Arriving on an international flight at Lagos airport can be a real test of one’s patience. Grin and bear it.
Most flights from Europe, plus SAA, arrive in Lagos in the early evening, and the airport is hot and chaotic. For that reason don’t wear thick clothes and take a good book to read in the queue.
Through immigration, take a car hire with a driver from one of the big names in the arrivals hall. There are dozens of touts offering taxis - ignore the lot of them. You can also exchange money at the bureau de change in the airport. Touts are, again, outside, and to be avoided.
The roads are incredibly congested most of the time and the driving is poor. So, sit back and let the driver fight it out. The airport is in the north of the city, where there are a lot of businesses, industrial concerns, all the airlines and the Lagos State government. If that’s where you need to be, it is a 20-minute drive from the international terminal – or possibly an hour in heavy traffic.
Hotels in Ikeja include the Sheraton, currently undergoing a complete face lift, with great new rooms, the Protea Hotel Select Ikeja, two Ibis hotels, and a couple of Best Westerns.
Downtown Lagos, which is Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Lagos Island and Lekki, is where most of the business activity is located, and consequently the main hotels, restaurants, bars and other leisure spaces. To get there, your driver will take you across the Third Mainland Bridge, which is one of only two routes from the airport to the south of the city. Although it is the better of the two, it is incredibly congested during peak hours. Even at 05h30 the bridge is clogged going south, and in the afternoon the traffic starts building up going north from 16h00.
Down in the south of the city, there are many hotels from which to choose, from the gigantic Eko Hotel in VI to the small boutique-style Wheatbaker and George hotels in Ikoyi. It’s best to choose a hotel within easy reach of where you are doing business, because of traffic. Global and regional brands such as Radisson Blu, InterContinental, Best Western, Southern Sun and Four Points by Sheraton all have a presence in VI and Ikoyi, and you should expect to pay anything from $300 upwards per night, with breakfast extra.
There are also several very good small, independent hotels, such as La Cour and Bogobiri, which offer value for money, but not the extensive facilities of the ‘big boys’.
All the big hotels have a variety of dining experiences – both the InterContinental and the Eko have Chinese restaurants - and buffets serving Nigerian and ‘foreign’ dishes are popular. Make sure you try the buffet at the Southern Sun Ikoyi. Eating out is expensive, but the portions tend to be large. Try Talindos for great steak, Ocean Blue for fish, Chinaville for Chinese, Lagoon for Lebanese, and Churrasco for Brazilian. For more casual eating and drinking, try Shades (a new sports bar with big screen) and Crust&Cream (restaurant and patisserie).
To get around the city, take an air-conditioned hired car from your hotel. There are yellow taxis cruising the streets, but their cars are awful. Whether in a hired car or a taxi, you have to know how to get where you are going, as most of the drivers don’t know street or place names. The concierge desks in the hotels are there to help.
On the way out of Lagos in the evening, leave five hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time, to be safe.
At the airport, queues to check-in for the USA and European flights can be lengthy, but if you only have hand baggage you can normally ‘prioritise yourself’, if you know what I mean. There are lots of business class lounges airside, most of which take Priority Pass. I like the SDS one on the ground floor and the ASL one upstairs. If you can’t get into any of them, the Heineken lounge is nice and has free wi-fi, along with (paid-for) coffee and beer.
W Hospitality Group, Lagos