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Driving Guide

Benin Driving Guide

Explore Benin by driving with International Driving Permit

2021-04-09 · 9min read

Benin forms a relatively narrow region in Western Africa. It is bordered in the west by Togo, in the east by Nigeria, in the northwest by Burkina Faso, and north by Niger. The country is considered narrow because, apart from being sandwiched by two gigantic countries, it takes the shape of a key that’s longer than in width. As you travel up north, the width of Benin starts to expand, making way for the Atakora Mountain Range and the Savannas.

Exploring Benin presents a unique adventure. For one, if you’re not from the African continent, you’ll find that the landscape is nothing but breathtaking. However, some travelers say that navigating Benin may not be a walk in the park because of the road conditions. For others, this may be a beautiful advantage because what better way to experience a country than immersing in its raw form?

How Can This Guide Help You?

Before going on a road trip to Benin, it is essential to familiarize the different technicalities associated with driving in Benin. In this guide, you’ll find some useful tips on where to rent a car, securing an International Driving Permit for Benin, the most important road rules, Benin driving directions, and other popular Benin driving questions. So without further ado, Bienvenue au Bénin!

General Information

Benin is a destination that you wouldn’t usually see on top of bucket lists. However, contrary to its relatively discrete standing within the global tourism industry, Benin actually has a lot of unique and interesting things to show. To kick off your adventure, find out below what things you’ll need to prepare for in order to enter the country.

Geographic Location

Benin forms a relatively narrow region in Western Africa. It is bordered in the west by Togo, in the east by Nigeria, in the northwest by Burkina Faso, and north by Niger. The country is considered narrow because, apart from being sandwiched by two gigantic countries, it takes the shape of a key that’s longer than in width. As you travel up north, the width of Benin starts to expand, making way for the Atakora Mountain Range and the Savannas.

The country is generally divided into two (2) climate zones. The southern coastal region is characterized by hot and humid weather that causes heavy rains. The northern coastal region, on the other hand, is influenced by the dry Harmattan wind from the Sahara Desert and the Sahel. If this is the first time you hear about the Sahel, it is the transition zone between the Sahara and the semi-arid grasslands. The northern region often experiences sand storms that limit people’s daily activities.

Languages Spoken

The official language in Benin is French. However, what’s interesting about the culture in Benin is that the people still practice various indigenous languages since there are about 42 tribal ethnic groups in the country. The most prominent indigenous language is Fon, and more than 20% of the population speak it on a daily basis. Other widely spoken native languages are the Dendi, Yoruba, Bariba, and Mina.

Beninese can also understand and speak English. This is primarily influenced by Nigeria, which uses English as its official national language. Next to English, Beninese also study Spanish. So don’t be surprised at how fluent some locals may be.

Land Area

Benin covers an area of about 114,763km2. It is divided into eight (8) eco-regions. The coastal area in southernmost Benin is a low-lying area where you can find marshes and lagoons. This is bordered in the north by Terre de Barre, a very fertile, clay-supported plateau

The north and northwest regions of Benin are characterized by the Chaine de l’Atacora and Plaine de la Pendjari ecozones. This is a mountainous region where you can find Benin’s highest peak. The elevation in this region ranges between 500 - 800 meters above mean sea level. Lastly, when you travel around the northeast, you will find yourself in the Agro-pastorale du Borgou region, characterized by relatively flat terrains and agricultural landscapes.

History

Ancient Benin was believed to have been started by the Edo people during the 1st century. This native civilization lasted for 16 centuries up until the conquest by the British and the French. About five (5) years later, the country gained its independence and gradually developed to what is now the Republic of Benin.

Benin is a highly agricultural country, with cotton as its main crop. Other top exported products include coconuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, and oily seeds. Outside the agricultural sector, mining also plays a huge role in the economy, with gold as the most quarried reserve. However, don’t get swayed by the term “quarried” as gold in Benin is not mined in commercial quantities. In fact, miners in Benin are called artisanal gold miners because they extract gold from alluvial deposits near the river.

