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Country Guides for Africa


Benin For almost three hundred years a succession of twelve Dahomey kings ruled Benin, creating an empire that achieved wealth and power by selling slaves to the European market. The ruins of their lavish palaces still survive in Abomey, where ornate bas-reliefs decorating the walls serve as a unique record of life and culture. Farther south in Ouidah one can retrace the last journey that the captives took on African soil on the Route d'Esclaves, and the south is also home to a number of stilt villages built six feet over the waters of the coastal lagoons. If wildlife spotting is your pleasure, there are two game parks in the north. Note: The air in major cities is very polluted.

Language: French (official), Fon and Yoruba, tribal languages

Major International Airports:


From City
CotonouCotonou Cadjehoun Int'lCOO3 miles SE

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal.Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. All travelers to West Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of West Africa, are at risk for malaria. All travelers should take one of the following drugs (listed alphabetically): atovaquone/proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine, or primaquine (in special circumstances).

Yellow fever vaccination is recommended and may be required for entry into certain of these countries. If you travel to West Africa, the easiest and safest thing to do is get a yellow fever vaccination and a signed certificate. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in the region. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):

See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Meningococcal meningitis, for travel to most of these countries from December through June.
  • Yellow fever.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an “absolute 1-micron or less” filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. “Absolute 1-micron filters” are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Pay special attention to mosquito protection between dusk and dawn. This is when the type of mosquito whose bite transmits malaria is active.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Read and follow the directions and precautions on the product label.
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
    • Do not put repellent on wounds or broken skin.
    • Do not breathe in, swallow, or get into the eyes (DEET is toxic if swallowed). If using a spray product, apply DEET to your face by spraying your hands and rubbing the product carefully over the face, avoiding eyes and mouth.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin or deltamethrin. Or, spray the bed net with one of these insecticides if you are unable to find a pretreated bed net.
    • DEET may be used on adults, children, and infants older than 2 months of age. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.
    • Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellent themselves. Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

Those traveling to Benin are at risk from malaria transmitted mosquito bites, as well as sleeping sickness and othe tick-borne diseases. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

The water supply in Benin is contaminated with viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

The ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous (a rough surf and a strong undertow) and result in several drownings each year.

CRIME: Street robberies are a significant problem in Cotonou, especially in the wealthier Haie-Vive and Cocotiers areas. Some robberies and muggings occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novatel Hotels) and the beach near hotels frequented by international visitors. Some of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Isolated and poorly-lit areas are best avoided. Therefore, we encourage you not to walk around the city or the beaches before dawn or after dusk. If you are a victim of street crime, we ask that you please contact the Embassy immediately.

The loss or theft abroad of a U S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. U.S. citizens may refer to the department of state's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

BUSINESS FRAUD: Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout western Africa, including Benin. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently, an increasing number of American citizens have been the targets of such scams.

The business scam may appear to be a legitimate business deal requiring advance payments on contracts. Persons contemplating business deals in Benin with the Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou if they have any doubts about the legitimacy of a potential business client or partner.

Typically, these scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must then be paid in order to conclude the transaction: for example, fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation of this scheme involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of various western African conflicts (notably Sierra Leone) who contact U.S. citizens to request their help in transferring large sums of money out of Benin. Another typical ploy has persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense - if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any unsolicited business proposal originating from Benin should be carefully checked out before any funds are committed, any goods or services are provided, or any travel is undertaken. For additional information, please see the US Department of State's International Financial Scams web page.

are available at no charge by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. This brochure and an accompanying booklet entitled Advance Fee Business Scams are also available at the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

Source: U.S. Department of State

Benin's climate is hot and humid in the south coastal region, and becomes progressively dryer as you move toward the semiarid north. There are two rainy seasons, the main one from April to late July, and the minor from late September to November. The principal dry season is from December to April, with a second brief, cool dry season from late July to early September.

Precip. Days
Precip. Totals
Cotonou City7551"

Benin's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Airport visas are not routinely available. Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of the Republic of Benin, 2124 Kalorama Rd., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-6656. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Embassy of Benin. Travelers who intend to visit Nigeria should obtain Nigerian visas prior to arriving in Benin as the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou may decline to consider applications for visas by U.S. citizens not resident in Benin.

Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Benin is 1 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Benin would be 6:00 pm

The unit of currency in Benin is the Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States.

Look up the current exchange rate using's Universal Currency Converter

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