Porto-Novo, Bénin
Porto-Novo, Bénin

Porto-Novo

Porto-Novo is a port city and the capital of Benin, in West Africa. It’s known for colonial buildings like the Brazilian-style Great Mosque, formerly a church.
Photo by Yanick Folly

BENIN

Africa

Benin Travel Information

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Key facts

Capital:

Porto-Novo (constitutional capital); Cotonou (seat of government)

Location:

Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo

Currency:

Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF)

Area:

112,622 sq km

Population:

13,301,694 (July 2021 est.)

Languages:

French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)

Religion:

Muslim 27.7%, Roman Catholic 25.5%, Protestant 13.5% (Celestial 6.7%, Methodist 3.4%, other Protestant 3.4%), Vodoun 11.6%, other Christian 9.5%, other traditional religions 2.6%, other 2.6%, none 5.8% (2013 est.)

TimeZone:

UTC+1

Tel Code:

+229

Weather

Climate in Benin

Benin has a tropical climate, with two main seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season, which runs from April to July, is characterized by heavy rainfall and high humidity. The dry season, which runs from October to March, is the best time to visit Benin as it is characterized by sunny weather and low humidity.

Temperature

Temperatures in Benin are generally high throughout the year, with average temperatures ranging from around 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) during the dry season and around 27-32 degrees Celsius (81-90 degrees Fahrenheit) during the rainy season.

Best time to visit Benin

The best time to visit Benin is during the dry season, which runs from October to March, as the weather is sunny and dry, and it is the perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, safari, and beach relaxation. However, you should keep in mind that it is also the peak tourist season, so you may find that prices are higher and some of the most popular sites can be quite crowded. It's important to note that Benin is located in the equatorial zone, which means that there is a high level of humidity throughout the year, and even during the dry season, visitors should expect some rain. Additionally, the rainy season is also a good time to visit Benin if you want to experience the lush greenery of the rainforests, but keep in mind that it can be quite hot and humid during this time of the year.

Transportation

Public transportation

In Benin, the most common form of public transportation is the shared taxi, also known as "zemidjan", which is a minivan that runs on fixed routes and stops at designated locations. This can be a good option for getting around the cities, but keep in mind that it can be quite crowded and uncomfortable during peak hours. Additionally, local buses are available in major cities, but are not as frequent and reliable as the shared taxis.

Private transportation

Another option for transportation in Benin is to hire a private taxi or car. This is a more comfortable and convenient option, but it is also more expensive. Private taxis can be found at major hotels and airports, and it is recommended to negotiate the fare before starting your trip.

Motorcycles and bicycles

Motorcycles and bicycles are also popular options for transportation in Benin, especially for shorter trips and for exploring smaller towns and villages. They can be rented at several locations and are a good way to avoid traffic congestion and explore the country's landscape and culture.

Air transportation

Benin has several airports, the main one is the Cadjehoun Airport located in Cotonou and serves several destinations in Africa and Europe. This is a convenient option for travelers who want to save time and avoid long road trips. Benin's main airlines, Air Benin and ASKY airlines, cover several destinations within Benin as well as to some neighboring countries like Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and others.

Accommodation

Hotels

Benin offers a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels, resorts, and guesthouses. Hotels in Benin are generally of a good standard, and there are options available to suit all budgets. Many hotels in Benin are located in the capital, Cotonou, and other major cities such as Porto-Novo, Ouidah and Natitingou.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses are another popular option for accommodation in Benin. These are often family-run and offer a more authentic and local experience. Guesthouses are often less expensive than hotels and resorts and can be a great option for budget-conscious travelers.

Resorts

Benin is home to several resorts, including beach resorts, which are mainly located in the coastal areas. These resorts offer more luxurious accommodation options and are often equipped with amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants, and spas. They are perfect for travelers looking for relaxation and luxury while enjoying the beach.

Campsites

Benin also offers several camping sites, mainly located in the national parks and protected areas. This option is perfect for nature enthusiasts and travelers who want to explore Benin's nature and wildlife. They generally offer basic facilities such as toilets, showers and fireplaces, and travelers need to bring their own camping gear.

Money

Money Tips for Travel

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans to avoid any potential issues with international transactions.
  • Bring a mix of cash, credit, and debit cards--and possibly a travel money card.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.
  • Make sure to have a backup option for accessing money in case your primary method doesn't work.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • NEVER accept currency conversion at ATMs! Always get your home bank to convert at much better rates.
  • Think about getting a Wise or other travel debit card; these can provide much better rates and some free ATM withdrawals.