Culture-wise, Benin has been recognized as the birthplace of the Voodoo faith. So much so that Benin commemorates the religion through an annual Voodoo Festival. They also have a Voodoo market called the “Marche des Feticheurs,” which sells preserved body parts of animals. Since Voodoo involves animism, followers of the religion worship the Python. If you are not familiar with the religion, it would be an interesting experience to see and learn it through a Voodoo ceremony.

Government

Benin follows a representative democratic government. This means that the publicly-voted representatives decide on the laws of the land. The president is both the head of government and of state. Likewise, the national assembly serves as the legislative body of the country.

The president is elected by the people in a two-round system. The national assembly, on the other hand, consists of 83 representatives who are elected by the public as well. Lastly, the judicial branch consists of the supreme court, with members who are appointed by the president himself.

Tourism

According to World Bank, Benin has seen a continuous increase in international tourist arrivals since 2008. In fact, between 2008 and 2018, the percentage of tourist arrivals have increased by about 60%

Tourists can stay in Benin for a maximum of 90 days. The country allows 61 nationalities to enter the country without a visa. This includes Haiti, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, and all African countries. If you come from a country not on the list, you’ll have to apply for an E-Visa.

E-visas are either single entry or multiple entries, which allows the visa holder to stay in the country for a period between 14 and 90 days. The validity of the visa also depends on what country you came from.

Renting a Car in Benin

Benin is a key-shaped country that runs for approximately 800km from north to south. With this distance, it would take you about 12 hours to drive between the points, non-stop. Considering the many tourist attractions in the country, it would be best to plan your itinerary ahead and evaluate the best mode of transportation for you.

Car Rental Companies

The majority of car rental companies take base in Cotonou. You can find both local and international car rentals in the city. You can check out the following:

  • LoueCars
  • Sixt Rent a Car - Cotonou
  • Hertz Car Rental
  • Benin Voyage Afrique Online
  • 3 Click Car Hire
  • WiDriveU
  • Tipoa Car Hire

Most of these car rental companies allow advanced bookings on their website and/or social media pages. It would be best to do ample research on each of them in order to know what’s the best option for you. These companies also offer different rental packages and promotional deals, so it is also recommended to talk to a representative to clarify things. A tip to remember is that when you’ve selected your package, you should always ask for a contract in order to protect yourself from additional fees.

Documents Required

The process of renting a car in Benin isn’t as strict as what you see in other, more developed countries. However, the requirements are more or less the same. The common requirements to be able to rent a car in Cotonou are:

Vehicle Types

You can choose to rent from a variety of midsize sedans, compact cars, economy sedans, SUVs, and many more in Benin. If you have plans of driving up north or away from the cities, though, it is recommended that you rent a car that can drive through rugged terrain.

To save on car rental costs, you should compare various prices of different car rental companies. Second, it would be best to book in advance; and lastly, avoid airport pick-ups as much as possible because everything in the airport is just quite expensive.

Car Rental Cost

Car rental companies offer various rental rates, even with the same car model. If you book online, featured prices are often only the immediate rental fee. There may still be other associated fees that you should prepare for, and this should be clarified with your rental company before finalizing your booking. Apart from the rental fees, here are other fees that you could expect before you can go self-driving in Benin districts:

  • Insurance fees
  • Fuel fees
  • Additional driver fees (if you request one)
  • Age-dependent surcharge
  • Cleaning fees
  • Administrative / service fees

Age Requirements

Like a lot of countries, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Benin. This is the minimum driving age; however, you may need to pay a surcharge if you are between 21 – 25 years old. In addition, if you are between that age range, some car rental companies may, furthermore, require at least 1-2 years of driving experience.

The age-related surcharge is usually added because young drivers are believed to have no ample driving experience yet. With this, they may be more at risk of not being able to react safely or logically in certain road situations.

Car Insurance Costs

The most common minimum car insurance policy covers third-party liability. Third-party liability insurance covers the damages to another road user in case you cause an accident while driving your rental car. This does not, however, cover any loss or damage on your part and your car rental. If you only get third-party insurance, you would have to pay for your own medical expenses.

The cost of car insurance would depend on the type of insurance coverage you’ll get, your age, the number of years you have been driving, and the type of vehicle you are renting. The younger you are and the lesser driving experience you have, the more expensive the cost of your car insurance will be.

