I consider myself an O.G of road travel. I’ve been travelling by road for as long as I can remember to many parts of this country (except the North, I’ve only ever been to Abuja). Fun fact: my first trip alone ever, was in 2013. I travelled from Portharcourt to Lagos for my secondary schools inter house sports. Back when I was younger it used to be family trips to Bayelsa or Abuja from Portharcourt. Those kinds of trips when you charter a whole car, cook some food have it well packed in thermal heaters with snacks and drinks stocked up. You had company on the trip, siblings to play and fight with and parents to act as cushions when you fall asleep with no strangers. Funny now I think of it, except for the occasional times when we all flew together to our destinations, my dad never traveled by road with us, dude wasn’t down for that. Those glory days of getting a full car service and travelling in comfort may be over but my road travel days aren’t yet (they are numbered though). The holidays are coming and I’ve been thinking and planning my trip down south and I thought to share some starter pack tips to ease your time on the road. Because between Nigerian motor companies, the bad roads that only keep getting worse and just being stuck in a car/bus with strangers for hours on end. We need all the help we can get (group hug guys).
These are the 10 things you need to know and get right to ace road travel in Nigeria
Find and Use the right transportation company.
This is one of the most essential things, you are only playing yourself if you don’t get it right. I’m usually of the opinion that you can always get good or as good for less (yes, I’m a cheap skate). You know, the fact that something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s bad and vise versa. But when it comes to Nigerian transport companies, you want to go with the more well priced, almost expensive ones even. Less is not more with this people guys. The expensive ones are usually the more household names and more popular brands. They are usually safer, more conscious of their brand identity and customers which translates to being more cautious and the buses are definitely more comfortable. You are going to be on the road for hours, the least you can be is comfortable. Read about the top five transport companies in Nigeria I wrote about here. Before your trip also find out where the transport park is, what time the buses leave and if you can book ahead.
You’re going to be on the road for hours, you’ll need to be in touch with people. Those you left behind, those expecting you, the family needs to know you’re safe. You absolutely should not go on your trip without powering your devices. You need it to communicate and you’ll need it to keep you company. Also while on the trip you need to be cautious of your battery usage. You do not want your phone dying up on you halfway through the trip.
While traveling you’ll meet an interesting pack of people. You could get lucky and meet someone you connect with or a nice seat partner who you can have interesting conversations with. If that’s the case, good for you or if you’re like me who just wants to get to my destination with as little interactions as possible you need to be prepared to entertain yourself. So come prepared in your easy to reach hand luggage with a book, a headset for music, download games on your phone or apps to read on (watch battery), a kindle is your best friend on a trip if you have one.
Snacks are an essential.
You need to pack snacks to chew on along the way and some water or drinks. I usually don’t advise eating proper cooked food throughout the trip because while on the trip you can’t just stop if you want to use the restroom. There are a select number of times and designated places the bus stops for passengers to refresh themselves and eat. So if you eat and your tummy’s reactions aren’t aligned with the bus stops you will be what, on your own. Also you can’t really account for the hygiene on the rest stops even where the buses stop, so it’s just safer to play safe. Hence the need to pack light snacks. Peoples stomachs and digestive systems are different so it’s not a hard and fast rule just advice from experience. Observe your body and do what works for you.
If you’re going on a long trip, this tip is most especially for you. Naija roads are bad, parts of your trip is definitely going to be uncomfortable so help yourself and dress for less stress. Road travel is not the time to dress to the nines, you’re not meeting your future husband on the bus IJN. And this is not to say you should look like a skrep (slang for tardy) .
My go to is usually comfortable sweatpants and a shirt or a simple maxi gown always. And if my hair isn’t made or I’m currently in the wig-life phase I carry my cornrows out for the trip.
Carry extra cash.
Going on a trip via road travel is not the time nor place to be pro cashless policy. First off, you will probably have to pay your transport fare with cash, very few transport companies have cashless options. You might also want to buy things on the road to snack on or as you pass by certain small towns you might see things that interest you being sold on the roadside. It’s just good to be prepared cash wise. There’s also the fact that you can get stranded on the road by these transport companies and you’ll just have to fend for yourself. Trust me, I’ve had the craziest experiences, read up on my #RoadKill series. You will also need cash to convey yourself from the bus park when you arrive to your actual destination.
Get a good night’s rest and set that alarm
In Nigeria, road trips to farther places are usually in the morning or evenings. So you’re either doing a day trip or night trip. And not all companies do both, very few do. For places that are a lot closer to travel to depending on your location (say 5-6 hours or less) you should be able to find cars going multiple times at different times of the day. So for long trips, the day trips are usually boarded from 6:30am to 9:30am. It depends on the transport company, number of passengers available and how many buses that are heading to your location (which is also dependent on the number of passengers). The evening works almost exactly the same way but with the time difference. So depending on when you’re travelling you need to be well rested and set alarms so you know when to leave home and get to the motor park in order not to miss your bus.
Be prepared to be delayed
Punctuality and Nigerians are inversely proportional. Just set your heart to have zero expectations of this and you’ll be fine. Be prepared to be delayed before you leave, after during, everywhere. By the bus company, by the passengers, by the road, by the car, by everything humanly possibly. The expected time for your arrival that you’ve set down, yes that time bump it by a couple hours. Have you tampered down your expectations, yes you honey, don’t be unfortunate darling and set it further by a few hours for your own peace of mind. Because what’s a Nigerian road travel experience without being delayed.
There is no such thing as being too careful and that’s the attitude you need when you travel by road. You have to be cautious of what you eat while traveling, what you buy on the road, the traders on the road, your luggage, your gadgets. Always make sure you’re watching when bags are being loaded on-board the vehicle to ensure yours is loaded. You don’t want to hear stories that touch when you get to your destination. You have to be cautious of the driver, is he alright, is he sleeping, is he drunk, is he over speeding and speak up if you’re uncomfortable with anything. Most cars carry the motor company emergency numbers, find it and call the company to report anything if need be. You can’t be too cautious with your life.
Sharpen your haggling skills
Traveling by road can be fun. You stop in different places to buy food, you see hawkers and traders sampling goods as you pass different communities. If you intend to buy things on the road learn to haggle so you don’t get cheated. Also in some motor companies, you might be asked to pay for your luggage if it’s considered “excess” luggage by their imaginary metric. And they will charge you obscene rates so you need to learn to haggle and go toe to toe with them.There is no standard rate for it or any way to measure what passes for excess luggage hence the room for “pricing”. This doesn’t happen with all com[companies but with a majority of them honestly.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
It’s Nigeria, we are all mostly moving mad here hence the need not to prepare yourself mentally. You just never know with these people. The vehicle can break down on the road and you find out there’s no spare tire. Police can decide that’s the day they want to be crazy, though to my knowledge, they usually do not disturb brand name vehicles from transport companies. It could be crying babies in the vehicle or overly chatty passengers or a surly driver. You just never know. Read how I was left stranded in the middle of a bush in Edo state during a trip.
With all these haven been said you’re ready with all the information you need to have a decent enough trip. What are your experiences with road travel? Will you be traveling for the holidays, how will you be going? Have I scarred you off travelling by road?