To visit the beaches west of Cotonou, you have to take the unpaved road along the beach. If you don't have your own transport, you have to take a car or motorcycle as taxi.
For the short distance it's also a nice road to walk, if you can stay in the shade of the palmtrees, just for reaching the next restaurant or one of the small beachbars.
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.
In the centre of Cotonou you see a lot of motorcycles, like in many other West-African countries. Many of the motorcycles are taxis.
To choose the right one, just look at the yellow shirts of the drivers.
It's an easy and cheap way of transport and gives a lot of fun. Prices started from about 100 CFA. For longer distances and in the evening we took a car as taxi. The 5 KM price for a car to the campsite was 3000 CFA.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 !!!
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.
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
For a very comfortable and quick ride to/from Cotonou, consider hiring out a bush taxi for the trip. You have to buy all the seats, but the cost is still reasonable, US$10-15. After many cramped bush taxi rides, it was nice to have enough room for your luggage and your feet, not to mention you butt! PLus, they will take you to exactly where you want to go in Lome or Cotonou. Name the hotel, and your left at the door!
If you are heading to Northern Benin or on to Niger, and you have the time, consider taking the train. It is surprisingly comfortable, it travels away from the roads to some slightly remoter villages, and is much less crowded than a bush taxi. The down side is that it is slower and only goes to Parakou, but Parakou is a pleasant enough place to make a stop before continuing on to Pendjari National Park or Niger.
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
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.
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