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Benin Country Guide

  1. CountryFacts
  2. Health
  3. Media
  1. Intro
  2. Geography
  3. People
  4. Travel
  5. Embassies & Visas
  6. Finance
  7. Cities/Regions

Quick Facts

Region: Africa
Full Name: Republic of Benin
Capital City: Porto-Novo
Language Spoken: French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)

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Geographic data

9 30 N, 2 15 E

Elevation Extremes

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Mont Sokbaro 658 m

Land boundaries

total: 1,989 km border countries: Burkina Faso 306 km, Niger 266 km, Nigeria 773 km, Togo 644 km

Natural hazards

hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north from December to March

Natural resources

small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber

Land use

arable land: 23.53% permanent crops: 2.37% other: 74.1% (2005)

Environmental current issues

inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification

Climate

The south has an equatorial climate with four seasons. It is hot and dry from January to April and during August, with rainy seasons through May to July and September to December. The north has more extreme temperatures, hot and dry between November and June, cooler and very wet between July and October. Required clothing Lightweight cottons and linens. A light raincoat or an umbrella is necessary in rainy seasons and warmer clothes are advised for cool evenings.

Time difference

time difference: UTC+1 note: Cotonou (seat of government)

Population

7,862,944 note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 44.1% (male 1,751,709/female 1,719,138) 15-64 years: 53.5% (male 2,067,248/female 2,138,957) 65 years and over: 2.4% (male 75,694/female 110,198) (2006 est.)

Median age

total: 17.6 years male: 17.2 years female: 18 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate

2.73% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

38.85 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate

12.22 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate

0.67 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 53.04 years male: 51.9 years female: 54.22 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

5.2 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Business Practices

Lightweight tropical suits should be worn to business meetings. It is essential to be able to conduct conversations in French. Normal courtesies should be observed and punctuality is especially important. The Beninese like to spend time getting to know their business partners. Often business matters will be discussed late in the conversation, once both parties feel that they have established enough trust. It is important that introductions cover family, activities, travels, and interests and will be more pleasant if done over a meal. This protocol serves to make the other more comfortable and more receptive to ideas. Office hours are 0800-1230 and 1500-1830 Monday to Friday.

Crime

Street crime, especially within Cotonou, continues to rise. Most robberies and muggings occur along the Marina Boulevard and the beach near the hotels frequented by international visitors. Some of the incidents reported involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Isolated areas are best avoided Police assistance in Benin can be described as haphazard. The police lack sufficient funding and equipment to combat crime in Cotonou. The police maintain an emergency number, staffed 24 hours a day, but the caller must be able to speak French. Benin lacks the regular street address system found in western countries so the caller will have to use landmarks. In some instances, the caller may have to send a car to pick up the police because they lack proper transportation. Security forces, namely the Beninese Gendarmes, have a reputation of harassing individuals. The Gendarmes maintain sporadic nightly "security checkpoints" throughout Cotonou. Normal security measures are to be observed at all times. Visitors should always keep car doors locked, whether driving or parked. Visitors should refrain from flashing valuables or cash, always remain aware of their surroundings, and be wary of strangers.

Hotels

Benin has a wide array of hotels. Only one top quality hotel is well established in Cotonou (Sheraton) but it is complemented by a variety of hotels of lesser standing that nevertheless offer good service. Hotel accommodation is available in other major cities though not to the extent it is in Cotonou.

Communications

Telephone IDD service is available. The country code is 229 and the outgoing international code is 00. There is an additional charge for calls made from a coin box. There are good Poste Restante facilities at most main post offices. Post office hours: 0800-1400 Monday to Saturday.

Electricity

is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Electricity 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Plug Types

E

Food And Dining

There is a selection of restaurants and hotels in Cotonou, serving French food with table service, although some also serve local African specialties, particularly seafood.

Tipping:
It is normal to tip 10 per cent of the bill in hotels and restaurants.

Nightlife
Cotonou offers several nightclubs, but elsewhere there is little nightlife except during festivals.

