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Lagos lies in southwest Nigeria on the coastline looking out into the Gulf of Guinea and consists of the mainland and several islands divided by the Lagos Lagoon and its creeks.
A West African hub for financial and economic activity, the city is also home to Nigeria’s famous film industry, Nollywood. As bustling and exciting as Lagos can be for new arrivals, living in Lagos carries both challenges and opportunities.
Living in Lagos as an expat
Many expats moving to Lagos have a less-than-flattering idea of life in this burgeoning Nigerian city. Lagos has been considered as one of the world’s least 'liveable' cities, largely in terms of political and social stability, safety and access to quality healthcare. The city is fraught with overpopulation, deteriorating infrastructure and sweeping unemployment rates. Traffic and pollution problems are also ever present, and severe crime rates certainly should not be looked upon lightly.
Nonetheless, Nigeria’s financial and economic capital has sizeable American, Indian, Filipino and Lebanese communities, and expats continue to move here. So, if life is so bad in this mushrooming urban centre, why do foreigners continue to uproot and relocate to Lagos? The answer is simple – money. Lagos is a city driven by the promise of wealth and work opportunities.
Lagos is the business hub of West Africa, and it claims some of the region’s largest and most impressive banks, ports and markets. Multinational companies, many of them mining the oil-rich Niger Delta, have made Lagos their regional headquarters. Massive corporations are continuously looking to lure foreigners to the city with lucrative expat packages.
It follows that expats offered a job in Lagos should expect not only a significant salary that more than makes up for Nigeria’s hard-to-ignore hardship ranking, but also a handful of accompanying perks. If a company does not outright insist on financing accommodation, health insurance, a driver and car, flights home and education, expats should make sure to negotiate allowances or an appropriately inflated salary that covers these costs.
Living in Lagos is not necessarily the nightmare it’s chalked up to be. Many expats take solace in the tight-knit, though slightly insular, communities they form within their carefully secured compounds and places of work. But there are also so many opportunities to socialise outside of these spaces given the host of social clubs, buzzing nightlife and cosmopolitan city lifestyle Lagos offers. Upscale beach resorts, trendy restaurants and cocktail bars abound, while expats in search of a bit of culture can watch a dance performance or attend an international concert at the National Arts Theatre.
Cost of living in Lagos
Though it may be surprising to many, the cost of living a typical expat life in Lagos is sky high. Inequality is rife – while a significant proportion of locals live in slums, the wealthy embrace life in glamorous mansions and large modern houses in affluent neighbourhoods and areas such as Ikoyi and Victoria Island.
Private hospitals offer a decent standard of care, but comprehensive health insurance that includes provision for medical evacuation is a must. Such a comprehensive policy can be expensive if not taken care of by employers, as can the cost of international school fees, so a bit of negotiation is key if these aren't initially offered by an employer.
Families and children in Lagos
While Lagos is probably not the very definition of a child-friendly city, parents should note that – with the right resources – they will nevertheless be able to ensure a good quality of life for their family.
A number of excellent international schools can be found in Lagos. Though fees are high, parents can rest easy knowing that their children are receiving a top-quality education.
There are plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy on days out. Visit the ecotourism project of Lekki Conservation Centre for some nature, or spend some time at The National Museum Lagos, which gives a window into Nigeria’s history and culture.
Climate in Lagos
The tropical climate in Lagos makes for long, hot summers. Due to the city's location in the south of Nigeria, high humidity can also be expected, although Lagos thankfully doesn't quite reach the soaring high temperatures that can be found elsewhere in the country.
Despite the inconveniences of power and water supply problems and adjusting to the culture shock of life in a bustling, congested African city, many expats report that life in Lagos is vibrant, colourful and fruitful. An open mind and a sense of adventure can go a long way toward having a good experience of expat life in Lagos.
►Get some top tips on finding Accommodation in Lagos
►See some of our pros and cons of moving to Lagos
"Keep an open mind and bring your patience. If you are relocating to Lagos then keep positive and surround yourself with people that enjoy life here in Lagos. It will make a world of a difference and allow you to get out of our comfort zone." Read more in our interview with Keli.
"If you choose to go to Lagos, think of it as an adventure. If you enter into this journey full of doubt, you will miss all of the amazing opportunities there." Check out this interview with expat Meredith Salinas.
Are you an expat living in Lagos?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Lagos. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.