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Benin

BENIN TRAVEL GUIDE

Welcome to Benin, a vibrant West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea. With a rich history, diverse culture, and beautiful natural landscapes, Benin offers visitors a truly unique travel experience.

 

Formerly known as Dahomey, Benin is known for its rich cultural heritage and history as one of the major centers of the African slave trade. Visitors can explore the country's numerous historical sites, including the Royal Palaces of Abomey, which have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

In addition to its historical landmarks, Benin is also home to a diverse range of natural attractions, such as the Pendjari National Park, a wildlife sanctuary that houses a variety of rare and endangered species. Visitors can also explore the beautiful beaches along the coast, or experience the vibrant energy of the country's bustling cities.

 

Throughout the country, visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture and traditions, including music, dance, and the art of Vodun, an indigenous religion that is still practiced today. The local cuisine is also a highlight of any trip to Benin, with a range of dishes featuring fresh seafood, exotic spices, and local produce.

 

With warm hospitality and a welcoming spirit, Benin is a truly unique destination that offers visitors an unforgettable experience.

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  • Capital: Porto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government

  • Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)

  • Area: total: 112,620 km2

  • Population: 11,49 million (2018)

  • Language: French (official), Fon, Yoruba, other tribal languages

  • Religion: Indigenous beliefs (Animism & Voodoo) 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%

  • Electricity: 220V

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BEST TIME TO VISIT BENIN

The best time to visit Benin is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to March. During this time, the weather is hot and dry, with low humidity and clear skies. This makes it an ideal time to explore the country's many outdoor attractions, such as its national parks, beaches, and historical sites.

 

However, it's worth noting that the Harmattan winds, which blow in from the Sahara, can sometimes make the air hazy during this period. This can affect visibility, particularly in northern parts of the country.

 

The rainy season in Benin usually runs from April to October, with the heaviest rainfall occurring between June and September. While the rain can make travel more challenging, it can also make for lush, green landscapes and vibrant natural scenery.

 

Ultimately, the best time to visit Benin depends on your interests and priorities. If you're looking to explore the country's outdoor attractions, the dry season is likely your best bet. However, if you're more interested in cultural events and festivals, you may want to consider visiting during the rainy season, when many of these events take place.

 

SAFETY IN BENIN

Overall, Benin is considered a relatively safe country for travelers. The government of Benin takes measures to ensure the safety and security of tourists, and incidents of violent crime against tourists are rare.

 

That being said, visitors to Benin should exercise caution and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft, can occur in crowded areas and tourist destinations, so it's important to keep valuables secure and be aware of your surroundings. It's also advisable to avoid traveling alone at night, particularly in urban areas.

 

In addition, there have been occasional incidents of political unrest in Benin, particularly in the lead-up to elections. Visitors should stay informed about the political situation and avoid large crowds or demonstrations.

 

Finally, there are some health risks to consider when traveling to Benin. Visitors should be up to date on their vaccinations, including yellow fever, and take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria. It's also important to drink only bottled water and avoid eating raw or undercooked food.

 

Overall, while travelers to Benin should be aware of potential risks, with proper precautions and preparation, a trip to Benin can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

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BENIN WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Northern Benin has a dry season and a wet season that is controlled by the movement of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The rainy season lasts from May-November when the ITCZ is in its northern position. The dry season is from December-March when the ‘Harmattan’ winds blow in from the northeast bringing air from the Sahara Desert. Northern and central Benin receive between 200-300 mm of rainfall per month during the height of the rainy season (July-September). Southern Benin experiences two wet seasons differing in length and coinciding with the northern and southern passages of the ITCZ across the region. The longer rainy season occurs from March-July and the shorter one from September-November. Southern Benin experiences great variability in its seasonal rainfall from year to year and decade to decade.

Benin

SEASONS AT A GLANCE

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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TRAVEL SAFETY IN BENIN

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Travel Safety

HEALTH RISKS IN BENIN

Be aware of possible health risks in 

Benin

Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.

Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.

BENIN TRAVEL COSTS

The cost of traveling to Benin can vary depending on several factors, including the season, the duration of your trip, and your travel style and preferences. Here are some estimated costs for different aspects of travel in Benin:

  • Accommodation: Budget hotels and guesthouses in Benin can cost as little as $10-15 per night, while mid-range hotels and resorts can range from $50-100 per night. Luxury accommodation options can cost upwards of $150-200 per night.
  • Food and drink: Local food in Benin is generally very affordable, with street food and market stalls offering meals for as little as $2-3. A sit-down meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around $10-15 per person, while high-end dining options can range from $30-50 per person. Beer and soft drinks are also quite affordable, typically costing $1-2 per drink.
  • Transportation: Public transportation in Benin is relatively inexpensive, with local buses and shared taxis costing just a few dollars for a trip. Rental cars are also available, with daily rates starting around $50-60 per day.
  • Activities and sightseeing: Many of the historical sites and national parks in Benin charge admission fees, ranging from a few dollars up to $20-30 per person. Other activities, such as guided tours, cultural performances, and watersports, can also vary in price depending on the provider and location.