Entry departure requirements

Restricted entry All visitors over one year of age are required to produce a yellow fever certificate on entry to Benin. Visa immigration information Passports Valid passport required by all except nationals of the following countries in possession of a national identity card: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, (Rep of), C?te d'Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo. Visas Required by all except the following: (a) nationals of ECOWAS member countries; (b) those in transit continuing their onward journey within 24 hours, provided holding confirmed tickets and not leaving the airport. Note All children of nationals who require a visa, issued with their own passport, do require a visa. Types of visa and cost Tourist and Business. Visas cost US$77 for 15 days; US$94 for 30 days; US$112 for 90 days. Validity Visas are valid for a 15-, 30- or 90-day period within three months of date of issue. Application to Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy); see Passport/Visa Information. Application requirements (a) Valid passport. (b) Application form completed in duplicate. (c) Two passport-size photos. (d) Pre-paid registered envelope large enough to fit passport, if applying by post. (e) Fee. (f) For a Business visa, a letter from the applicant's company. Working days required Callers at the Consulate are usually able to obtain visas on the same day. Temporary residence Enquire at Consulate (or Consular Section at Embassy).

HIV entry requirements

No Test required

Departure tax

None

Embassies

Honorary Consulate of Benin in the UK Millennium House, Humber Road, Nr Staples Corner, London NWZ 6DW, UK Tel: (020) 7435 0665. E-mail: [email protected] Opening hours: Mon, Wed and Fri: 1000-1630. Embassy of the Republic of Benin in France 87 avenue Victor Hugo, 75116 Paris, France Tel: (1) 4500 9882 or 4222 3191 (consular section). Website: http://beninconsulate.co.uk/ Embassy of the Republic of Benin in the USA 2124 Kalorama Road, NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA Tel: (202) 232 6656. Website: http://beninembassy.us/ Travel Advice Most visits to Benin are trouble-free but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organizations for the latest travel advice: British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Website: www.fco.gov.uk US Department of State Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

Currency

CFA (Communaut? Financiaire Africaine) Franc (XOF) = 100 centimes. Notes are in denominations of XOF10,000, 5000, 2000 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of XOF500, 200, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1. Benin is part of the French Monetary Area. Only currency issued by the Banque des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (Bank of West African States) is valid; currency issued by the Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale (Bank of Central African States) is not. The CFA Franc is tied to the Euro.

Currency restrictions

The import of local currency is unlimited, subject to declaration. The export of local currency is unlimited for EU residents; other nationalities must declare currency that is to be exported (proof of origin might be demanded). The import of foreign currency is unlimited, subject to declaration. The export of foreign currency is limited to the equivalent of XOF100,000.

Banking hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1100 and 1500-1700. Some banks may open on Saturday.

Currency exchange

Currency can be exchanged at banks and in major hotels.

Credit cards

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted on a limited basis. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available. Some banks may advance cash or visa cards.

Travellers cheques

To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Euros or Pounds Sterling.

City/RegionCity/Area codeFollowed by
Alibori23+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Atlantique21+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Collines22+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Ou?m?20+ 6 digit subscriber nr
  1. Health Information
  2. Recent Disease Outbreak
  3. Hospital Database

Dental care

Avoid dental care in Benin.

Medication Availability

Reliable supplies of medication are not easily available in Benin

Blood supplies

Blood supplies are screened but not to international standards and should therefore be considered unsafe

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Benin are limited and not all medicines are available.

General caution

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood, rare meat or dairy products. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors. Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or ocean water known to be free from pollution; avoid freshwater lakes, streams and rivers. Wear clothing which reduces exposed skin and apply repellents containing DEET to remaining areas. Sleep in well-screened accommodations. Carry anti-diarrheal medication. Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen lotions and lip protection.

Specific concerns

AIDS occurs. Blood supply may not be adequately screened and/or single-use, disposable needles and syringes may be unavailable. When possible, travelers should defer medical treatment until reaching a facility where safety can be assured. While snakes, including poisonous varieties, are occasionally found in residential areas, they are not a significant hazard. Take special care in rural areas. Sunstroke and heat exhaustion present a risk from a combination of high temperatures and high humidity. High humidity and the "harmattan," a dust-laden wind which blows in November and December, can exacerbate respiratory problems and cause irritations and infections such as conjunctivitis. Treacherous undertow and strong currents make swimming unsafe at most points along the coastal beach. (The beach at La Crique, a few kilometers east of Cotonou, is safe and considered to be one of West Africa's best beaches.)

