My name is Funmilayo Ajala and I will be sharing tips on how to enjoy and explore Nigeria by road. You see, it all starts with proper planing for everything. Budget, fares, accommodation, sight seeing, transport and feeding. It is very important to have an exact or a bit more than the exact amount of cash you will need to travel comfortably. The following will help you have an idea of what your total cost will be.
First, choose a destination. Transport fare varies for different destinations, so also is feeding, and hotel accommodations. So you need to weigh your options vis a vis your pocket size.
Next thing is to do your research. Go online and research about where you want to go. This is key. The other day, someone asked me if I would recommend driving from Abuja to Lagos? Which stops would I suggest? Well, I told her it’s all about what she wants in a trip. If you’re one with a flair for adventure and sightseeing, a road trip is perfect. But if you want comfort and luxury, just take a flight and enjoy your view of the clouds.
Next thing to do to enjoy your Nigerian travel and tour experience is to research the different tourist sites in the area. How far are they from each other? Will you need a form of transportation? Like hiring a cab throughout or you can use drop-off taxis? Or bikes?
Using Google map helps. It allows you to choose hotels that are not far from the town centre by checking the distance. You can check hotel cost estimate via Jumia travels or Hotels.ng. Again use google map to check hotel location. Check transport companies online for fare. If you are sure of your return date, do book return ticket. If not, buy one way, but make sure you have enough data credit to book online to save on early morning hassles. A very reliable company that has good online presence is GIGM. I travel with them often if I’m going their route. So try doing some research on restaurants, available food in the location, and general idea about feeding.
I do carry some food items like my coffee with creamer for my morning coffee. Hotel service differ for locations. Check if the tourist sites charge an entrance fee, if yes, do note how much. And DO include this in your budget. All of the above will give you an idea of your budget. Do budget for cabs or car-hire throughout your stay.
NOTE: There are some destinations where you cannot bike or walk to. Remember, safety first. If you are traveling on a weekend, it is advisable to book on a Wednesday or Thursday. Fridays are never good days to book hotels online, all the good hotels are gone by Thursday morning. Do book on time. Are you going to a religious area? you need to take dressing into consideration. Tradition and culture differ.
You have to respect traditions. I do make sure I have my scarf with me at all times. I might need to enter a religious place where i have to cover my head. You need to respect your host community.
Try to pack light. This is an art you have to learn. I do pack three trousers, 5 tops, a t-shirt, a kaftan, a rubber sandal & a slippers. Do not forget your toiletries. Book your bus a day ahead, and where you have options of choosing seats, choose window seats for comfort and the view.
Check if you have friends who reside at the location or anyone they know that can help with finding your way around. Yes it does help, at least about 80% accurate most of the time. If you are going to Abuja, expect about 10 hours trip, same for the South-South while South-East is about 8 hours. If you are going to the most interior part of a state where online transaction will be difficult, do hold enough cash.
On arrival, look for a cab driver to drop you off at your hotel. Notice his mannerism, if you are okay with him do collect his number. Ask him if he knows some of the tourist sites. You can ask your hotel while booking if they offer cab service of which you can negotiate price.
Show your driver the list of places you will like to visit and do agree on what time to leave the following day. Start with the farthest place so you can work your way back to town. Leave early to get there exact opening time. Do have an open mind, not everything is always 100% fine. Do your part well with your driver and the vehicle. Find out the local dishes and do try them out. You will eat rice when you get back to Lagos.
Mannerism and approach by people differ for different locations. Once again, keep an open mind for your sanity sake. Have fun, listen to the locals, ask them their names, call them by their names and they will be nice in return. Do not forget to book your return ticket, get to the bus park early, do have a safe trip.
I also have some foodie recommendations for those who’ll like to eat something on their journey. For South West, Pounded Yam with Eforiro and Bush meat; South-South, Semo with Afang soup; and for the North, Hot Massa for breakfast.
If you are going hiking or mountain climbing, dry season is your best bet. The rocks are slippery and water logged.
Regarding security, that is not much a big deal. No where in the world is totally safe. There is no period one cannot travel in Nigeria; just be security conscious. Know what is going on in the country. Even though you might experience some police roadblocks on the way, it shouldn’t bother you too much. Many of the popular bus companies are not usually stopped and delayed. They’ve probably sorted way. Maybe arrangement with police.
I have been travelling Nigerian roads for the past decade, and by God’s grace never have I encountered robbery on the road or been a victim of one.
One more thing to note, it is generally advisable to lodge in the State capitals. If you are going to the interiors, especially if you’re ladies, please do hire security men. I have hired security men when I travelled to Plateau State. I went to the interiors parts, and nothing happened.
So how much does it cost to hire security men and how do you go about it? Just walk into any NSCDC head office and ask to see the PRO, tell him/her of your plan and when you are going. There is no specific amount. It depends on where you are – your location; if you are using their vehicle; and how many men you’ll need; and finally the duration. All these factors determine how much they will charge you.
From experience, states in the Southwest are the safest, then followed by some parts of the South East like Anambra, Enugu, among others.
The North – Kaduna, Bauchi, Jos Town, are cool as well. In the South South – Cross River and Akwa Ibom are super safe, with great destinations and attractions.
Funmi Ajala was a guest on the #NigeriaTravelChat, a bi-monthly Tweetchat that inspires and promotes the culture of travel and tourism among Nigerians. #NigeriaTravelChat is hosted by Sam Adeleke.