Benin

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 23 April 2014.   It has been reviewed and updated with general information under Crime, Civil unrest/political tension and Local travel. We continue to recommend Australians exercise normal safety precautions in Benin.

Benin overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Benin. The Australian High Commission in Nigeria provides consular assistance to Australians in Benin.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

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

Benin is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that all travellers be vaccinated for yellow fever before travelling to Benin (see Health section).

As the quarantine requirements for yellow fever vaccination differ between countries, we recommend that you check the yellow fever entry requirements for Benin and all countries you intend to enter or transit by contacting their foreign missions in Australia. Some airlines may require passengers to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate before being allowed to board flights out of the country. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Crime

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Benin. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Criminal violence, such as armed hold-ups and carjacking, is a problem throughout Benin, especially in Cotonou and the area bordering Nigeria. Petty crime, including muggings and robberies, occurs near hotels, railways, Dantokpa markets in Cotonou and beaches frequented by international visitors. Even during daylight hours robberies are common on the beaches of Cotonou. The risk of crime increases after dark, especially in tourist areas and on highways and rural roads. Avoid walking alone, particularly after dark.

There is a risk of carjacking, particularly after dark, both within metropolitan centres, including Cotonou, and on highways and rural roads. It is recommended that travellers stay alert for signs of suspicious behaviour, by both motorists and pedestrians, and that vehicle windows are closed and doors locked when driving.
Commercial and internet fraud is prevalent and often originates in West African countries. Victims have been defrauded and those who travel to the originating country have had their lives endangered. Some victims have been killed. 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 and extort money from individuals they have convinced to travel to Africa for a business opportunity. If you are a victim of a financial scam, we advise you to obtain legal advice and not to travel to Africa to seek restitution as there is a risk of physical assault from the perpetrators. Our international scams page provides more detail on these types of scams.

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

Civil unrest/political tension

Travellers are reminded to avoid all demonstrations, pay close attention to personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. It is recommended that you avoid using credit cards in Benin because of the high rate of fraud.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Driving in Benin can be dangerous due to poor road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles, and overloaded vehicles. You should avoid driving at night because of inadequate street lighting. Pedestrians and animals which often stray onto roads are additional safety hazards. For further advice, see our road travel page. There are often fuel shortages in rural areas of northern Benin.

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

There is no reliable public transportation. You should avoid taxis and long distance buses as they are poorly maintained compared to Australian standards and often overloaded.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of Benin. See our piracy bulletin for further information. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

Please refer to our air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Benin, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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

Homosexual acts are not illegal, but the local community is generally intolerant of same sex relationships. See our LGBTI travellers page.

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

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

Benin is a very conservative society and you should take care not to offend.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Beninese dual nationals may be required to complete military/civil service obligations if they visit Benin. For further information, contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Benin well in advance of travel. We recommend you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities is limited in major towns and basic in rural areas. Pharmaceuticals are in short supply and poor quality substitutes are often used. Up-front payment for services is generally required and the inability to pay will often delay treatment. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation (to London, Paris or Johannesburg) would be required, costing up to $A200,000.

Benin is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to Benin. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria and other tropical diseases are common in West African countries, including Benin. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria, and taking measures to avoid insect bites including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, meningitis, hepatitis, bilharzia, tuberculosis) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Benin. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Nigeria:

Australian High Commission
48 Aguiyi Ironsi Street
Maitama
Abuja, Nigeria
Telephone (234 9) 461 2780 or (234 0) 803 307 3519
Facsimile (234 9) 461 2782
Email: ahc.abuja@dfat.gov.au

If you are travelling to Benin, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

In the south, the rainy seasons are from April to July and September to October, while in the north the rainy season is from June to September. During the rainy seasons, flooding may occur, causing severe damage to infrastructure, including bridges and roads, and disrupting traffic. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For Parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.