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Callilope: 5 Lessons Lagos Public Transport Will Teach You



dreamstime_l_47367131This is no handbook or manual, instead these are just facts on how to survive while taking public transport in Lagos.
Lagos is pretty small but the distance from the island to Mainland is allegedly the same distance from Lagos to Benin (no jokes). I once heard a story where a dude went to drop his friend who was travelling to South Africa at the airport and was still on 3rd mainland bridge when the friend called to say he had landed in SA #TrueStory.
I’m sure people who work on the Island and stay on the Mainland can relate to this article.

We often see JJCs (Johnny Just Come) who are visiting Lagos for the first time think this commute is a piece of cake. But when they experience it once or twice, they begin to sing a new tune.

Leaving your Mainland abode by 4:30am and getting to work by 9am is the easy part. Finding your way back to the Mainland is the hard part. So all you wannabe Lagosians, please pay close attention to the following life lessons from using the public transport system in Lagos.

Know Your Route
Like everything in life, you need to know what you want. In this case, know where you are headed. When you get to the bus stop, shout it loud and clear that you are going to Lekki phase 1 bus stop. Not Lekki Phase 2, Lekki Estate and definitely not “Somewhere in Lekki.” You need to know the exact bus to enter so you don’t get lost and then go through the stress of tracing your steps back. Ask your neighbours, ask relatives. This will go a long way in helping you locate your intended destination. I once entered the wrong bus and o boy it was not a funny experience. This happened because I had stayed too long at the bus stop and all I wanted to do was just get home by hook or crook. So, I suggest you are calm, calculative and alert when you find yourself at any bus stop because in Lagos, Rush hour is war hour.

Recognition Is Key
Some people won’t recognise what they want even if it slaps them in the face. This kind of attitude would not work in ‘Gidi. I pride myself on being able to recognise at least 5 of the many danfo buses and even the BRT ones that ply my route daily. So whenever I see or even hear them, I prepare myself mentally, emotionally and physically. Familiarise yourself with the type, colour and even the make of buses going your route. It’s not as hard as it sounds trust me. It’s pretty easy. In fact take a week to observe so you get conversant with it and not miss it.

The Yoruba saying “Elemi lo ma last” which means “Only the strong survive”, best sums up the Lagos transport system. Even though things have gotten easier with the introduction of BRT buses and private cab services, people like us who still have to use danfos and Okadas have to be cut throat. Nothing in life is going to be handed to you; you have to take it by force. Out of the 1million people at the bus stop, there is a chance that 50% of them are going your route and it’s just a 14 seater bus in sight and you’ve been waiting at that bus stop for at least 1h30mins. This moment cannot pass you by. It is shove or be shoved. At the same time, please keep your bag and valuables close to avoid stories that touch.

Be Street Smart
I’m yet to meet someone who will successfully define what being street smart means. But if i was to give it a go, I’d say being street smart is being street smart. You can’t always play by the textbook. When on the street, you have to be extra perceptive. You should know when to run, when to hide, when to walk, when to talk and when to just keep your mouth shut. Tap into your inner agbero. Hell, this is Lagos. You need to learn how to enter into a vehicle in motion, and also protect your valuables all at the same time. It’s easy, oyinbo people call it called multitasking.

‘Forming’ Won’t Get You Anywhere
If you are prone to ‘forming’, the Lagos public transport system is not for you. Examples abound of guys while forming for girls, passed their intended destination because they could not scream out OWA! when the vehicle approached the bus stop. Or of girls who in the act of forming could not do the same because they didn’t want the other passengers to hear their strong tribal accents. So if you feel the bus conductor would strain himself trying to hear you speak, or mind that you and that fine girl have been maintaining eye contact since you boarded, then you are on your own.

Congratulations, JJC. Having assimilated these tips you are now on your merry way home. All you have to do is contend with the 4 hour traffic, don’t worry you’ll be fine, no one ever died from too much go slow. WELCOME TO LAGOS.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Billkret

Callilope is a fun loving Coca Cola junkie, Unrepentant foodie,Marathon movie   'watcher', in-the-closet OAP, Media enthusiast and PR Consultant calling things like she  sees them. She blogs at www.


  1. Kike

    October 28, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Loooool. “Tap into your inner agbero”. I was really laughing out loud.

  2. A Real Nigerian

    October 28, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    “Lagos is pretty small but the distance from the island to Mainland is allegedly the same distance from Lagos to Benin (no jokes).”
    What is this? Who wrote this?
    That statement is utterly false and ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as this article which was written just to suck up to entitled Lagosians who feel they are special just because they come from or live in Lagos.
    “wah wah wah the city of hustlers”
    “wah wah wah if you can survive in Lagos you can survive anywhere”
    “wah wah wah in Lagos this, in Lagos that”

    • Puzzles

      October 29, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Guy, wetin be your own? What she said is the truth! I spend a total of 6 or more hours to and fro in traffic in Lagos every day! No joke!

