Are you thinking of travelling to a place where you can sunbathe in scorching temperatures close to 40 degrees centigrade this Christmas? Are you looking for a place where you can enjoy delicious African cuisine, ice-cold beer, and transportation for less than $1? Are you looking for a place with zero snow, zero earthquakes, zero hurricanes, zero volcanic eruptions and zero riots? Are you looking for a haven where everyone who serves calls you Chairman (or Madam, as the case may be) and treats you like royalty? Then look no further – Nigeria is your ideal travel destination!
Nigeria is a vibrant counrty which is located in West Africa close to the equator and boasts of a population of about 150 million people – but never fear, there’s plenty more room for tourists! One of the great things about my country is the warm reception you get when you arrive at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, literally. There is no air-conditioning. Whilst you wait for your luggage on the ‘sushi’ conveyor belt, the blistering heat helps you to burn a few calories and to prepare you adequately for the sunny outdoors.
When you exit the international airport don’t be alarmed by the eager unlicensed taxi-drivers who grab your luggage – they’re only trying to help ease your burden. They may want to test whether you’re familiar with the Nigerian way by charging you like they would an aristocrat. All you have to do is to start your negotiation at half his price and work from there. They may also want to engage you in some ‘small-talk’ because we’re generally very chatty people. Do take advantage and get to know the hotspots around town so you can plan the best way to enjoy your stay. There’s a whole range of hotels to choose from, depending on your taste and your budget.
After you’ve had a good night’s rest in your air-conditioned room and enjoyed a generous helping of yam and egg-stew at your affordable hotel, you will be ready to hit the road (or hit the bed again if you had too much yam). Make sure you carry along a bottle of cold water to hydrate yourself during the course of the hot day. Getting from A to B is easy. Go to the nearest bus stop and listen carefully to the destination being screamed out by the bus conductor – otherwise, your 3-minute journey into the next town could become a 3-hour journey into the next state. Alternatively you can save a lot of money by just waiving your hand at the oncoming commercial motorcylists and shouting ‘Okada’. You’ll soon be whizzing through traffic jams whilst enjoying the humid breeze.
The first sensible place for you to go to would be one of our many hospitals. Why? You would need to get anti-malaria treatment so that you’re rest assured of not having a restless holiday. If your’re squeamish about taking injections then there’s tablets that the doctor can prescribe. Pre-treatment is far more recommended than buying a couple of Baygon or Raid sprays and fighting an uneven battle with the non-relenting population of mosquitoes. Wear long trousers at night when you’re outdoors if you want to keep those legs spotless and to avoid being mistaken for a former military officer with an involuntary reflex – ‘Attention!’.
There’s so much to see and to do, especially if you’re in Lagos. If you’re in its capital, Ikeja, there are many malls and eateries that could entice you. If you decide to go to Victoria Island you could tour The Third Mainland Bridge – the longest bridge in Africa. You could also see the magnificent toll gate structures at Lekki Phase 1 and these should be operational by the time you make your way over to Lagos so get your petty cash ready. The are so many shopping complexes and food markets boasting of unique bargains so I’m very confident you’ll find something worthwhile to buy (Remember the 100:50 pricing rule!).
There is a sense of security in Nigeria as you will notice the unprecedented number of checkpoints virtually every 5 miles of your journey by road. We even have a saying, ‘Police is your friend’. They may stop your vehicle but all you have to do is smile, stay calm, lock your doors and ignore any requests other than producing your driving licence and vehicle particulars. That said, some habits you may want to abstain from (but are by no means limited to) include: Walking in dark alleys late at night whilst talking on your mobile phone; Arguing with a gang of drunk Man U fans when you’re clearly a fan of the opposition and; urinating on walls that have ‘DO NOT URINATE HERE’ boldly printed on them.
You would be surprised to learn that our internet connectivity has gone from ’good’ to ‘good grief!’ but recently the introduction of Wi-fi has elevated the browsing experience by a big notch. Just ask your hotel receptionist for the password and you’re wired in. And for those Blackberry users most of our telecom providers have made affordable BIS available to the pubilc. You don’t have to carry so much foreign currency since there are Mallams in the black market who could strike a good deal, although I would recommend dealing with banks as they do not exhibit normadic behaviour. Most of the retail outlets in the city have Point of Sale terminals which accept foreign credit cards…point of correction, foreign VISA and Mastercard credit cards. Sales assistants call the attention of supervisors and delay you when they see an American Express card.
Do try any of our renowned beaches which include the critically-acclaimed Bar Beach, the breathtaking Tarkwa Bay, the mysterious Alpha Beach and the mesmerizing Eleko beach. Nigerians know how to party too. You have a choice of painting the town red at any of the nightclubs on the island or mainland – yes, we uphold the ‘Happy hour’ tradition but not so much the ‘Dancing on the bar’ tradition. But if you’re more interested in souvenirs then you can find ethnic memorobilia in City Mall, Ikoyi if you want to leave Nigeria with a traditional caftan or blouse and wrapper. Our array of woven head gear is also a must if you are going for that regal look. By the time you’ve maxed out your credit cards, gained a tan and picked up a bit of the lingo, also known as ’pidgeon english’, you’ll be sad that you had to leave.
This is the unique experience that awaits you. This is the life that so many expats enjoy but may be keeping from you.
This is My Nigeria