Au Jardin Helvetia (Logo), Link Home
Au Jardin Helvetia,  Hotel - Motel - Restaurant - Camping 
	- Jolie auberge et village de vacances 
	prix avantageux, situé 11km à l'ouest de Cotonou.
	- Preiswerte Hotel (Unterkunft, Übernachtung) und 
	Ferien-Anlage, 11 km westl. von Cotonou, Bénin. 
	- Nice holiday resort, direct at the beach, (hotel, 
	motel, accommodation), 11km west of Cotonou. Information about Benin
 ©Heiner H. Schmitt
  Cotonou & Basel 

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• Accommodation
   . Links (P 11/14)
• Capital City
• Communication
    Fax, Internet, Telephone
• Conditions for visas
   =>  Dipl. Representations (P 10.1)
• Currency (FCFA = XOF)
    =>  FCFA Calculator (P 10.3)
    =>  EURO Table (P 10.4)
• Fuel supply
• Geography
• Holidays
• Languages
• Medical recommendations
     =>  Med. Recommandations (P 10.2)
• Religions
• Restaurants, Night Clubs
• Transport
    Bus, Taxi, Zemidjan, Train
=>  Weather Diary (P 10.5)
The arrow   "=>"   indicates calls on special pages. (P 10.1 ... P 10.5)

  • Geography

  • The "Republic of Benin" with a surface of 112'600 km2 is about 3 times as large as Switzerland (41'000 km2), but has however with 6 million persons
    Map of Benin
    Map of Benin  
    somewhat less inhabitants than Switzerland. The national borders take the form of a fist, which rises up from the south into the north. In the south the country borders the sea (Gulf of Guinea), in the west is Togo , in the north Burkina Faso and Niger, and in the east, Nigeria.
    The Mono, a large river flows in the west, coming from the Atakora, the highest mountains (700 m) of the country, and marks the border between Togo and Benin for a long distance (350 km).
    In the east, the Ouemé (400 km) flows close to the Nigerian border.
    From the south to the north of Benin is a length of about 700 km, while the southern part is only about 130 km wide.
    Benin City is a township in Nigeria and has nothing to do with Benin.
  • The Capital

  • of Benin is Porto Novo, while Cotonou is the port and the metropolis. You will find further information about it and some pictures under Cotonou on this site. Most Ministries, the residence of the president and all important diplomatic representations reside in Cotonou.
  • Languages, Population

  • The official language is French. It is one of the few advantages of colonialism, that a a president hardly comes on the idea to define the language of his ethnic groupe as the official language thus frustrating all other groups of the country, as was the case in Guinea Conakry.
    However, beside French, very much Fon is spoken. The language of the Fon, the largest ethnic group in the south of the country. In the southwest, to the border of Togo live the Ewe, they speak Mina; somewhat northern of them the Adja, in the southeast are the Yorouba and Nagot (a Yoruba dialect). In the north of the country at Djougou are the Batonou (formerly Bariba), at Natitingou the Dindi and the Somba (Tata Somba = naked humans), as well as at Malanville the Batonou; furthermore in the whole north the Peul. At Dassa and Savè (area of the Zou) live the Datcha, in Porto Novo, the Goun, at Pobé and also at Bohicon live the Holli (speak Rolli), a forest people migrated from Nigeria. In Ganvié, the Toffi are resident. In the whole country there exists about 50 - 70 (depending upon counting method) different languages. But note, these are different languages, not different dialects. Only a few of them are written languages.

  • Conditions of entry, visa regulations

  • The Embassy of Benin in Paris, (see Dipl. Representations, indicates on its website the visa fees. Likewise a visa request form can be loaded there.
    If you intend to visit neighbour states (Togo, Niger etc.), then you require a VTE (Visa Touristique d'Entente), it is somewhat more expensive, but it saves you a visit to the local consulate. In the last time, there was no more VTE visa for visitors given.
    A visa for two days is provided at the entry of the borders if you are arriving by road (Borders of Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria, 2 photos and 10'000 FCFA), this has to be extended afterwards at the Immigration Office in Cotonou (7 - 15'000 FCFA), which can take easily 7 ( !) days. This is only recommended if you like to stay a longer time in Cotonou.
    Something similar applies to the border going to Togo. A visa valid for 7 days is given immediately (10'000 FCFA, without photo). It can be extended to 30 days at the Securité in Lomé (for free, but requires 4 passport photos).
  • Medical recommendations

