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Why carry an IDP while driving in Benin?

Your IDP is a valid form of identification in more than 150 countries worldwide and contains your name, photo and driver information in the 12 most widely spoken languages in the world – it is understandable to most of the local officials and authorities of the countries you visit.

It translates your identification information into 12 languages — so it speaks the language even if you don’t. Benin highly recommends an International Driving Permit.

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Top Destinations in Benin

Nestled between Nigeria and Togo, this Sub-Saharan country in West Africa features a dynamic tourism industry highly rooted in the country’s rich indigenous culture. If you’re planning on exploring West Africa soon, here are some very interesting Benin destinations that you can check out.

Abomey

Founded in 1645, the city of Abomey was once the mighty capital of Benin (pre-colonially called the Kingdom of Dahomey). Monarchs ruled the Kingdom then, and with this came their extravagant palaces with walls that were thought to be higher than the surrounding village structures.

At present, structural ruins of these palaces are still preserved in Abomey. If you want to learn about the pre-colonial culture of Benin, this city of Abomey is your place. Two (2) of the most famous palace complexes have been converted to the Historic Museum of Abomey, and it’s a museum that you surely don’t want to miss.

Do I Need to Have An International Driving Permit in Benin to Drive to Abomey?

Before driving to Abomey, make sure that you have your valid International Driving License for Benin zip codes with you. You have the option to apply for one before traveling or apply for your International Driving License - Benin in the airport upon arrival. The International Driving License - Benin requirements only include a valid native driving license and for you to have reached the age of 18.

Tanguieta

If you are game for a safari adventure, it would be difficult not to find yourself in Tanguieta. This area is the most popular jump-off point toward Parc National de la Pendjari where you can see the most interesting animals in their natural habitat. This includes Hippopotamus and the African Forest Elephant to name a few.

In addition, Tanguieta is located on the foothills of the Atakora Mountains. If you don’t want to go on a tour of the safari, you can still go sightseeing within the town because the Atakora Mountains have the most scenic cliffs in Benin.

Natitingou

Have you ever noticed that indigenous African villages have a lot of interesting residential structures? When you head out to the town of Natitingou, you will come across what is officially called a “Tata”. This is a type of house built with multiple levels, supported by fortress-high walls. One can call this a mini castle. The Tata is a cultural trademark of the Somba people, so when you’ll be in the area, you can also learn about an umbrella culture in Benin.

What can be exciting about Natitingou is that you can actually spend the night in one of the Tatas! Yes, you can sleep under the stars if you wish to on the rooftops of these Tatas. In the morning right then, you can ask the locals to teach you how to make Shea Butter the traditional way.

Lake Nokoue

Lake Nokoue is found along the southern marshlands of Benin. It is a popular area for watching, and it is home to what is known as the “Venice of Africa” — the village of Ganvie. Ganvie is likened to Venice because the houses and all other community structures stand on stilts, and the only way to go around the village is to ride a boat (motorized or non-motorized).

However, Lake Nokoue is thought to be on the verge of collapsing because of the degree of pollution. This is why if you’re interested to volunteer for environmental causes in Benin, you can find a lot of programs for Lake Nokoue. During your downtimes (day-offs), you can bike around the lake or try fishing with the locals.

Nikki

Learn about another prominent tribe in Benin — the Baribas. The town of Nikki is home to these expert horsemen, and it is one of many areas in Benin that is not busy with tourists. If you do not know how to ride a horse, you might find a Bariban that can teach you the proper and safe way to do so. Nikki is located about 529 km northeast of Cotonou. It will take you about eight (8) hours to reach the area, but a drive that’s going to be as scenic as the natural landscapes of the Atakora.

Since Nikki is relatively far from Cotonou, you might assume that traffic law enforcement is a bit relaxed in this region of Benin. However, anywhere you go in Benin, always remember to have your International Driving Permit (IDP) with you at all times, including your native driving license. Securing an IDP nowadays is very convenient, considering the digital IDP. However, if you prefer the old school way, make sure to indicate the right Benin zip code for your International Driving Permit delivery.

Ouidah

If you didn’t know it yet, Benin is the motherland of the Vodun religion, also known as Voodoo. In the center of it all lies the town of Ouidah, a town that’s less than 40 km west of Cotonou. In Ouidah, you can find the Temple of Pythons and the biggest Voodoo Market in the country.

Apart from that, Ouidah also holds some of the most notable stories in the history of Benin. It is here that you can find the slave route (Route des Esclaves), since Ouidah also took part in slave-trading hugely (second to Abomey). Other sights to see in Ouidah is the Door of No Return and the Sacred Forest of Kpasse, both being historically important for the people of Ouidah.

Grand Popo

Benin is not all semi-arid Sub-Saharan areas. Its 120 km down south is characterized by soft-sand beaches, perfect for a day out in the sun. Grand Popo is the westernmost section of this stretch of shore. You can do all sorts of beach activities in the area without worrying about food and drinks since stalls are scattered everywhere. In the nearby communities, you can go on a stroll and learn about how to make sea salt the traditional way.

Boukoumbe

The highest peak in Benin is Mount Koussou-Kovangou, and it is located in the district of Boukoumbe. Boukoumbe features a busy community with a marketplace that’s perfect for some exotic shopping. You can also find the famous Tata houses in Boukoumbe and find one where you can stay in. From a quick light bulb idea, do you think you’d be able to identify the different styles of Tata houses? That would be an exciting thing to do!

