Can you really not get insurance to travel there?
February 11, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Nigeria: Lagos: So just how dangerous is it to go there these days? There is a possiblity that I may need to go to Lagos for work for a week or two later this year. Is this a bad idea?

Has anyone been to Lagos in the last couple of years? All i run across is loads of rather scary stories from people and mostly you know circa 2005. I don't imagine its changed much in just 5 years but thought I'd ask.
posted by mary8nne to Travel & Transportation around Nigeria (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From the Australian travel advisory site (i.e. it's up to date information):
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Nigeria at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack and risk of kidnapping, the unpredictable security situation and the heightened risk of violent civil unrest. The security situation could deteriorate without warning.
  • If you do decide to travel to Nigeria, you should exercise extreme caution.
  • You should avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to the riverine area in Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers (including Port Harcourt and Bonny Island), Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Anambra States in south-eastern Nigeria because of the high risk of kidnapping, armed robbery and other armed attacks against foreign oil companies in the area and localised conflict and violent civil unrest. Militants have declared “all out war” in the Niger Delta region, warned of further kidnappings and attacks and threatened to resume attacks against Nigeria’s oil industry from mid-September 2009.
  • If in spite of our advice not to travel to these areas, you decide to go to or stay in these regions, you should ensure you have adequate and continuous close personal protection from a professional security service. The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular services to Australians in these areas may be severely limited.
  • Militants have threatened to carry out bombings in Nigerian cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu and Port Harcourt in retaliation for the deaths of hundreds of people in clashes in north-eastern states in July 2009.
I would go, but only if you are confined to the "safe" areas of Lagos and you have a professional security detail of some kind.
posted by jozzas at 8:14 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know someone who went there recently and was robbed of most of his possessions (laptop, luggage, etc.) before he left the airport. I would not advise anyone to travel there, but if you do, get cash for bribes and secure it to your body.
posted by mattbucher at 8:25 AM on February 11, 2010

I was last in Nigeria in December of 2006, so my information may be somewhat dated. The best source on the web is Oyibo's Online. Register for their forums so you can see all the latest security info. There is also lots of great advice on that site.

General advice: Make sure someone from your company is meeting you at the airport. Know that person's name. You may get met by someone else before customs, but ask that person who they are taking you to. Do not offer your name or your company's name. They need to identify themselves to you.

Passport control and customs are a pain in the arse and give you a pretty good idea of what to expect for your stay. People will try to cut in front of you. The authorities will ignore you or try fleece you. Have nothing valuable in your bags. Smile, act dumb. When they ask 'do you have something for me' tell them no. Mean it. Scoff if possible.

Once you get with your driver, check his ID, you'll have a long miserable crazy drive. After that it gets easier. I found Lagos, even in 2005 and 2006, pretty safe. (In Port Harcourt we went everywhere with two armed escorts in our vehicle and, if it was a long drive, one or two other vehicles with 4-8 armed escorts. In Lagos, I just had a driver.)

If you're only going to Lagos and you can take sensible precautions, I'd go. It's an interesting experience and a pretty fun town. Bring US Dollars or Euros. Do not use a credit card anywhere. In Lagos, we went out to bars, restaurants and generally had fun. I felt quite safe visiting Lekki Market, leaving my driver in the car and wandering around doing a bit of shopping by myself. I attracted a crowd of people trying to convince me to buy stuff, but that just helped in my negotiations with other vendors.

Your profile says your a man, so expect a lot of attention from the local girls in bars. They don't leave you alone no matter how politely, or rudely, you ask. Best way to deal with it is to buy a couple of them a drink, tell them to nurse it and to sit and talk to each other while you talk to your mates. Don't take them home, no matter how drunk you get.
posted by IanMorr at 9:10 AM on February 11, 2010

mattbucher - how recently? The Lagos airport has really cleaned up over the past 5 years and I have not heard any horror stories of that sort since about 2005.

I live in Ibadan (1 1/2 hours north of Lagos). Lagos is a bit chaotic, but has cleaned up a lot in the past under its present governorship and is almost pleasant these days. There's even a KFC there! (Don't count on any other major familiar Western brand but Coke/Pepsi though...)

Good advice from IanMorr. Your company should really hook you up with a driver though. I would never risk seeking out a taxi upon arrival at Lagos airport, in spite of what I said above.

When you enter Lagos from other parts of Nigeria, you see a statue of 3 men and any pidgin-speaking Nigerian will tell you they stand for 1) "Shine your eye" (keep on the lookout) 2) "No form moogoo" (Don't be an idiot) and 3) "Make you smart-o" (don't be mentally slow!). Good advice for any big city, really.

Come to Lagos! Don't believe the hype, but rest assured you'll go home with a story or two that will raise a few eyebrows, which you can exaggerate and help to perpetuate Nigeria's awesome reputation :) I joke.

