Visit the many Benin attractions from pristine beaches, amazing wildlife to compelling history. Benin was one of the major departure points when eight million people were forced to leave Africa as slaves. The birthplace of voodoo, the country is small in size but has advanced infrastructure. Visit the vibrant city of Cotonou and the laidback capital of Porto Novo. Explore the palm-fringed Atlantic beaches, witness exquisite national parks and be wowed by the exotic art scenes. The travel guides take you to the best Benin places to visit for an African holiday.
Famous For: Brass Work | Ivory | Wood Carvings | Voodoo | Royalty | Game Parks | Tribal Villages | Eco-Tourism | Nature | Beaches | Friendly Locals | Cuisine
Time Zone : GMT +1
Driving Side : Right
Airports in benin : Cotonou Airport | Djougou Airport | Kandi Airport | Natitingou Airport | Parakou Airport | Save Airport
There are two major mobile network operators, MTN Benin and Moov Benin. MTN charges 200 CFA for a SIM card available at their stores. Buy a SIM card with extended validity for six months at 300 CFA or for 12 months at 400 CFA. You could choose an unlimited package called Forfaits illimites for high-speed data. There are many Wi-Fi hotspots in Benin and you can use the Wi-Fi Finder app to easily locate the hotspots. Airports also have free Wi-Fi and as you land you can chronicle your itinerary right away. There are many free cafe Wi-Fi. So, use a Wi-Fi map to see where the hotspots are located.
The 13th-century history indicated that Benin was run by local chieftains. By the 15th century Oba, a single ruler took control. The Benin territory expanded to the Niger Delta right to the city now called Lagos. The Obas brought prosperity to the African kingdom.
In 1872 French colonisation happened and in 1904, the territory was recognised as Dahomey. In 1958 it became the Republique du Dahomey with self-governance within the French community. Benin got independence from France on August 1, 1960.
Many coups followed, and Major Mathieu Kerekou retained power. He remained in power until the 1990s and the Kerekou government brought in the new democratic constitution. This made Benin the first African nation to become a pluralistic politico system with the president as the head. Yayi Boni won the elections in 2006 and 2011 without a runoff vote.
Benin geography indicates that the country is located in West Africa. It is bordered by Niger in the north, Togo in the west, and Nigeria in the east. Burkina Faso is to the north-west of Benin. Benin’s coastal strip extends to 121 km with fabulous coconut palms and sandy beaches. Porto Novo is the official capital while Cotonou is Benin's largest city.
Beyond Porto Novo and Grand Popo, a plateau gradually rises to the majestic Atakora Mountains. Niger has two tributaries that run from the highlands to the lagoon. The Mono River flows to the sea and forms a frontier between Togo and Grand Popo. There are five geographic zones. In the south is the coastal strip broken by creeks and lagoons. The north is a plateau with fertile clay soil and areas that grow oil palms.
The country is divided into twelve departments and seventy-seven communes.
Benin culture is diverse with 10 million inhabitants speaking over 50 languages. However, Benin is not only about voodoo dolls. Benin art was produced for the court of Oba of Benin. Craftsmen produced cast bronze and carved ivory objects as works of art. The royal arts of the Benin kingdom portray the divine nature of the king. Brass, ivory and coral are used that reflect the great wealth of the kingdom. Benin art has been in existence since the 13th century. Benin music has also played a great role in the African music scene. Native folk combine with funk, soul, Congolese rumba and other music forms.Food and Drink
Benin cuisine is varied from street vendors selling beans to grilled chicken or turkey. Take care to eat hygienic food while it is still hot. Try the fried plantains called aloko with fish in Cotonou. The beer is cheap and there are local pubs called buvettes on every corner. Nightclubs also serve beer although more expensive. Palm wine is a local favourite. Benin cuisine is mainly served with sauces and is flavourful. Enjoy exotic ingredients in the Benin food with a whole lot of vegetable fat.Must-Try Benin National Dishes
Acaraje (deep-fried black-eyed peas), Yam, Maize, Kuli Kuli (smashed peanuts into balls or biscuit), Dahomey Fish Stew (fillets rolled in flour and fried), Yovo Doko (sweet fritters of flour, yeast and sugar), Massa (pancake), Jollof Rice, Garri (cassava flakes)Must-Try Benin National Drinks
Sodabi (fermented Palm tree sap), La Beninoise (national beer), Tchapalo (fermented corn), Bissap Juice (a drink made from hibiscus flower and herbs).Hospitality
Greetings are generally a handshake and locals use only the right hand. Women handshake or kiss as a welcoming gesture. Beninese are friendly people who respect their traditions, especially voodoo. However, they get angry if photographed without permission. Locals take time to greet as part of good manners. Upon arriving or leaving, it is customary to shake hands. Men frequently may walk holding hands but PDA is discouraged. Food and drink are offered as a sign of hospitality. Eat with the right hand and do not refuse the offering as it is rude.