      Abuja is more relaxing. Wouldn’t mind if Lagos becomes like that (I wish)

      “entitled Lagosians”? Na so e dey pain you? Besides, why do some people (I said some) who were not born and brought up in or do not live in Lagos feel intimidated when they see those who are Lagosians? I’ve noticed this when I went to uni and served in other states.

      Truth be told, no place like Lagos in Nigeria.

      Eko oni baje o!

    • femi

      October 29, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Wouldnt say much about other points you have raised, but in all sincerity if you can survive Lagos you can survive anywhere in the world, even Favela in brazil ! Am a JJC too my fourth month actually.

  3. Exotique

    October 28, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Leave your house by 4.30am and get to the island by 9am? Wait 1hr30mins for a bus? its not that bad surely. Atoke, I was surprised to see that this article is yours. You have done better darling…..

    • Atoke

      October 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Sorry, it was a glitch in the system. It’s been rectified now.

    • labelle

      October 29, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Yes it is very true, I left my house by 5 am(Ijaiye -Mainland) one morning and didn’t get to the office (Adeola Odeku -Island) till 10:30, the traffic was bad…. I have waited 2 hours at a bus stop before….there was no bus… its not funny at all….there are days like that…..

    • Ready

      October 29, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Abeg, person wey no know no know. I spend 3 hours from the island to the mainland…that’s a norm for most who live in the suburbs of Lagos. You definitely can spend 4 and half hours from the mainland to the island. Is it the norm? No, but it definitely happens way more than you would like. On those days, even bosses and bankers calm down.
      When trailers can’t purchase fuel from Apapa ports and they park on Eko bridge and Mile 2-ish which then causes back up to major connecting roads like Ikorodu road and Oshodi/Apapa expressway….please believe that you’re spending hours on a standstill.

      Overall, this is pretty good! Does a good job of covering the basics of Lagos transport for the public bus user (not BRTs or cabs). Whenever Lagos starts its madness–December and its associated events (including I must marry this year weddings) is almost here, and the traffic is getting worse. Airconditioned metro buses to the rescue!

  4. Bim

    October 28, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Word!!!! i don’t know where y’all live but i an totally relate. The hustle was too real for me when i was working at Yaba and staying at Ajah. if i dare leave home anytime past 5:30 i’m not getting to work till 8 or past 8..i even thought about writing a blog series on my daily danfo experiences…that thing is not funny at all. Everywhere is far from everywhere in Lag (traffic considered)

    • Live sensibly

      October 29, 2015 at 12:28 am

      Have you considered living on the mainland since you work there? You would reduce your stressors by half.

  5. bruno

    October 28, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    ask how much before u enter a bus.

    alway hustle for the front seat. sitting five five at the back, is not fun.

    during raining season, avoid the seats near the windows. some of the windows on danfo buses dont close, so when lagos rain is falling (heavily as usual), if u are unlucky and u sat beside a window that doesn’t close, rain will beat u well well inside the bus.

    be careful when u are entering a bus or going out of a danfo bus, cause those buses dey tear cloth.

    • Me

      October 29, 2015 at 8:09 am

      Omg I laughed out loud.. Your thoughts are so true

    • mrsb

      October 29, 2015 at 9:44 am

      lmao! u got everything right. a lot of my clothes were damaged due to comin out of a danfo dat will refuse to stop completely before u get down. lagos danfo drivers and conductor are a special breed, in their own league of madness.

  6. iwalewa

    October 28, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    I can relate too. I woke up 5.25 am and y’all need to see d rush. I knew I would get to d office sis and I left d house same time.she was going to ijebu and I was going to vi .I was still on 3rd mainland when she called dat she had gotten to ijebu. Of course no forming for inside bus o. If u form,driver go carry u pass ur Busstop

  7. L.U

    October 28, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    I tapped into my ‘inner Agbero’ today o. I was passing a lonely road this evening around 8.30pm and this dude was now following me one kain. I ran for my dear life and hand bag. Lagos has thought me a lot the best of which is learning how to stay calm even when I have been in traffic for 3 hours and I’m already an hour late to work.

