How to Navigate Transport in Lagos

A Nigerian keke napep
A Nigerian keke napep | © badgalniek
Nigeria, a west African country known best for its oil production, has many diverse cultures and varied ecological zones and should be on the bucket list of any traveler. Lagos, the commercial capital of the country with an estimated population of 15 million people, is a hub of many exciting places to visit. There are several transit systems, both public and private, which make traversing the ever-busy city much easier.

Transportation network companies

Lagos has several transportation network companies such as Uber, and Taxify, as well as new local companies such as Jekalo, Oga taxi, Afro and Smart Cab. These taxi services use mobile platforms on which users can order a taxi from any location in Lagos and cabs within the vicinity will respond. A lot of Lagosians use this service and it is deemed quite safe and saves time. They may, however, be more expensive than other forms of transport, especially if you are going somewhere far. To use the service, you need to download the mobile app of your company of choice.

Local tip: Not all the cab drivers know all the destinations people want to go. Before you take a ride, ensure the driver knows where you are going or seek another cab, so your time won’t be wasted later in the journey. Also there are locations in Lagos where these taxis are not available.

Lagos city taxi

Lagos taxis can be seen everywhere and are easily identifiable by taxi serial numbers written on them and by their distinctive colors—they are usually yellow, red or painted a mix of colours. They ply the main roads in all parts of Lagos and you can hail them from the roadside. There are usually many, and you should choose the newer, well-kept cars, to avoid break-downs common to older cabs. They usually charge foreigners exorbitantly, so be ready to negotiate. Most trips should not cost more than 3,000 Nigerian Naira (around USD$8). There are also taxis at the airport, but these are painted blue and only take passengers from the airport to their destinations.

Local tip: You must negotiate with the taxi driver and have a firm agreement on price before starting the journey. If you have a local guide with you, it’s better you let them negotiate for you. The drivers sometimes deliberately rip off those they know are new or strangers to Lagos.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Lagos has a Bus Rapid Transit system, known publicly as ‘BRT,’ regulated by the Lagos State Government. The buses have their own ‘corridors’ in several major parts of the state, which means they are not usually delayed by general traffic. The BRT buses are also more comfortable and cheaper than public buses; they are also of two types, Blue and Red. The Red Buses ply major roads in Ajah, Ikeja, Iyana-Ipaja, Alagbado, which are majorly residential areas. The Blue Buses (which are air conditioned and better kept) travel from Ikorodu (a Lagos surburb) through Mile 12, the site of the largest food market in Lagos, through Fadeyi, Stadium (the location of the National Stadium in Surulere) to CMS (the location of the oldest church in Nigeria) and Tafawa Balewa Square (the arcade where Nigeria’s independence celebrations were held in 1960), which is the bus terminus. The major downside to taking BRT buses is standing in a queue to wait for them.

Local tip: Tickets need to be purchased at BRT terminals before you start your journey. Be sure of the bus stop in which you want to alight, as the BRT buses have designated bus stops. BRT buses have speakers that announce bus stops and you can press the bell when your stop is announced.

#brtlagos Transportation redefined…lol. #ProudlyNija

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Public bus (yellow bus)

Public buses in Lagos, generally known as ‘Danfo’ or ‘Yellow bus,’ are ubiquitous and travel to every part of Lagos, even to the suburbs where BRT buses and taxis do not go. They usually have destinations written on them and conductors are always available to announce destinations to passengers. Public buses do not require tickets, just cash. They are not very safe as most of the buses are old and rickety. They are also the targets of pick-pockets and petty thieves as they are usually very crowded. Prices are also irregular and depend on the distance, traffic, the state of the road, the weather and the bus owner himself.

Local tip: It is the least advisable form of transportation, but if you do travel in them, keep your money and valuables close.

Keke napep (tricycle)

Another form of transportation are tricycles, which are known as ‘keke napep.’ These tricycles are used a lot in Lagos, but only around residential areas, suburbs, and roads that are not too busy. They are also popular in large markets to move customers’ goods in and out of the market. They are presumably safe as they are not allowed on highways and cannot go at too much speed.

Local tip: It is best to avoid sitting in front with the driver as this will be uncomfortable and much more so if the journey is long or the road is bad.