How to get around Lagos like a local

Traffic in african megacity..Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa
If you plan on exploring Lagos, expect to spend a fair deal of time in a car © peeterv / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Getting around West Africa’s most populous city can be an adventure in itself.

Residents of Lagos rely heavily on road transportation to get to the office, worship centers, markets, parties, beaches – you name it. Imagine at least 10 million residents crisscrossing the city daily and you’ll get a sense of how rowdy things could get. 

To lessen the pressure on the city’s stressed road infrastructure, the state is investing in an integrated public transport system that includes ferries and trams. Work is also ongoing on the city’s light-rail system, with the Blue Line section expected to be operational by the end of 2022. 

As the transportation options continue to grow, here are the best ways to get around Lagos.

Men on motorcycles in a road in Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria, Africa
Motorcycles are a popular option for Lagosians in a hurry © swaag / Shutterstock

Vehicles are the main way people get around Lagos

In addition to private vehicles, commercial buses called danfo power commuting in and around Lagos, complemented by taxis (yellow cabs). They are on the go everywhere, taking turns to pick up passengers in garages and bus stops. 

Three-wheeled motorized rickshaws (kekes), introduced to the city’s transport mix more than 20 years ago, are great for neighborhood shuttles, while motorcycles (okadas) are the go-to options for Lagosians pressed for time and need to get somewhere fast. (Sometimes a little too fast: they have recently been banned in some districts and major highways.) Consider the different ways you prefer to get around before you arrive in Lagos.

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Get on a BRT to get a broad view of the cityscape

The Lagos Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system allows hundreds of high-capacity buses to zoom down dedicated lanes in the metropolitan area. While not offered within the core Lekki–Victoria Island–Ikoyi perimeter, where many visitors stay, the BRT is a great way to catch a glimpse of the city and its many neighborhoods on the other side of the lagoon, preferably during the day. 

You’ll need a Cowry card to board the BRT. These are available at all terminals and can be topped up at onsite kiosks.

Why the BRT is my favorite way to travel in Lagos

I use the BRT once or twice in a week to get to Lagos Island from the Mainland. I like the convenience of going to a purpose-built bus terminal and settling into an air-conditioned bus that takes me straight to the Tafawa Balewa Square, a journey of about an hour on a good day. 

The buses provide free wi-fi and all the seats have USB phone-charging ports, which is a plus in a city where 24-hour electricity is not guaranteed. I’ll usually take the much smaller, seven-seat “First Mile, Last Mile” minibuses to get to other locations on the Island. 

I use the Ikeja and TBS terminals the most (others are in Obalende, CMS, Berger, Ajah, Yaba, Ikotun and Iyana Ipaja, plus a massive transport interchange at Oshodi). Not all departures are timed, so prepare to wait 20 to 40 minutes (and sometimes more than an hour) for the next one. Depending on distance, rides are priced between N150 and N500. 

A young man hails a taxi or rideshare service in Nigeria, Africa
A number of ride-hailing services compete for passengers in Lagos © Wazzkii / Shutterstock

Explore arts spaces with ride-hailing services

Ride-hailing services have become a fixture of everyday commuting in Lagos, and Lagosians have fully embraced them. Uber launched in July 2013, and it has since been joined by Bolt and inDriver. A few homegrown options – like Rida Nigeria and Shuttlers – have also made inroads. 

Depending on where you are in the city and the time of day, drivers can take anywhere between five and 25 mins to pick you up. A trip lasting under an hour should run you about N1500.   

Uber has recently introduced a new service, UberGo, that lets riders explore Victoria Island cheaply. It’s ideal if you wish to explore the growing number of galleries and art spaces, or go bar- and restaurant-hopping in the area.

Launched earlier in 2022, LagRide is a new ride-hailing service established by the state government. The aim is partly to ease out old, rickety commercial cabs and replace them with hundreds of new vehicles, each with security features including a dashboard camera and panic button.

AWA Bike is an eco-friendly option – but it’s not mainstream (yet)

Bicycles are common sights on Lagos Island, particularly on weekends when traffic is less. While there are no dedicated bike lanes, there is an emerging bicycling community. Lagos City Cyclers hosts frequent rides around the city, and the occasional cycling classes for beginners.

AWA Bike calls itself “Nigeria’s first bike sharing and lifestyle app” – and its founders strive to help commuters make the switch from cars to bicycles. AWA Bike has caught with youthful Lagosians and on campuses, with stations at Pan Atlantic University, Redeemer’s University and Lagos State University. 

A group of people on a small ferry boat across Lagos Creek, Lagos, Nigeria, Africa
Since a full quarter of Lagos’ area is water, traveling by ferry is a pleasant and easy way to see the city © JohnnyGreig / Getty Images

Get a scenic view of the city on a ferry 

One of the most delightful rides anyone can have in Lagos is a boat cruise from Badagry to Epe, respectively at the western and eastern ends of the state. Lasting roughly 90 minutes, this tour reveals a scenic side of the city often not always visible from land. 

Lagos is mapping multiple waterway routes as the government continues to develop aquatic public-transport options. To get a feel for what’s afoot, visit the Five Cowries terminal of the Lagos Ferry Services (LagFerry) in Falomo. For the moment, the service receives a large chunk of its traffic from residents in Ikorodu who travel back and forth to the Island for work. From Five Cowries, passengers can ride to other locations including Badore, Epe and Ibeju-Lekki. 

Peak boarding times are between 6:30am and 9am, and 3:30pm and 5pm (The waterways close at 6pm.) Trips cost N1000 on average, and you’ll need a Cowry card to get on the boats.

When completed, the ferry terminal will service key routes on the West, North and East lines linking the Island to far-off Mainland areas including Badagry, Mile 2 and Apapa.

For a trip to a beach house, hire a private boat

Lagos is experiencing a boom in private beaches, with new houses and resorts popping up along the coastline in places like Ilashe, Ajah and Lakowe. They join a long list of established spots that cater to a rising demand for weekend staycations across the city. And the way Lagosians prefer to reach them is by private boats. 

More private-boating companies than ever now ply the Lagos waters. At the CMS terminal, locally fitted speedboats ferry fun seekers to the famous Tarkwa Bay beach. For advice on booking, visit the Five Cowries terminal, or contact Lagos Ferry Services. 

Local fisherman prefer traditional boats

With water taking up a full quarter of Lagos’ footprint, river communities abound, from Epe and Badagry to Ikorodu and Badore. Dugout canoes have served these settlements for centuries, especially for everyday necessities like fishing trips. From the Third Mainland Bridge on most mornings, you can see these craft setting out on fishing trips.

Makoko, with its stilt houses on the Lagos lagoon, is quite popular with foreign visitors and international agencies; one of the pleasures of visiting is seeing everyday buying and selling happening on canoes, paddled from house to house. Local, self-appointed guides can take you on a walking tour of the community and arrange for you to have a boat ride to join in.

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