Please note: I wrote the following information about my experiences in Cotonou. Taximotos operate all over Benin and they can even take you from town to town cheaper than any car. Also the prices in rural areas should be a bit cheaper, but Taximotos are extremely cheap anyway. So here is my tip:
The cheapest, fastest, easiest – and most common – way to travel around Cotonou is the Taximoto. You can get a ride from one side of the city to the other for 250 CFA (49 US Cents or 38 Euro Cents). You can get shorter rides cheaper by really haggling. Some Taximotos – being Taxi Drivers – will try and explain about the Official Rates. Apparently it’s official to rip you off and charge you 3-5 times too much because you did not read this tip and also rate it.
Yes, it is the Law in Benin – passed by the Government – that you get a cheaper Taximoto fare after reading this tip!!! Just print it off and show them.
So ignore the prices of 2000 CFA (pronounced ‘see-fah’) and also the ones that reduce the price to 500. Walk away! Some will immediately offer 300. Offer either 200 or 250. You can tip later and then if they see you again, you have a friend.
The first 2 guys I met offered me 3000 CFA and 2000 CFA. No way. I walked around the corner and was offered 500, then 300. I walked another 10 meters and stood in the busy road. The next guy was only too happy to take 250. There are thousands of these guys in Cotonou!
After I checked into my hotel, I flagged down a mototaxi and he tried the 500 – 300 trick. I said no. The next guy, Jonas, looked at me. He must have thought I looked honest as he said 250 first offer. I imagine locals pay 150-200, but that was a fair offer. Jonas took me clear across the city for that. Then I offered him 2000 CFA ($3.94, €3.05) for an hour and a tour of the city. Jonas smiled very widely and I knew I had just offered to overpay. No worries. Jonas showed me around for about an hour and a half past my first ride. I saw the whole city. And cheaply and safely.
In some cases, especially as you get into less travelled areas, they will wait for you and you just pay another 250 to go back. If they do not know your destination, they will ask other drivers. You may be expected to get onto another Taximoto that knows instead. It’s ok as they look out after each other and you get to where you want to go. They all have yellow jerseys or vests. Most have numbers. If you do have an issue, tell the Police the number, but I don’t think you will have any problems. These guys (the ones with honest prices) were just excellent.
OK – one big safety notice here. There are NO helmets on any Taximoto. Having said that they were generally safe, not too fast and were always very observant of traffic. Also, due to their numbers, the cars take notice of them as well.
All the roads we travelled on in Benin were very good and well maintained.
I had a 4 wheel drive vehicle and a driver and travelling between the main towns and cities was very easy and fast. Distances between the main cities and tourist attractions in the South are not great so you don't have to drive all day.
Most of the drivers in Benin drive very safely compared to many countries I have been to. Traffic in Cotonou is very congested in parts at times of the day but in the other towns and cities not much of a problem
If you are travelling from the UK the visa for Benin is very fast and easy to get. Mine arrived within 7 days and I got it through CIBT a visa agency in London.
The cost of the visa is £45 if you are applying directly through the embassy and CIBT charge a processing fee of £55 plus postage. This is for single entry, and as we decided to go to Togo for a day trip I had to purchase an extra visa at the border. I got a 48 hour transit visa which cost me 10,000 CFA (about €15)
The address for the Benin consulate in London is
Millennium Business Centre
Humber Trading Est, Humber Rd, London, NW2 6DW, UK
Tel +44 20 88308612
The taxi motorbike is very popular throughout Benin. The name ZimZim comes from the word Zemija which means “ take me as far as you can.” The ZimZim taxis started during the financial crisis of the post Marxist 1980’s when the government could not afford to maintain the roads. The only vehicles that could negotiate most roads were motorbikes so unemployed university students in Porto Nuovo started taking passengers on their motorbikes, which could take most people right to their front doors. The trend soon spread to other areas and the ZimZim is now the most popular type of taxi.
In Cotonou and the surrounding towns the ZimZim drivers wear yellow shirts so they can be easily identified amongst all the motorbike riders.
None of the ZimZim drivers have safety helmets! However, in busy cities like Cotonou they don't get the chance to drive too fast.