Benin weather between December and March will allow you to enjoy the best conditions in the north and south. The rainy season in the north is between May and September and temperatures can climb to around 40 Â°C. In the south, the climate is tropical with long dry seasons between November to March and a short rainy season between September and October. The dry months of December to March also coincide with the Voodoo Festival, a unique Benin tourism highlight. The weather is cooler and pleasant. Although you must watch out for dusty winds called harmattan.
Experience the incredible Benin attraction, the Temple of the Sacred Python. The Ouidah temple is a concrete building inside which is a pit filled with snakes. The snakes are considered sacred and are a religious symbol. A dozen snakes are from the species known as the Royal Python that make the temple their home. The snakes are harmless and for an extra fee, you could take photographs with the slithering stars. Go on to pray to the Dagbe, the 'snake god' for protection.
Best Time to Visit: December to March
Entry Price: $1.50
Spend time on the golden sandy beach in Cotonou. Spend a relaxed day in the sun and indulge in outdoor adventures. A great Benin place to visit with beach activities and live entertainment. Rent a beach hut and enjoy the shade of palm trees and enjoy the family-friendly recreation area on the beach. With a lot of water sports to indulge in, this is a fun Benin attraction. Located in the heart of the city, enjoy other top attractions in Cotonou and hang out with the locals.
Best Time to Visit: December to March
Entry Price: Free ($18 avg/night for a furnished single room to rent by the beach)
One of the top Benin attractions, the Royal Palaces of Abomey was built between the 17th and 19th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an earthen structure in which the King of Dahomey resided. It reflects the last chapter of West Africa's chaotic past. Twelve palaces were built, each after the old palace of the predecessor. This huge historical site covers about 40 hectares and comprises earthen constructions.
Best Time to Visit: December to March
Entry Price: $3.64
Witness amazing wildlife in the Pendjari that spans over 275,000 hectares. This is one of the best national parks in the country, a top Benin attraction. Located 45 km north of Natitingou, spend a few days in the park amid green landscapes and wonderful waterfalls. Go on a wildlife safari and be overwhelmed by Benin's nature. Navigate the pathways and witness wildlife such as lions, elephants, African buffaloes, and various species of birds.
Best Time to Visit: Dry Season
Entry Price: $18.47
This Benin tourist attraction is an interesting experience. It is where you can witness the slave auction plaza and the Tree of Forgetfulness. Slaves were branded with their owner's symbols and they were made to forget where they came from. Discover the slave route when you travel to Ouidah. Trace the journey of slaves torn away from their own homes and country to be sold by the king of Dahomey. The slave route is dotted with colourful statues that represent the history of Ouidah.
Best Time to Visit: Dry Season
Entry Price: Tour cost
Few more places to visit in Benin
Most Popular Regions and Cities to Visit in BeninCotonou
Experience the amazing city of Benin for its urban energy and African charm. The city offers stunning beaches with golden sands. The top Benin attraction of Pendjari National Park is also a must-see in Cotonou. It is one of the leading animal reserves in Africa. Also, witness the 'Fetish Market' that sells a variety of dead animals during the voodoo celebrations.