We recommend getting at least personal accident insurane and a collision damage waiver when you rent. Other insurance types that you can avail of are theft & fire insurance, roadside assistance, or the more comprehensive insurance.

Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance is mandatory in Benin. If you already have car insurance from your home country, you may be able to use it in Benin, but make sure that you confirm it with your car insurance company or confirm it with your Benin car rental company. In some cases, only a few types of car insurance policies can be carried over to another country. If your existing car insurance policy does not meet the standards of your car rental company, you will have to purchase additional insurance in Benin.

Is Renting a Car Better than Taking Public Transportation in Benin?

Public transportation in Benin comes in taxi-villes (official taxis), taxi teles (telephone taxis), zemi-johns (motorcycle taxis), and buses. Motorcycle taxis and buses were the earliest contemporary form of transportation.

Within city centers, you’ll mostly find buses and taxi-villes (these rarely go outside urban perimeters). On the other hand, if you’re planning a trip to off-road towns, you can flag down a bush taxi or a telephone taxi. Bush taxis are repurposed old car models that often charge extra for luggage. For tourists, the most popular form of public transportation is the telephone taxis that are common in hotels.

Cost-wise, public transportation is relatively cheap in Benin. However, comfort-wise, the stats are very low. Buses and taxis in Benin wait for their vehicle to be filled up to maximum passenger capacity before operating. In some cases, two (2) people share a seat that’s only good for one (1) person. So if you want to have a more relaxed, stress-free trip, it is recommended that you rent a car and go driving in Benin instead.

Do I Need To Join Benin Driving Lessons Before Renting?

Since you wouldn’t need to apply for a tourist driving license and wouldn’t need to take a driving test, car rental companies will also not ask for any proof of driving lessons in Benin. However, some car rentals (especially internationally-renowned) may require minimum years of driving experience or minimum years of having a valid license (even if it is not your first time to be driving in Benin). As such, you should clarify that with your company.

The common requirements to be able to rent a car in Cotonou are:

  • Driver must be at least 21 years old
  • Valid driving license (International Driver’s Permit for non-English and Non-French nationals)
  • Credit card (for advance payment and security deposit)

To ensure the safety of your rented vehicles, it might be best for you to practice driving in Benin first with an instructor before renting your own vehicle.

Where Are the Entry & Exit Points in Benin By Land?

You can enter Benin by air or by land. If you prefer air travel, the main entry point is the Cotonou Cadjehoun Airport located in the bustling city of Cotonou. With regard to land borders, there are actually more than one (1) land crossing per boundary, but here are the recommendations:

  • When crossing by land from Nigeria, you’ll have to pass through the Seme Border
  • If you’re coming from Togo, one of the busiest gates to Benin is the Hilacondji Border
  • When you come from Niger, you’ll have to go through the Malanville-Gaya Border
  • If you enter Benin from Burkina Faso, you can go through the Faso Porga Border crossing

Nevertheless, if you want to enter at other land crossings, make sure that the crossing is legal. And yes, there are a lot of open border crossings in Benin that may put you at risk. In addition, make sure that you have your valid International Driver’s Permit before you go driving in Benin.

The Road Rules in Benin

Benin is quite a conservative country. You are not allowed to take pictures of government offices and military zones without formal permission from the government. Also, if you’re keen on taking pictures of your arrival at the airport, you can forget about that as it is also not allowed. If you want to take pictures of Beninese people, within and out of city centers, you are advised to ask for their permission first because some local people feel that you are taking away their soul if you take their picture.

Nonetheless, as long as you practice utmost respect and courtesy to the local culture, you can expect a very enjoyable visit to Benin. To drive without issues in Benin, there are also certain rules that you’ll need to abide by. This section mentions a few of the most important ones.

Important Regulations

Benin still has a long way to go with regards to its traffic management laws. However, they do have some regulations that are in place already. It would be best to review these before heading out. In addition, if you’ve been driving in your home country, you should still at least remember and practice what you’ve learned with regards to safe driving.

