Benin is a country in West Africa. It is on the coastline of the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea, to the south and bordered by Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. It was a French colony from the 19th century until 1960. In 1960, Benin, as French Dahomey, gained independence from the French but became a Marxist state until the 1990s. In 1991, the Republic of Benin was founded as a multi-party system.
The capital of Benin is Porto Novo, but the government centre, largest city and economic centre is in Cotonou, on the south coast. The majority of the population live near the coastline of the Bight of Benin. The international airport is Cadjehoun Airport in Cotonou; it has daily flights to the African cities of Ougadougou, Lome, Monrovia, Accra, Lagos, and Douala. There are also direct flights to Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul. The transportation infrastructure in Benin is good; there is are paved highways that connects Benin to Niger in the north, Nigeria in the east, and Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast to the west. There are over 5,000km of unpaved road.
Climate in Benin is sub-Saharan. This means that it tends to be hot and humid. Benin has two hot seasons and two rainy seasons. The main rainy season is from April to July, and there is a shorter rainy period from late September to November. The average temperature year-round is between 24-31 degrees Celcius. Benin also experiences the Harmattan, the dry wind from the Sahara. This happens in December.
The currency in Benin is the CFA Franc. Agriculture is the main industry, with cotton being the main export and accounts for 40% of the GDP. Benin has one of the most stable West African economies, helped mainly by the fact that the seaport at Cotonou enables trade and transportation to other West African countries. It is also one of the safest countries in West Africa to travel to. President Yahi championed a successful fight against corruption and terrorism that has seen tourism numbers rise - and sources say they will continue to rise. Tourism is now a key focus in Benin’s economic growth plans.
Travellers keen to visit Benin should be aware that travelling in West Africa is different than travelling anywhere else. There are few European-style hostels in the country, and those few hostels will be in the main city of Cotonou or in a more populated region like the coastal cities. In more remote places, instead of hostels travellers should look for hotels or even guesthouses. Keep in mind that hotels and other accommodation in Africa tends to be very basic and maybe not what you are used to.
Once you have your accommodation in Benin sorted, explore this unique and vibrant country. Benin is known for its rich literature and oral history traditions. Music and drumming is another creative outlet and exciting to watch. French is the official language in Benin, as it is in most other former French colonies on the western coast of Africa, but you will hear other regional dialects like Fon, Yoruba, and Dendi. Travellers that are interested in the outdoors will be keen to visit the Pendjari and Reserve du W du Niger parks, where you can see untouched landscapes and wild savannah animals like rhinos, hippos, lions, and elephants. In Atakora, the country’s most mountainous region, you can go for short hikes and explore the majestic Kota Waterfalls. In general, the country is not overly mountainous, but the landscape is like no other.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Benin hostels. Welcome.