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Have you ever planned a trip with a group of people that didn’t happen? Probably.
In the last 2 years, I planned three trips to Benin Republic, none of which left the group chat.
So, in May of 2023, I joined a group trip to Benin and spent 4 days with 6 strangers. It was the best decision I made. We visited 2 cities, stayed in bucket list accommodations, and forged new friendships.
If you’re thinking about visiting Benin Republic, keep reading. This is a weekend guide to Benin Republic with information about activities to do to and more.
A weekend guide to Benin Republic – getting there
For me there are only two ways to get to Benin Republic from Nigeria and that’s by road or boat. I’m not including flying as an option because it’s ridiculously expensive so, here are the two ways broken down:
There are two land borders in Lagos – Idi-Iroko in Ogun State and Seme – Krake 30 minutes from Badagry. I took the Seme-Krake border because it was more accessible from my point of departure. So, keep this in mind when planning your trip.
To get to these borders, you can either go by public or private transport. Private transport is best in a group but could cost upwards of N50,000 for a one-way trip.
However, if you’re on a budget, you can split the costs with your co-travellers – it’s also safer. I went with a group organised by Tripscove so transportation was very affordable.
On the other hand, if you’re departing from Lagos mainland, you can get a shared vehicle at Mile 12 to the Seme border for N20,000 and below.
Private vehicles, give you the luxury of being dropped off at the doorstep of your Benin Republic accommodation. Unlike public transport where you are dropped off at the border and have to find your way into Benin.
Public transport is more of a hassle but significantly cheaper if you’re travelling solo.
Also, transport companies like God is Good (GIG), Chisco, ABC Transport, and GUO frequently travel these routes, check they websites for prices and travel times.
The journey from Lagos mainland to the Seme border takes about 3-4 hours (sometimes longer) and another hour from the border to Cotonou mainly because of the bad roads and multiple police stops.
If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, you can go to Benin Republic by boat. It’s a 3-4 hour boat ride, lifejackets are provided and there are navy and immigration checkpoints along the way.
You can get a boat going to Porto Novo from Liverpool Jetty in Apapa, CMS Jetty, and Maza Maza Jetty in Mile 2 and prices range from N4,000 to N7,000 one way.
Related travel guides:
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A weekend guide to Benin Republic – entry requirements
If you’re a Nigerian planning to travel to Benin Republic, there are a few entry requirements you need to be aware of:
- Nigerians need a valid international or ECOWAS passport to cross the Benin Republic land border. You can get an ECOWAS passport at any immigration office for N25,000 and you can get it in under 6 hours. You will also need to pay an extra N1,500 – N3,000 to have your passport stamped at both the Nigerian and Benin borders.
- If you’re going by boat, all you need is a valid ID.
- You will also need to present your COVID-19 and Yellow Fever vaccination cards to pass through immigration.
To get your Yellow Fever vaccination first register and pay N2,000 online and print the payment confirmation. Take the payment confirmation and a printed copy of your passport bio page to the nearest Port Health Services office where you’ll be administered the vaccine and given the vaccine card.
Please research before travelling because entry requirements are constantly changing.
Safety in Benin Republic
I felt free and safe in Benin, even at night. The cities are well lit, the roads are free of potholes and there’s no traffic. People walk the streets freely at all times of the day and night without any fear which made me very comfortable.
Of course, you still need to take the necessary safety precautions especially if you are a solo female traveller. You should always be aware of your surroundings.
I use SafetyWing whenever I travel because it is travel medical insurance created by nomads for nomads. You can buy a policy for the duration of your trip and end it when you want; it is also extremely flexible. Check out their website and get travel insurance for your next trip!
A weekend guide to Benin Republic – getting around
It’s very easy to get around in Benin. The ride-share app Gozem is widely used, safe, and affordable (costing anywhere from 1000 CFA upwards) with multiple vehicle options like motorcycles, and taxis.
For public transportation, there are public taxis or buses for intercity trips and zémidjans (motorbikes) within a city.
Best time to visit Benin Republic
The best time to visit any country depends on what you want to see and do during your trip. Here is a little insight on the best times to visit Benin Republic based on different factors.
November to April is peak travel in Benin. This is the dry season and holidays like Christmas and Easter fall in these months so although the weather is favourable, this is when the country is the most crowded and prices are at their highest.
Months outside these are less crowded and cheaper but prepare for some rain.
