Benin Country Travel Infomation

Travel Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Motorbikes and motorcycles are extremely prevalent on the roads in Benin and will unexpectedly appear or switch lanes. Traffic signals are rare and may not be operational or followed. Pedestrians, non-motorized carts, broken-down vehicles, and debris are often present in even the busiest of roads.

Roads in Benin are generally in poor condition. During the rainy season (from mid-June to mid-September), dirt roads become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.

Gasoline smuggled from Nigeria is widely available in glass bottles and jugs at informal roadside stands throughout Cotonou and much of the country. This gasoline is of unreliable quality, as it often contains water or other contaminants that can damage or disable your vehicle. Drivers should purchase fuel only from official service stations. There are periodic gas shortages, especially in the north of the country where there are fewer service stations.

The U.S. Embassy prohibits travel by diplomatic personnel outside of metropolitan areas after dusk and urges all U.S. citizens to avoid night driving due to road safety and crime concerns.

Traffic Laws: Traffic moves on the right. In traffic circles, vehicles inside the circle must yield to those entering. Many drivers do not follow traffic laws.

When stopped by the police, you must have all of your vehicle?s documentation available to present to the authorities.

Public Transportation: Cotonou has a limited public transportation system. Many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, and motorbikes for hire (known as ?zemidjans?). Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted, or robbed. Buses and private taxis offer service in the interior. U.S. Embassy personnel are required to wear safety helmets when on a motorcycle and are prohibited from using zemidjans.

See our Road Safety page for more information. 

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Benin, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Benin?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.

Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Benin should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts.  Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.

Health

Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Benin.

For emergency services in Benin, dial 116.

Ambulance services are: 

  • Not widely available, and training and availability of emergency responders may be below U.S. standards.
  • Not equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment. 
  • Not staffed with trained paramedics and often have little or no medical equipment. 
  • Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance. 

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on types of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor?s prescription.  Check with the Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Benin.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. 

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

Health Facilities in General:

  • Adequate health facilities are not available throughout the country, and health care may be below U.S. standards.
  • Public medical clinics lack basic resources and supplies. 
  • Hospitals and doctors often require payment ?up front? prior to service or admission.
  • Most hospitals and medical professionals require cash payment.
  • Private hospitals usually require advance payment or proof of adequate insurance before admitting a patient. 
  • Travelers should make efforts to obtain complete information on billing, pricing, and proposed medical procedures before agreeing to any medical care. 
  • Medical staff may speak little or no English.
  • Patients bear all costs for transfer to or between hospitals.
  • Psychological and psychiatric services are limited, even in the larger cities, with hospital-based care only available through government institutions.

Pharmaceuticals:

  • Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with few controls. Counterfeit medication is common, and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients. Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments. 
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States. Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States. Medication should be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States. Please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.    

Water Quality: In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.

Adventure Travel: Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel.

General Health:

The following diseases and illnesses are prevalent:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Malaria
  • Dengue
  • Chikungunya
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Lassa Fever
  • Diarrheal illnesses are very common. You should follow food safety precautions.
  • Use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended mosquito repellents, and sleep under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets. Chemoprophylaxis is recommended for all travelers even for short stays.
  • Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in Benin.

Air Quality

  • The air quality varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons. It is typically at its worst December through March. People at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include:
    • Infants, children, and teens;
    • People over 65 years of age;
    • People with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
    • People with heart disease or diabetes.
    • People who work or are active outdoors.

Local laws and Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities prior to practicing or operating a business.

U.S. citizens have been arrested and imprisoned for failing to pay debts.

Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice?s website.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations; however, LGBTI lifestyle and rights are not widely accepted and confined to urban centers. LGBTI travelers may face discrimination in both private and public forms. The organization of private LGBTI events in Benin has no legal restrictions. However, public events of any nature require prior governmental approval.

See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Most buildings, businesses, government offices, and medical facilities do not provide special features accommodation for persons with mobility issues.  Public transportation catering to those with mobility issues is almost non-existent. Many roads are unpaved and lack usable sidewalks.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.

Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

Safety and Security

Terrorism: Terrorist groups and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens abroad.  Terrorists are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack ? including knives, firearms, and vehicles ? to more effectively target crowds. Frequently, their aim is unprotected and focused on vulnerable targets, such as:

  • High-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
  • Hotels, clubs, and restaurants frequented by tourists
  • Places of worship
  • Schools
  • Parks
  • Shopping malls and markets
  • Public transportation systems (including subways, buses, trains, and scheduled commercial flights)

Extremist groups have carried out attacks in areas of Burkina Faso adjacent to Benin?s northern border, near Park Pendjari, Park W, and adjacent hunting zones. Attacks may occur with little or no warning. Western tourists have been kidnapped in Park Pendjari in northern Benin. U.S. government employees are restricted from personal travel to Park Pendjari, Park W, other areas within 50 km of Benin?s northern border with Burkina Faso, and areas north of the RNIE 7 route from Banikoara to the Nigerian border (not including the cities of Kandi and Segbana). The U.S. Department of State recommends tourists reconsider travel to these areas.

For more information, see our terrorism page.

Crime: Street crime is a significant problem in urban areas. Robbery and muggings occur on major thoroughfares and in neighborhoods, including those where expatriates and diplomatic staff live, where popular bars and restaurants are located, and on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Most reported incidents involve the use of force, by armed persons, with minor injury to the victim. There have been reports of individuals impersonating police officers.

Travelers should avoid the Dantokpa Market between the hours of dusk and dawn.

Demonstrations occur occasionally. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events. 

  • Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent. 
  • Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations. 
  • Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.

International Financial Scams: See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information.

Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Benin. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include: 

  • Romance/Online dating
  • Money transfers
  • Contracts with promises of large commissions
  • Grandparent/Relative targeting
  • Work permits/job offers

Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. Report crimes to the local police at +(229) 21-30-30-25 or +(229) 21-30-20-11, and contact the U.S. Embassy at +(229) 21-30-75-00. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

Those who witness or are victimized by police fraud and/or corruption can call the ?Green Line? of the Beninese Police at 166 to report what they have experienced.

The U.S. Embassy can:

  • Help you find appropriate medical care.
  • Assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
  • Contact relatives or friends with your written consent.
  • Provide general information regarding the victim?s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion.
  • Provide a list of local attorneys.
  • Provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the United States.
  • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution.
  • Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home. 
  • Replace a stolen or lost passport.

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.

Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is limited. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities and to provide urgent medical treatment. Depending on the nature of an injury or illness, appropriate medical treatment may not be available in Benin. U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance.

See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

Beach Safety: Swimming conditions along Benin?s coastline are dangerous due to strong tides, waves, and rip currents, and several people drown each year. Some private beaches offer increased protection, such as sea walls.  Always learn about the water conditions at any beach before attempting to swim.

Maritime Security: Piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea continue to trend upwards. Pirates/armed groups operating in the region typically carry out attacks on vessels using automatic weapons. Attacks, kidnappings for ransom, and robbery of crew, passengers, and ship?s property continue to be common occurrences.

Entry exit Requirementsh

Please visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on entry/exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Benin.

Travelers to Benin must present a valid passport and visa to enter the country. Visas are not available upon entry at the airport or at any land or sea arrival point.

Benin offers an eVisa for tourism, business, and transit travelers. An application for an eVisa can be made online between 7 and 90 days before you travel. The eVisa is generally valid for 30 or 90 days. However, U.S. citizens can extend the validity to 36 months without additional costs by presenting a valid eVisa and a U.S. passport to the nearest Beninese embassy or consular office. While in the United States, requests for this extension can be made at the Embassy of Benin, located at:

2124 Kalorama Road NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone:  202-232-6656

Visit the website of the Embassy of Benin for contact information and for details on the most current visa and entry requirements.

As of 2019, visitors to Benin must receive a yellow fever vaccine and must present a World Health Organization Yellow Card (Carte Jaune) at entry to document that the vaccine was administered. Visit the World Health Organization for more information on the Yellow Card and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about obtaining a yellow fever vaccine.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Benin.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction, and customs regulations on our websites.

Destination Description

See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Benin for information on U.S. ? Benin relations.

Travel Embassy and Consulate

U.S. Embassy Cotonou

Marina Avenue
01 BP 2012 Cotonou, Benin
Telephone:
+(229) 21-30-75-00
Emergency after-hours telephone: +(229) 21-30-75-00
Fax: +(229) 21-30-66-82
Email: ConsularCotonou@state.gov (for American Citizen Services) 

 

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