Drunk-Driving

You’re only allowed a maximum of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood while driving in Benin. If you came from a party, it would be best to sober down before driving. Remember that the road conditions in Benin are not the best in the world, and they can be most hazardous for drunk drivers.

Seatbelt Laws

Benin doesn’t have any official seat belt law. However, considering the rugged terrain in the countryside and the possibility of you meeting irresponsible drivers, it wouldn’t really hurt if you wear your seatbelt at all times. In addition, if you have children along with you, you can follow the seat belt laws practiced in your home country or in other countries. This includes not allowing little children or babies to sit in the front passenger seat and the like.

Parking Laws

There are no strict parking rules in Benin. When you drive around, don’t be surprised to see a lot of cars not parking correctly. You can, however, find a few designated parking areas, especially in the main urban centers like Cotonou. It would best to go find them and park there instead. Your car will most likely be more secured when you park in designated parking areas.

General Standards of Driving

Driving without a license is illegal in the country. Unfortunately, driving without a license or driving with a fake license has been a major issue in Benin. In case you hear locals convincing you to get a fake driving license, you shouldn’t follow suit because the penalties for this are high.

With regards to vehicle transmission also, you have the option to drive a manual transmission car or an automatic transmission car. If your license was obtained with a manual transmission car exam, you drive both types; however, if your license was obtained with an automatic transmission car, you can only drive a car with automatic transmission.

Speed Limits

Benin is swarming with traffic police. This is to ensure that no one goes above the road rules. One (1) important road rule is to drive within the speed limit. In urban areas, the speed limit is 50km/hour, while on highways and outside centers, you can drive up to 90 km/hour. Traffic police in Benin are very strict when it comes to imposing the law. As such, do avoid bribing them if you ever get caught.

When driving anywhere in Benin, even in paved and asphalt road sections, you have to be alert of potholes. Lastly, there are a lot of unmarked speed bumps and wildlife/livestock on the road, which is why overspeeding is highly discouraged in Benin.

Driving Directions

Driving without a license is illegal in the country. Unfortunately, driving without a license or driving with a fake license has been a major issue in Benin. In case you hear locals convincing you to get a fake driving license, you shouldn’t follow suit because the penalties for this is high.

With regards to vehicle transmission also, you have the option to drive a manual transmission car or an automatic transmission car. If your license was obtained with a manual transmission car exam, you drive both types; however, if your license was obtained with an automatic transmission car, you can only drive a car with automatic transmission.

Traffic Road Signs

Despite signs not being well apparent, these signs still follow universal standards. In terms of shape, regulatory signs are circular, directional signs are rectangular, and warning signs are triangular. If you see any regulatory sign, you should follow what it says. If you get caught disregarding the instructions of a regulatory sign, you will have to pay a certain fine.

Some traffic signs are written in English and in French. If you get too confused, try to really identify the symbol/s instead. In case you drive in a very crowded area with road users who are quite nonchalant with the rules even with the presence of regulatory signs, do not follow them and stick to the rules.

Right of Way

Extending patience and yielding to other road users is highly recommended at all times. However, there are cases where yielding is strictly mandatory. Vehicles that have the right of way at any given time are the following:

  • Cars that are inside / turning junction
  • Cars that are crossing intersections
  • Emergency Response Vehicles
  • Cars that are already inside the roundabout
  • Bigger vehicles like trucks and buses

To drive legally in Benin without a licensed companion, you need to be at least 18 years old. This is believed to be the age when individuals start to be responsible enough on the road, and it is the same qualifying age as getting an International Driver’s Permit.

Some countries like the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and South Africa have lower minimum driving ages. If you come from these countries and have secured a valid native driving license before you’ve reached the age of 18, unfortunately, you will still not be allowed to drive in Benin.

Laws on Overtaking

Official overtaking laws are also non-existent in Benin. So much so that even in junctions and intersections, you’ll see some vehicles carrying out overtaking maneuvers. But we all know that this is not safe. So whenever you go driving in Benin, just make sure to follow what you have learned about proper overtaking in driving school. This includes making sure that the road ahead is clear and signaling that you want to overtake. Be vigilant as well as some drivers may disregard your signal.

