Favorite thing: You can get at the main borders from Lagos to Cotonou and Lome to Cotonou a transit visa quite quick for 10000 CFA, valid for 48 hours and extendable in Cotonou for 12000 CFA (but the nigerian side of the border is very difficult).
All tourists need a Benin visa. But you can also get a 48 hours transit visa at the border for 12000 CFA (17 USD). Once in Cotonou you will have to visit immigration and once again apply, and pay yet again the same amount for an extended visa which can take up to two days to process, valid for 30 days. Visa on arrival is not possible at the airport.
The immigration officers at the Togo-Benin border work very slow, so expect more than 30 minutes handling for the visa. That could be too much if the car is waiting for you on the other side. I got the visa in advance, so the hole process took about 10 minutes. In addition I had to show a yellow fever certificate.
When I left Benin, after the immigration service at Cotonou airport, a policeman checked my passport again for the Benin visa. He was only interested in my visa and didn't look at the entry/exit stamp. It is well known that some tourists only have a 48 hours transit visa and take the chance of exceed the time with some hours. Do not exceed the time on the visa!
Visa: Visa on arrival when you cross the borders by land will be issued for only 48 hours stay. There are some hassle to get the visa, and the process may take some time. This can be a problem if the bus have to wait for you at the border. The price is 12000 CFA (15 USD). Note that visa on arrival is not possible at the airport.
Mobil phone: Good roaming. Prepaid local SIM cards are very cheap.
ATM: Many ATM's in Cotonou. Skimming and scam can be a problem.
Recommended language: French.
Infrastructure: Very poor, but OK in the centre of Cotonou.
Friendliness by the people: A little bit pushy behavior. High class people in Cotonou.
Attention by Police/military: The police are very corrupt. Roadblocks and bribes are the rule. Drivers must expect to pay 500-2000 CFA each time they are stopped by the police.
Crime: Benin is said to be a dangerous country. Many people are poor, so be aware of walking alone in the streets at night or at the beach. However I didn't have any problems.
Rainy period: June, July and August.
Price level: More expensive than Togo. The price level is about the same as Ghana.
Airport departure tax: Nothing to pay at Cotonou airport.
When traveling overland with bus or car you have to get off at Aneho bus station in Togo and walk the 300 meters to the border of Benin. The car will wait for you at the other side of of the border. IMPORTANT: Take notice of the car you are driving and get the registration number, color and what type of car it is, because you are in a stressful situation and there are a lot of cars waiting on the other side of the border.
Don't follow the africans when you are walking towards the benin border because they don't need all the paper work as you have to do. First you need to get the Togo exit stamp in the left building before you cross the border. Just fill out the exit-declaration form and give it to the Togo immigration officer. Then you walk to the Benin immigration on the right side after the border. You need a Benin visa, but you can also get a 48 hours transit visa at the border. Note that the Benin immigration officers work very slow, so expect more than 30 minutes handling. That could be too much if the car is waiting for you on the other side. I got the visa in advance, so the immigration process took 10 minutes.
At the border with Togo we could get easily a transit visa for 48 hours to enter Benin
(20$). For the extension of the visa we had to go to the Immigration Office of the Ministry of Interior in Cotonou (Avenue Jean Paul II).
Before 11 am you have to bring the application form and to pay 12.000 CFA (about 25 $). And in the morning they tell you, that at 6 pm you can collect your new visa for 30 days.
We arrived a bit before 6 pm. We couldn't get our visa and got even the message that the counter would be closed in a few minutes, so we had to come back next monday, after the weekend.
At 6 pm more and more people arrived to collect their visa and we all waited for the things to come.
Surprise ..... at 6.45 pm the counter opened again and everybody got his/ her visa.
The most curious object I found at the side walks of the Avenue Steinmetz was a mirror.
The mirror showed the image of the president and the text " SE le General Mathion Kerekou, President de la Republique du Benin, Chef de l'Etat"
i wonder, who will hang this mirror in his house or office. It gave me the chance to make a picture of myself in the mirror watched by the president.
The Avenue Clozel in the heart of the citycentre of Cotonou has a lot of shops, streetstalls and also some restaurants and exchange offices.
I enjoyed the many streetstalls, especially the creative way they display their products.
We spent one day in Cotonou and walked mainly around in the citycentre.
In the Fon language the meaning of Cotonou, founded in 1830, is ''mouth of the river of death''.
Allthough Cotonou is one of the biggest cities in Benin, it has at many places a laid-back atmosphere. So many of the side streets of the Avenue Steinmetz in the heart of the town are unpaved. It gives the feeling to be in a small town somerwhere in the countryside.
I liked to stroll around at the African markets, so I did at the market in Ouidah, having a look at the local products.
In this market at the day/moment of my visit many stalls were empty, so it was hard to find enough vegetables for preparing the evening meal. Only these chickens were waiting for their fate.
Near the market of Ouidah in the centre of the town were a lot of colourful local shops.
Here we found vegetables like tomatoes, onions and carrots, but also the ''vache qui rit'' cheese, eggs, peanutbutter and bread.
I always like it, not only to look around, but also to do some real shopping, when I'm in a town or village.
The north of Benin, here close to the border to Niger, is much more dry than the costal areas. Its not that tropical climate, and the vegetation is not even as dense as in the south of the country.
On the pic on the left you can see the Niger river which builds the borderline towards the country Niger, in the northeastern corner of Benin.
You can reach northern Benin comming from Parakou, central Benin, easily by a "bush taxi".
there is a huge park in the north, at the border to Niger and Burkina, opened from Dec-March, were elephants, lions, hippos etc can be seen on guided tours
french is the official language, however hands and feet talk as well and a dictionary helps
Fondest memory: wondering over the enormous market in Cotonou
it is a very different world, different colours, smells, items, the fetisch market is different all together
Tanguieta were you find the starting point for the safri and also a brilliant hospital, run by french nuns and monks, where I am going to work, inshallah...
The main tourist attractions of Benin are situated in the costal areas of the country, in the south.
There you will find the economical heart of Benin, Cotonou. It is a busy but altough very atmospheric city. See the "must-see" tip...
Another well known location is Abomey, the ancient capital of the Dahomey kingdom. Today you can visit there the palace komplex including an interesting museum about Benins history. It is about 2 hours from Cotonou by bus.
Fondest memory: In my opinion the best place to visit in the south of Benin is Ganvie and the surroiunding villahes in the lagoon north of Cotonou.
The houses are entirely built on the water. You can float trough the villages by boat. A great experience and very picturesque!
You can reach Ganvie comming from Cotonou within 1 hour. There are plenty of people willing to hire you a boat.
You must visit Ganvie, this is a city on the lake with about 15000 people. The story is that these people disappeared from the Mainland, hundreds of years ago hiding from the Kings of Africa who were capturing whole villages to sell as slaves.
Fondest memory: I enjoyed going up into the Bush Country Village of Akiza. We stayed overnight here. The people in the village are more friendly than in the City.
travel thru the forest and discover small villages by boat (VILLAGE ON WATERS) at the north of cotonou near Nigeria country.
Fondest memory: You may see small village lost in the forest , difficult to find but so beautiful
I made a 2 hours video tape with some pictures.
I will try to manage for a presentation some day...
Lovely and very clean stay at the Ibis. They remind you in every-way that they are only providing a...more
Bld De La Marina
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families
This lovely hotel sits on the edge of the Lagoon and my room overlooked it quite literally – the...more