With business travel to Nigeria on the increase, we’ve put together some advice and information to help you navigate Africa’s most populous country. We asked Angelique Buckley and Vashti Jacobs, two expert account managers from Flight Centre Business Travel, for their best Nigerian travel tips.
FAST FACTS FIRST
- Nigeria is named after the Niger River
- Population: Approximately 180-million
- Major religions: Islam and Christianity
- Currency: Nigerian naira
- 1 Nigerian naira equals around R0.46
- Capital city: Abuja
- Flights: SAA flies directly to Lagos daily
- Official language: English
Nigeria is a complex, but fascinating and exhilarating country. While the capital is Abuja, the business hub is Lagos, a bustling, challenging city that sprawls inland from the Gulf of Guinea across Lagos Lagoon.
Nigeria is mainly a cash economy, although the use of credit and debit cards is increasing – especially in big cities. If you are going to use cash, be sure to take enough foreign currency to cover costs.
As in most places across the world, it is illegal to change money on the street. Traveller’s cheques are also difficult to cash. Says Angelique: “Credit card fraud is common, so take care if using a card. If you do intend using a card, make sure you notify your bank and set a maximum limit on the card for use in Nigeria to limit the effects of possible fraud. Also, keep your card with you at all times.”
If you are looking for a direct flight, SAA has a daily flight from Johannesburg to Lagos. It does, however, arrive in the evening.
Depending on where you need to be in Nigeria, there are some excellent accommodation options to choose from, including the Southern Sun, Sheraton, Hilton and Nordic hotel groups, all of which have established relationships with Flight Centre Business Travel. Most of these hotels have business centres and complimentary internet access or Wi-Fi.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
As with travel anywhere, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Opportunistic criminals often take advantage of people who aren’t paying attention.
If you are working in Nigeria, follow your employer’s local security guidelines. It is also advisable to keep others informed of your travel plans and to vary your routines. Having an experienced travel account manager from Flight Centre Business Travel will mean that your whereabouts and itinerary will always be known.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and don’t wear valuable watches, jewellery or items of sentimental value. Keep particularly alert when you visit crowded public places or attend events that attract large crowds.
Road travel at night should be avoided as far as possible. “Traffic can be chaotic and slow-moving,” says Angelique. “Take a mobile telephone with you when travelling by car so that you can stay in touch with others. It’s also a good idea to keep bottled water in your vehicle at all times.”
Although self-drive is possible and permissible, Flight Centre Business Travel recommends you opt for a chauffeur drive, or hotel transfer or shuttle. The cities are known for being very busy and local knowledge can be invaluable. Most major hotels offer cars for hire with drivers – a convenient, cost-effective solution.
In Lagos, eating, smoking or using a mobile phone while driving, and riding a motorcycle without a helmet, are prohibited. Motorists face fines or imprisonment for violations.
There are authorised and unauthorised vehicle checkpoints throughout Nigeria. Some are for security checks, others to extort small payments of money. You should slow down at any type of checkpoint and be vigilant at all times.
“The most valuable advice I give my clients is that travel insurance is non-negotiable; I insist on it,” says Vashti.
Keep in mind that the insurance you automatically get when you buy flights using a credit card is not enough when it comes to travel to Nigeria. Flight Centre Business Travel recommends you opt for a comprehensive insurance policy through Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC), which includes provision for medical evacuation, terrorism-incident cover and pre-existing illness cover.
The cover that you get with TIC is more comprehensive and at a higher value than the insurance received through credit card purchases. For example, the medical-related expenses cover through most credit card providers is around R2-million, whereas it is R50-million with TIC.
TIC includes coverage for additional items relating to business travel, such as R10 000 to cover the cost of replacement personnel to be sent if a traveller cannot complete his or her business trip. The travel insurance through TIC, which Flight Centre Business Travel opts for, also provides coverage for missed connections, travel delays and instances in which visas are denied or travellers need legal assistance due to wrongful detention.
Getting a visa can be time-consuming. Vashti works with Blade Express in Johannesburg to arrange visas for clients. Blade Express will submit visa applications on your behalf and drop them off once they are finalised. The process takes on average 14 working days. Flight Centre Business Travel also has working relationships with visa companies in other regions, so we can assist with your Nigerian visa applications anywhere in South Africa.
Angelique and Vashti, along with all our travel experts at Flight Centre Business Travel, have their fingers on Nigeria’s pulse and can plan and arrange your entire business trip, enabling you to focus on your business.