Get ready to bake. It’s hot or humid in Lagos all year round. Not warm. Hot. Only from mid-December to January does the city cool off, when the Harmattan winds bring a plague of dust instead. When you arrive at the airport, have your sunglasses and hat ready. And skip the airport taxis: you’ll have to walk an unreasonable distance in the heat to get to their lot, sweating buckets. Plus, airport taxis are can be a little worse for wear, with unreliable air-conditioning. Get an Uber or Taxify, and ask your driver to crank the AC up to the max.
Pay tribute to a local legend. First-time visitors to Lagos must make a pilgrimage to the New Afrika Shrine, a monument to the city’s best-known musical ambassador: Afrobeat pioneer, activist, and all-around legend Fela Kuti. In the 70s and 80s, Kuti taunted Nigeria’s military government with his hugely popular music. Stung by some pointed criticism, in 1977 the army general sent 1,000 soldiers to raze Kuti’s compound and self-declared republic, which housed his family, band members, recording studio, and a nightclub. In 2000, Kuta’s son, Femi, built the New Afrika Shrine in the spirit of his father’s original base, not far from the old premises in Ikeja. Now, it’s a shrine to Kuti’s life and an open-air club venue with a lively program of music, gatherings, and good times. Come for the education, the atmosphere, the snacks, the drinks made from local herbs—and really fat blunts.
Get your bearings. Lagos is a city of two halves, linked by three large bridges. The Island, along the Gulf of Guinea coast, is where you’ll find Forbes-listed billionaires, major corporations, overpriced stores, and the historic core. The landlocked Mainland is less wealthy and more densely populated, with seas of tin-roof buildings. Each side has a distinct feel. Islanders have better restaurant options and less congestion, but lack the sense of community on which Mainlanders pride themselves. Mainlanders like to think they have more soul. (This is, of course, sort of a generalization, but you get the idea.)
Gorge on rice. As a born-and-bred Lagosian, I’ve eaten a lot of rice in my time: it’s our unofficial national dish. Recently, inflation has sent the price of rice skyrocketing, but this hasn’t made a dent in demand. We eat rice every day, and you should too, in its many forms: white, basmati, ofada (rice in ground pepper stew) and of course, the West African staple and ancestor of jambalaya, jollof—rice spiked with tomato, spices, and Scotch bonnet peppers. My go-to spot for jollof is Ghana High—a typical buka, or hole-in-the-wall street food joint, near the Ghana High Commission. Get it with asun (diced goat meat seasoned with onions and hot peppers) or chicken wings.
Go cashless… The Central Bank of Nigeria has recently (better late than never!) developed a taste for tracking money, actively campaigning for people to use bankcards instead of cash. There’s even talk of making supermarkets card-only, a truly novel concept here. You’re better off carrying less cash anyway, because the conversion from most international currencies would leave you with a brick-thick wad of Nigerian naira notes. Eating out, paying hotel bills, and going to clubs, you’ll be fine with international cards.