ATM and Credit Cards

  • Research the availability of ATMs and credit card acceptance at your destination before you depart.
  • Keep your ATM card in a safe place and be mindful of your surroundings when using it.
  • Try to stick to using ATMs that are affiliated with major banks.
  • Keep your credit card information safe and secure, and be aware of potential scams.
  • Make sure your cards have the necessary security features, such as chip and pin.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.

Exchange Rates

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • Be careful of places that may offer to exchange money at rates that seem too good to be true.

Mobile

When traveling, getting mobile access is very important these days. If you are working remotely, wanting to update social media, or need to access your banks SMS authentication messages having a reliable service is a must. At WhereNext we recommend:

eSIM

Services such as those offered by our partner, Airalo, allow you to easily order and install an eSIM for different countries or regions that you are traveling in.

Dual SIM phone

If you have a phone that supports dual SIM's then you can get a SIM on arrival for each country, this is probably better done at a telco store rather than at the airport.

Extend your home plan

Depending on where you live and your mobile service provider you may be able to extend your plan to cover mobile roaming at reasonable rates.

Keep your primary SIM

With the amount of accounts we all have that require two factor authentication via SMS, keeping a constant number for these accounts is a must.

Community

There are several online communities and platforms that you can use to meet people while traveling, both for making new friends or for networking professionally. Some popular options include:

Facebook groups

There are many Facebook groups dedicated to connecting people while traveling, from expat groups and travel communities to groups specific to certain cities or regions of the country. You can search for groups based on your interests or location and connect with others who share similar interests.

Meetup

Meetup is a platform that allows you to find groups of people that share your interests in your local area. There are Meetup groups all around the world, and they cover a wide range of topics, such as language exchange, sports, and cultural activities.

Internations

Internations is a social network for people who live or work abroad. It has a large community of expats and organizes regular events, activities and gatherings that allow members to connect and socialize.

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with local hosts, who offer free accommodation and a chance to experience the local culture. It's a great way to meet locals and make friends!

Reddit

Reddit has a large community, and there are several subreddits dedicated to connecting expats and travelers. You can use it to ask questions, get advice, and connect with others who are also living or traveling in the country.

Linkedin

LinkedIn is primarily a professional network, but you can also use it to connect with people who work in the same industry or have similar backgrounds. It can be useful to connect with people before you arrive and establish a few professional contacts to help you get started.

At WhereNext, we use Nomad List as a global community and then research more local ones for our destination. These are just a few examples of online communities you can use to meet people; please suggest any others that you think are appropriate for this destination.

Insurance

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It covers a wide range of needs--even some you might not expect!

Medical Coverage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for medical expenses if you become ill or injured while traveling. This can include coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and emergency medical transportation. It's also a good idea to ensure that your travel insurance covers COVID-19 related illness and delays!

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Travel insurance can provide coverage if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unexpected events such as illness, weather, or travel bans. It can also provide coverage if your trip is delayed or if your travel provider goes out of business.

Lost or Stolen Luggage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for lost or stolen luggage, as well as personal items such as passports and electronic devices.

Emergency Assistance and Evacuation

Many travel insurance plans offer emergency assistance services, such as providing information on local hospitals and doctors, assistance with replacing lost or stolen documents, and help with arranging transportation in the event of an emergency. At WhereNext we have partnered with Global Rescue for evacuation services, which are highly recommended if you are undertaking dangerous activities or are travelling to dangerous parts of the world.

Liability coverage

Travel insurance can also provide liability coverage in case you cause an accident or harm someone while you are traveling.

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It can help cover the costs of medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost or stolen luggage, and more. It's always a good idea to review the coverage and compare the different options available before making a decision. At WhereNext we both use and have partnered with Safety Wing for general travel insurance.

Entry Requirements

Here are some general travel tips regarding entry requirements that apply across all countries:

Passport

Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in the country you are visiting. Some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport is set to expire within a certain period of time.

Visa

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if you need a visa. Some countries require a visa for entry, while others do not. Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance of your trip as the process can take several weeks. Check the latest Visa requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Health Requirements and COVID-19 Rules

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if there are any health requirements for entry. Some countries require vaccinations or proof of medical insurance. Check the latest health requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Travel Insurance

Consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if you are traveling internationally. Travel insurance can cover you in the event of trip cancellation, medical emergencies, and other unexpected events. Our travel insurance partner is SafetyWing. For dangerous activities and/or countries consider a rescue service like those offered by our partner, Global Rescue.