Immunization

Cholera: Although limited in effectiveness, vaccination may be appropriate for persons living and/or working in less than sanitary conditions for more than 3 months where medical facilities are unavailable. Vaccination may also be appropriate for travelers with impaired gastric defenses who are planning an extended visit or being exposed to unsanitary conditions. Vaccination is not advised for pregnant women, infants younger than 6 months old, or persons with a history of severe reaction to the vaccine. Hepatitis A: Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions. Hepatitis B: Vaccination is advised for health care workers, persons anticipating direct contact with blood from or sexual contact with inhabitants, and persons planning extended stays of 6 months or greater (especially those who anticipate using local health care facilities, staying in rural areas, or having intimate contact with the local population). Meningitis: Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for travelers, particularly during the December-June dry season when epidemics are most likely to occur. Importance of vaccination increases with length of stay and/or exposure to crowded conditions. Pregnancy is a relative contraindication to vaccination. Protection may be less effective for infants and children aged 3-23 months than it is for persons aged 2 years and older. Polio: A one-time booster dose is recommended for travelers who have previously completed a standard course of polio immunization. Refer to CDC guidelines for vaccinating unimmunized or incompletely immunized persons. Pregnancy is a relative contraindication to vaccination; however, if protection is needed, either IPV or OPV may be used, depending on preference and time available. Rabies: Preexposure vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 30 days who are expected to be at risk to bites from domestic and/or wild animals (particularly dogs), or for persons engaged in high risk activities such as spelunking or animal handling. Need for vaccination is more important if potential exposure is in rural areas and if adequate postexposure care is not readily available. Typhoid: Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type. Yellow fever: Vaccination is recommended for travelers over 9 months of age going outside of urban areas. Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

Disease risk summary

Insect-borne diseases: are major causes of illness. Many, including yellow fever, are endemic, with only scattered cases being reported and, from time to time, more extensive outbreaks. Filariasis - prevalent Leishmaniasis - occurs (both cutaneous and visceral types may be found, particularly in the drier areas) Loiasis - prevalent Malaria - prevalent Onchocerciasis (river blindness) - prevalent Relapsing fever - occurs Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) - occurs (human type - mainly in small, isolated areas - is reported) Tungiasis - prevalent Typhus - occurs (louse-, flea-, and tick-borne types occur) Food-borne and water-borne illness: highly endemic. The dysenteries and diarrheal diseases, giardiasis, the typhoid fevers and viral hepatitis are widespread. Echinococcosis (hydatid disease) is widespread in animal-breeding areas. Cholera - occurs Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm) - occurs Helminthic (parasitic worm) infections - prevalent Lassa fever - occurs (an appreciable reservoir exists in some rural areas, and people visiting these areas should take particular care to avoid rat-contaminated food or food containers, but the extent of the disease should not be exaggerated) Schistosomiasis - common Other hazards: Diseases such as measles and diphtheria are commonly reported, and cases of polio still occur regularly. Influenza risk extends throughout the year. Meningococcal meningitis - occurs (risk is highest during the December-June dry season, when epidemics are most likely) Rabies - occurs (cases have occurred in Cotonou and visitors should avoid wild animals) Trachoma - prevalent

Entry requirements

Cholera: None. (Contrary to its published requirements, however, it has been reported that proof of a cholera vaccination must accompany visa applications, although this policy may not be consistently enforced.) Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 1 year of age coming from all countries.

Recent disease outbreaks

No recent disease outbreaks

NameAddress
01 BP 165 Porto-Novo
03 BP 3448 Cotonou
Clinique les Graces01 BP 426 Cotonou
Clinique Mahouna01 BP 2163 Quartier Patte d'Oie Cotonou
Polyclinique les CocotiersAli Assani 04 BP 1227 Cotonou

Media

The constitution guarantees media freedom although harsh libel laws have been used against journalists. Benin has more than 50 newspapers and periodicals, one state TV channel, a handful of commercial TV channels and more than 30 state, commercial and local radio stations. In 2003, the authorities paved the way for a further expansion of the private media scene, allocating frequencies for five private TV stations and 10 commercial radio stations. The BBC World Service and Radio France Internationale are available on FM in Cotonou.
Press: La Nation is the daily official newspaper. Other private dailies include Le Matinal, Fraternit?, Le R?publicain, L'Aurore and L'Ev?nement du Jour. Television: T?l?vision Nationale is state-run; Golfe TV and LC2 are commercial channels.
Radio: Radio Benin is a national, state-run station; Golfe FM is a commercial station; Radio Immacul?e Conception is a catholic radio station.

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