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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Benin

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 in Benin.

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.

The 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 restrictions.

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) 647-3000.

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. For 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 the FAA 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.

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