How to get the most of Nigeria, for less

Traveling in Nigeria can add up fast – yet there are ways to save your naira if you know how the locals roll.

Cost-cutting is an everyday reality in Africa’s most populous country. Nigerians will go the extra step to get more for every kobo they spend, whether buying breakfast or finding a taxi.

Here’s how to make the most of your budget when you’re traveling in Nigeria.  

Daily costs

  • Hostel room: $5.50 
  • Basic room for two: $22.50
  • Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from $50
  • Public transport ticket: $.50–$1
  • Coffee: $3.50
  • Sandwich: $4.50 
  • Dinner for two: $28 
  • Beer/pint at the bar: $1.15

Pre-arrange your ride from the airport

Arriving at any of Nigeria’s international airports can unsettle the savviest travelers. Brace yourself.

When you step outside the terminal, you’ll find a crowd of people milling about: families and friends of Nigerians returning from a trip abroad, plus a host of cab drivers and forex agents trying to get the newcomers’ attention. The cheapest and least stressful way to leave the airport is to pre-arrange your pick-up with a local.

If you don’t have such a connection, count on a rideshare app (Uber or Bolt), or negotiate with one of the licensed drivers on the ground who take turns to woo and board patrons. Depending on the distance from the airport to your hotel, a “drop” will cost between $11 and $23. 

Catch a reasonably priced ride in a three-wheeled keke to get around town like a local © ariyo olasunkanmi / Shutterstock

If you’re looking to connect with the locals, get on a keke 

Once you’re settled in, your next challenge will be to figure out how to get around. Reliable ride-hailing apps operate in many Nigerian cities – yet if you’re looking to make the most economical commute, painted minibuses (popularly called danfo in Lagos) and three-wheeled taxis (called keke almost everywhere you see them), both of which are stationed at designated garages and bus stops, are the way to go. The standard way to pay is with cash in the local currency. Note that many states are restricting or even banning motorcycle taxis – okada – so avoid them.

If you have a free couple of hours and wish to see a typical day in Lagos, get a Cowry Card, pre-load it with cash and get on one of the BRT buses that shuttle between Lagos Island and the mainland. You can use the same card on the Lagos Rail Mass Transit, which travels between Mile 2 (Lagos Mainland) and Marina (Lagos Island).

Passengers on the platform at a train station in Lagos, Nigeria
Taking the train is an exciting and cost-effective way to get between major cities in Nigeria © Atfie SahidMY / Shutterstock

Take the train to go sightseeing in Abeokuta 

It’s now possible to travel between some Nigerian states by rail: the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) operates three train services, with tickets bookable online. The popular Lagos–Ibadan service operates two daily departures; a hit with Nigerians, it is one of the best ways to go on a sightseeing visit to historic Abeokuta. Even though it’s slightly more than you’d pay for a shared taxi, it’s still a budget-friendly way to get out into the country.

Save on lodging by booking a room on campus 

Travelers in Nigeria usually overlook hotels and guest houses on university campuses, where rooms are not only comfortable but cheaper than what you’ll find at most commercial hotels. The UNILAG Guest Houses, for example, have contemporary decor and offer a serene setting and splendid views of the Lagos lagoon. If you’re in Ibadan, book a stay at the University of Ibadan (UI) Hotel. Babcock Guest House in Ogun State is a new option for campus lodging, 

Hostel accommodations are scarce in Nigeria, though most cities still offer affordable rooms. While there is no sliding pricing for high and low seasons, the best bargains at hotels are the typical 10–20% discounts offered on weekends (with double rooms going for around $23).

Two young women eat roasted corn at a street stall, Nigeria
Street food and buffet options from a buka provide cheap eats all over Nigeria © i_am_zews / Shutterstock

Try out local delicacies at a buka

When Nigerians need to eat cheap, they stroll to the buka kiosk around the corner, where a buffet-style assortment of local delicacies – jollof rice, fried rice, ofada rice, boiled yam and eggs, and fried plantain, plus a range of soups – is on offer. For a decent sit-down experience, slightly more expensive fast-food restaurants such as Chicken Republic and The Place will be your best introduction to Nigerian staples. 

You’ll find the cheapest rooms in mission-run guest houses

In the Middle Belt and further north, you’ll find the cheapest rooms in guest houses run by missionary institutions. At these typically not-for-profit establishments, the furniture is basic but comfortable, and a few have hostel accommodations. In Jos, consider the ECWA, COCIN, TEKAN and EYN guest houses; in Abuja, the Pope John Paul Catholic Centre or Church House Hotel are worth a look.

Women walk on a rope bridge in the canopy reserve at Lekki Conservation Foundation, Lagos, Nigeria
Join a hiking group to get exercise, nature and camaraderie all in one © Dumbra / Shutterstock

Go hiking for next to nothing

If you enjoy hiking on your travels, you’ll find many opportunities to do so in Nigeria. A growing number of hiking groups – such as Mantrek and HikeNation in Abuja, and the Hikers Trail in Jos – offer camaraderie along the trail, with a two-to-three hour excursion costing just $1.75.

Begin your sightseeing on campus 

Nigerian campuses often boast visitor attractions, including Instagrammable sculpture gardens, with tickets costing around an almost nominal $1 or less. At ABUAD Inn at Afe Babalola University in Ado Ekiti, you’ll be within walking distance of the institution’s exemplary farm, and you can request a guided tour. 

The University of Ibadan zoo and botanical garden are quite famous with non-resident visitors. At Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), which also has a two-story guest house, a tour of the AG Leventis Museum of Natural History is a subtle introduction to Ile-Ife (Osun State) and Yorubaland. At the University of Ilorin, you can get on the institution’s canopy walkway, stare at the surrounding tropical trees and listen for birdsong.

People on the beach at Tarkwa Bay, Lagos, Nigeria
The scene at public beaches like Tarkwa Bay is lively indeed © Alucardion / Shutterstock

Make a day of it at a public beach

Beaches – many of them charging an admission fee – line Nigeria’s southern coastline, with Lagos offering the best oceanfront experiences. Yet Lagosians who don’t want to pay a premium just to feel the sand under their feet pile onto Tarkwa Bay Beach, Elegushi Beach and Oniru Beach, among others managed by local communities. If you want to connect with the city’s spirit and don’t mind crowds and loud music, these are the places to go.

Hunt for bargains on souvenirs at an open-air arts-and-crafts market

You won’t get better bargains on souvenirs anywhere in Lagos than at the Lekki Arts & Crafts Market. In Abuja, the place to go is the Arts & Crafts Village, which reopened in 2023 after a years-long hiatus. The Jos National Museum is one of the few federal culture establishments with a souvenir shop where you’ll find affordable art and functional crafts. In Kano, visit the Kurmi Market for leatherware and the Kofar Mata for indigo fabrics, made in traditional dye pits.

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