Driving Side

Beninese drive on the right side of the road; this means that the driver sits on the left side of the car. In fact, around 70% of the countries around the world drive on the right side of the road. If you come from a country that drives on the right side of the road, navigating the road surfaces even in road curves shouldn’t be that difficult.

Driving Etiquette in Benin

Since Beninese are quite conservative people, especially when it comes to outsiders, good manners are very important within and out of the road. Generally speaking also, good road etiquette is highly contributory to the safety and well-being of all road users. For one (1), it is definitely an ingredient to avoid untoward accidents. Below are a few road manner tips when driving in Benin.

Car Breakdown

Some of the things that you need to double-check before driving out are your safety gear, cell phone/radio / any communication device, and your emergency kit. These are very important, especially when you’re driving in far-flung regions of Benin.

If ever you come across an accident or any road/vehicle emergency, the first thing that you should do is not to panic and assess whether there are hazards around (like fire, wiring, water, etc.). Second, you need to check the physical conditions of all people involved. Considering that hazards developed from the accident, you should grab your phone, an emergency kit is passengers, and get as far away from the vehicle. If you need assistance, you can contact any of the following emergency responders:

  • Fire - 229118
  • Ambulance - 229112
  • Police - 229117

Police Stops

Traffic police monitor the roads especially in busy built-up areas. In case you get waved-over by police, you have to comply immediately. Make sure to stop on the side of the road so as not to block traffic. Prepare also your driving documents because the police will most likely request for them. If you violated a road or traffic law unintentionally, you just have to say to the police and inform him that you are not familiar with the roads yet. Some traffic police will just let you drive off with a warning, while some will collect the corresponding fines

Asking Directions

If ever you find it difficult to navigate Benin, you can always ask locals for help. A lot of them are friendly and would gladly give you the directions you need. You can first ask if they can speak English. If they don’t, you can use the following:

“Hello”: “Bonjour”

“Can you tell me where this is?”: “Pouvez-vous me dire o c’est?”

“Where should I pass through?”: “Où dois-je passer?

“Okay, thank you very much”: “D’accord, merci beaucoup”

Checkpoints

You should also expect plenty of police checkpoints in Benin. They conduct random vehicle inspections to check illegal drivers and carjackings. This is where your International Driving Permit is most useful. If you come across a police checkpoint, you’ll most likely be asked to present your driving license and your car registration papers. In addition, since you’ll be renting a car, you’ll have to present proof of your rental.

If you plan on renting a car your entire stay, you have to remember to gas up or bring along some extra gas because the number of gas stations decreases the farther you drive from Cotonou. Checkpoints might even decrease the farther you drive from Cotonou. You can scan through a lot of Benin driving videos online before going to the country to get an initial glimpse of what Benin roads are actually like.

How Do I Drive Around / Near Religious Sites in Benin?

When driving around churches and temples, you are encouraged to keep any noise at bay. This includes no honking of the horn, no shouting, no loud music, and no revving up of the car engine

Since religion is part of culture (which Benin is very rich in), it would be impossible not to see at least one (1) religious site, monument, or symbol when you drive around Benin. What’s interesting about this sector of the country is that even though foreign religions have been inculcated by its previous colonizers, a great portion of Beninese still follow the traditional Vodun faith (Voodoo). Other major religions present in Benin include Roman Catholicism, Islam, Celestial Christianism, and Methodism.

How Do I Cross Road Intersections in Benin?

Road manners are often underestimated. For example, if you’re on a full stop waiting for the traffic light to go green in an intersection, would you be surprised to know that there are actually a number of manners that you can consciously do during this time? For one, you shouldn’t use your phone still, should avoid observing other road users on the pavement, or anything that would distract you from responding quickly when the traffic light turns green.

Second, look out also for red-light runners. Even when you have the right-of-way at an intersection, always look at both sides when you cross. Lastly, be aware of the vehicles you are driving next to. Some vehicles, especially the large ones like trucks, have blind spots. Some trucks might switch lanes, and you wouldn’t want to be in their blind spot when this happens.

What Are Other Road Manners That I Need To Be Aware Of in Benin?

