As the birthplace of voodoo, Benin oozes the exotic. With its glittering palaces, floating villages and python-filled temples, this is a country that has always moved to its own beat. From filling your belly with fried beans and yams, to paddling across a lagoon or following in the footsteps of slaves, Benin is filled with engaging, curious and amazing experiences. Our Benin trips Overview Our trips Highlights Holiday information FAQ’s Responsible Travel Travel lightly with Intrepid. We’ve offset the main sources of carbon emissions from this trip on your behalf, including transport, accommodation & waste. Read More > Benin travel highlights Benin holiday information At a glanceAt a glance Capital city: Porto Novo (population 223,600) Population: 9.6 million Language: French, Fon, Yoruba, Dendi, Bariba, Ge Currency: XOF Time zone: (GMT+01:00) West Central Africa Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth) Dialing code: +229 Geography and environmentGeography and environment This relatively small slice of Africa has a beautiful coastline dotted with palm trees and beaches. Behind the coast is a network of lagoons which flood during the rainy months. Further inland the plateau gradually rises into the highlands and the Atakora Mountains. Benin shares a border with Nigeria to the east, Burkina Faso and Nigeria to the north and Togo to the west. Health and safetyHealth and safetyIntrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure: From Australia? Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/ From New Zealand? Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/ From Canada? Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/ From US? Go to: http://travel.state.gov/ From UK? Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/ The World Health Organisation also provides useful health information: Go to: http://www.who.int/en/ Best time to visit BeninBest time to visit Benin The most pleasant months to visit Benin are between November and February when temperatures drop along with the humidity. From April to July and September to October expect heavy rains. The dry and dusty harmattan winds from the Sahara blow between December and March, and this period (particularly February to April) can be uncomfortably hot, with temperatures in the mid-40s (Celsius). Top 5 Distinctly Beninese MomentsTop 5 Distinctly Beninese Moments 1. Paddle a Pirogue A good chunk of Benin is under, over, or around water and when the roads disappear, there’s only one way to travel – by pirogue! These dugout canoes have serviced the Beninese for centuries. 2. Step in the Footsteps of Slaves Ouidah was often the last bit of Africa slaves saw as they were sent around the world to be traded and worked. The Portuguese, English and French all constructed forts here to protect their trading interests, one of which now houses a museum that gives you a unique glimpse into the terror and destruction that the slave trade wreaked on this part of the world. 3. Stay in a Stilt City Over 10,000 people call the waters of Ganvie home. Perched up above the lagoon in stilted houses, they eat, sleep, fish and live miles away from dry land. Stay in an auberge for a taste of life on the water. 4. Learn Voodoo Over 60% of Beninese practice voodoo. Dive right into the traditions and everyday rituals as you travel through villages. The Musée d’histoire d’Ouidah gives an interesting insight into voodoo history and culture in the area. 5. Tuck Into Yams They’re the favourite, number one food of the Beninese. Mashed, fried, as chips or slathered in peanut sauce – it’s not a meal until it’s been yammed. Further readingFurther reading Title Author To Benin and Back Chris Starace The Viceroy of Ouidah Bruce Chatwin Show Me The Magic Annie Caulfield Benin travel FAQs Do I need a visa to travel to Benin? Australia: Yes – in advance Belgium: Yes – in advance Canada: Yes – in advance Germany: Yes – in advance Ireland: Yes – in advance Netherlands: Yes – in advance New Zealand: Yes – in advance South Africa: Yes – in advance Switzerland: Yes – in advance United Kingdom: Yes – in advance USA: Yes – in advance Please obtain your Benin visa in advance. We advise you to check current visa requirements with your nearest Embassy or Consulate. Australians & New Zealanders will need to apply through the Embassy in London. Please note however that visas are valid for three months from date of issue. If you send your application by post or courier, it will be returned the same. VISITORS WILL REQUIRE THE FOLLOWING: 1. Valid Passport 2. Valid Visa (See below) 3. Yellow Fever Certificate 4. Typhoid and Malaria Protection (Recommended) VISAS: Visas may be applied for by post or personal application at the Consulate. Callers at the Consulate will normally be able to obtain visas while they wait. All applications must be accompanied by the following: a. Valid Passport b. Complete application form c. 2 Passport type photographs d. Appropriate fee: 15 days =£50 Postal applications MUST be accompanied with a pre-paid registered or recorded envelope large enough to hold a passport for return. OPENING HOURS: The Consulate is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10.30 am to 4.00 pm You will need a letter of invitation to apply for the Benin visa. Please contact Peregrine for a copy of this invitation. Please allow between 2 -3 weeks for the courier and visa issue time. It may also be possible for most nationalities to obtain a visa for Benin in Accra, Ghana. An express visa in Accra takes 1-3 working days but may be subject to additional fees. Is tipping customary in Benin? Tipping 10% is customary in most touristy places. What is the internet access like in Benin? Internet access is fairly sparse outside of the largest city, Cotonou. Can I use my mobile/cell phone while in Benin? Mobile phone coverage is limited outside of major centres. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your carrier if you wish to use your phone. What are the toilets like in Benin? Benin’s toilets may be basic. Be prepared for squat toilets, even in major centres. Are credit cards accepted widely in Benin? Credit cards aren’t commonly accepted outside major tourist areas. What is ATM access like in Benin? ATMs are very uncommon and cannot be relied upon to work. Payment in cash is always preferred. Do I need to purchase travel insurance before travelling in Benin? Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey. For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance What public holidays are celebrated in Benin? 1 Jan New Year’s Day 10 Jan Vaudoun Day 17 Apr Easter Monday 1 May Labour Day 25 May Ascension Day 5 Jun Whit Monday 25 Jun Korité / End of Ramadan 1 Aug Independence Day 15 Aug Assumption Day 1 Sep Tabaski / Feast of Sacrifice 1 Nov All Saints’ Day 30 Nov The Prophet’s Birthday 25 Dec Christmas Day Please note these dates are for 2017. For a current list of public holidays in Benin go to:http://www.worldtravelguide.net/benin/public-holidays Responsible Travel Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It’s important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling. Top responsible travel tips for Benin Be considerate of Benin’s customs, traditions, religion and culture. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It’s meant to be fun! Learn some local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple greetings will help break the ice. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.