Visit For: Dantokpa Market, Cotonou Central Market, Saint Michel Church, Place des Martyrs, Fondation Zinsou.Ouidah
Witness the mix of French and Portuguese culture in a city located about 40 km from Cotonou. African history is a reason to visit a more relaxed city. Stunning beaches, fantastic museums, and a chance to discover slavery and voodoo cultures are offered. Laze on the Ouidah beaches and make the city one of the top Benin places to visit in your itinerary.
Visit For: Ouidah Museum of History, Sacred Forest, The Museum of Zinsou Foundation, BasilicaPorto Novo
Porto Novo is the capital of Benin with a population of only 250000. It was the former French capital of Dahomey. There is still a clear Portugal influence on the city where the pace is leisurely. Witness the Royal Palace and garden, one of the top Benin places to visit. You can also visit the popular museum of the Porto Novo kings. It contains displays from king Toffa's period, an interesting spot for Benin tourism.
Visit For: Home Museum, Da Silva Museum, Great Mosque of Porto Novo, et de la Nature Botanical GardenAbomey
Abomey is noted as the capital of Ancient Dahomey for 300 years. The top Benin attraction here is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Abomey Royal Palaces. The site is of great historical value with tales of kings that once resided there. Although in ruins and most of the site has been largely destroyed, this is a fascinating Benin tourist attraction. The city is located in southern Benin and is a must-experience destination.
Visit For: History Museum of Abomey, Place Jarre Trouee, Behanzin StatueGrand-Popo
Visit the intriguing history of the slave trade in the town of Grand Popo. Indulge in African charm and friendly people. Grand Popo is a few hours' drive from Cotonou and has many resorts and backside hotels. A great place to relax and swim, the beaches are a great Benin attraction. Walk along the Mono River and see exotic birdlife among mangroves. The town offers a gateway from the bustling city life.
Visit For: Pythons Temple, Fil'o Parc, Door of No Return, National Museum
If you have time, some of the other cities to visit in Benin are,
The unmissable experience is a celebration of the voodoo religion and the cult. Traditional chiefs, fetish priests and tourists come together to witness the festival. Some devotees dress up in walking grass skirts and the Egungun emerge from the forest leaping towards the crowd. Dance and drum beats accompany the festival.
Location : Ouidah
Date : 10 January
In August a ritual is celebrated to thank the gods for the good harvest. The new tubers eat together and celebrate to gather around nobles and kings. The event happens in the central regions of Benin with people dancing with masks and praying for a good harvest every year. Yam is one of the main ingredients of the staple diet in Benin.
Location : Central Benin
Date : August
The Zangbeto mask is covered with coloured straw and is big. It represents the force of nature before the human spirit. The mask wearers dance as they keep their faces hidden. This is an important event when the Zangbeto comes out to protect against the evil spirits. Zangbeto performs miracles and the mask symbolizes cleansing powers.
Location : Benin
Date : Dry season
The Waba Festival is an initiative to encourage collaborative work between visual artists. Galleries in Porto Novo and Cotonou showcase work from around the country. The event is meant to popularize art among all sections of society. Exhibitions are open to the public and dialogues occur about the role art plays.
Location : Porto Novo and Cotonou
Date : 5 June to 9 June
This 10-day festival in December takes place in Abomey. It showcases the diversity of Dahomean cultures. The event offers traditional songs, dances, storytelling sessions of the ancient Dahomey kingdom, and folklore. It highlights the diverse aspects of Benin culture.
Location : Abomey
Date : December
Other festivals/events celebrated in Benin are,
All travellers must have a valid passport to apply for a Benin visa. The passport needs to be valid for six months beyond the date of return. The passport must have at least two blank pages as well as a Benin visa requirement.
Citizens of the following countries have a visa-free entry for a stay of up to three months to enter Benin,Visa-on-arrival/eVisa/ Visa free entry
benin issues eVisa on arrival for citizens from 61 countries. The pre-registration process is online and simple. Upon getting the e-receipt of the application, the print out can be presented to the immigration office on arrival in benin. The cost of eVisa is $120 (approx.) that can be paid on arrival. The validity is 30 days after arrival. The citizens of the following countries can apply for benin eVisa on arrival,
The Benin evisa is a tourist visa that is electronically applied for. The stay period for up to one month is possible on the evisa or even up to three months after arrival. It is a single and multiple entry visas.
