flag Benin Benin: Travelling

In this page: Entry Requirements | Organising Your Trip | Visiting | Living Conditions | Eating | Paying | Speaking | Useful Resources

 

Organising Your Trip

Means of Transport Recommended in Town

Recommendation
The most common way to get around in towns is with the motorbike taxis (called “zems” or “zemi-johns”), which are the fastest and cheapest way of getting around, although they may be dangerous due to the driving style and the absence of helmets. Prices may range from CFA100 to CFA500, depending on the distance. Fares must always be negotiated.
Shared taxis do also operate in towns, with fares varying between CFA150 and CFA400. Conventional taxis are not the norm in Benin.
Maps of Urban Networks
Via Michelin (detailed map of Cotonou)

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Transportation From Airport to City Centre:


Airport

Distance

Taxi

Bus

Train

Car Rental
Cotonou Cadjehoun Airport (COO) 4 km/2.5 miles 10 min XOF 2,500-5,000 Hotel shuttles are available N/A Available

Means of Transport Recommended in the Rest of the Country

Recommendation
As there is no internal train service within Benin, nor internal flights or ferry services (except for informal boats run by private individuals), the easiest and most reliable way to travel around the country is by bus (some of which have air conditioning). Buses generally operate with guaranteed seating and fixed departure times. It is recommendable to book the day before or to arrive early at the departure station to secure a seat.
Another option are the bush taxis, that are generally beaten-up old vehicles that cover outlying communities that are not served by larger buses, but also run between major towns and cities. A surcharge generally applies for luggage.

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Airlines

Name Type Domestic Flights International Flights
Air France No Yes
Ethiopian Airlines No Yes
Turkish Airlines No Yes

You Can Consult The EU Air Safety List. Look Also at the rating of the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

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Travelling By Yourself

Recommendation
Roads are in relatively good condition throughout Benin, with the exception of the Cotonou–Bohicon road. Unpaved roads may be unpassable during the rainy season.
Car hiring agencies are available in Cotonou. It is recommendable to hire a car with a driver. Travel agencies and tour operators in Cotonou can organise 4WD hire for Around XOF 50,000/day including a driver. For a normal vehicle, the price is about XOF 20,000/day. Fuel has to be paid separately, and petrol stations are easy to find throughout the country. An international driving permit is required to drive in Benin.
Road Maps
Detailed road map of Benin
Ezilon - Benin road network
Find an Itinerary
Via Michelin Benin

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Visiting

Different Forms of Tourism

Historical
The Abomey Palaces are included in the Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites in Africa. The complex consists of 12 palaces which were once part of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey (1625 to 1900 A.D.).
In Ouidah tourists can visit the Route of the Slaves, which recalls the history of the country, from which 12 million people were deported.
The stilt village, located in the lagoon of Lake Nokoue near Ganvie, was created for the Tofinu people to protect themselves from slave hunters: It is composed of floating houses, schools, and churches and has become a tourist destination.
The centre of the capital Porto-Novo, founded in the 16th century, has numerous ornate and interesting buildings.
Cultural
The main museums in Benin include: the Historical Museum of Abomey, the Museum of History and the Zinzou Foundation Museum (contemporary African art) in Ouidah, the regional museum of Natitingou (about Somba communities), the Ethnographic Museum and the Royal Palace Museum in Porto Novo, and the French Cultural Centre in Cotonou.
Nature
Pendjari National Park and W National Park (which Benin shares with Burkina Faso and Niger), is considered West Africa's best for wildlife viewing (with a fauna composed of lions, leopards, elephants, baboons and hippos), and are set in beautiful, hilly highlands.
The Tanongou falls near Atakora make a jump of 35 metres and offer large pool below it. Although smaller (20 metres), the Kota falls in Natitingou are also popular among tourists.
Religious
Benin is the birthplace of the voodoo religion. Voodoo temples, roadside fetishes and markets can be found throughout the country. The skull and skin-filled fetish market in the Grande Marche du Dantopka is one of the most famous. The most important fetish in the country is the monstruous Dankoli fetish, on the northerly road near Savalou. Tourists can also visit the python temple in Ouidah.
Other religious attractions are: the cathedral of Notre Dame de Miséricorde, commonly known as Cotonou Cathedral, the characteristic pink St Michel church and the Mosque of Cotonou.
Thermal
Benin does not have natural hot springs centres. However, several high-end hotels in Cotonou and Porto Novo offer spa services.
Beach
Benin has a coastline of 121 km (75 miles). With its coconut palms, the beach of Fidjirossé, in Cotonou, is probably the most popular in the country. Nearby, tourists can also relax in Obama beach.
Grand Popo is the other popular city for tourists to relax by the beach.
Tourists can enjoy the beautiful Lake Ahémé, in which it is possible to swim.
Winter Sports
The climate of Benin is not suitable for winter sports.
Outdoor Activities
Outdoor activities include wildlife safaris, surfing in the remote beaches of the coast, trekking (especially in the national parks and in the Atakora Mountains), birdwatching, fishing in the sea and in the lakes, etc.
Shopping
The Dantokpa Market in Cotonou is a must, as it is the biggest local market in West Africa (with voodoo objects like ritual masks, statues, tapestry, etc.). Along the marina of Cotonou there are many stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs.
Between 500 and 1000 vendors populate the Grand Marché Azeke in Parakou, selling pottery vases, cotton textiles, local spices, fruits, wagasi (cow's milk cheese), and other local products.
The Dan Tokpa market in the Cotonou Lagoon is the ideal place to find goods imported from Nigeria.
Tourism Organisations
Benin Tourisme (in French)

