Our towns: Lagos, Nigeria

What can we say about Lagos that has not already been said?

The infrastructure has crumbled so badly that even four wheel drive vehicles struggle on city centre roads, the phones don't work for large parts of the day and the electricity has a tendency to go off just when it's most wanted. Several times each day. It has a ridiculously high crime rate, including armed crime and there are large parts of the city that become no-go areas as soon as the sun starts to set.

That's the public perception and it's not too far from the mark. BUT.....

However, there is another side to Lagos: many of the people, especially in financial services, are highly educated and excellent company. Far from the view that every Nigerian has the sole object of scamming you, they work exceptionally hard to dispel that image. They are generous with their time and money, they are upset and embattled by the poor reputation that their country has and they want you to know the truth.

And the truth is that Lagos has some very nice restaurants and bars that are completely safe day and night; the waterfront around the lagoon is wonderful for lazy weekend afternoon picnics; you can take a boat out to an island and sit with waves gently lapping and the breeze blowing the palm fronds.

For our events, we have elected to be a little outside the City so removing the hazards of heavy traffic in the chaotic city centre. We also have the benefit of being close to the airport, making it easy for visitors to reach the event.

You should give Lagos a try: you never know - you might have your opinions changed. We did.

Arriving in Lagos

International Airport code: LOS
Full name: Murtala Muhammed Airport

Money changing: no ATM in airport.
Bank and Bureau de Change in international terminal
(Note: unofficial rate is often much better than official rate for easily convertible currencies but beware- such services are illegal and counterfeits often surface.
There is also a post office in the terminal.

There are often long queues at immigration which has a complex process.

Visas: there is no visa on arrival for citizens of many countries including much of The Commonwealth. Visas must be obtained in advance of travel (or airlines will refuse carriage). Visas are obtainable at Nigerian overseas missions.

Baggage reclaim: it is at this point that you will start to come into contact with local scam artists. In some cases, they will have read the names off cards held by greeters and will be chancing their arm by calling out the names. If that produces nothing, they will start to call out the names of international companies, hoping that at least one person on the flight is from that company. DO NOT accept any offer of help, even airside of customs, from anyone whose identity you cannot verify. We have seen some of these people operating air-side of immigration. Be extremely cautious that the person you meet is the person you agreed to meet.

There are no facilities for pick up at the exit through Customs. Assuming you have arranged a pick-up, you will have to walk to the car which may be several hundred metres away. Much of that walk will be over unmade path or car park. There are no trolleys and the wheels on your bag will probably not be able to cope.

As you walk, you will be hassled by money changers and hawkers. Your driver will probably not take your luggage: he needs his hands to swat away nuisances.

If all this sounds awful, it's pretty much normal across much of the developing world. And it's not as bad as it sounds so long as you expect it.

Our venue is a resort hotel and so you will not need to leave the hotel unless you wish to.

Leaving Lagos

Like several older African airports, there is a customs check before check in. Picking your way through various routes at the correct time is quite difficult. The trick is to identify the uniform that the real workers wear, and then do as they tell you. Don't presume that everyone is trying to make a bid for you to follow them (it seems like that the first time!).

Customs is thorough and your bag will be hand searched, and you will be questionned as to items that interest the officers. He is not causing you hassle to get a bribe; he is doing his job.

After Customs, you have to take your own bag to hand it over to check in. Again, going in the correct direction can be confusing: ask which way to go.

Immigration is a breeze as you leave.

The terminal was undergoing extensive renovations when we were last there in mid 2007. If the work has been completed in the style that it looked as if it would be, then there is likely to be a very pleasant place to hang out. Some parts of the terminal are very crowded and noisy. Shopping is very limited.

Telephones:
land lines are poor and unreliable.
Internet is slow but generally reasonably reliable. Depending on the connection, VoIP from your laptop may be a better bet than a landline.
Mobiles: standard dual band GSM. Signals are good but congestion can be bad. Sometimes it can take a couple of hours to get an SMS away or a call through, if you use a local card. NB: many mobile providers do not have roaming agreements with Nigeria and your own phone may well not connect.

International dialling code: +234
Lagos city code (0)1
IDD (outgoing overseas calls): 009

Time Zone: GMT + 1

Health: sexually transmitted diseases are rife. Don't put yourself at risk.

Vaccinations: many countries require you to have various vaccinations if you have travelled from Africa within the previous 14 or even 30 days. Check with immigration at your next landing point before you start your trip, and in time to catch up with any vaccinations you may require including any incubation time that might be advised.

©2010 The Financial Crime Forum