  8. Madre mufasa

    October 29, 2015 at 2:13 am

    Great work ajoke, this brought a smile to my face,
    Your writing is really refreshing, a few advice to the bn team as your editorial/ad sales grow please work on your response ticket, deciding to remove your mobile communication is not a smart move, I’d suggest a customer operative man’s the line that can be sent your bdm/ba/editors etc depending on the request #my2cents

  9. olekanma

    October 29, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Lagos! Lagos! Lagos!
    Waking up as early as 5am to prepare to go to court on the island from the mainland. I got to the bus top to board a brt bus by 6:30 and STOOD, finally got to my turn by 7:14. The traffic is a story for another day. I got to court late only to find out that the court wasn’t sitting. All that stress for nothing!! I am yet to recover sleep wise, patiently waiting for the weekend.

    • mrsb

      October 29, 2015 at 9:46 am

      6.30 ke? mainland to island? u don late be that

  10. hawt stuff

    October 29, 2015 at 11:22 am

    You forget to mention the Keke Marwa drivers. Always weaving in out of lanes like as if they are trying to maintain a pattern.

    Also if the danfo follows”one lane”, omo no shout oh. Unless you wan sleep inside traffic and u no get where u wan go.

    Make sure you collect your change from conductor because he’s not Microsoft Outlook, he no go set reminder to give you back. If you come down without collecting your change, OYO is ur story especially if na ur last card…lol

    no go dey form pos by pressing ur expensive Iphone6 or Mac book inside bus, Keke napep of Okada unless you are in a charitable mood. Duh, haven’t u noticed d horrible looking phones most public transport users bring out when dey want to recieve calls? Even d theif no go gree collect am because the 2nd hand value is wort nothing. If you no get cheap phone, mute ur calls until u reach a safe place.

  11. Chinma Eke

    October 29, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Lol! Also, the bus driver and conductor aren’t people to test your assertive skills. You’re better off reasoning with them than arguing.

  12. Chinma Eke

    October 29, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Also, this is so away from this article, but I’ve met some pretty nice traffic police recently I just want to give a shout-out to them. Nigerian police can be nice if you meet them with niceness.

  13. beauty

    October 29, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    If you’re slim, do not, I repeat do not sit between fat people in a danfo bus. Always try to get a seat near the window, it helps especially if the person beside you forgot to shave their armpit…Always take a scarf to wrap your arms whenever you w3ear sleeveless especially during hot weather to avoid sweat from touching you…people can like to gum others ehn…

    • frank teacher

      October 29, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      OH that!
      I have a Naija public transport induced OCD, I dey tell you.
      what is a scarf! I wear the sweat cloth, and change to the main one on getting to my destination, word to the wise

  14. Didi

    October 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    LOL… Nice one. Another piece of advice people, please avoid private cars posing as Taxi, most of them are 419er looking for a scape goat. I got into one recently. I had just come out a Dstv office along Ogunlana drive and i wanted to get to the Stadium with any available Keke napep in site. Along came this rusty green old Peugeot. The driver screamed out Costain. He looked harmless and elderly like somebody’s father so i didn’t feel threatened, i thought since it’s along my way i might just enter. Oh did i mention there was some skinny hunger looking dude as a passenger in front too? Anyways after i got in, the driver pleaded with me to have my N50 change with me. Then he began to say he was going to Lagos island to go carry some good and he would not like to stop illegally cause he didn’t want the area boys to pounce on him. I wondered to myself, why is this guy saying all this long story; for the fact i told him i wanted to stop at the Staduim, obviously there was a bus stop there and it shouldn’t be a problem.. We hadn’t even gone far, after the bridge at the Masha, just by Mercy Eneli, the dude in front said he wanted to alight. The so called driver who didn’t want to stop anyhow except for bus stops, stopped! The skinny dude came down and began to walk away without paying. The driver then screamed out to him to come back which he did and apologies. He then pulled out an envelope with a few notes of Dollar bill and gave one to the driver. My brother, my sister immediately I saw the dollar note i jumped out of the vehicle and stood staring at them. A male commuter who also caught a quick gleams of the dollar note stopped in shock and began to wonder as i beckon on him to see what just happened. Immediately the skinny guy jumped into the car and they both drove off. Hmm…. this is my testimony oh……..This is Mber month people we are all need to be careful. These ruthless and evil people are out on the road again. Be vigilant.

  15. Brown

    October 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm


    • Dee

      October 30, 2015 at 8:14 am


      Anonymous conductor circa 2014, i think

  16. hmmmmmm

    October 29, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Eko oni baje, You got love lagos

  17. Lol

    October 30, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Eko o ni baje oooooooo. O baje ti!!!! #fasholaplscomeback

  18. Tsola

    November 1, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Nice 1. Always dread going to lagos bc of the traffic. Am sure this piece will come in handy. Thanks muse

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