Having read many posts, I was very nervous before my first trip to Nigeria so I wanted to post my experience from beginning to end (Visa to exit), hoping it will assist others.
I am a US citizen living in Canada, white male, 47 years old. I prepared my visa application online, re-read it three times (as errors are costly to fix) paid the $180 US fee and submitted it to the High Consulate in Ottawa. I called twice to be ensured they would be open on 14 January and made a personal trip so that I could hand in my materials and be certain everything was done correctly. When I arrived on 14 January I found the High Consulate closed for Mohammed’s birthday, which was shocking, but after some persuasion I was allowed to leave my paperwork (though no guarantee of having submitted it correctly). I called the following day to ensure that everything was clear, and by the end of the month I had my visa.
I flew Arik Airlines to Lagos. As soon as I boarded I instantly felt stupid for having been nervous; there was only one other white person on board yet the other passengers (some Americans of African descent and others, but mostly Nigerians) were very friendly. The in-flight entertainment was broken, so the flight was ten hours of screaming children and I got little sleep. Nonetheless we arrived in Lagos. It was extremely hot; just sitting down I was sweaty but I am used to the Canadian climate so that is understandable. There was no pressure to bribe or pay off anyone. I was mistakenly put into the transit passenger queue for people leaving Lagos by flight; I was leaving by car for a trip to Benin which I had booked through Jemi-Alade tours, but when I told the agent I was removed from that line and allowed to go into the arrivals section of the airport.
While waiting, several employees asked if I needed to call anyone. I think there concern was genuine and don’t think they were trying to get anything from me. I struck up a conversation with someone else who was waiting, a Nigerian woman who lived in London. Once again I was ashamed of myself for having worried so much about going to Lagos when everyone was so friendly.
I was picked up promptly at 6:30 by the tour agency and driven around, but unfortunately falling asleep since I was so tired from the flight. I got a tour of Lagos which looked like a very interesting city; I wish I had stayed for at least a day to have better taste of it. I was then driven to Badagry and then onward to Cotonou, where a Nigerian tour guide took me around Cotonou. Again, her friendliness and openness showed me that my worries were definitely overdone, and she insisted that I come back to Nigeria to see more of the country, to which I am very open.
I am not posting this to say that everyone’s experience will be the same, but mine was much easier than I had expected.
One more thing--I was not asked for my yellow fever card at the airport, however upon exiting the country I was asked for it several times; had I not had it I would have had to pay a “tip” to exit the country (according to my tour guide). I know that she paid a tip to immigration in Benin when I entered, but only 1000 CFA, about $2.50.
My advice to anyone considering a trip to Lagos is to go. Perhaps you won’t find it as I did, but perhaps you will see the beauty in it.
I would add that I had a more negative experience in Ghana, where I was immediately asked for a bribe at the border and harassed twice at tourist sites by very, very aggressive people yelling at me to delete photos. I would have thought my experiences would have been opposite.
Go to Lagos.