I write here not for the traveler, one who is contented with simple pleasures, but for the true coinesseurs of fine travel. When my family launched our bi-annual trip to see our family in Nigeria, I’ll admit I expected the whole thing to be a headache-ridden ordeal of epic proportions. Little did I know I was in for a dizzying array of delights! From the unrivaled collection of premium mosquito bites I acquired during the night I slept in a stalled car in the airport parking lot while Lagos experienced record floods, to the perpetual coating of red soil that graced my feet and shoes whenever I entered a car in Enugu, and even the hours-long traffic jams, the entire experience really was a treat. Every two years I experience “Naija” both as a foreign tourist and a native resident, so as joyful as some of my little souvenirs were, I know that some of you might not be out for the same keepsakes I was lucky enough to get. So listen up:
1. Carry ridiculous amounts of toilet paper and baby wipes, and keep it on you all the time. Even bathrooms in places like restaurants, clubs, hotels and airports might be delapidated or even non-existent. So don’t take it for granted that there’ll be a clean working toilet and sink anywhere you are. And definitely don’t expect there to be any toilet paper. You can use baby wipes and toilet paper as toilet seat covers (when there’s a toilet), to wipe yourself, to clean your hands, and for a million other things that you could never be prepared for otherwise. Actually this is an amazing tool for travel in any country. I cannot tell you how glad I was that I’d thought to bring it.
2. There are two things that Nigeria has more of than any other country I’ve been to: Nigerians and red soil. This red dirt will find its way into every nook and cranny of your life while you’re there, in the cities AND the villages. So lay off anything white, delicate, or stain-prone when you’re packing, and any luggage, bags, or equipment that are very fragile and/or expensive.
3. Nigeria and many other West African countries have two seasons: the rainy season, which lasts from around April to September, and the dry season, which runs from around October to March. Weather during the dry season is tough but consistent: extremely sunny and hot. The rainy season, however, is tricky: literally 86 degrees one hour, and monsoon-level rains and flooding the next. During this period, dress for warm weather, but carry an umbrella and a light weatherproof jacket, just in case.
4. Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray!!! Especially in the evening and early morning. Also invest in clothing that’s light enough to keep you cool but long enough to cover most of your skin, providing the most effective kind of barrier against biting insects. A few bites are probably inevitable, so bring some disinfectant/anti-itch cream, too.
5. Nigeria’s main electricity provider, NEPA, is notorious for shutting off electricity, often, without warning, and for indeterminate amounts of time, so stock up on non-electricity-based ways to keep yourself entertained, like books, magazines, puzzle books and summer work. Keep it on you (along with the bug spray, toilet paper, and jacket/umbrella!) in a backpack or purse. You never know when you’ll get stuck somewhere or for how long. The mystery novel I’d happened to come into that car with eight hours earlier ended up being my best friend.
6. Have fun! My most recommended spot: Ikoyi Market, Lagos; Lagos Beach; Golden Palace Chinese (!) Restaurant, Lagos.
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