Road etiquette is sort of like unwritten Benin driving rules that require no liabilities when not practiced/followed. Despite the many “unwritten road rules,” it always boils down to exercising respect and courtesy at all times. Other road etiquettes that you can practice in Benin are:

  • No tailgating
  • Always do a vehicle check before heading out
  • Always keep at least one (1) hand on the steering wheel
  • No racing with other drivers (unless it's a competition in a designated road section)
  • Lower your light beam when there is an oncoming vehicle
  • No honking of horns in specialized zones like schools, temples/churches, underground parking lots, etc.
  • Do not throw your garbage outside the window

Driving Situation and Conditions in Benin

You might also be wondering what is it like to go driving in Benin zip codes? Well, roads in Benin are still not the best in the world, but the government is continuously investing in more efficient road networks for the future, especially in the northern region.

Accident Statistics

In 2018, 3.72% of the total deaths in the country resulted from road traffic accidents. This translated to about 3,229 mortalities in a year. Moreover, road traffic accidents in the country are among the top ten (10) leading causes of death in Benin, so be careful when plying the road.

However, most of Benin’s road incidents happen not because of very poor road delineation but because of petty crimes and drunk drivers. As long as you make sure to drive responsibly, you’ll be able to avoid even aggressive drivers on the road.

Common Vehicles

The International Port of Benin doesn’t only cater to the shipment and receipt of agricultural products like cotton, rice, and cocoa. According to a big shipping company that operates in the country, cars comprise a very large portion of operations in the port. This is because Benin is a huge supporter of the second-hand car trade. With this, you’ll see almost all types of vehicles in Benin from mopeds, to minis, to hatchbacks, to economy sedans, to compacts, minivans, SUVs, and more. If you're driving offroad, four-wheel drive vehicles would be the best option.

Toll Roads

Toll roads exist in Benin. These are most concentrated in the paved primary roads in the southern areas, particularly those traversing the main towns. As of this writing, toll fees range from USD0.28 to USD0.93. These may increase as more and more paved roads are built in the country.

Road Conditions

Compared to some other countries in Africa, major roads and main streets within Benin are in relatively fair condition. If you go off main highways, however, you will find a lot of dirt roads and smaller unpaved roads that may be difficult to pass through during the rainy season (June - September). In addition, Benin has numerous poorly-lit roads, so be careful when driving around at night. The road infrastructure in Benin may not be as good as the roads in other countries, but it's still safe to drive around the country.

There are also some roads in Benin that lack car-free pedestrian zones, clear road markings, and safety barriers. This is why a lot of pedestrians don’t practice safe crossing. In addition, apart from pedestrian zones, there are no reserved lanes for two-wheeled vehicles. So when you drive around Benin, you should watch out for pedestrians just suddenly crossing the streets or bicycles and motorcycles suddenly overtaking.

By researching through Benin driving videos, you get to learn more about what to expect when driving through the country’s roads.

Driving Culture

Traditionally, to denote emergency situations, local drivers are accustomed to using leaves or branches as an alternative to the standard road cones. In order to progress from these customs, road safety is now being taught in schools, although it’s not part of the regular curriculum. NGOs on Road Safety conduct annual school tours in order to impart their advocacy even in the early stages of education. Apart from that, the government has deployed more traffic police to address the rising number of road robberies. You won't encounter a lot of undisciplined drivers in Benin, which is good news.

Things To Do Benin

It would be difficult not to be charmed with Benin, especially with its extraordinary way of life, exotic wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes. If you want to get to know the country a bit more, you can apply for a visa extension or work temporarily in the country legally.

Drive As a Tourist

If you aren’t sure yet if working in Benin as a driver is worth it as a career, you can go ahead and try driving as a tourist first. Driving as a tourist can also be your practice and training. Once you officially work as a driver, it will be expected that you are adept at navigating the different areas already. You can do this while you are waiting for your work permit.

Work As a Driver

Driving jobs can include delivery-related work, driving for guests, driving for the company, and more. However, before working as a driver in Benin, you have to make sure that you secure a valid work permit.