Feel free to MeFiMail if you have any specific questions!

Oh ya, and you CAN get insurance.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2010

pick_the_flowers, I just checked with my brother and I guess it was 2004. How time flies. Sorry for the misinformation. Wish I could delete my earlier comment. He did get the treatment IanMorr mentions above, but with the laptop customs officials said there was an import tax on bringing in electronics (said fee was more than the laptop was worth) and he would need to go to a room two floors below to pay the fee, cashier was closed for the day, how bout you just pay me directly, etc. For what it's worth, same thing happened in N'Djamena, Chad, in 2005. There are also some helpful "user reviews" of the Lagos airport here.
posted by mattbucher at 10:00 AM on February 11, 2010

I'm hesitant to tell this story because, you know, a bunch of horror stories doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to be a victim to crime. All places can be dangerous, just take the regular precautions, etc etc.
However, a friend was robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight, in a not-too-bad part of Lagos this past November. I personally wouldn't go there.
posted by pintapicasso at 10:10 AM on February 11, 2010

this previous post is the fun side of Nigeria we don't get to hear about so often. I include it to encourage you to visit.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2010

I'm American and I've spent a lot of time in Nigeria, close to one year probably, but off and on; months at a time. Lagos, upcountry (Abuja) and out in the bush. Wonderful place.

Murtala Mohammed Airport (where international flights arrive in Lagos) is run by Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria; my impression is they were very efficient and professional, so you're not going to have any problems there.

The only issue I ever had in all my time there was once on departure the metal scanners were broken so a line of folks manually inspected all your luggage, carry on and stuff to be checked, in front of you. They wore gloves and were the equivalent in terms of service as anyone you'd come across here in Europe. Nicer actually, as they were curious about white folks and we had ourselves a rather pleasant chat. I only mention this as an issue as you might not want someone pawing your stuff, but considering the alternative I was fine with it.

What are your specifics? Most businesses down there will understand and help you arrange transport & hotels. Some of the banks I was working for would send a driver, while others set me up with a "trusted" service.

Same thing for hotels; if you book directly you'll pay much, much higher rates than if a local business books for you.

I was comfortable doing money exchange on my own, but you might not be. Your driver will do it for you but expect him to cream a little in the spread and a tip as well; not a problem as you'll still make out better than the foreign bank rates if you purchase before you go.

When I travel through Africa I always carry a small bag under my shirt, passport, health passport (you do have one of those, right?) go in one pocket, couple thousand in each currency -- Euros / US Dollars / British pounds in other pockets. You can do things with foreign currency down there, but bring small notes, US $100 bills, no more than fifty pound sterling notes and twenties Euro notes. Know your rates and be prepared to haggle.

Malarone for malaria, don't mess about with the two week types of prophylaxis (can't recall the names); too many health complications for me. As long as you're there less than 90 days you'll be fine (and I went longer once). Start two weeks before departure, continue one week after you return.

Avoid the spicy food as YOU WILL CRY it is so damn spicy !

Victoria Island is where you should stay, even if you're working in the financial district. Traffic is very bad, so leave for work early, return late. Avoid the Sheraton close to the airport even if its convenient.

If your hosts were like mine they won't like you walking about alone; never stopped me but your comfort level might be different. Prepare to be stared at if you're out and about in some parts of town. Don't worry about it, experiences such as that gave me one of my most treasured ideals - everyone should be a minority once in their lives!.

People are very nice there, especially so if they know you're in Nigeria to help them develop or otherwise do business in their country. They realise a developing nation is trying for most from the developing world, and genuinely appreciate the effort.

Don't believe everything folks tell you second hand about Lagos.

True story: I was walking through the financial district and there was a large hole that I just didn't see. Large as in about five feet deep. I was giving a presentation, rushing from one bank to another, reading my speech on index cards while walking as fast as I could as I was late and I'll be damed if I don't fall into the hole, hit my head and was out cold.

Woke up with a very, very worried crowd around me. They'd pulled me out of the hole, collected my personal belongings (two cells phones, credit cards from the shirt pocket, notebook computer, etc, etc) together and gave me water. Very nice people. I wear a high end gold Rolex (GMT Master II Model 16773) and nobody touched it or any other of my possessions. Several sat with me for about ten minutes then helped me on my way. They gave me some water which made me sick as hell a few days later but that was ok; they would have stripped me butt ass nekkid and left me in that hole if even 1% of what folks say about Nigeria is was true.

There are assholes everywhere just as there are nice people everywhere.

Nigeria is different in that I'd suggest, based on my time there, folks in general are far nicer and more considerate than in Europe or North America.

Its a developing nation to be sure, and there are distinct cultural differences that you'll have to adapt to. But I loved my time in Nigeria and wouldn't hesitate to return.

MeMail if I can help more !
posted by Mutant at 1:04 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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