Benin - Consular Information Sheet
February 20, 2001
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Benin is a developing West African
country. Its capital city is Porto Novo; however, the city of
Cotonou is the main port and largest city, site of the international
airport and most government, commercial, and tourist activity.
Tourist facilities are available in Cotonou but are not fully
developed elsewhere. The ocean currents along the coast are extremely
strong and treacherous (a rough surf and a strong undertow) and
result in several drownings each year.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required.
Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy
of the Republic of Benin, 2737 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington,
D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-6656. Overseas, inquiries should
be made at the nearest Beninese Embassy or Consulate. Travelers
who intend to visit Nigeria should obtain Nigerian visas prior
to arriving in Benin as the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou may decline
to consider applications for visas by U.S. citizens not resident
SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens should avoid crowds,
political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security
awareness at all times. Additionally, in the weeks
prior to the March 2001 presidential elections in Benin, at least
one U.S. citizen was detained and extensively interrogated by
the police on suspicion of having filmed or photographed a government
building. Obtain permission in advance, before taking photographs
or videotaping any official persons, places or events.
CRIME: Street crime, especially within Cotonou, continues
to rise. Most robberies and muggings occur along the Marina Boulevard
and the beach near the hotels frequented by international visitors.
Some of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often
by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim.
Isolated areas are best avoided.
Business fraud stemming from Nigerian scam operations targets
foreigners, including Americans, and poses a danger of financial
loss and physical harm. Persons contemplating business deals in
Benin with individuals promoting investment in Nigeria, especially
the Central Bank of Nigeria or the Nigerian National Petroleum
Company, are strongly urged to check with the U.S. Department
of Commerce or the U.S. Department of State before providing any
information, making financial commitments, or traveling to Benin.
In addition to Nigerian business fraud, individuals and organizations
representing themselves to be refugees or other victims of various
West African conflicts (notably, Sierra Leone) have used the Internet
in 2000-2001 to solicit U.S. citizens to send or bring money to
Benin in order to allow the transfer of even larger sums of money
to the U.S., ostensibly for investment in U.S. businesses.
Department of State publishes a brochure for business travelers
to Nigeria; single copies are available at no charge from
the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management,
Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. Please
enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The brochure is also
available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy
or consulate. The pamphlets A
Safe Trip Abroad and Tips
for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa provide useful information
on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on
travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical facilities in Benin are limited
and not all medicines are available. Travelers should bring their
own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Further
information on prescription drugs is found in the section on import/export
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available
via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202)
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Benin is provided for general reference only
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Travelers should exercise caution when traveling in Benin as
the roads range from fair to very poor. Travel at night, especially
outside of population centers, poses a risk principally because
of poor road conditions. There are paved roads in Cotonou, along
the coast and one paved road north to Niger. Other roads are hard
packed sand. All roads, paved or not, are pot-holed and narrow.
Motorcycle traffic is very heavy and trucks are usually overloaded.
additional general information about road safety, including links
to foreign government sites, see the Department of State,
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority
to operate such service, between the U.S. and Benin, the U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Benin’s
Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation
safety standards for oversight of Benin’s air carrier operations.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S.
Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air
carriers for suitability as official providers of air services.
For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers,
travelers may contact the DOD at 1-618-229-4801.
IMPORT AND EXPORT RESTRICTIONS: Travelers in possession
of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions,
such as labeled containers. Police have been known to arrest foreigners
carrying unlabeled pills. For a complete list of prohibited items,
contact the nearest Benin Embassy or Consulate.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Benin law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Benin are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences
and heavy fines.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For
information on international adoption of children, international
parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement
issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
EMBASSY LOCATION/REGISTRATION: U.S. citizens living in
or visiting Benin are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy
in Cotonou at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard. Updated information on
travel and security in Benin may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy.
The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The
telephone numbers are (229) 30-06-50, 30-05-13, and 30-17-92.
The fax numbers are (229) 30-14-39 and 30-19-74.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 17,
1999 to update the sections on Safety and security, Medical Insurance,
and to remove Y2K information.