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Benin travel tips that will help any international tourist

by Pilar Dujan | August 16, 2023
Benin travel tips to visit the Porte du Non Retour

Benin is the birthplace of voodoo and a beautiful, although not very well known, travel destination. After applying for your e-Visa Benin, you’re prepared to learn everything about the country.

To make your trip easier, read the following Benin travel tips. Everything you need to know is right here!

Do I need any vaccines to travel to Benin?

The only compulsory vaccination is against yellow fever, although vaccinations are also recommended for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, cholera, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), malaria, influenza and rabies. Pack anti-malaria tablets for additional protection.

Internet in Benin travel tips

There’s free WiFi available in restaurants, hotels and shopping malls. However, since you’re in a far away country that likely speaks a language you don’t know, you might feel safer buying a SIM card.

If you choose to buy a SIM card, it’s best to do it in an official store and not at the airport (you will surely have to pay more). Bring your passport so they can register your SIM card to your name.

The two typical companies that provide SIM cards are MTN and Moov, although MTN’s network is larger and therefore it works better. There are two plans available if you pick MTN, both valid for 30 days. Their prices are approximately $4 for 80GB and $8 for 175GB, but prices can change rapidly. 

What is the currency of Benin?

Benin’s official currency is the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is shared with 8 other countries on the African continent: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. It is advisable to carry cash, as only the main tourist towns have ATMs. Paying by credit card is not yet widespread. You can exchange currency at the airport, in banks and at official exchange offices.

The best conversion is generally from euros to francs. You must make sure that you only exchange money in an official establishment, as there are unregulated premises that will offer a worse conversion.

Benin tips about voodoo and Papa Legba

Benin travel tips: is tipping mandatory?

It’s not mandatory, but it is expected. A 10% tip is customary for restaurants and hotel staff also tend to receive small tips.

How to travel around Benin tips

If you’re traveling for short distances and are in large cities, zemidjans are the main mode of transport. Zemidjans are moped taxis that can transport up to two passengers. Prices are negotiable. However, you should always discuss and agree on a price before leaving. You can also rent a zemidjan with a driver for the full day.

Regarding intercity transportation, going by bus is the most popular form of transportation. Benin has three main bus providers: Baobab Express, ABC Transport, and Intercity STC. You can book your tickets on Timbu.

Packing for Benin travel tips

The most useful Benin tips about packing are:

  • Pack insect repellent
  • Protect yourself against the sun by bringing sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat or cap
  • Pack breathable clothes, but not too revealing: you should dress conservatively. It’s worth noting that the people in Benin are very fashionable, so don’t be afraid of being underdressed! 
  • Bring your own water bottle and consider buying micropur to purify water
  • Pack an adapter and a portable phone charger. Buy a surge protector before traveling as power surges are common in Benin.
  • Bring a rain jacket and waterproof footwear
  • It’s a good idea to pack a cover-up if you’re a woman and plan on being in your swimsuit at some point of the trip
  • Essential Benin tips: you must have at least one pair of long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect yourself against the mosquitos

beninese landscape

Useful phrases to learn for Benin travel tips

The official language of Benin is French, so try to learn some basic words to communicate successfully with the locals. 

However, there are more than 60 languages in the country, so you should also learn some useful phrases in Fon, one of the most widely used languages.

  • Hello: Kponanu
  • Goodbye: Hwè do
  • Yes: Ee
  • No: Ahan
  • Please: Mèsi
  • Thank you: Mi wu
  • I don't understand: Mio non kpo
  • How much is this?: Eko do do non?
  • Help: To

When is the best time for Benin travel tips

Benin has a tropical climate; it is a country with high temperatures almost all year round. The country's average temperature is 32 degrees, and it has two seasons:

  • Dry Season: this is the best time to travel and comprises the months from November to April. Naturally, it will be the hottest months with temperatures between 32 and 37 degrees. From December to March we can find the Harmattan, a continental wind that lifts sand from the Sahara Desert. The months from December to March are the least rainy months of the year.
  • Rainy season: The months from June to September belong to the rainy season, where the average temperature is between 24 and 29 degrees. It is not advisable to travel during this time if heavy rains are expected, as they are accompanied by flooding throughout the country. The temperature of the sea varies all year round between 23 and 32 degrees.

Note that the months between June and August are the busiest for tourism in Benin, meaning that accommodation prices are at the highest during this period. Yet, Benin is a year-round destination. The period spanning from February to May is the perfect time to explore the world-class Parc W, home to leopards, buffalos, and the last elephants found in West Africa.

beninese city in the water houses and boats

Safety tips for traveling to Benin

Although Beninese people are extremely warm and friendly, and countless travelers explore this wonderful land every year, it’s still important, as in all countries, to take a few precautions to stay safe. Petty theft and scams can be common, so do not wear valuables in public and be wary of alluring offers. Also, avoid demonstrations or large gatherings.

You must be careful when traveling alone on the road, especially at night. You should also be wary of swimming since there are strong marine currents in the area of the Gulf of Guinea. 

The following areas should be avoided at all costs:

  • The departments of Atakora, Alibori and Borgou
  • Pendjari and W National Park
  • The Mékrou and Djona hunting zones

Additional tips for traveling to Benin

  • You must always carry your passport with you while in Benin. Don’t forget it’s one of the Benin entry requirements!
  • Travel and medical insurance is not compulsory, but it is highly recommended.
  • Accommodation options outside of the major cities in Benin are generally not of a high standard.
  • You should always avoid raw foods such as vegetables or fruit. It is not advisable to eat from street stalls as they do not have refrigeration and have questionable sanitary measures.
  • Benin police are kind and helpful for tourists, so do not hesitate to ask them for help if needed.
  • Homosexuality, as well as crimes related to drug trafficking or consumption, are highly punished and can carry prison sentences of up to 5 years.
  • Benin is divided into kingdoms. Many villages have chiefs or kings, and you might be able to meet with one through your guide.
  • Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo. Every year, in January, the Ouidah festival commemorates voodoo culture across the country. During the festivities, the Fon people (a major ethnic group in Benin) perform rituals, songs, and dances to honor the religion. If you can travel in January, this incredible festival is well worth it!
  • Taking pictures of government buildings and military zones is prohibited. Also, as a general rule of thumb, Beninese believe photography claims a piece of the soul. Therefore, always ask for permission before taking a face shot.
  • Haggling is a common practice in Beninese markets.