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A Quick Guide to... Living and Working in Lagos, Nigeria

Posted by: Kathie Higginson

There are a lot of misconceptions about life in Lagos. Many expats who’ve lived in the city describe it as vibrant, colourful, and a huge amount of fun – yet the 2014 Economist Intelligence Unit rated the city as amongst the 4 worst destinations for expats globally, and Nigeria is known worldwide to have problems with overpopulation, outdated and insufficient infrastructure and high unemployment.

Despite all this, Nigeria is very up-and-coming as an expat destination, and a survey by InterNations found that Nigeria has more expats earning over $250,000 than any other country on earth.

Emergency Services: 112
Language: a wide range of African languages are spoken all over Nigeria: Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Beninois, South-South, Calabar, Edo, English… to name but a few!
Currency: Naira (₦), subdivided into 100 Kobo

What to Expect from your Employer
When relocating to Lagos, you can pretty much assume your company will be at least partially financing your accommodation, health insurance, flights home, education and transport. Its bad reputation would prevent most people from relocating there otherwise.

Consider getting a driver
Bribery and corruption are commonplace, and it can be difficult to deal with bureaucracy if you get into an accident. Traffic too is often horrendous. Getting stuck in traffic can push back your plans by at least an hour and expats don’t really use public transport at all. Many employers will provide a car with a driver, as driving is frenzied so you may feel more confident being driven by a local – not to mention it’s illegal to drive on a foreign license. 

Expat living in Lagos can be extremely expensive
Most expats choose to live in the most affluent areas of the city: Ikoyi (particularly the luxurious Banana Island, a man-made island), Ikeja, Apapa and Victoria Island. Ikoyi in particular seems to be where the Oil & Gas workers and their families tend to live. These areas are very safe, and residences are typically within an expat compound which will be guarded – the downside to this, sadly, is that it can be a fairly isolating experience, although if you’ve lived as an expat in other cities it may be one that you’re not unfamiliar with.

Nigerians are a friendly and welcoming people
The expat community in Lagos is tight-knit, but make sure you also make the effort to get to know Nigerians – local folks in Lagos are a friendly bunch and for the most part, welcome anyone with open arms. You’ll also find expats from almost every country in the world living and working in Lagos, so it can be a really fantastic place to meet a wide range of interesting friends.

Power and water supply problems are a regular occurrence
If possible, try to ensure your accommodation has access to generators and boreholes or you’ll be looking forward to blackouts, regularly, with no warning.

Nigerian food is amazing
If you have spent much time in Africa, or are from an African background, you’ll probably love Nigerian food. The brilliant Terra Kulture, the arts, education and food centre, promotes Nigerian cuisine and offers locally grown, traditional Nigerian fare such as ofada (brown) rice, catfish and boiled yam. For more contemporary Nigerian and African cuisine, try The Yellow Chilli where you’ll find a diverse menu with both traditional Nigerian and contemporary international choices. Even vegetarians and vegans are catered for at Veggie Victory, where chefs use tofu and seitan to create meatless versions of traditional Nigerian dishes.

Go to the cinema
You have never seen audience participation like you can expect when seeing a Nollywood film in a Nigerian cinema. Nollywood is actually the world’s second-largest film industry – behind India’s Bollywood, and in front of the USA’s Hollywood.

There are plenty of good international schools in Lagos, including the American International School of Lagos, Lekki British High School and British International School. Education is very costly and can be quite competitive, so it’s definitely worth pushing your employer for an education package if you’re moving to Lagos with children. Ask if they offer transport to and from school, too – that could come in very handy and is fairly common!

Public healthcare in Nigeria is underfunded and underequipped, even private healthcare facilities - although much better than the public ones - are probably not of the high standard you’re used to in other global locations. For this reason, for any serious medical treatment expats may find they need airlifting to South Africa or Europe. Your employer should provide medical insurance with provisions for international evacuation. If you have a prescription before your move, it will be useful to bring as much as practical with you as it can be difficult to get hold of certain drugs in Nigerian pharmacies.

Money Matters
Ensure you tell your current bank that you’re moving to Nigeria, as some will stop transactions via the country due to the prevalence of fraud. Bring cash before you’ve set up your Nigerian account as it can take a while and you may need a form of Nigerian ID. If converting money within Nigeria you’ll find the best rates with GBP rather than USD, and most business in Nigeria is still completed using cash, so keep some Naira on you at all times.

Price Guide

3 course meal for 2, mid-range 9,250.00 ₦ $28.88
Draught beer (0.5 litre) 250.00 ₦ $0.78
Loaf of bread 283.33 ₦ $0.88
Mid range bottle of wine 1,500.00 ₦ $4.68
Gas/Petrol (1 litre) 117.05 ₦ $0.37
Taxi (1 km) 625.00 ₦ $1.95
Rent - 1 bed, city centre 220,000.00 ₦ $686.96
Recent Comments
Very nice information, I was there for 1 year and totally agree with your tips
Ashit Roy, 03 October 2016
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