Overall, it's possible to travel to Benin on a relatively modest budget, particularly if you opt for budget accommodation and local food options. However, travelers who prefer more luxury or upscale experiences may need to budget accordingly.

Cost & Spending

BENIN TRAVEL TIPS

Here are some travel tips for visiting Benin:

  • Stay informed about the political situation: Benin has experienced occasional incidents of political unrest, particularly in the lead-up to elections. Stay informed about the situation and avoid large crowds or demonstrations.
  • Take precautions for your health: Benin is a tropical country with a risk of mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever. Take necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants. Be sure to get up-to-date vaccinations and consult with a healthcare professional before traveling.
  • Respect local customs and traditions: Benin has a rich cultural heritage, and visitors should be respectful of local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and ask for permission before taking photos of people.
  • Be cautious with your valuables: Petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft can occur in crowded areas and tourist destinations. Keep valuables secure and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Try the local food: Benin has a diverse and delicious cuisine, with dishes featuring fresh seafood, exotic spices, and local produce. Be adventurous and try the local food, but be cautious with street food and avoid drinking tap water.
  • Learn a few French phrases: French is the official language of Benin, so it can be helpful to learn a few basic phrases to communicate with locals and navigate the country.
  • Use caution when driving: Road conditions in Benin can be poor, and traffic can be chaotic in urban areas. If driving, be cautious and alert, and avoid traveling at night.

Overall, with some preparation and awareness, a trip to Benin can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

Travel Tips

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF BENIN

Benin is a country with a rich cultural heritage, stunning natural beauty, and fascinating history. Here are some of the main regions worth visiting in Benin and the highlights of each region:

  • Cotonou: As the largest city in Benin, Cotonou is the economic and cultural hub of the country. Visitors can explore the bustling markets, sample local food, and visit the fascinating museums and art galleries. The Fidjrosse beach and the Dantokpa Market are popular attractions.
  • Porto-Novo: The capital of Benin, Porto-Novo is a city with a blend of African, European, and Brazilian influences. Visitors can explore the colonial architecture, visit the national museum and learn about the history of slavery and the slave trade. The Palace of the King Toffa and the Ethnographic Museum of Porto-Novo are popular attractions.
  • Abomey: Abomey was once the capital of the powerful Dahomey Kingdom and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore the ruins of the royal palace, which features fascinating exhibits and displays on the history and culture of the Dahomey people.
  • Ouidah: Ouidah is a coastal town with a rich history and cultural heritage. Visitors can explore the vibrant markets, learn about the history of the slave trade at the Route des Esclaves, and visit the Sacred Forest of Kpasse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Grand-Popo: Grand-Popo is a charming town on the coast, known for its beautiful beaches, traditional architecture, and cultural festivals. Visitors can relax on the beach, explore the local markets, and learn about the culture and history of the local people.
  • Pendjari National Park: Pendjari National Park is a protected area in northern Benin and is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in West Africa. Visitors can go on safari and see a variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and antelopes.

Overall, these regions offer a diverse range of experiences and attractions for visitors to Benin, from cultural and historical sites to stunning natural scenery and wildlife.

Highlights
What To See & Do
Travel Map

Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Benin:

  • Visit the Royal Palaces of Abomey: The Royal Palaces of Abomey are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offer a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of the powerful Dahomey Kingdom. Visitors can explore the ruins of the royal palace and see fascinating exhibits and displays on the history and culture of the Dahomey people.
  • Explore the Slave Route in Ouidah: Ouidah was a major center of the slave trade in West Africa, and visitors can learn about this dark period of history by following the Slave Route. The route includes a memorial arch, a slave market, and a museum dedicated to the history of slavery in Benin.
  • Relax on the beaches of Grand-Popo: Grand-Popo is a charming town on the coast known for its beautiful beaches. Visitors can relax on the beach, swim in the ocean, and enjoy the local seafood.
  • Go on a safari in Pendjari National Park: Pendjari National Park is a protected area in northern Benin and is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in West Africa. Visitors can go on safari and see a variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and antelopes.
  • Visit the Ethnographic Museum of Porto-Novo: The Ethnographic Museum of Porto-Novo is a fascinating museum that showcases the cultural heritage of Benin. Visitors can see exhibits on traditional crafts, music, dance, and religious beliefs.
  • Explore the markets of Cotonou: Cotonou is the economic and cultural hub of Benin and is known for its bustling markets. Visitors can explore the markets and buy local crafts, textiles, and spices.
  • Discover the Sacred Forest of Kpasse: The Sacred Forest of Kpasse is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is believed to be home to many spirits and deities. Visitors can explore the forest and see the traditional shrines and statues.
  • Attend a cultural festival: Benin is known for its vibrant cultural festivals, which showcase traditional music, dance, and costumes. Visitors can attend festivals such as the Voodoo Festival or the Gelede Festival.

