Private & Public Transport

Q: Can I drive on an International license?

A: No. The Nigerian police will only recognize a Nigerian issued license.

Someone in your company will be able to assist you in getting one. It is normally no more difficult than finding the right official to ‘dash’.

Many Nigerians do not sit a driving test and pay for their permits instead.  This will be evident when you see the driving technique employed by some motorists here.

Q: Can I import my vehicle into Nigeria?

A: Why would you want to? You would miss out on the whole ‘driving a Nigerian assembled Peugeot’ thing. Are you mad?

If you must bring your car, as far as we understand at the moment, the only restriction on importing vehicles is that they can now be no more than 5 years old.

Check with your shipping agent for the current restrictions and regulations.  Also, import taxes will apply and could make it cost prohibitive.  Know before you go.

Q: Is it easy to find spare parts for vehicles?

A: This really depends on the make and model of your vehicle. Most European and Japanese car manufacturers are represented here so parts for Hondas and Peugeots etc. can usually be found in abundance.

Expect to have problems finding spares for some American manufacturers especially outside of major cities. Dodge and Jeep are two that we have definitely had problems with here.

It is not uncommon to hear of people having to hand carry in clutch cables and gear boxes. Do bring a supply of the standards parts like oil and air filters. Should make your servicing a bit less of a headache.

Q: Can I hire a car?

A: There are car hire companies around town. Most offer the services of a driver with the vehicle. Ask at any major hotel. They normally offer this service via the Concierge.

Q: Everyone there seems to employ a driver. Can I drive myself?

A: You could try……. But you may need a Valium by the time you get home.

You are right. Most of us Oyibos – and a huge amount of Nigerians – do keep a driver. For expatriates, we recommend this as a security measure.

Any foreigner involved in any kind of accident is a prime target for extortion and arrest. Kidnap, assault and car theft are also not uncommon in these situations.

Anyway, the traffic is awful so why stress yourself in it? Having a driver does allow you to put the hours you spend sitting in a ‘go-slow’ to good use catching up on Facebook, reading or calling friends.

Q: How safe are the taxis and are they easy to find?

A: Not and Yes!

The Port Harcourt taxi is painted dark blue with a white stripe down the side. The Lagos taxi is yellow.

They are easy to recognize and there are normally a hoard of them parked at any major intersection.

There is however, little or no maintenance done on these vehicles so do expect them to have no lights at night or the seats not to be bolted to the floor.

Seatbelts are an unused of luxury in these cars and brakes seem to be an optional extra that no one purchased when they bought the cars.

The Nigerian way is to share a taxi in much the same way as we would share a bus, so don’t be surprised if your driver stops to pick up more passengers.

To be honest, we do not recommend this form of transport. It does leave you very exposed to robberies, kidnapping and the good old Nigerian 419.

The other option is to take a bike. These are known locally as Okadas.

Again, perching on the back of a 50cc death trap while your driver weaves you in and out of traffic whilst doing 50 miles an hour up the wrong side of the road is not really recommended if you want to reach your destination in one piece.

Helmets are often rarely worn here despite laws to the contrary and the number of fatalities involving these vehicles is high.

Q: Is public transport safe?

A: Depends on whether you think playing Russian Roulette is a party game or not.

Expect to be piled into a mini van style vehicle with anything up to 20 other people. Do not be surprised if one of your traveling companions is a goat or a chicken.

These vehicles have no air conditioning and usually nothing for shock absorbers or suspension. Expect your trip to be long, hot, sticky and uncomfortable.

Do make sure you know where your luggage is at all times. It’s quite common for the less scrupulous traveler to make off with your stuff as well as their own.

You have not really seen Nigeria until you’ve seen one of the passengers of these buses jumping out of one of these vehicles whilst it is still moving, clutching a brick defensively to their chests.

No, it’s not because he hasn’t paid his fare…….. He is charged with stopping the vehicle.  His job is to run ahead of the bus and throw the brick under the wheels to stop it. Like the taxis, brakes do appear to be an optional extra that someone forgot to buy.

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