8 places to eat in Lagos and pay with your international card

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I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. Lagos can be a hard place if you are cash-phobic and brandishing and international credit or debit card. Every single time I go to Lagos and Nigeria in general I am usually confined to eating in hotels or carrying insane amounts of cash with me. That needed to change.

Back in September, I spent a month in Lagos to learn about its media landscape and also more about entrepreneurs (post on this coming). I couldn’t eat all my meals in hotels, or carry cash around like I was in some sort of business transit. So I decided to go hunt for some places that will accept my international Mastercard/Visa! So here goes:

Nok by Alara

This is quite the gem, I enjoyed the service immensely and the food was pretty good though on the expensive side. The ambience was conducive to chatting and the cocktails were divine. Nok specializes in African fine dining cuisine, its menu looking at food not just from Nigeria but Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia. Little twists are added to how food is plated to create visual and tasty journey with the food. I am still a bigger fan of the bartender who pretty much made me anything I wanted, all I had to do was ask and give a recipe if needed.

RSVP Lagos

Okay, this place is only on the list because I needed places that indeed accepted cards. Cool for the after work hangout crowd but so expensive. The food was not worth the price we paid for it. Starters show promise, but the mains left much to be desired and we didn’t stick around for dessert. Wine list wasn’t terrible, there were some South African wines on the menu and I am partial to those. But good for after work drinks some starters, not sure about mains.

Hard Rock Cafe

An obvious choice but actually quite a fun place. Cocktails are on point (yes, that is a big thing for me) and the bartender will do his best to give you what you want. It wasn’t as expensive as I was expecting. Hard Rocks around the world aren’t usually but you gotta make allowances when in Lagos. I liked it a lot and good hang place with cool music.

Chocolate Royale and Cafe Royale

This is more your coffee shop vibe and yes I am aware of that scandal they had a few years ago. BUT… It’s your basic sandwich/pizza and cola place when the manager isn’t busy screaming at staff from across the room. We went on a Sunday and it was moderately busy with the international crowd, word got out about the card thing. The cafe is all about the sit down food vibe and the chocolate (not quite) shop below sells baked goods! Cookies for days. There is also a very friendly sales lady who will talk you into your weight in sugary goodness.

Maison Fahrenheit rooftop bar

Yes, I know this is technically in a hotel but the rooftop vibe is amazingly chilled you don’t feel it. I have always liked this spot in Lagos, it makes me remember what an cosmopolitan incredible city it is. It feels like the hang for the young people with a few old people and their young “friends”.

Izanagi Japanese Cuisine

I never thought those words would come out my mouth: I ate sushi in Lagos and I liked it! Anyone who knows me in Lagos will know I have a thing about seafood in Lagos, I will eat fresh fish but not seafood. I discovered this place quite late in my stay but found it quite lovely, the teppanyaki was very nice and it pretty packed on the Thursday night. Staff was super friendly and we loved every moment there. Yes, a technical hotel but you wanna go.

Bungalow’s

Yes another Japanese offering so clearly I am into that. Though I think it’s more of an “around the world” cuisine that just Japanese. Also another late discovering during the trip but quite nice. We tried the set menu, which was pretty good. There are a lot of options on the menu, whatever you are in the mood for, I would recommend trying the Tuna steak.

Crust and Cream

Yes, they too have a pastry shop but walked pass that and a restaurant with wifi awaits. One of the things I quite liked about this place was that it wasn’t insanely priced. You get your money’s worth. I had the chicken roulade, which was way more tastier than I had expected, the staff was awesome even when I spilled my Old Fashioned all over myself than their table cloths. They brought me a new one very quickly, yes me and those cocktails. Go here!

Europe on a budget: three countries, six days, less than $1000 spent

Duomo

I am in Milan, it is the last full day and half stop before I fly back home after a week of traipsing through Europe. Traipsing, I love that word, makes it seems like I was frolicking through the continent in a white flowy gown.

If you have been reading this blog then you know I have been in Prague, Vienna, Florence (post to come) and now I am in Milan much to my friends chagrin ;). It’s been a week of fun, adventure and Instagramable moments. By right and logic, I am told, this should be costing me a fortune. It’s not.

Full disclosure before we begin, this above cost does not include airfare from your home country, just hotels and travel with Europe and meal expenses.

Prague

I have a $1000 and I want to see at least three countries in Europe, can it be done? Yes it can. Let’s begin with hotels. Most cities in the world can be explored in a day and a half. So I recommend staying one night and a full day in most places, you can do two nights if you really want to explore the surrounds.