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Living Conditions

Health and Safety

Health Precautions
There are no specific vaccination requirements to enter Benin (except for vaccine against yellow fever which is required for any travellers aged one year or more and for travellers coming from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission). Nevertheless, WHO and foreign ministries of various countries recommend the following vaccines before entering the country: Hepatitis A, Malaria, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Cholera and Rabies. Vaccination against Measles is also required.
For Further Information on Sanitary Conditions
CDC - Health Information for Travellers to Benin
For Further Information on Safety Conditions
U.S. Department of State - Benin Travel Information
Government of Canada - Benin Travel Advice
 

Emergency Numbers

Police 117
Ambulance 112
Fire 118
 

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Time Difference and Climate

Time and Time Difference
It is %T:%M %A In Porto Novo (GMT+1)
Summer Time Period
There are no daylight saving time clock changes in Benin
 

Map of the Time Zone

Time zone

Type of Climate
Benin is located in the Gulf of Guinea and has a tropical climate, with two rainy and two dry seasons: the main rainy season goes from April to late July, with a less intense rainy period from late September to November; whereas the main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September.
A dry wind from the Sahara (known as “harmattan”) blows from December to March in the north. In Cotonou, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C, the minimum is 24 °C.
For Further Information
National Meteorological or Hydrometeorological Service (METEO BENIN)
 

Average Annual Temperatures and Rainfall

Climate

 

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Eating

Food Specialties

The cuisine of Benin has African and European influences.
Corn is the most common ingredient in the south, while in the northern part of the country yams are the main staple. Meals are generally rich on vegetable fat and light on meat (which is more expensive). Dishes are often completed by a tomato or peanut sauce.
Local specialties include:

  • Acarajé: made from peeled black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in palm oil
  • Aloko: deep-fried plantain
  • Wagasi cheese: made of cow milk
  • Akpan: corn dumplings, dipped in a sauce
  • Amiwo: red corn dough, often made with tomato puree, onion and peppers and served with a sauce
  • Peanut soup: with tomatoes and carrots, often served with chicken
  • Beye: a cake made of roasted peanuts, cooked in oil.
Drinks
Local drinks include the lager “La Béninoise”, Sodabi (a liquor made from wine palm) and Choukachou (a Beninese millet beer also known as "chouk").
Dietary Restrictions
Many plants are used for rituals. An ancient belief is that young mothers following delivery must not consume oil or fresh meat.
Around 28% of the population are Muslim, hence normally do not eat pork meat (unless it is “halal”, which means it is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law) nor drink alcohol.
The legal drinking age is 18.

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Paying

Domestic Currency
CFA Franc BCEAO
ISO Code
XOF
To Obtain Domestic Currency
Major towns have Visa ATMs. Mastercard is also accepted.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged in major cities (at banks and hotels), with the EUR being the easiest currency to exchange (XOF is pegged to the EUR).
The import of local currency is unlimited for EU residents, other nationalities must declare currency. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, its export is limited to the equivalent of XOF 100,000.
Possible Means of Payment
Only some upmarket hotels take credit cards, as cash is the general payment method.
International Traveller's Cheques are accepted in major cities if denominated in EUR or GBP.

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Speaking

Official Language
French
Other Languages Spoken
A total of 55 languages are spoken in Benin, of which 50 are indigenous. Fon and Yoruba are spoken in South of Benin, with six major tribal languages being spoken in the North (including Bariba and Fulfulde).
Business Language
French and English
Getting Some Knowledge
Visit the website of Omniglot to learn the basics of the Yoruba language.
Free Translation Tools
English-Yoruba dictionary :

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Useful Resources

To Find an Apartment
West Coast Property
Grand Immobilier
Benin Immo

To Find a Job
Careers in Africa
Career Jet Benin

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Latest Update: July 2022