Work permits can come with a single-entry visa or a multiple-entry visa, and you’ll have to find an employer first. The employer will serve as your sponsor, and they’ll need to help you process your work visa. Moreover, you need to prepare the following documents:

  • Scanned copy of your passport
  • Copy of your flight itinerary
  • Passport-size photo
  • Business letter from your employer
  • Duly accomplished visa application form
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination

Work As a Travel Guide

If you don’t want to work as a driver, you can also try your hand at being a travel guide. Driving isn’t a usual qualification for travel guides, but if you knew how to drive, it could benefit you more. Plus, if you love traveling and meeting new people, working as a travel guide will be a very good opportunity for you to grow your career.

Apply For Residency

Before qualifying for permanent residency, you have to have a temporary resident card first. You can secure a temporary resident card from the Directorate of Emigration and Immigration. The requirements are as follows:

ECOWAS Member

  • Residence Certificate (from Head of Village/District)
  • Medical Certificate (issued by the Health Centre of the Republican Police)
  • Police Clearance from your home country
  • Proof of professional activities in Benin
  • ID-photo with white background
  • Photocopy of valid passport
  • Photocopy of consular card

Non-ECOWAS Member

  • Residence Certificate (from Head of Village/District)
  • Medical Certificate (issued by the Health Centre of the Republican Police)
  • Police Clearance from your home country
  • Proof of professional activities in Benin
  • ID-photo with white background
  • Photocopy of valid passport
  • Photocopy of consular card
  • Quius
  • Repatriation Deposit (paid to the Treasury)
  • Other documents as requested by the Directorate

How Can I Have My Tourist Visa Extended?

If you applied for a 30-day visa, you are qualified to apply for an extension of up to 90 days. You can either apply for the extension directly at the Benin Embassy nearest you or go through an authorized agent (you can search for them online). The standard requirements to apply for visa extension include:

  • Valid passport with not less than six (6) months expiry from the date of application
  • Completely-filled visa extension application form
  • Passport-size photo
  • Bookings for your accommodation during your intended extension

Holders of a 90-day visa are rarely allowed to apply for an extension. However, you can apply for a new Benin Visa should you wish to stay for more than 90 days (subject to careful deliberation based on your reasons for extension). Some visitors have been granted an extension of more than one (1) year. The Government of Benin is fairly open to tourists as long as you give them a valid justification.

The Top Destinations in Benin

Now that you already have some idea on how to go about a safe Benin driving experience, it’s now time to explore some of the most sought-after destinations in the country. This section also included plenty of Benin driving directions to help you get to the destinations faster.

Tanguieta

The town of Tanguieta is located within the Atakora Mountains, on the border of the Pendjari National Park. It is the most popular jump-off point to go on a safari adventure in the park, home to the African Forest Elephant, Hippopotamus, West Africa Antelopes, the West African Lion, and many more.

Situated in the northwestern region of Benin, the town of Tanguieta is almost 600km from the capital city of Cotonou. It will take you about 9 hours to drive to Tanguieta, so you’ll need to plan your route well for stopovers. The fastest route to Tanguieta is via RNIE2 and RNEI3.

  1. Exit Cotonou by driving north along RNIE2.
  2. Stay on RNIE2 until you reach the roundabout with RNIE3.
  3. Take the 3rd exit towards RNEI3.
  4. Follow RNEI3 towards the northwest.
  5. RNEI3 will take you directly towards Tanguieta.

The Atakora Mountain Range features the most scenic slopes and cliffs in the northwestern region, and one (1) would be able to take the most beautiful photos with the formations as a backdrop. If you want to travel to Tanguieta, here are some activities that you can do:

  1. Visit Tanougou Falls
    To fight off the West African heat, you can drive and visit Tanougou Falls for some cooling off. The falls are located about 20km northeast of Tanguieta, almost at the boundary of the Pendjari Game Park. This 15-meter high waterfall has an average flow rate of 1.5m3/second, and it usually increases between May and September.
  2. See the French Colonial Buildings
    Benin was a French colony for centuries. With this came plenty of architectural structures which are still well-preserved up to the present. Although you couldn’t really go inside some of these buildings, seeing their exterior designs alone would already be an experience.
  3. Visit the Parc National de la Pendjari
    Pendjari National Park expands from Benin to Burkina Faso and Niger. This 32,250km2 park is believed to be the biggest remaining wildlife ecosystem in West Africa. Thousands of elephants, hundreds of critically endangered lions, and other keystone species call the park their home. With this, it is one of the best Safari destinations in the world.