I stayed in a four star hotel in Prague for $30 a night close to the castle area, in Vienna I was right around the corner from the major shopping district for $45 a night, also four star. In Florence I was 10mins walking distance away from The cathedral and the gallery that houses David $48 a night and now in Milan I am 100meters away from Piazza Duomo for $72 a night, both four stars.

Pisa

What is this magic, a friend asked. Hotwire. I discovered this site before I set off on my trip when I was looking for affordable accommodation in Florence, the only destination at the beginning of the trip. The catch with the service is they don’t tell what hotel it is until you actually book it. So pick the top stars, 4 and 5. I was expecting the worst when I arrived in Prague but my hotel was pretty decent old but well kept, free wifi and breakfast included. All four hotels have not be disappointing. There are plenty services like this I am told. You can Air’BnB it too.

Then I needed to get to these places, how do I afford to travel from one place to another affordably. Usually best to travel to countries quite close to each other and always take the train, it’s more scenic. Prague to Vienna $75, Vienna to Florence $158 and Florence to Milan $41 — getting to places done.

When on holiday people always fall in the trap of getting guided tours of places, this isn’t a bad thing but they can be expensive. Walk around a city and get lost, it is the best way to discover the place. I once got so lost in Paris that I ended up in front of the Moulin Rouge and went in for a show.

Budget some train or bus money for surrounding areas, in Florence you can catch the train to Pisa for the day. In Vienna you can get on a bus to Bratislava, the capital of Slovenia for the day and add a extra country to your list. Unless you really like museums you pay to go inside them but walking around them is free.

Food, Europe can be mighty expensive. But if all your breakfasts are sorted from your hotels all you need is lunch and dinner, street food is your friend. This also gives you the opportunity to get a taste of the country you’re in. Chum up to some locals and find out where they eat because those places don’t have tourist prices. Street food on average costs about $10 and add an extra $20 for a decent dinner in a non-touristy restaurant. If you’re desperate there is always a MickyDs or Burger King somewhere.

If you like to shop it’s always best to haggle. Now if you walk into a Ferragamo or Gucci in Milan I can’t help you but if you’re looking for some trinkets from street vendors then you can significantly reduce your cost.

So trip over, and my bank is still in tact not broken and I have kept to my budget with out feeling like I missed out on anything major. I actually believe I have some change to spare.

Hotels: $297
Trains: $258
Meals: $180
Day trips: $60
Airport/train transfers: $50
Shopping and trinkets: $100
Grand total: $945

Hotel woes: A bad day at the Southern Sun

SS

In my line of work, a hotel stay is very common, sometimes especially in the last few months I have felt more at home in hotel rooms than I do in my own home. It’s great living the hotel life, everything magically cleans itself up and food appears with a one button summon. It is a amazing.

Expect when it isn’t.

I recently stayed at the Southern Sun in Montecasino ( my first time there), a place like this with multiple stars, you would expect a certain level of service. I did and I was sorely disappointed. The ventilation in my room was shoddy, there wasn’t a wardrobe for my luggage just the thing to rest it on, come now — but I thought ‘you know what the view is amazing and it’s only for one night’.

Apparently things weren’t going to improve. I wasn’t able to have breakfast as I was leaving before it started but for some unknown reason I couldn’t get a cup of coffee to go, I mean jeez even the City Lodge can do that.

I waited around for about 10-15mins for someone to check me out, I am sorry my insanely early flight that I might miss is an inconvenience to you right now. The most annoying was the mysterious charge of around R2000 ($180) that appeared on my bill. I was there for one night and in that time I was in the room for the time I slept in it. I was nowhere near the bar but apparently I have had quite the time racking up bill like that. Interestingly the check out guy couldn’t show me the tab I signed to prove I was there and authorised this bill of awesome. I am not paying that if you can’t prove it was me which it wasn’t. So I didn’t.

It’s all quite sad because I really like the Southern Sun. I think perhaps someone was just having a bad day and a bunch of things just fell through the cracks, I am sure the service there is usually impeccable, this time just wasn’t quite it.

The hotel is actually quite beautiful and well suited. I would recommend but I am not sure I can in good conscience, perhaps someone else can tell me of their experience?

Update: The hotel called me and apologised and sorted out the wrong bill issue, so we are all happy clams now. They went all James Bond and looked at surveillance footage, yay them.