In addition to the Benin Tourist evisa, you will have to obtain a Benin Health Form with mandatory questions to be filled out. The immigration officer will ask for the QR code that the form generates.Types of Visa and Validity
The Benin visa types are Tourism and Business visa. A Transit visa allows for a stay of up to 24 hours with a forwarding ticket. You could get a visa for tourism for up to 30 days, single entry costs $65, up to 90 days validity costs $125, and multiple entries up to 30 days validity cost $95 as an Embassy fee.
Benin does not operate internal flights at the time.Bus
This is the most reliable mode of transport to get around. ATT and Confort Lines buses are well maintained and reliable. The buses operate on fixed schedules and it is recommended to book in advance. The buses are also air-conditioned with fixed departures.Car Rental and Motorbike
Hiring a car with a driver is a good way to move around Benin. You could hire a rental car service via a travel agency and tour operators in Cotonou. You will pay extra for fuel and the per day costs of hiring is about $37 with a driver for a regular vehicle. In case you are driving, you will need an International Driving Permit.Moped Taxi
Public transportation is poorly maintained and buses and bush taxis offer services. Apart from that Beninese, rely on moped taxis called zemidjans, and bicycles for transport. Roads are frequented by broken down pathways.Train
There are no internal services for trains in Benin.
Fly into Benin via international airlines such as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air India, Jet Airways, etc. Cadjehoun Airport in Cotonou services a network of flights into the country. The flights stop over at Addis Ababa, Mumbai, and Istanbul if there are no non-stop flights. The main airline is Westair Benin and there are no direct flights from the UK and USA too. Fly via Paris with Air France or via Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc.Via Rail
As of now, the Cotonou Parakou railway line is under upgrade to connect Benin with Niamey, Niger's capital.Via Sea
There are regular cargo services from Marseille to Cotonou and local shipping lines arrive in Porto Novo.Via Road
Among the various roadways, plans exist for projects in the north of Benin. There is a well-maintained road network linking Cotonou in the south to Malnville in the north. There is another roadway between central Benin to Natitingou in the north-west that is in good condition.
Visit Burkina Faso to cool down by the Karfiguela Falls. Explore the buzzing streets of Bobo Dioulasso, or go hiking in the southwest of the country. This among other attractions makes the country an interesting travel destination. Don't miss the popular International Arts and Crafts Fair and visit the Ouagadougou Ethnography Museum.Niger (277 km)
Niger is a country that derives its name from the Niger River that flows through the south-west. The country is famous for its agriculture and livestock. Visit popular attractions such as Ferme YOUYOU Park, Termit Massif, Lete Island, W National Park of Niger, and more.Nigeria (809 km)
The Ibeno Beach, Ngwo Pine Forest, Obudu Mountain Resort among other attractions are worthwhile to tour. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer famous for petroleum. The country inspires travellers with its beaches, local landscapes, mountain ranges, and tropical forests. Unmissable is the wildlife reserves and beautiful cities.Togo (651 km)
Discover the top attractions in Togo such as Parc National de Fazao, Parc Sarakawa, Tamberma Villages, Lome Beach, and more. The great beaches have white sands and plenty of privacy. The busy markets, hilltop villages and scenic spots make this West African country a delight to visit.
CALLING CODE : 299
Fire brigade : 118
Ambulance : 112
Police : 117
Benin currency is the West African Benin CFA franc and the currency code is XOF. The Benin currency symbol is CFA. The currency of Benin is broken into 100 centimes. The Benin money exchange rate for some of the popular currencies are;
1 XOF = 0.70 Naira (Benin currency to Naira)
1 XOF = 0.13 INR (Benin currency to INR)
1 XOF= 0 .0018 USD (Benin currency to USD)
1 XOF= 0.29 PKR (Benin currency to PKR)
Cotonou banknote denomination: 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000 francs CFA
Cotonou coin denomination: 1,5,10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250, 500 francs CFA
Please note that Travelers Cheques are NOT accepted in most places.
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