The bus left the Coconut Grove Beach Resort in Elmina a little late. It was a 3 hour trip from Elmina back to Accra for our 1 PM flight. We arrived at the airport at 12pm for check-in to Air Nigeria / Virgin Nigeria. I have my bags weighed and I was under weight and was fine. My travel companion’s bags unfortunately were overweight and he had to pay extra. He was told to go over to the pay window to pay for his overweight bags.
He headed over to the pay window where there was an employee there who said they couldn’t take any money. It was confusing that someone would be working at a pay window and wouldn’t be able to take cash. My travel companion headed back over to the Air Nigeria line where he was told to go back to the pay window to pay and that they would send an employee over that could accept cash. We headed back over and waited ten minutes and the other person never showed.
At this point, we’re seriously stressed about missing the flight. We head back to the Air Nigeria line and tell them that unfortunately my travel companion won’t be paying as there is no one to take his money. We sprint through the line and check in and climb onto the plane.
Air travel in Nigeria is an adventure as this article in the New York Times succinctly summarizes. In 2009, Virgin Airlines withdrew their name from Virgin Nigeria citing safety and maintenance concerns. Apparently, Air Nigeria hasn’t received the memo as Virgin Nigeria and Virgin Air signs were all over the place.
I was seriously debating whether to even take Air Nigeria but ultimately the cost of their one way ticket to Lagos ($200) versus Air Kenya’s $800 ticket made the decision easier to make.
I arrived in Lagos and picked up our bags. I was instructed to show my yellow fever vaccination card before I could leave the airport. As we stepped out of the baggage claim there was absolute chaos outside the terminal. I’ve been to Moscow before where there’s a similar scene with everyone offering you cab services, but the sheer amount of people waiting here was a bit unnerving. I had pre-arranged for a driver to pick us up, but after 30 minutes of waiting and the inability to reach him on his cell phone, we decided to go with one of the random cabs outside the airport. We approached someone and agreed upon on a price to take us to the Sheraton which is a mere 10 kilometers away. As we reached his car in the parking lot, we were handed off to the driver who decided it was his turn to try and negotiate a price though we had already agreed on a price with the first gentleman. We finally agreed with the driver on the original agreed upon price.
In the Lagos traffic, those ten kilometers took 50 minutes to get through. As we were getting out of the car, the driver decided once again it was time to haggle about the price again. My travel companion, who had been to Lagos at least 10 times previous asked the drive if this was a “419” scam. “419” is local terminology for an accusation of cheating and Nigerians are very sensitive of being lumped into the pool of infamous spam emailers wanting you to wire money to them. In fact, the Wall Street Journal published an article saying that over $9 billion was lost in these scams in 2009 alone. The driver finally gave up trying to get more money and left.
The Sheraton Lagos Hotel is nice but rundown. I was given a room on the 6th floor due to my Platinum status. The lounge was also located on the sixth floor. There was free wifi in the lounge and some snacks consisting of meatballs and spring rolls.
The rest of the resort consists of a huge outdoor pool, an outdoor restaurant, and indoor Italian restaurant, a restaurant with Indian food and a bar.
Rates at the Sheraton hover about $400 a night which is well worth the price for security. In fact, all the major airlines flight crews stayed at this same hotel as I saw folks from KLM among other airlines.
The room had a nice, large comfortable king bed and a desk and chair.
As I was taking pictures of the room, I noticed the odd looking table bedside.
It looks like a spaceship panel with some strange knobs and an old school clock on it.
I’m not sure what the 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 buttons designate – but decided against trying any number of combinations of them for fear a rocket might launch somewhere in town.
As I turned on the TV to go to sleep, there were 7 channels on TV including an Africa Power channel showcasing local Nollywood films where they seem to have mastered the technique of the extreme closeup. Luckily the Rugby World Cup was on so I ended up watching several full length matches trying to grasp some of the intricacies of the rules.