Petrol costs 480 CFA per litre at the petrol stations. However, most people buy the petrol that is brought in privately from Nigeria. It is either transported by road via Porto Nuovo using specially adapted motorbikes or down the river by boat. All along the roadside in Benin you will see stalls selling petrol in smaller bottles for the motorbikes or larger ones for the cars. The cost at the roadside is 350 CFA.
There are 650 CFA to 1 euro
The main method of transport for people in Benin is the motorbike. As you drive through the main cities and towns it is not unusual to see over 20 motorbikes waiting at the traffic lights. They are driven by both men and women and nobody wears a crash helmet. It is common to see families of 3 or 4 people on one motorbike. The cost of a motorbike is now around $1000 dollars and they are made in China. Much cheaper than a car and easier to get through the traffic.
On the main street leading to Nigeria you see so many loaded cars literally stuffed full of people. This car shows three rows of seats and then still loads of luggage. Mostly you will have three people in the front seat and then as many as can fit in the back. Not always comfortable and its a wonder the cars go at all with all the rattles you hear when you are going. We often hired a taxi just for the two of us, so that we could go where we wanted. We paid 2000 cfa for one hour. Its cheaper if you share the taxi with others.
Within the city of Cotonou you will never be left stranded. The roads of Benin are full of motorcycles (Zemidjan) wanting to give you a ride. The familiar looking yellow jacketed motorcycle riders will never leave you alone on the road, they will always stop by you hinting you a lift. Night or day it is really easy a mode of transport. Just carry a helmet with you..the ride is rough !!!
There are a few connections from/to the Cotonou Airport.
Air Senegal - to and from Dakar (Senegal) , Abidjan (Cote d'ivoire)
Air Mauritaine - to and from Dakar, Abidjan, Bamako (Mali)
Air Ivoire - to and from Abidjan
Air France - to and from Paris (daily)
Air Gabon - to and from Libreville (Gabon)
Air Burkina - to and from Ougadougou
Air MAuritaine, Air Gabon, Air France are the better airlines that I have travelled in, the rest operate smaller aircrafts.
For anyone coming from Europe, the best connection is Air France - Paris. From US and americas, the best connection is from Senegal.
Theyll get you everywhere in Cotonou for between CFA 2-350, theyre very handy, and theyre very unsafe. Couldnt do without them for sure, but I wish they all had proper mirrors and lights and drove a tad slower. Zapping trough town on a zemidjan at dusk is fantastic - candle lit stores on the sidewalks, zillions of huge bats in the sky.
Cotonou - Cadjehoun, Benin (COO):
Location: 6 km/4 Miles W of the city.
By Taxi: XOF 2500-3000/20-25 mins to the city.
Rental Cars: AVIS, ETS & Hertz.
Airport Tel No: +229 301 413. Updated Jun04 www.
Lome - Tokoin, Togo (LFW):
Location: 6 km/4 Miles NE of the city.
By Taxi: XOX 4000-6000/20-30 mins.
By Bus: Some hotels operate a shuttle bus for guests.
Rental Cars: ADA. Notes: Left luggage facilities available in arrivals.
Airport Tel No: +228 223 6060. Updated Aug04 www. [back].[top]
In Ganvie and at the Lake Nokoue everything is built on stilts on the water or floating.
So I was not surprised to see a local petrol station, not far from the launching point of Abomey-Calavi, built on stilts, providing petrol in bottles and plastic containers.
At the launching point in Abomey and on our way to Ganvie I saw a lot of pirogues, which have to be moved by hand.
But on the lagoon I saw also some pirogues with a sail, using the wind.
It was a nice view to see these pirogues also as sailing boats at the Lake Nokoue.
In Ganvie and at the lake Nokoue the local people use the traditional wooden pirogues for transportation of persons, but also for all kinds of goods.
If you visit Ganvie or the other villages, you can choose also to take a pirogue, but there are also roofed motorboats.
Finding your bushtaxi or bus in Cotonou is not always easy. Like in many West-African cities every destination has its own motor park, auto gare, busstation or just only an embarkation point.
The long distance bus to Accra in Ghana departs from one of the unpaved side roads a few blocks from the Avenue de la Republique. So best to find out in time, from where you have to leave for your destination.
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