I’m back with another post of my time in the republic of Benin. I bet some of you thought my post on the journey there was going to be the only post about my travel right? Nope!
I was going to make this a one post thing but I started typing it and realized that it’s a bit lengthy, so I decided to break it down into two posts. And because I’ve gotten more than a few messages asking about the road trip details and how to organize a trip to Cotonou, I thought to make this first post about the country, our travel details, accommodation, fees and how we got around, for anyone else trying to go road tripping to the Republique du Benin.
Like I mentioned in the other post, traveling to the republic of Benin has never really crossed my mind. The whole trip was Alabi of Urbane Hanger’s Idea and I was really thrilled that he thought to invite me along on His adventure. Of course, I jumped at the offer and took it as a positive sign when my dad actually said yes to me traveling with zero inhibitions.
A Bit About The Country
The Republic of Benin is one of Nigeria’s neighboring countries, located just to the west of Nigeria. It is a french speaking (french is their official language) country but they have a variety of other languages including our very own Yoruba. The country was formerly called “Dahomey” and got renamed to Benin in 1975, named after the body of water in which the country lies (the bight of Benin). The capital of Benin is actually Port Novo, but Cotonou is their largest city/economic capital and contains their seat of government. It was also an important country in the slave trade movement and was colonised by France after slavery was abolished.
You can travel to Benin by air or land. We got there by Road and we had a cab come pick us in Ikeja straight to the idi roko border for N10,000. There’s also the Seme border but I’ve heard bad things about that particular border. The journey to the border was about three hours, although we got stuck in hold up for quite a while and that added to the time.
There are also luxurious buses that go to Benin and you can find one in Yaba.
I already talked a bit about my border experience in this post but I’ll just add to that here. You don’t need a visa , but you absolutely need to go with your passport. I noticed a different entrance at the border zone for people without passports but I was told that it isn’t exactly the safest or legal route to go and you might have to part with a lot of money.
We didn’t get scammed more because we came handy with our school I.D cards and said we were students. So go with your I.D cards if you are a student and get your yellow cards as well because I had to pay N2000 for that and I hear its a whole lot cheaper than that.
After going through the border checks, we went to get our naira changed to Cefa. You would find lots of people that change money once you pass through the border. You can’t use the ATM to withdraw naira once you get into the country proper, so its advisable to plan your expenses and come with enough money.
The rate as at the time we had our money changed was 1000CFA = 625Naira. We were all a bit surprised because it used to be a whole lot cheaper than that and we didn’t expect it at all – this cut us back a bit.
After changing, we got a cab from there that took us straight to the hotel in Cotonou we were to be staying. The cab cost 10,000CfA for the three of us and guess what? We were still going to be sharing the cab with other passengers. Yup! We got scammed there, but because the other option was getting back down into the rowdy crowd of cab men and bikers waiting to devour us, we counted our losses and just stayed put. It was a long journey, though so I didn’t get too upset about being scammed.
On the money front – I personally went with 15,000N for feeding and other miscellaneous expenses. I didn’t expect the increased exchange rate or their pricey items! For example, one small egg was 100Cfa which is about 60naira. I still had some change left though but that was because I really didn’t need to spend much and we all sort of” combined our monies and we paid for each other or one person paid all.
Our home for the weekend was a guest house in a really nice neighborhood in Cotonou called Haie Vive. I was immediately impressed by the neighborhood – the scenery and the abundance of restaurants made us call it the V.I/ Lekki of Cotonou. The downside of it though was that we couldn’t really find middle-class type restaurants. We tried getting food the first day and went from restaurant to restaurant trying to read the menu (which was in french) and decide if the things that sounded familiar was actually going to taste familiar too.
At the end, we made the bad decision of buying something they called shawarma but that was really just a hot mess caricature of the shawarma we have in Lagos. Ugh. Waste of money as I ended up not eating it. After our adventure with their food, we jejeluwelry crossed the road and bought some puff puff and fried potato from a street seller. We also got their bread (baguettes) which I also didn’t like much. As you can tell, the food was a struggle lol. Unlike Nigeria, I don’t think they do so well in the food department, most of their meals looked and smelled unappetizing.
We got a normal room at first which cost 5000CFA/night/person, but we had to switch to their dormitory type room (Has 2 bunk news and a single bed) the next day because the rooms we first stayed in were already pre-booked by some other people. The dorms cost 4000CFA/night/person and I actually preferred it to the normal room because i felt like I was staying in a small apartment with our own kitchen, toilet and bathroom asides from the main hotel. I heard that you can get accommodation for a cheaper price though if you stay in the less nice neighborhoods
Getting Around – Zemidjans.
I hopped on so many motorcycles during my short stay in Benin as that was our major way of getting around. Bike rates start from 100cfa upwards, we usually paid around 200 – 300 CFA.
Aaannnndddd this concludes the first part of my post. In my next travel post, I’ll talk more about the places we visited, the people and life style in Cotonou.
I really hope someone finds this post helpful because I spent quite a bit of time on it 😐
If you would like me to update this post with the other one instead, let me know. I’m not really a fan of travel series type posts myself.