  • We have assembled a page with the addresses and links of the most important Institutes of Tropical Medicine (Med. Recommandations) in Europe. On the same page you will find further information about the health care.
  • Weather, climate conditions

  • Read in our Weather Diary how the weather varies with the year in Benin (coastal region).
  • Currency (FCFA = XOF)

  • Like in many other French speaking countries (Burkina Faso, Ivory coast, Mali, the Niger, Senegal, Togo), the Franc CFA is used in Bénin. (FCFA = Franc de la Communauté Financière Africaine, in the international ISO code designates as XOF ). The currency was bound to the francs Français, and is today firmly bound to the Euro (1 EUR = 650 FCFA).
    • Coins circulate of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250 and 500 FCFA. Coins of 1 FCFA are out of circulation.
    • There are notes of 1'000, 2'000, 5'000 and 10'000 FCFA, notes of 500 FCFA are out of circulation.
      • Currently only new issues of notes are valid and available. The new ones are smaller than the old ones, have other colours and have items against forgery. (Beware of old notes and of forged notes, specially of 5'000 and 10'000 FCFA notes).
      • The smaller notes (1'000 & 2'000) are partially strongly worn out. Dirty, cut and repaired notes are not accepted at all in the villages.
      • For journeys to rural areas it is advisable to carry notes in smaller amounts (1'000 & 2'000 FCFA). Small chaznge and coins are everywhere in short supply.
      • Notes of 2'500 FCFA are not any longer accepted!
      • Notes in FCFA of the Central African Bank are not accepted in West Africa, however they can be exchanged on the banks, if they are genuine!
    The currency table gives an overview of the rate of exchange conditions. The average exchange rates of the indicated date is given. The CHF and the USD depend on the current rate. Purchase and/or selling rates usually deviates by 5 - 10% from the average value. The banks charge different commissions (up to approx.. 2000 FCFA per currency and change)
    1 CHF 1 EUR 1 USD 1 FFR 29.12.2010
    520 650 495 100 FCFA
    FCFA Calculator
    More exact values and conditions to other current currencies can be fond in the FCFA Calculator (see above), where you can convert any given amount from and into FCFA.
    Some newly opened Bureaux d'echange offer slightly better exchange rates than the official rate, but only for larger notes (200 or 500 EUR)
    In the exchange rate table Exchange rates Euroland you will find the defined conversion values for the currencies taking part in the EURO to the FCFA
    • Credit cards are accepted only in the largest hotels (Marina [ex. Sheraton], Novotel). A few banks are now also starting to accep credit cards (VISA-Cards only by the time July 2005, No MasterCard)
    • Bank checks are exchanged only by some Lebanese dealers. Redeeming in the banks is difficult and time consuming (up to 14 days).
    • Traveller Checks are exchanged in Banks for a fee, (up to 5%!) and only paid in local currency. A payment in Euro is difficult and time consuming (have flight ticket with you).
    • Cash. We highly recommend the Euro, or Swiss Franc as cash. US-Dollars can also be changed, but however are not so common. We know, cash is always risky, however it can be changed everywhere most simply.
  • Communication
    • Internet (locally called Cybercafé, even if no coffee is sold there!) :
      There are dozens of cybercafés in the city, however not all are equipped with sufficient powered workstations. Currently the Café on the Place Quebec (Akpapa), east the "Ancien Pont" and those at the Main Telecom Office and just oposite in the building of the Philately (Poste Commerce) in the centre of Cotonou, offers good transmission rates, at prices of 500 FCFA per hour. In the middle of May 2003 the connection to the Africa fibre optic cable was finally activated. Apart from occasional disturbances the connections are now good.
      Also in Bohicon and Parakou and even in Natitingou are Cybercafés available. Via telephone, (max. 56 kbps).
    • Telephone : ( national pre selection : +229)
      There are many places to use a telephone, there are everywhere small telephone shops. The costs of a call to Europe are however about double to three times as high as from Europe to here. The quality of the transmission in Cotonou is very good, within the country still leaves much to be desired.