Currency in Benin Republic
The West African CFA Franc is the local currency, and the exchange rate is N1,000 – CFA 724. You’ll get the best rates in Cotonou (not at the Benin border). Transfers are worth more than cash so if you can, don’t change too much Naira in cash because you’ll be losing money.
*When I travelled in May 2023, the exchange rate was N1,000 – CFA 825 so everything I spent was at this rate.
Language in Benin Republic
French is the official language of Benin Republic. If you want to communicate with the locals, learn a few words and phrases and have your Google translate on standby.
French phrases to learn:
|Bonjour||Hello/ Good morning|
|Comment ça va?||How are you?|
|S’il vous plait||Please|
A weekend guide to Benin Republic -staying connected
Even though there is free wifi in restaurants and public spaces like malls, I‘m an advocate for getting a local sim. It’s important to always remain connected in a foreign country, especially if you are solo.
I bought an MTN sim from a local vendor in Cotonou on my first day for N1,500 (1000 CFA) and 1.5 GB for N2,500 (2000 CFA) of data which lasted for 3 out of the 4 days I was in Benin.
A weekend guide to Benin Republic – where to stay
Accommodation hunting is one of my favourite parts of planning trips because travelling gives you the opportunity to experience different kinds of stays.
On this trip, we stayed in 3 different types of places, a boutique hotel, a beach resort and a lake house – each one better than the last.
In Benin Republic, you can find every type of accommodation for all budgets.
La Casa Cielo – Cotonou
This was our first stay, at a hotel in Cotonou – La Casa Cielo. We spent 1 night in this boutique hotel in the heart of Cotonou – the perfect introduction to Benin. It was right opposite the beach and had a stunning view of the coastline.
The decor of the hotel was pretty standard and modern which is something I often look for in my stays.
I stayed in a standard pool-view room which was $117 a night. The amount we paid definitely did not match the services we were promised. The room was pretty simple, but comfortable however, the bathroom was a bit odd. It was HUGE, about double the size of a regular bathroom with so much unused space. The Wi-Fi in the hotel was also quite weak.
For breakfast, there was a buffet with a large variety of options of continental and local foods.
Casa Del Papa Beach Resort – Ouidah
Are you even Nigerian if you travel to Benin and don’t stay in Casa Del Papa? This beach resort is literally the only place Nigerians come to when in Benin Republic and honestly I don’t blame them.
It’s easy to think Casa Del Papa is overrated, especially since it’s so popular but, this was my second time staying here and I loved it. The resort has 2 types of rooms – Lake and beach View rooms for $107 a night.
The resort is very well laid out, the beach view rooms have been built along the coast and are designed to look like mini houses which provide a lot of privacy and give the feeling of a private beachfront property.
The lake view rooms are on the opposite end of the street, with a view of the lake where kayaking is offered.
The breakfast here is the best out of the 3 places we stayed. The options are endless and the views of the beach are stunning.
With the pools, beach and kayaking, there’s never a dull moment in this resort which is fortunate because the Wi-Fi here is very bad.
Nonetheless, it’s the perfect place to unplug.
Spoiler alert, this was my favorite stay and my highlight of the entire trip.
Natura Luxury Lodge has been a bucket list stay of mine for 3 years and the reason I joined this group trip. We had this whole lodge to ourselves – 7 people, 3 rooms for 1 night (not nearly enough time) for $450 was absolute bliss.
This lodge sits right on the lake and each room has stunning panoramic views of the whole property, the sunrises and sunsets are unreal. The lodge is secluded (but still very well connected with Wi-Fi) so you’re left alone to unwind and reflect, I felt so at peace here.
There is a small dining table, a living room and a large farm table outside where we ate breakfast together while enjoying the view of the lake.
The fully stocked kitchen is a nice feature because you can either cook or pay the in-house chef to ma,e a few meals for you. He made us a really delicious breakfast on our final morning for 3,000 CFA per person.
If you’re thinking about the shower situation, there is 1 shower that has an amazing view of the lake, and a bathtub which is one of the main attractions of this lodge.
The pool was one of my favourite parts of the property. Right beside it is a hammock where you can fall asleep to the sound of nature and a kayak has been made available to anyone who wants to spend their time exploring the lake.
There are about 3 properties here, and they are all within a gated compound so it’s very safe. Read this detailed review.
Dolce Ouidah Lodge
We didn’t stay in this lodge, but we got a tour of it. It’s located on the same property as Natura Luxury Lodge but is hidden away, making it the ideal honeymoon location. Personally, the price tag of €1,000 a night is a deterrent because it only has 2 rooms and a loft, but the interior and panoramic lake views are very persuasive.
Here are a few photos:
A weekend guide to Benin Republic – where to eat & drink
We were only in Benin for 4 days, so we ate breakfast and some dinners at the hotels and lunch at 2 different restaurants – McOuffe Restaurant and Babs Dock in Cotonou; we also got dessert at Cornetto Italian Ice Cream (this is a must).
The average prices of meals at these restaurants started from 4,000 CFA; the meals were very flavourful, and the portions were massive. So, I highly recommend both places.
A weekend guide to Benin Republic: 4-day itinerary
Here’s a pre-planned 4-day Benin Republic itinerary (the exact one we used):
Benin Republic Day 1: Lagos to Benin
Drive 6 hours from Lagos to Benin Republic through the Seme border – leave as early as 5 am so you can arrive in Cotonou by 11 am.
Change your money and buy a sim card and data as soon as you get into Cotonou, and since it’s still morning, grab some breakfast at McOuffe Restaurant and ice cream at the famous Cornetto Italian ice cream.
After lunch, check into your Cotonou hotel – La Casa Cielo, and spend the next 2 hours settling in. The day is still young, buy roadside ram suya then head to Cali Cali Beach Club, where you’ll watch the sunset.
Benin Republic Itinerary Day 2: Cotonou & Ouidah
You have an early start today! After having breakfast at the hotel, you’ll visit the Amazon statue, which is free to enter, then drive an hour from Cotonou to Ouidah to visit the Python Temple for N3,450 (2,500 CFA). I didn’t enter the temple for personal reasons, it’s important to note that the pythons are seen as gods by the people of Ouidah.
After a 30-minute visit to the python temple, walk for 5 minutes to the Zinsou Foundation Museum, where you’ll learn about the history of Ouidah for free. This area is very picturesque so don’t forget to take pictures.
Finally, check into your second stay of the trip, a beachfront room at Casa Del Papa Beach Resort, and spend the rest of your day enjoying the facilities like the pool, beach, and kayaking. Before going to bed, enjoy a candle-lit dinner at the resort’s restaurant.
Benin Republic Itinerary Day 3: Rest Day
Have breakfast at the buffet and enjoy the view of the sea from your room, then check out of Casa Del Papa and into Natura Luxury Lodge, a rustic 3-bedroom lake house in Ouidah.
Spend the rest of your day touring the lodge, kayaking in the lake, swimming in the pool, and taking pictures in the stunning tub.
In the evening, bond with your co-travellers by cooking a meal in the kitchen and eating it while sharing conversations.
Benin Republic Itinerary Day 4: Babs Dock & Lagos
Today is your last day, so get the in-house chef to cook breakfast for N4,000 (3,000 CFA) per person, then check out of the lake house at 11 am.
Drive back to Cotonou, but before you head to the border, take a 10-minute boat ride for N4,000 (3,000 CFA) to Babs dock and spend your lunch here.
At the entrance to Babs dock, there are a few stalls where you can buy souvenirs from 1,000 CFA upwards (remember to haggle).
At 3 pm, drive 4-5 hours back to Lagos and reminisce on the last 4 days.
A Weekend Guide to Benin Republic: Top Tips to Note Before You Go
- The best place to change your money is in the city (not at the border because the notes could be fake). Transferring money will get you a lot more than changing cash.
- Get a local SIM card on your first day so you are always connected to the internet. I used MTN, and it worked very well.
- Download the Gozem app to get around.
- May in Benin is the start of the rainy season, so pack some warm clothes.
- The electrical sockets in Benin are not the same as Nigerian plugs. They are European rounded two-pin plugs, so pack a universal adapter.
- Tipping is not mandatory, but it is appreciated.
- Learn some words and phrases in French and have Google Translate handy to communicate with the locals.
- For 4 days, you should have at least N30,000 in spending money for food & souvenirs
Final thoughts about Benin Republic
This was my second time in Benin Republic, but my first visit as an adult, and it did not disappoint. From the stunning beaches to visiting the Amazon statue, and staying in one of my bucket list accommodations, this trip exceeded my expectations.
It is the perfect weekend getaway, and although Benin and Nigeria share a border, the country’s vibe, people, and atmosphere are entirely different. It’s slow-paced and has a plethora of experiences to choose from.
I have barely explored what the country has to offer, and I can’t wait to return.
I hope this post helps you plan your trip to Benin Republic. Please leave any questions you may have in the comments below.