Natitingou

The town of Natitingou is another unique place to explore in Benin. There, you will come across the traditional Tata, a type of residence that is only found in Natitingou, Boukoumbe, and a small area in Togo. Tatas have been the habitats of Atacoran indigenous tribes for centuries. What’s special about a Tata is its extraordinary architecture — with rooms that come in small towers. Tatas have multiple levels that serve different purposes like storage and cooking, so that would be interesting to experience.

  1. Exit Cotonou by driving north along RNIE2.
  2. Stay on RNIE2 until you reach the roundabout with RNIE3.
  3. Take the 3rd exit towards RNEI3.
  4. Follow RNEI3 towards the northwest.
  5. You should find Natitingou after the town of Djougou and before the town of Tanguieta.

When you visit Natitingou, there are actually more things to do than just see the rare Tata Houses. Here are a few of the other activities that can make your trip to Natitingou special:

  1. Get to Know the Somba People
    Also known as the Otammari or Tamberma, the Somba people are most known for their ritualistic body scarring. Body scars are already introduced to children as young as two (2) years old. These scars serve as a formal identification for Somba people. You can meet these communities in Natitingou or in Tonga.
  2. Spot the Different Styles/Types of Traditional Tatas
    Tatas are the traditional houses of the Somba people. The design of these houses mimic fortresses, so it comes out like a mini castle. If you want, you can also spend the night in a Tata and learn about the different components or sections of this type of housing.
  3. Learn How to Make Shea Butter
    Shea Butter is a very popular cosmetic ingredient worldwide. If you are looking for moisturizing skincare products, you’ll most likely see shea butter as one of the ingredients. However, did you know that West Africa is the biggest source of Shea Butter? Specifically, the butter comes from the nuts of the Shea Tree that is native to West Africa. If you want to learn how to extract and make shea butter the traditional way, Natitingou is your place to be

Ouidah

Next to Abomey, Ouidah was the second city to provide the greatest number of slaves during the pre-colonial era. If you visit Ouidah, you’ll be able to learn a lot about the history of the slave trade in Benin through the Route des Esclaves (slave route). Another interesting thing about Ouidah is that it is also recognized as the heart of one (1) of the world’s oldest religion — Voodoo. With this, expect to find so many Voodoo-related items, activities, and monuments in Ouidah.

Ouidah is just about 38 km from Cotonou. The fastest route is through RNIE1, and it will take you about 40 minutes to drive to the area. You just need to drive west along RNEI1 for 38 km or so. Do take note, however, that RNEI1 is a toll road, so better prepare for some change.

Ouidah is among the few districts that offer so many tourist attractions. Before driving in this Benin district, make sure that you’ve fully charged your camera battery, as your day will be so much packed with history, art, religion, and architecture. Here are some of the popular activities in Ouidah:

  • Visit the Temple of the Pythons
  • See the Door of No Return
  • Learn to make salt the traditional way
  • Dine at Amicale
  • Visit the Catholica Basilica
  • Explore the Sacred Forest of Kpasse
  • Visit Musee de la Fondation Zinsou
  • Buy spices at the Voodoo Market

Ouidah is just about 38 km from Cotonou. The fastest route is through RNIE1, and it will take you about 40 minutes to drive to the area.

  • You just need to drive west along RNEI1 for 38 km or so.

Do take note, however, that RNEI1 is a toll road, so better prepare for some change.

Grand Popo

If you want to spend the day with the sea breeze, chill out in Grand Popo. The beach is not powdery-white, but the sand is soft enough to go barefoot comfortably. It is safe to swim in the waters, but since there’s not so much to see in the shallow intertidal, snorkeling isn’t really much fun. There are hotels along Grand Popo Beach, so you wouldn’t have any difficulty finding one (1) if you want to stay in the areas for days.

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