Overall, Benin offers a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions for visitors to explore and enjoy.

Benin
What To Eat

WHAT TO EAT IN BENIN

WHAT TO EAT IN BENIN

Benin has a rich culinary heritage and offers a variety of delicious and unique dishes. Here are some of the foods you should try when visiting Benin:

  • Pounded Yam: Pounded yam is a popular staple food in Benin, made by boiling yam and then pounding it until it is smooth and stretchy. It is often served with a variety of stews and soups.
  • Akpan: Akpan is a popular snack made from fermented corn dough, which is fried until crispy. It is often served with spicy pepper sauce.
  • Jollof Rice: Jollof rice is a popular West African dish that is made by cooking rice in a spicy tomato sauce. It is often served with grilled chicken or fish.
  • Fufu: Fufu is a starchy dish made from cassava, plantains, or yam that is boiled, mashed, and formed into a ball. It is often served with soup or stew.
  • Grilled Fish: Benin is located on the coast of West Africa and offers a variety of fresh seafood. Grilled fish is a popular dish, often served with a side of spicy sauce.
  • Peanut Soup: Peanut soup is a popular dish in Benin, made from ground peanuts, tomatoes, and onions. It is often served with fufu or rice.
  • Pate: Pate is a popular dish made from maize, beans, or yams that are boiled, mashed, and formed into balls. It is often served with soup or stew.
  • Fried Plantains: Fried plantains are a popular side dish in Benin, often served with grilled meat or fish.

Overall, Benin offers a variety of unique and delicious dishes that are sure to satisfy any food lover.

LGBTQ IN BENIN

Benin

WHERE TO STAY IN BENIN

When visiting Benin for the first time, choosing the right area or region to stay in can greatly impact your experience of this West African nation's diverse culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some recommendations along with accommodation suggestions for each category: budget, mid-range, and luxury.


Where to stay in Cotonou:

Cotonou, the largest city in Benin, serves as the country's economic and cultural hub, offering a vibrant atmosphere, bustling markets, and rich cultural heritage, making it an ideal base for exploring Benin's urban life and attractions.

  • Budget: Hotel Du Lac - Affordable hotel with clean rooms, located near Cotonou's port area and offering basic amenities.

  • Mid-range: Azalai Hotel de la Plage - A comfortable hotel with sea views, featuring spacious rooms, a swimming pool, and easy access to the beach and restaurants.

  • Luxury: Novotel Cotonou Orisha - A luxurious waterfront hotel offering elegant rooms, fine dining options, a spa, and conference facilities.


Tips: To find the best value accommodation in Cotonou, consider booking your stay during the off-peak season (April to October) when prices are generally lower, and there are fewer tourists.


Where to stay in Ouidah:

Ouidah is a coastal town known for its historical significance as a former slave port, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant Vodou traditions, offering a unique glimpse into Benin's past and present.

  • Budget: Chez Kiza Guesthouse - Affordable guesthouse accommodations with a laid-back atmosphere, located near Ouidah's historic district and attractions.

  • Mid-range: Hotel Casa Del Papa - A charming hotel set amidst lush gardens, offering comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, and easy access to Ouidah's beaches and cultural sites.

  • Luxury: Djegba Hotel & Resort - A luxurious beachfront resort featuring upscale rooms, gourmet dining options, a spa, and recreational activities such as water sports and horseback riding.


Tips: For the best value accommodation in Ouidah, consider booking directly with the hotel or guesthouse and inquiring about special packages or discounts for longer stays.


Where to stay in Abomey:

Abomey is a historic city known for its royal palaces, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and rich cultural heritage, offering visitors a glimpse into Benin's royal past and traditional way of life.

  • Budget: Hotel le King - Affordable hotel with basic rooms, located near Abomey's historic center and attractions such as the Royal Palaces.

  • Mid-range: Hotel Tata Somba - A cozy hotel featuring comfortable rooms, a restaurant serving local cuisine, and a central location within walking distance of Abomey's main sights.

  • Luxury: Hotel Roche - A boutique hotel housed in a renovated colonial building, offering elegant rooms, personalized service, and a tranquil garden setting.


Tips: To find the best value accommodation in Abomey, consider staying at guesthouses or smaller hotels, which often offer competitive rates and a more intimate experience.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.

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