Benin Travel Information
Local time in Benin is GMT +1.
Electrical outlets in Benin usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin plugs with round pins are standard.
More than 50 languages are spoken in Benin, but French is the official language.
All travellers over one year of age require a yellow fever vaccination to enter Benin, and proof thereof should be readily available at the airport. Malaria is a problem all over the country and some form of prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers in all areas. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid, and a meningococcus vaccination is recommended during the dry season, between November and June. It is generally advised that travellers are up to date on vaccinations for polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. Those travellers who will be spending extended periods outdoors and may be at risk of animal bites should consider a rabies vaccination. Cholera outbreaks do occur in Benin, but vaccinations are usually only recommended for high-risk individuals like health professionals and relief workers who may be visiting remote areas where cholera epidemics are occurring.
Travellers should not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected, and should avoid ice in beverages. All meals should be eaten while still hot, and uncooked fruit and vegetables avoided.
Medical facilities in Benin are limited and many medicines are unavailable. Travellers should ensure that they have comprehensive travel insurance, including provision for medical evacuation, and should bring along all required prescription medications, in their original packaging, and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what the medication is and why it is needed.
Tipping is appreciated all over Benin. Restaurants don't generally add service charges to bills and a 10 percent tip is appropriate for waitrons. Fares are usually rounded up for taxi drivers, and small tips for hotel staff are appreciated.
Travel in Benin is usually trouble free, but crime is a problem and tourists should be cautious and vigilant at all times as incidents of mugging, assault and car-jacking are fairly common, especially in Cotonou and near the Nigerian border. Most crime targetting foreigners is petty and opportunistic and tourists should watch out for bag-snatchers and pickpockets, especially at Dantokpa market in Cotonou, and in other tourist areas. The Cotonou coastline is also dangerous, with numerous robberies occurring on the beaches; visitors shouldn't walk alone on the beach at any time of day. The ocean currents are extremely strong along the Benin coast and drownings occur annually. There is a high rate of credit card fraud and robberies at ATMs so foreigners need to be vigilant when withdrawing money. Tourists are also frequently targetted by scam artists.
The political situation in Benin is stable but visitors should avoid any street protests and political gatherings that do occur. There is an underlying threat of terrorism in the region, but Benin is generally safe and peaceful.
Visitors should be careful not to take pictures of military zones, airports or government offices. Homosexuality is not tolerated in Benin and sexual relations between members of the same sex are illegal. Benin is largely patriarchal and although women are technically equal to men legally, visitors should not be surprised to find that women are generally subordinate socially and economically.
Benin is poor in natural resources, and the stability of its economy is largely dependent on trade with its neighbour, Nigeria. French is the language of business is Benin and being able to speak it is essential, unless you have a translator. Punctuality is considered important and lightweight suits are the norm when doing business. Office hours are generally 8am to 12.30pm and 3pm to 6.30pm Monday to Friday.
The telephone system in Benin is characterised by ageing, deteriorating equipment, and telecommunications growth is in the mobile phone market, while landline use is limited. Several mobile phone operators compete in Benin. Only a very small percentage of the population has internet access, but there are numerous internet cafes in the major cities. The international dialing code for Benin is +229.
Travellers to Benin 15 years and older may bring with them 200 Cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 25 cigars or 250g of tobacco. 500mL of eau de toilette and 250mL of perfume is granted allowance, as well as one bottle of wine and one bottle of spirits.
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