Country guides Africa
Electrical outlets in Benin usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts, 50Hz. European rounded, two-pin plugs are standard.
More than 50 languages are spoken in Benin, but French is the official language.
The West African CFA franc (XOF) is the official currency of Benin and it's divided into 100 centimes. Benin is largely a cash economy and credit cards are not widely accepted; ATMs are rare outside major centres. Credit and debit card fraud is common.
Tipping is appreciated all over Benin. Restaurants don't generally add service charges to bills and a 10 percent tip is appropriate for waitrons. Fares are usually rounded up for taxi drivers, and small tips for hotel staff are appreciated.
All travellers over nine months of age require a yellow fever vaccination to enter Benin, and proof thereof should be readily available at the airport. Malaria is a problem all over the country and some form of prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers in all areas.
Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid, and a meningococcus vaccination is recommended during the dry season, between November and June. It is generally advised that travellers are up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and tetanus-diphtheria. Everyone 12 years of age and older should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before visiting.
Those travellers who will be spending extended periods outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination. Cholera outbreaks do occur in Benin, but vaccinations are usually only recommended for high-risk individuals such as health professionals and relief workers who may be visiting remote areas where cholera epidemics are occurring.
Travellers should not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected, and should avoid ice in beverages. All meals should be eaten while still hot, and uncooked fruit and vegetables avoided.
Medical facilities in Benin are limited and many medicines are unavailable. Travellers should ensure that they have comprehensive travel insurance, including provision for medical evacuation, and should bring along all required prescription medications, in their original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed.
Travel in Benin is usually trouble free, but crime is a problem and tourists should be cautious and vigilant at all times as incidents of mugging, assault, and car-jacking do occur, especially in Cotonou and near the Nigerian border.
Most crime targeting foreigners is petty and opportunistic and tourists should watch out for bag-snatchers and pickpockets, especially at Dantokpa market in Cotonou, and in other tourist areas. The Cotonou coastline is also a bit of a trouble spot, with numerous robberies occurring on the beaches. Visitors shouldn't walk alone on the beach at any time of day. The ocean currents are extremely strong along the Benin coast and drownings occur annually.
There is a high rate of credit card fraud and robberies at ATMs, so foreigners need to be vigilant when withdrawing money. Tourists are also frequently targeted by scam artists. The political situation in Benin is stable but visitors should avoid any street protests and political gatherings that may occur. There is an underlying threat of terrorism in the wider region, and visitors should be vigilant.
Visitors should be careful not to take pictures of military zones, airports or government offices. Homosexuality is legal but homosexual relationships are not universally accepted, so visitors should be discreet. Benin is largely patriarchal and, although women are equal to men legally, visitors should not be surprised to find that women are generally subordinate socially and economically. Benin is one of the main centres of voodoo practices and that culture remains prevalent; visitors should research and respect local traditions to avoid causing offence. Offering food and drink to visitors is a key element of hospitality, and it's considered rude to refuse. Many Beninese eat in the traditional style, using the fingers of the right hand. It is poor etiquette to eat with the left hand or offer another person something with it.
Benin is poor in natural resources, and the stability of its economy is largely dependent on trade with its neighbour, Nigeria. French is the language of business is Benin and being able to speak it is essential, unless visitors have a translator. Punctuality is considered important and lightweight suits are the norm when doing business. Office hours are generally 8am to 12.30pm and 3pm to 6.30pm Monday to Friday.
Travellers to Benin 15 years and older may bring with them 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 25 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 500mL of eau de toilette and 250mL of perfume are granted allowance, as are one bottle of wine and one bottle of spirits.
The telephone system in Benin is characterised by ageing, deteriorating equipment, and telecommunications growth is in the mobile phone market. Several mobile phone operators compete in Benin; only a very small percentage of the population has internet access. Most mid-range to high-end hotels will offer free WiFi, though speeds are slower than most tourists are accustomed to. The international dialing code for Benin is +229.
Passport & Visa
Although the official guidelines state that passports must be valid for the period of stay in Benin, it is recommended that travellers have six months left before expiry as some immigration officials enforce their own standards. Visas are required for most nationalities.
A valid US passport and visa are required.
A valid UK passport and visa are required.
A valid Canadian passport and visa are required.
A valid Australian passport and visa are required.
A valid South African passport is required, but no visa is needed for a stay of up to 90 days.
A valid Irish passport and visa are required.
A valid New Zealand passport and visa are required.