A Wild Week in Lagos
Yellow minibuses, or danfos, clog the streets in a city with only 68 (working) stoplights over 385 square miles.
Credit: Jonathan Torgovnik

Murtala Muhammed International Airport is a rough place with a worse reputation. The main entry point into Lagos, Nigeria, it's teeming with pickpockets, con men, corrupt officials, and assorted other predators. This is where the so-called "underwear bomber" started his journey to the U.S.; it's also where, following a rash of armed robberies, police were given clearance to shoot suspects on sight. For years, the FAA didn't even allow American planes to land here because it was too dangerous. It's still the only airport in the world for which the State Department has issued a specific criminal warning.

The guy who got me was wearing a tie and a badge. I'd just cleared customs and was heading for a taxi when he stopped me and asked for my yellow-fever card. I told him the Nigerian Embassy had said I wouldn't need it. He shook his head. "Now you must go to the clinic," he said. "The shot will cost $160. It will take about six hours."

The only thing less enticing than getting stuck with a needle at an airport clinic in Nigeria is paying $160 for the privilege. I started to walk away; he threatened to have me arrested. We went back and forth for a few minutes, and then he softened. "Or we could sort it out here. What would you like to do?"

I slipped the cash inside my passport. "Next time," he said, as he palmed it, "bring your certificate." He nodded curtly. "Welcome to Lagos."