Boukoumbe shares the border with Togo, and it is about a long 9-hour drive from Cotonou. The fastest route is via RNIE2 and RNEI3 which will take you towards the northwestern side of Benin. When driving in Boukoumbe, bring your valid driving license and IDP with you to avoid police confrontations. Your IDP alone is not valid without your local driving license.

Cotonou

Cotonou is the administrative capital of Benin. This is not to be mistaken as the official capital which is Porto-Novo. However, Cotonou is the center of urban development in Benin. This is where the international airport is located, and it is where commerce and trade are bustling. Cotonou is also where you’ll find a lot of educational institutions, restaurants, hotels, and other tourist hubs.

When you’re in Cotonou, make sure to visit the Dantokpa Market, the L’étoile Rouge Monument, and the Notre Dame des Apotres Cathedral Likewise, check out some souvenirs to bring home at the Artisanal Center.

Do I Need An International Driving Permit in Benin to Drive Around Cotonou?

Since Cotonou is the busiest city in Benin, expect that this is where traffic is most dense, and traffic law enforcers are most active. With this, do not forget to bring your International Driving Permit for Benin, along with your native driving license, when you go driving around the city. If you don’t have one yet, you can access the International Driver's License - Benin form for application from the International Driver’s Association website homepage. Just follow the steps and receive your IDP in as fast as 20 minutes to two (2) hours!

Porto-Novo

After learning about pre-colonial Benin in Abomey, you can then learn about Benin during the colonial period at Porto-Novo. This city is the official capital of Benin, and it is home to numerous museums, all housing precious artifacts about the history of Benin. However, Porto-Novo is not all just that, the city also features plenty of restaurants that offer the most delicious treats. You can check out Chez Mahi and Java Promo for some energy meals before continuing your tour.

To drive legally to Porto-Novo, make sure that you have with you your valid International Driver’s License (IDL). If you apply for an International Driver’s License - Benin, the location for shipments can be anywhere in the world, including the Republic of Benin. To avoid losing your IDL, make sure to take note of your International Driver’s License - Benin number. This is because if you apply for an IDL with the International Driver’s Association, you are eligible for a free replacement service the first time.

Bab’s Dock

Bab’s Dock is probably one of Benin’s best-kept secrets (well, not anymore after this). To get to this enchanting retreat, you’ll have to ride a canoe up a river lined by lush mangrove forests. Bab’s Dock is located within a marshland near Cotonou, nestled on the banks of a lake where you can go sailing, chill on the wooden terrace, take a swim, eat and dine and just lounge around with the surrounding mother nature at its best.

Bab’s Dock is a tranquil retreat from the bustling city of Cotonou. You just need to call the management first to book your visit. They will be the ones to pick you up from Cotonou and take you to the area. Don't forget to bring your IDP with you. If you haven't obtained one yet, apply on our website. Just fill out the application form, submit your local driving license, and upload your photos. Your national license is proof that you're capable to drive a motor vehicle not only on your home country but also in a foreign country.

Fidjrosse Beach

Also found in Cotonou, Fidjrosse Beach is just right beside the Cardinal Bernadin Gantin de Cotonou Airport. It is a very busy area bustling with tourists, both local and foreign alike. Just like Grand Popo Beach, Fidjrosse Beach has a wide soft-sand beach that caters to almost all beach activities. Swimming is allowed but discouraged in the area because of strong currents.

The area is also teeming with hotels and restaurants, so you should expect quite festive vibes when you visit. Drop by Fidjrosse Beach and you may chance upon live musical acts playing on the beach.

Most Important Road Rules in Benin

Getting to these destinations is not difficult because the majority of the terrain in Benin is nearly flat, with an exception to the Atakora Mountain Range in the northwest. However, before you go on a Benin road trip, you’ll need to maintain proper road etiquette and observe the road rules even outside urban areas where road traffic is minimal to none.

Drive On the Right Side of the Road

Benin does not have proper road markings even within the urban area. This includes lane boundaries and pedestrian walkways. If you’re driving around Benin, especially in a road section with no proper delineation, always remember to keep right. This is because the Beninese drive on the right side of the road.

If you come from a country that drives on the left side of the road, you may want to practice driving first with a professional driving instructor before you drive out alone. You wouldn’t want to get confused especially when you’ll come across an intersection or turn in sharp road curves.

Drive Within the Speed Limit

When driving within urban areas, you need to maintain a speed of 50 km/hr. When you go driving outside city perimeters, you can, however, speed up but only up to a maximum of 90 km/hour. Road traffic police are deployed around Benin, and they do not play around. If you are caught over speeding, you will be liable for a fine or risk having your International Driver’s License - Benin and driver's license suspended. Contrary to what some people say, avoid bribing land transportation authorities at all costs. This will just place you in a more dreadful situation.

Do not drink and drive

Drinking and driving at the same time is not well tolerated in Benin. You should strictly follow this road traffic rule to avoid penalties from the land transportation authorities. You’re only allowed a maximum of 50 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood while driving in Benin. Again, if you get caught beyond the allowable alcohol limit, you may face a certain fine, be imprisoned or risk having your driver's license confiscated. So before you over-indulge in that delicious Sodabi (popular Beninese drink), make sure you don’t forget that you still need to drive home.

For more local driving tips, getting a valid International Driving Permit in Benin, travel restriction, and other travel-related facts and information, refer to the Benin Driving Guide.

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