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Back from Benin

I have got several emails with questions about my last travel to Benin. I have not so much time to write more about it because I am fully saturated by preparing my next travel to Cameroon. I have just posted few comments about Benin.

My main plan was to visit Niger - I was there at September where main festivals Curee Sale and Gerewolf take place. But it would be a shame to visit just one country during one month so I add to my plan also Benin. So I flew to Niamey from Paris and back from Cotonou to Paris. All flights with Air France about 600EUR return without taxes. Air Morocco was slightly cheaper about 550 EUR. I have Niger visa at advanced and at Niamey I applied for Benin visa - ready during 4 hours without any hassle. The price for visa was about 20.000 CFA (about 30 EUR). From Niamey I travel by SNTV bus to Parakou and then to Natitingou. Area around Natitingou is great! Villages of Somba tribe are really interesting to visit (for me probably highlight of my Benin visit). During dry season it is also possible to visit Pendjari National park (in September is rainy season so I did not visit it). Interesting places is also Abomey with old palaces and rich history. Ouidah is special place as voodoo center but it is difficult to see "something special" - it would be interesting to visit it during some festival (one festival is at January every year). Great place is Ganvie, town built completely at lake - for me one of the Benin's highlights. Cotonou is interesting bustling city, nice for short visit, but I would not want to stay here for long.

I was quite surprised by public transport – on long distances (like Cotonou – Natitingou) there were big buses which were quite comfortable (I think I travel by Confort bus company) and they travel almost according to fix time schedule – unbelievable at Africa! On shorter routes I used taxi-brousses which were also OK, not so crowded as other Africa countries (like Cameroon for example). At town there are mostly no taxis so you have to use motorcycle-taxis (zemidjian). I do not like it much especially when you have to travel with some luggages but drivers were OK and went slowly so I survived. But I used them just in the cities for short distances. Budget hotels are between 10.000 to 15.000 CFA for double room – I stayed really at budget places, but rooms were OK, clean but sometimes simple. Prices for transportation I do not remember, sorry, but expect to pay about 1.000 CFA for one hour of travel by bus/taxi/brousse . Motorcycle around town cost several hundred CFA, mostly between 200 and 300 CFA. I do not know situation with ATM because I have cash only (Euro) but my friends used Visa cash advance at Niger so I expect the same situation at Benin. It took about to hours to get money with Visa cash advance.

The prices at general were OK by African standard, more expensive was to go to Ganvie (you have to charter boat). To visit Somba villages around Natitingou is easily done by car and it can be also expensive. I was there completely off-season so I was able to bargain hard and I paid 30.000 for car for whole day which is good price (it was 4x4 but you really do not need this kind of car for visiting villages, maybe it is good for Pendjari National park).


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