THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR A SHOPPING TRIP TO LAGOS ISLAND MARKET
Oh the famous and infamous Lagos Island market, I have concluded I have a love and hate relationship with this place, that’s the only explanation of why I keep going back.
This market is located in the heart of Lagos Island, it’s a central place for shopping, links both the mainland via Eko bridge and the Island via Onikan ring road. It’s a place where you can find absolutely anything. From the most expensive jewellery to the cheapest fabric, Lagos market got you. It’s also popularly known as Balogun.
Growing up my mum worked in a bank, which was located on Martins street, right inside Lagos Island. Anytime she took me to her office on weekends I knew it was inherently a shopping trip. We bought everything there, from foodstuffs to my Cortina school shoes to Christmas outfits for the entire family, my mum knew all the routes and stalls. I grew up knowing this area like the back of my hand.
When I got older and could go myself it was a breeze. I knew how to haggle, how to deal with street urchins, how to politely decline vendors all up in your face and lots more. The last time I went there about two weeks ago and I decided I needed to make a post about the almighty Lagos market that everyone seems to dread.
So here is my ultimate guide in 11 points!
1. GO EARLY : To avoid traffic, parking hustle and get good prices, go early. Lagos is synonymous to traffic, you don’t want to be stuck on CMS road for hours especially if you are driving. The best time to be there is on a weekend by 9am. Lagos Island is home to many corporate offices, so there is less traffic on Saturdays. You also want to park your car if driving in a designated car park which are few. Going early would help you secure a good spot. Moreover, I’ve realised majority of the sellers in the market are Yorubas. The Yoruba culture has this belief of morning sales dictates the course of the day. i.e. The first customers determine if the day would be productive or futile, hence majority of the vendors are rather warm to you around that time.
2. DON’T DRIVE IF YOU CAN: Most times when I’m buying just a few items I take public transport. I found that it’s more convenient and cheaper from my home than driving. I simply take one BRT bus to CMS and walk round the market. The hustle is just too much over there for me to worry about leaving my car keys with the ‘local Valets’. (In some car parks you have to leave your keys with someone there. So incase a car wants to drive out while you’re away, you won’t be obstructing). When I’m leaving I again walk back to the motor park and take another straight bus to Ajah where I live. The entire journey costs me about N600 only.
3. CARRY CASH: I know it’s a cashless era but trust me a lot of vendors at Lagos market don’t like P.O.S transactions. Some of them are not enlightened so they have fears of being scammed. Even though there are lots of ATM’s in the market don’t rely on them. The queues are always very long and they run out of cash quickly. You don’t want a scenario when after all the journey you can’t pay for your items. The best advice is to withdraw sufficient cash before hand from home and make your way to the market.
4. BE SECURITY CONSCIOUS: The market is a very rowdy one, people are often brushing each other just to get by. A lot of pick pockets roam the market too, so you want to be extra vigilant. Don’t keep your phone in your back pockets, make sure your hand bag/ purse is right in front of you not behind you swinging away. I’ve seen instances where bags were sliced with knives from underneath and the carrier didn’t realise till they got to their destination. You also don’t want to act clueless and lost, if not the street urchins will try to take advantage of your naive-ness. E.g. Make you pay N1,000 for a parking space of N300.
5. WEAR LITTLE OR NO MAKEUP: I personally go with the later. The weather in Nigeria on its own is rather humid, let alone in a tight market will lots of buildings that will attract more heat. I usually have on sunglasses and a handkerchief/ face towel in my bag, which is better than tissue paper. I use this to wipe my face when sweating. Now imagine having a full face beat under these conditions, just don’t bother with makeup.
6. WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES & SHOES: If you have sneakers/sandals wear them. On two occasions my slippers had cut. Someone stepped on me and one side came off, I had to buy another one while limping in the market. I figured it’s better to wear sneakers or tightly fitted sandals. For clothing, you want to wear something comfortable, I always wear a bubu/maxi dress. I don’t want pockets neither do I want people to touch me inappropriately because I’m wearing shorts. Moreso, the roamers there can be very vulgar and would harass you if you’re ‘scantily clad’.
7. BARGAIN AND SPEAK THE VENDOR’S LANGUAGE IF YOU CAN: I don’t know why this works but it works. Anytime I visit a shop and I start to speak english they just give me a high price, but the moment I start to speak pidgin or Yoruba they automatically seem more open to me haggling. So I advice not to put on your best queen’s english and come down to ‘Lagos lingua’. Whatever item you inquire about make sure you haggle even if it’s just N100 they remove from it, just try. Well with the exception of staple items like water/food, don’t haggle if you don’t want to be cursed out LOL.
8. DON’T UNDER-RATE THE SHOP OWNERS: It’s very common for people to look down on vendors because of the location of their store. You’d be amazed these people have made a fortune from doing business there. Many of them have children in Ivy-league universities across the globe and are their bank’s high-profile clients. I personally have an aunt who has raised her four children from having a shop in Lagos market. She travels to any country she wishes at her time and is a rather wealthy woman, but you wouldn’t know if she didn’t say. She doesn’t glam up to her store and she usually attends to her customers like they were gods.
9. AVOID IMPULSE BUYING : During the month I pen down my to-buy list for the market, Lagos market is home to many things, from authentic to down right bad quality a.k.a kpanti. I used to fall victim of unnecessary purchases, especially to those fancy jewellery stalls. Everything just looks so attractive and affordable. But I’ve learnt financial discipline and money saved is money saved no matter how little. It’s best to have a list or a mental note of the items you want and stick with it. I often regret those impulse purchases on the long run.
10. DON’T BE FEISTY WITH VENDORS/ STREET URCHINS: To avoid being tongue lashed or embarrassed, be as polite yet as firm as possible. I mentioned earlier that some of the people there are rather vulgar and would not hesitate to insult. Even when they are literally pulling you to come into their stalls or grabbing your arm, just ignore them or politely tell them that’s not the item you’re looking for. Trust me, Gragra never works. The last time I went with a friend she told the guy pulling her arm “Don’t touch me”! in the harshest tone, If you see the way this man went ballistic. I just told her to walk away quickly.
11. HAVE EXTRA CHANGE FOR STREET BITES: I’m a foodie and more than often I’m always feeling peckish. I make sure I reserve some change for my favorites… Which are boli(roasted plantain), puff puff, Fan yogurt and Lacasera. The puff puff sold there is on another level, forget the ones you make at home, it just tastes sweeter on the street. There are always people hawking cold drinks so be sure to have adequate change.
And that’s all! Can you relate with any of the above? Do feel free to share your personal market experiences and tips! Would love to hear from you.