Distances across Africa are so vast that public transport is simply inadequate for getting to where you need to be. With car hire so affordable these days, you can experience the amazing diversity of a country like Nigeria which is impossible by air. It’s the ideal way of exploring destinations across Africa, such as Lagos.
Driving in Nigeria
The roads in Nigeria are surprisingly good, although the liberal use of the horn by fellow drivers can come as something of a shock to begin with. Horns are sounded when descending or climbing a hill, turning corners and approaching intersections, as well as to greet friends and acquaintances, so it can get pretty noisy.
Also be prepared to swerve or brake at a moment’s notice, especially in cities like Lagos, where the ubiquitous taxis drop off and pick up passengers anywhere and everywhere.
A bustling city
Lagos is Nigeria’s leading city and the biggest metropolis in Africa. It’s a city of contrasts if ever there was one, offering a uniquely energised experience with its busy street life, colourful markets, friendly people and delicious cuisine.
Its streets are heaving 24/7 and African rhythms beat from every corner, so if you close your eyes for a minute and just smell the omnipresent spices and listen to the street chatter and rhythmic melodies you’ll feel you’ve been transported right to the heart of the Dark Continent. In fact it’s a complete misnomer, dark only when applied to the ignorance of Victorian explorers and merchants eager to exploit its natural riches. Open your eyes again and they’ll be assailed by brilliant colours at every turn.
Get a guide
Once you get to Lagos it’s best to leave the car at the hotel and take a private chauffeur-driven tour of the city. Not only will this avoid you becoming lost in one of the dodgy neighbourhoods, but a guide is essential for getting the most out of a visit to this hectic, heaving city that seems designed to suck all visitors into its great maw and not allow them out again. It’s one of its many excitements, in fact: that excitement with a touch of danger experienced in many big cities, European ones included.
A few attractions…
There are plenty of great attractions here in the swirling rush of humanity, including the National Museum with kits cutting-edge displays on Nigeria’s eventful and often bloody history. Oba’s Palace is also a great place to visit here. It has been the king’s residence since 1630 and was actually built by the Portuguese colonists to protect the city from surrounding tribes and the forces of other European powers.
The colonial style of many of the buildings in Lagos is a constant and salutary reminder of this country’s past and the role that rapacious European settlers took in exploiting it for their own ends. The National Museum is fittingly housed in an old British building on Awolowo Avenue close to Tafava Balewa Square. The famous Benin Bronzes that were once housed in the royal palace at Benin City are now on display here, as well as terracotta and bronze sculptures of stunning workmanship from various periods of the country’s past.