Travel! 5 Fun facts I learnt during a trip to Cotonou



Planning a trip to Cotonou?  These travel tips will  make your journey more enjoyable
Travel! 5 Fun facts I learnt during a trip to Cotonou
Office buildings in Cotonou

My Journey experience to Cotonou was fun , allow me to educate you on lifestyle tips I learnt during the trip including hospitality, transportation and food choices.

 Cotonou is the largest city of Benin Republic, in fact there are arguments as to which is the country's main Capital, Cotonou or  Porto-Novo, though it is a given fact that the former is the brain hub of Benin, in terms of economic and even political activity, moreover it has the largest population, almost 800,000 inhabitants as at last count. Little wonder that hundreds of Nigerians cross the Lagos-Benin border at Seme to visit Cotonou , most of them usually consists of traders who are in city to do business. You may have visited Cotonou previously or you just planning your first trip. As a frequent ttraveler to this city, I have written this post to help you have a successful trip and also discover the the unknown secrets of Cotonou


1.Transportation to and within Cotonou is easy once you decide on the mode of travel:

If you are travelling by air,book and schedule your flight ahead, Arik and Asky airlines are the two major airlines tat fly Lagos-Cotonou routes.
Travelling by road is more stressful due to border stops and checks by immigration officers, police and custom officials, going from Lagos is easier, the difficulty is in the return journey.One will pay 3 times the transport fare on the return leg , this is due to the many unnecessary bribes collected by officials on the road( Immigration, customs, port health, police) and whoever is in a uniform,security or non security because of the illegal immigrants, smugglers and welcome back tips they typically expect of returnees.
There are various transport companies that make daily trips to Cotonou,such as Chisco, Ifesinachi, young shall grow which usually have their Luxurious bus garages at Yaba, Jibowu and Mile 2. Small cars and minivans also commute the route, they can be found at Mile 2, if you are travelling on a budget, the best advice is to take a bus from Mile 2, Iyana Oba to Seme, cross the border, take another bus to Cotonou, this is cheaper but convenient if the traveler is travelling with minimum luggage.
Total costs of travelling to and fro is N50,000 by air travel,  N15,000 by Luxurious bus and less than N10,000 by small vehicles.
You can also take your car but you need special paper called "Lassez-Passer"this is a travel document made for vehicles to cross the borders, this usually costs about N75,000 . So if you not planning on making frequent trips, a commercial transporter, though it can be used in multiple French-speaking African countries. So if you going from Lagos to Accra,Ghana for instance and have a full load family bus travelling, then it makes sense. Or else charter a bus with a driver that is familiar with the routes.Within Cotonou, cabs, Motorcycles are the usual mode of transportation.

2. Get the right documents duly stamped:
To avoid confusion, embarrassment and unnecessary delays, you need to know the documents required of you and get them stamped bu appropriate authorities.
If you are travelling by air, all you need is a valid air ticket, E-passport ( The international passport issued to ECOWAS/west African citizens) or a Benin Visa issued to non-citizens, Yellow card (A card from a health authority issuing agency confirming have been given vaccines against contagious diseases such as Yellow Fever, Ebola ,Lassa fever or any other infectious disease as at the time of travelling).Road users need the latter two documents, but if you are a trader, then you need custom documents for the goods bought or being taken to be sold, if not they can be impounded or seized. Paying to the right agents is also necessary as fake papers can also lead to confiscation of goods. 
To obtain an international passport, go to any Nigerian Immigration office, there is one at Alausa,Ikeja, with about N15,000 , you will have a new passport, obtain a yellow card at any port health authority office with N1000 either at a air/land border , a local government, or a licensed hospital. It is advisable you obtain from the health ports at the borders, they usually reject others as fakes .
Traveling without a document is usually no problem along Nigerian-Benin borders, for as low as N2000, passengers bribe drivers who in turn bribe officers to overlook lack of a passport, anyways if you have a passport or not, once you are a new traveler on that route, Immigration officials require you to pay some tip. 

3. Language is not a barrier:
Although Cotonou is officially a french speaking country, don't be surprised if you hear a mix of familiar languages especially of neighboring countries. Most Cotonou indigenes speak the a form of Gbe language  either Ewe, Fon or Adja, these are local dialects spoken by West African nationals from Benin, Togo, Ghana even to Congo. Also Yoruba is another common language spoken in Benin as many of Benin Settlers are originally from Nigerian states , they are referred to as Ajase.English is another language used for trading, as some business men are from the neighboring English-speaking countries of Nigeria and Ghana. So., there you should not have a problem of communicating. In tight situations you can request from help from receptionists, security guards, drivers or market women, most of them seem yo understand two or more languages as they relate with travelers more often.

4. Currency:
The official currency is CFA (Francs), though some traders will collect Naira, Nigerian currency, your best option is to change currency from the money lenders which abound at the Seme border, even Cotonou citizens come from Cotonou to Seme to change their money as it is believed that exchange rates at Seme is better than in the city. There is also Eco bank,UBA,Diamond bank in Cotonou, so you can transfer your money into any of these banks if you have an account with them , do a Money Gram/ Western union to send and receive money or go along with your Atm card to withdraw cash at current bank rates. 

5. Lifestyle: Food is plentiful  even Nigerian dishes are served, if you request for it. I get to try Couscous and Debonairs pizza. Night life is amazing, in fact, it officially starts from 1 am and end by 6am. Night clubs, Karaoke joints provide the necessary entertainment for nightlife entertainment.

On my very first day, I behaved like a JJC (Johnny Just come), searching for food early in the morning as Best western hotel is in a GRA location, so affordable food shops were not a common sight, unknowingly to me, breakfasts at the hotel were free for paid guests. Once I knew this information , the following day, I didn't hesitate to take advantage of the offer. And I am so glad I did. Visitors get to eat to their hearts' content, selecting from a wide array of food selection such as fruits, sweets, croissants, teas, and even food items I cant pronounce. Tasty treats all  round. 


Below are pictures from my trip:
 




Street scenes from Cotonou

Best Western hotel was the hotel I stayed in. . Perfect hospitality including fee WiFi and free breakfast
Best Western hotel was the hotel I stayed in. . Perfect hospitality including fee WiFi and free breakfast


Breakfast in bed
Breakfast in bed


Breakfast on day 2

Pizza hut and I developed a passion for one another during my stay
Traffic on Cotonou roads- Their kekes is painted green.
Traffic on Cotonou roads- Their kekes is painted green.


A slice of Pizza makes the stomach ache go away
A slice of Pizza makes the stomach ache go away


Cotonou's main airport
Cotonou's main airport
Inside Steers/ Debonairs pizza hut
Inside Steers/ Debonairs pizza hut 


My Belle don full
My Belle don full
Next time you are in Cotonou, Remember to have a blast .

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