Guide to Benin

Background on Benin

Benin, officially called the Republic of Benin, is located in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo in the west, Nigeria in the east, and Burkina Faso and Niger in the north. Benin covers an area of approximately 110,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.05 million. Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming.

From the 17th to the 19th century, modern day Benin was ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. After slavery was abolished, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, bringing in a democratic government for the next 12 years. A Marxist-Leninist dictatorship called the People's Republic of Benin existed between 1972 and 1990. This regime led to repression and the collapse of the economy. The Republic of Benin was formed in 1991 which brought in multiparty elections.

Benin is known for its abundance of historical and cultural sites, including many that emphasize Benin’s role as the birthplace of voodoo. Some of the best wildlife areas in West Africa are located in North Benin.



The first thing you’ll notice are the motorcycles! Known as ‘zemidjans’ – “take me here quickly” – they scoot along the city streets. Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin (its official capital is Porto Novo), is one of West Africa’s most exciting cities, with more than one million residents. Benin’s biggest city has a vibrant nightlife. The city is a major port, and is also home to an airport and a railway that links to Parakou, a major city in the north. Other features of Cotonou include Cotonou Friendship Stadium, Cotonou Cathedral, Cotonou Central Mosque, the Ancien Pont Bridge and the 20-hectare Dantokpa Market, which has a commercial turnover of over a billion CFA Francs a day. The National University of Benin is located in Cotonou. 



Benin is a part of the CFA zone in West Africa. Check the latest exchange rates online at or There are ATMs/POS in that accept visa and master credit/debit cards. Maximum withdrawals are generally limited to 100,000 (CFA) per day (you can request an increase from your bank). Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, shops and restaurants and some travel agencies. Cash advances on credit cards are available from banks that accept Visa cards. In general, you should ensure you have enough cash to cover any eventuality.



Travelers requiring medicines should bring an adequate supply for the duration of their stay in Cotonou, Benin. Yellow fever vaccination is a requirement. Please contact your embassy for further information. You should carry an international vaccination certificate, known commonly as a “Yellow Card.” Ask your doctor for more information.



Cotonou has a tropical savanna climate. Humidity is high and rainstorms are likely in September.

Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the course of the year, with the average high temperatures around 30°C, and average low temperatures around 25°C.