Benin Risk Report
Security travel advice for Benin
Threat level: High
The current travel safety advice for Benin is to remain extra vigilant when visiting the country due to the ongoing risks and concerns with the high crime rate and domestic terrorism threat.
Recent security risk events
Numerous Boko Haram terror style attacks have rocked Benin in the past year. Most recently a suicide bombing in Benin City, which has led many to believe that Boko Haram has imbedded itself into the area. In retaliation to these attacks Benin has deployed hundreds of troops to assist a regional task force battling Islamist militant group Boko Haram in such countries as Nigeria. Keep this threat in mind constantly when travelling in Benin.
Boko Haram also have a reputation for kidnapping, this threat is present in Benin and has developed from mass kidnappings in Nigeria.
There is a threat of terrorism in Benin in the Benin-Nigeria border region, including possible incursions by Boko Haram. General crime and kidnappings are a constant threat.
Benin is one of the world's poorest countries, muggings and robberies are a significant problem, especially in Cotonou. International travellers should take care in all locations and in particular near the port, the railways and beaches and close to the near hotels.
Armed robbery can take place in Cotonou and is most common at night in the north of the country. The bordering areas with Niger and Nigeria are also an issue. There was an international dispute between Benin and Benin's neighbour to the north, Niger. This was over ownership of islands in the Niger River but was settled in 2005.
Demonstrations have been known to turn violent, avoid any large gatherings and monitor the local media.
Benin a former Marxist-Leninist state has particularly strong ties with France, the former colonial power, and also the United States. Benin is dependent on Nigeria for most of its exports. Its economy is primarily based on informal trade with Nigeria.
The U.S. Government continues to aid Benin to help the improvement of living standards. This is a key factor Benin's long term goal of becoming a democratic government with economic liberalization.
Hijackings and carjacking are on the rise throughout the country and as such, movement after dark should be avoided. Driving standards and road conditions in Benin are extremely poor and very unsafe. If possible avoid driving outside the main towns and cities at night, as roads are not lit in anyway.
During the wet season in Benin, many unpaved dirt tracks may become flooded.
There is known piracy in the waters off Benin and nearby countries, and currents can be very strong resulting in many drownings per year. Please take precautions.
Religion: Christianity, Islam and Vodun
Currency: West African franc
Time now in Porto-Novo:
Visas are required by all visitors unless passport holders from: Algeria, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Côte D'Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Taiwan, and Togo.
The Government of the US advise all citizens that visit Benin to keep a notarized photocopy of the “photo page” of their passport and visa with them at all times when traveling in Benin.
It is advised that visitors to Benin are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is essential that you get vaccinated against Yellow Fever as there is risk of the disease throughout the country. It is an entry requirement that you present a certificate proving your immunisation. This should be completed at least 10 days prior to departure.
It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider a Rabies jab as there is a small risk in some areas of the country. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Malaria is an issue within the whole of the country. Use of antimalarial medication is advised.
Lassa fever has been reported in the country. It is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans via contact with food or items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces. There is currently no vaccine that protects against Lassa fever, so prevention and good personal hygiene is vital.
Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. A number of cases of bottled water being refilled with tap water and re-sold have come to our attention.
U.S. Embassy Cotonou
Rue Caporal Bernard Anani,
Telephone: +229 21 30 06 50
Emergency Telephone: +229 21 30 06 50, +229 21 30 05 13, and +229 21 30 17 92.
The UK government does not have any permanent representation in Benin but covers it remotely from Ghana.
British High Commission Accra
off Gamel Abdul Nasser Avenue
PO Box 296
Telephone: +233 302 213 250
Other useful info
Police emergency: 117
Fire emergency: 118
Maritime security note:
Maritime insecurity and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea are growing concerns. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 23 of 24 attacks recorded in Benin in 2011-2012 involved chemical or product tankers. All of the recorded attacks involved international vessels, most took place at night and most occurred within 22 nautical miles off the Port of Cotonou.
As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Benin has enhanced its maritime security posture in cooperation with Nigeria, Togo, and international partners including the United States. “Operation Prosperity” conducted jointly with the Nigerian Navy has enabled Benin to maintain a maritime safety record that supports commerce.