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Benin

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Benin because of the high levels of crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources of information about new security risks.
  • Don't walk alone, after dark or in poorly lit areas. Keep car doors and windows locked at all times. Robbery, carjacking and other opportunistic crime is common, especially in Cotonou and regions bordering Nigeria. See Safety and security.
  • Yellow fever is endemic. You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Benin. See Entry and exit and Health.
  • Drive defensively. Roads can be dangerous due to poor conditions and overloaded vehicles, particularly outside Cotonou. See Local travel.
  • Australia doesn't have an Embassy or Consulate in Benin. The Australian High Commission in Nigeria provides consular assistance to Australians in Benin. See Where to get help.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Benin for up-to-date information.

Other formalities

You'll need a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Benin. Some airlines will require you to present a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate before they'll allow you to board your flight out of Benin.

Yellow fever is endemic. It is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is preventable by vaccination. Read Yellow fever for information on re-entry to Australia following exposure to yellow fever.

More information:

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is Benin is the Central African Franc (known as the CFA Franc, or XOF). Australian dollars are not easily exchanged in Benin, though the exchange of $US and Euro is possible at commercial banks and exchange bureaux.

The economy of Benin is cash-based. ATMs are rare outside major centres and many businesses do not accept credit cards. Plan ahead and take sufficient cash to meet your needs. Contact your bank to make sure that your cards will be accepted. Credit and debit card fraud is prevalent.

Safety and security

Crime

Robberies, carjackings and other violent crimes occur regularly, especially in Cotonou and the regions bordering Nigeria. The risk of carjacking increases at night.

Pick-pocketing and other petty crimes are common near hotels, ports, railways and in the Dantokpa markets in Cotonou. Areas frequented by international visitors, beaches, bars and restaurants are also targeted.

  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying expensive watches, jewellery, phones and cameras.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Pay close attention to your personal possessions at all times
  • Don't walk alone, after dark or in poorly lit areas.
  • Be alert for signs of suspicious behaviour, by both motorists and pedestrians.
  • Keep vehicle windows and doors closed and locked, including when moving.

Scams

Internet scams come in many forms, including romance, friendship, business and employment opportunities. Victims have suffered financial loss. Victims who travel to West African countries to meet a friend or prospective marriage partner they have met online, or to seek restitution for money they have lost, are at risk of kidnapping, assault and robbery. Some victims have been killed. 

Commercial internet fraud often originates in West African countries. Criminals have been known to seek details of 'safe' bank accounts overseas in which to transfer large sums of money (as a donation or for a percentage of the amount involved). They may also provide fake cashier cheques for 'urgent' shipments of large quantities of goods, request sizeable fees for a fake government contract or extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity.

Bogus internet friendship, dating and marriage schemes are operating from West Africa. These scams typically result from connections made through internet dating sites or chat rooms. Once a virtual friendship develops, you'll typically be asked by your 'friend' or prospective marriage partner to send money to enable them to travel to Australia. In some cases, the relationship is terminated with very little chance that any funds can be recovered. In other cases, foreigners are lured to Africa to meet their friend or prospective marriage partner and become victims of crime

  • Scrutinise all approaches originating in Benin (or other West African countries) from people you don't know.
  • Don't send money to anyone in Benin until proper checks are made.
  • If you are the victim of a scam, get legal advice. 
  • Don't travel to Benin to seek restitution.

More information: Scams

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world, including in West Africa. In recent years, terrorists have attacked in Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso. A terror attack could happen anywhere and at any time, including in places visited by foreigners.

  • Be alert to possible threats, especially in public places.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Civil unrest and political tension

Demonstrations, strikes and political gatherings can turn violent.

  • Avoid protests, rallies and other large public gatherings.
  • Monitor the media and other sources for news of planned and possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.

Local travel

Road travel

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you're five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Benin than in Australia. Driving hazards include poor road conditions, inadequate street lighting, overloaded vehicles and pedestrians or animals straying onto roads. Criminal activity adds to the dangers, especially near the Benin-Nigeria border, where unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry are common.

Most roads outside of Cotonou are unpaved and poorly maintained. Some unpaved roads are impassable during the rainy seasons. Fuel shortages are common in rural areas of northern Benin.

Police periodically conduct vehicle checks at temporary road blocks. You may be asked to show personal identity and motor vehicle registration papers.

Witnesses to road accidents can react strongly towards individuals perceived to be at fault.

  •  Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Carry personal identity and vehicle registration and ownership papers at all times.
  • Don't travel overland to or from Nigeria.
  • Take additional fuel, drinking water and first aid supplies if you travel to rural areas.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Avoid driving at night. If you must drive at night, be alert to possible hazards.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and windows up at all times, including when driving – see Safety and security.

More information: Road safety and driving

 Driver's licence

You can drive in Benin with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

There is no reliable public transportation in Benin. Avoid long-distance buses as they are poorly maintained and often overloaded.

Boat travel

Travel on river craft is dangerous as they can be overloaded and lack necessary lifesaving equipment. Always wear a life jacket, even if others don't.

Piracy and armed robbery at sea happen in the coastal areas of Benin. Large vessels have been attacked in waters off Benin and neighbouring countries. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

More information: Piracy

 

Air travel

The Australian Government doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Benin.

More information: Air travel

Beaches and swimming

There are strong ocean currents along the coast and many drownings occur each year.

  • Always seek advice from locals before swimming.
  • Don't swim alone.

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences include lengthy prison sentences and heavy fines.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Photography is illegal around government buildings, military zones and military assets, or of military personnel.

Dual nationals

Benin recognises dual nationality.

If you're a dual national, you may be required to fulfil civil or military service obligations in Benin. Check with an Embassy or Consulate of Benin before you travel. Travel on your Australian passport at all times.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

Benin is a very conservative. Take care not to offend. Ask people for their permission before taking photographs of them.

Politely and firmly decline requests for 'gifts' from officials to facilitate administrative matters.

Homosexuality is not illegal, but the local community is generally intolerant of same-sex relationships.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

Pharmaceuticals are in short supply and poor quality substitutes are often used. Carry sufficient medication for the duration of your stay.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Mosquito-borne diseases

Benin is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as common for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination.

Malaria and other tropical diseases are common in West African countries, including Benin.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against yellow fever before you travel
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information:

HIV/AIDS

The rate of HIV/AIDS infection is high. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, meningitis, hepatitis, bilharzia, tuberculosis, schistosomiasis Lassa fever and chikungunya) occur, with more serious outbreaks from time-to-time.

In 2016, there were several hundred cases of cholera in Benin, mostly in Cotonou.

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Don't swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and other water-borne diseases.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Benin is poor. Facilities are limited in major towns and basic to non-existent in rural areas.

Up-front payment for services is generally required. If you can't pay up-front, treatment will usually be delayed.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Natural disasters

In the south, the rainy seasons are from April to July and September to October. In the north, the rainy season is from June to September. During the rainy seasons, flooding can cause severe damage to infrastructure, including bridges and roads.

Benin experiences the Harmattan, a seasonal wind which blows a large amount of sand and dust into the air, from December to March. Visibility may be limited during these times.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information: Severe weather

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 118
  • Medical emergencies: phone 69 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 117 or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia doesn't have an Embassy in Benin. For consular assistance, contact the Australian High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria.

Australian High Commission, Abuja

48 Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Maitama
Abuja, Nigeria   
Phone: (234) 9461 2780 or (234) 803 307 3519
Email: ahc.abuja@dfat.gov.au
Website nigeria.highcommission.gov.au

Check the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the above mission in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources