, all commercial vehicles will have their license plate printed in red. In Lagos, approved taxis are yellow with double black stripes and they are light blue in Delta State. In Abuja, cabs are green with double white stripes, and they are orange in Akwa Ibom State.

Take the hassle out of hailing a cab by using Uber

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Over the last decade, ride-hailing services like Uber and Bolt have grown in both use and popularity in Nigeria. Now available in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states (and counting…), fares per mile are comparatively cheaper than a cab, particularly outside of Lagos in destinations like Ibadan, Abuja, and Calabar.

Explore the scenic (and sleepy) interiors by train

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After being abandoned for decades, the federal government is now rebuilding Nigeria’s rail infrastructure. While there is still a long way to go to connect all the major cities, there are three lines already in daily use: Lagos to Ibadan; Itakpe to Warri; and Abuja to Kaduna.

Each route takes around three hours to complete and the trains offer a view of Nigeria’s sparsely-populated hinterland and scenic landscapes that match anything you’ll see on a road trip.

Better still, sightseeing by train is smooth on the weekends too. For example, the 8am train from Lagos goes to the cultural town of Abeokuta, home to Olumo Rock, and then arrives back at Abeokuta’s Professor Wole Soyinka Station at 4pm, just in time to take travelers back to Lagos. Launched in June 2021, the trains are new, neat, comfortable, air-conditioned and punctual.

Passengers can buy tickets for economy (N3600), business (N6500) or first class (N9000) coaches. Train tickets must be booked in person at the train station.

For long-distance travel, take a flight

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Nigeria is a large country – it’s bigger than all the US states apart from Alaska – and many places of interest to travelers can’t be reached by road or rail. If a long interstate drive is out of the question, consider flying. Private airlines dominate Nigeria’s skies, shuttling between 32 airports in the country.

Most domestic flights are relatively cheap and usually only last around an hour (a little longer if there’s a layover). While flight delays are common, the first flights of the day almost always leave on schedule.

Group of people taking small ferry boat across Lagos Creek

Boats can give you access to coastal areas you might not normally visit © JohnnyGreig / Getty Images

Hire a boat to get a rare view of coastal areas

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Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, is the only state on the coast that has invested heavily in intra-city water transport infrastructure. Privately-owned companies, licensed by the Lagos State Waterways Authority, operate at least 30 routes from various jetties (Marina, Ajah, Badore, Ikorodu, Mile 12) across the state, moving thousands to and from work during the week.

Apart from the morning and evening hours, when demand is high, there are no regular schedules. On weekends, Lagosians book the boats more for leisure cruises on the lagoon.

If you plan to visit private beach houses and resorts, or even touristy towns like Epe and Badagry, you can hire a ferry boat or water taxi for the day at the Five Cowries Terminal in Falomo in Ikoyi. Boat capacities range from 10 to 50 passengers and come with drivers and assistants. Book at least 72 hours in advance.

Explore by bicycle on the weekends

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More Nigerians are embracing bicycles but tend to ride on the weekend when traffic is light. Nigerian roads don’t have dedicated bicycle lanes – not even on Abuja’s wide, tarmacked roads. Bicycle clubs organize regular rides.

Bike-sharing scheme, AWA Bike, allows riders to book and lock their bicycles using an app. It’s mainly used in Lagos with stations around the city. The best places to ride are campuses like Pan Atlantic University and Redeemer’s University, stadiums like Lagos National Stadium and Teslim Balogun Stadium, plus the Ikoyi and Victoria Island neighborhoods, and residential estates around the Lekki–Epe axis.

Transport passes in Nigeria

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Lagos is the only state in Nigeria with anything close to a transport pass. The Cowry Card works on the state’s budding integrated transport network, and can be used on the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridor, serviced by hundreds of high-capacity buses which travel on dedicated lanes.

Available from BRT bus shelters and terminals, the cards can also be used on scheduled ferry services and the newly introduced light rail (Marina to Mile 2), which is a great way to see Lagos from a whole new angle.

Accessible transportation in Nigeria

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Accessible transportation in Nigeria is virtually non-existent. The BRT initiative in Lagos – a mass-transit service that operates with hundreds of high-capacity buses on dedicated lanes, helping to reduce road congestion – is the closest to accessible transportation in Nigeria. But its seats – clearly marked for persons with disabilities – are usually taken by passengers with no physical impediments, and the buses are often overcrowded. Many of the wheelchair ramps on Nigeria’s buses are in disrepair, too

For more information on accessible travel, visit Lonely Planet’s Accessible Travel Resources page.

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