Driving in Nigeria (especially Lagos) is somewhat unique, vaguely resembling driving in Cairo. If mastered, you should however be able to cope in most other countries. While driving in Abuja is relatively decent due to regularly maintained roads, it still doesn’t compare with roads in more developed countries.
Many roads are bad. Expect potholes of every size, and that, except on the highway, people will drive on the wrong side to avoid potholes or other bad patches of road. Sometimes entire roads are non-existent, so be prepared for anything.
Grass or branches on the road means there is a broken down vehicle ahead of you, be careful.
If you are white, get used to Nigerians shouting at you as you pass by. It will be something like “Oyibo”, “Oniocha””MBakara”, “Bature” or “white man”. It all means the same, they are just telling you to smile as you pass.
Self-driving for short-term visitors unfamiliar with the roads, especially in Lagos, is by no means advisable and could actually be quite foolish, perhaps even dangerous. You could easily wander into an area or a road block set by local gangs. If you choose to rent a car, it will come with a driver familiar with the area and style of driving, which is the easier and safer option.
Police may try to take fiscal advantage of you as a foreigner. If you wish to drive yourself it is advisable to stick to the rules, as you will be an easy target for police officers to “fine”. These are not real fines, they are payable directly to the officer in cash – without a ticket or a receipt. Even if you obey the traffic rules, police will find some petty reason – like not indicating your intention to drive straight. Should you be pulled over, do not give your license, as you will then lose all bargaining power when negotiating the “fine”, which could easily be a maximum of all the visible cash you have on you at the time. Rather, carry a copy of the license and hand that over, or show your license through your window. Also, do not let the police get into your car. They are not really dangerous, but it could get expensive and certainly annoying. However, if you just don’t pay and remain calm, it only costs time. They have no real power over you.
Especially over weekends and festive times, it is common practice for police, especially in the richer areas of Lagos, to flag you down and wish you happy weekend/holiday/Christmas/Easter/sunny weather/trip to work. In this case, you did nothing wrong and they do not intend to “fine” you, but are rather asking for a tip. If you insistently yet politely refuse to give something, they will eventually let you go. Just wish them a nice weekend/holiday/etc. too.
If you work for a big company in Nigeria, you will usually have a company driver to drive you around, thereby avoiding the abovementioned problems to a large extent. He can arrange a local driver’s license for you should the need arise without a driving test or proof of foreign license.
Nigeria is not part of the most standard international Road Traffic Convention and as such will require a special International Driving Permit (valid only for driving in Nigeria, Somalia and Iraq) (if you do not want to get the Nigerian license), not the normal one applicable to almost all other countries in the world.
The last Saturday of the month is Sanitation Day in Lagos and Kano, when the locals clean their premises. While it is not illegal to be out on the street between 7:00AM-10:00AM, due to the higher than usual presence of police officers and road check points, most Nigerians choose to restrict their movements until after 10:00AM. Should you be caught at this time, you may be taken away by the police to perform some “public sanitation” duty, like mowing lawns, etc.
After having being abandoned for a long time, rehabilitation of rail services in Nigeria are finally in full swing. Helped by Chinese investment several new lines are expected to open in the next few years while older lines are renovated. While still much slower than flying, it is now possible to travel across the country by train. Nigeria Railway Corporation is the sole operator, this might however change as the government mulls liberalization of the railway sector.
Lagos and Abuja now have almost daily connections with cities in the interior of Nigeria such as Ilorin, Minna and Kaduna, with Lagos even offering a once-weekly sleeper service all the way north to Kano.
Arik and Aero Contractors have scheduled domestic connections with modern aircraft and reasonable prices. Their websites are user-friendly and well updated. In Lagos, the two domestic terminals, while next to each other, are about 4-5 km (of road which would not be wise to walk if you don’t know the place) from the international terminal, and you would therefore need a taxi to get from the one to the other, should you wish to transfer from an international flight to a domestic one.