Customs

Be familiar with the customs and laws of the country you are visiting. Some countries have strict laws regarding drug possession, alcohol consumption, and dress codes.

Currency

Check the currency exchange rate and make sure you have enough local currency for your trip. Some countries may not accept credit cards or travelers cheques, so it is always good to have some cash on hand. At WhereNext we recommend use a Wise debit card, which provides low cost currency conversions and ATM withdrawals.

Research the country

Research about the culture, customs and laws of the country you are visiting. It will help you to understand the place more and also prepare you better for the trip.

Contact Information

Make a copy of your passport and keep it in a separate place from your passport. Also, leave a copy of your itinerary and contact information with a friend or family member at home.

COVID Status

I am vaccinated 
Benin Open
Test
Not required
Quarantine
Not required

Check Visa Requirements

      Things to Do

      Benin, located in West Africa, is a country known for its rich history, culture, and vibrant cities. If you're planning a visit to Benin, here are the top 10 things you won't want to miss:

      1. Explore the Royal Palaces of Abomey

      The Royal Palaces of Abomey, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are a must-see for any history buff. These palaces were built by the Dahomey Kingdom, which ruled the region from the 17th to the 19th century, and they offer a glimpse into the kingdom's past.

      2. Visit the Ouidah Museum of History

      The Ouidah Museum of History is a great place to learn more about the history and culture of Benin. The museum is home to a wide variety of artifacts and exhibits, including traditional masks and sculptures.

      3. Explore the Grand Marche

      The Grand Marche, or main market, in Cotonou is a great place to shop for traditional crafts and souvenirs. You'll find everything from woven baskets to beaded jewelry.

      4. Visit the Temple of Pythons

      The Temple of Pythons, also known as the Sacred Forest of Kévé, is an important religious site for the Fon people of Benin. The temple is home to several pythons, which are considered sacred animals.

      5. Visit the Porto Novo Museum

      The Porto Novo Museum is a great place to learn more about the history and culture of the Yoruba people of Benin. The museum is home to a wide variety of artifacts and exhibits, including traditional masks and sculptures.

      6. Visit the Dankoli Shrine

      The Dankoli Shrine is a sacred site for the Fon people of Benin. The shrine is home to several statues of the Fon's ancestors, and it is a popular place for pilgrimage and worship.

      7. Explore the Ganvie Stilt Village

      The Ganvie Stilt Village, also known as the "Venice of Africa," is a unique and fascinating place to visit. It is located on a lake and is home to several thousand people who live on stilts. The village is known for its traditional way of life and its beautiful scenery. Visitors can take a boat tour to explore the village and learn more about the culture and way of life of the people who live there.

      8. Visit the Royal Palace of Abomey

      The Royal Palace of Abomey is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a great place to learn more about the history and culture of the Dahomey Kingdom. The palace is home to a wide variety of artifacts and exhibits, including traditional masks and sculptures.

      9. Visit the Pendjari National Park

      The Pendjari National Park is located in the northwest of Benin and is a great place to go for a safari. The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and leopards.

      10. Visit the Fidjrosse Beach

      Fidjrosse Beach is a popular beach located on the Atlantic coast of Benin, and it's known for its beautiful scenery, clear waters, and great surf. It's a great place to go for a beach holiday or a surf trip.

      Benin is a country with a rich history and culture, and a lot of natural beauty to offer. From the UNESCO World Heritage Palaces of Abomey to the beautiful beaches, Benin has something to offer to every kind of traveler. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

      Visiting Togo while in Benin can provide an opportunity to experience a different culture and way of life. Togo has a rich and diverse culture, and visiting the country can provide a chance to gain insight into the customs and traditions of the Togolese people. This can include exploring traditional markets, visiting historical and cultural sites, and experiencing local music and dance. Additionally, Togo offers a variety of natural attractions such as beaches, national parks, and protected areas that are distinct from those found in Benin, making for a diverse and extraordinary travel experience. It also offers an opportunity to explore the diverse West Africa region, with Togo being a neighbor of Benin, you will be able to see the similarities and differences in culture, history, and natural attractions of both countries.

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