      At the telephone cabins (only with prepaid cards, not coins) there is always someone who lets you use their card. The unit costs then 100 FCFA instead of 60. There are cards everywhere to buy for 5'000 and 10'000 FCFA.
    • Mobiles :
      There are different providers for SIM-Cards, Areeba (former BeninCell) (SIM-card 6'000 FCFA, incl. 2'500 Credit), BellBenin, Libercom, TeleCel (24'000 FCFA). Not all of them have a coverage for the whole country. Not all of them like to answer your requests.
      You may get the actual coverage here : ==> Areeba, BellBenin, Libercom (For Libercom we could not find a valid URL) and TeleCel,
      According to our knowledge, only via Areeba (BeninCel) SMS may be sent from Europe to Benin and vice versa (Actual date 04.2007). See also : Connection Software.
    • Calls from Europe :
      Calls from Europe to Bénin with the usual providers may be very expensive (up tp 1 EUR/min). But there are in different countries new providers with very good conditions. Please send us information, if you know some URLs of providers in other countries or some with better prices than shown. Tnx.  
    • Mobile phone rent :
      At TeleCel "portables" can be rented. Sales office in the centre, at the Avenue Steinmetz. Other providers are also starting to offer a rent of mobile phones. We recommend, bring your own mobile phone and buy only a SIM card here (ca 20'000 FCFA). Must not be SIM locked!
    • Fax :
      Fax service is offered only in the large post offices.
  • Transport
    • Taxi : (Several different types)
      • Taxi brousse (Bush taxi) (connections from city to city, quasi Intercity),
        for example Cotonou - Bohicon, Cotonou - Parakou, Cotonou - Porto Novo, Cotonou - Lomé (Togo) etc. The prices are fixed to about 1'000 FCFA per 100 km for one seat. There are vehicles with 6 - and 9 seats (plus driver!). The taxis drive off from the Gare Routière, which lies on different places in town, depending upon destination . (Zemidjans usually know where). The Taxi brousse starts only, if it is fully occupied. If you wants to start immediately, you can buy the remainder of the vacant places.
      • Taxi ville (City Cab),
        operate only within the cities. These are painted in Cotonou yellow-green and operate on important lines (regular taxi). To call them, you must know exactly, where you would like to go. If one is passing by, you call the destination and if this agrees with its destination, the driver stops. The prices are fix, for example Fidjrossè - Ganhito (City Centre, Main Post Office, small vegetable market, about 10 km) one pays 150 FCFA . The same price applies for Fidjrossè - Dan Tokpa (Big market). If you want to step out before, you can do this on request.
        These taxis can also be rented (loué), then you pay all places (usually 6, for the R4 four places) and you are individually driven to the destination (rent for one hour 2'000, for one day 15 to 20'000 FCFA).
        There are no regular taxis the Jardin Helvetia, here you must rent. Starting from Fidjrossè about 1000, starting from the centre 2'000 to 4'000 FCFA, depending upon starting location and negotiation fate. Starting from airport 6'000 FCFA or more.
    • Zemidjan (Motorbike-taxi),
      likewise within the cities. Thousends of Zemidjan, also called Kékénon, drives the roads, each having a yellow shirt on, with a number on his rear. If you stand irresolutely at the roadside, immediately someone stops and brings you to the desired target. You absolutely must negociate the price before starting. They are more expensive than the regular taxi, but bring you directly to your house. A travel Fidjrossè - Ganhito comes on about 200 - 300 FCFA, depending upon negotiation fate. For the distance Fidjrossè - Au Jardin Helvetia you pay about 500 FCFA.
      It is not worthwhile to drive larger distances with a Zemidjan, because with longer distances usually after some time you start having back pain. They are fast, in addition, risky, since they are frequently under way with bad brakes and at night have few or no lights.
  • Train :
    Only one line operates, this from Cotonou via Bohicon to Parakou, usually once daily (Night Express twice a week). A journey from Cotonou to Bohicon (about 120 km) or from Bohicon to Cotonou takes about 3 hours following the timetable and is a unique experience.
  • Attention (29. March 2007) :
    The train has been SUSPENDED by the time, nobody knows how long!
     Price from Cotonou 1st/2nd   FCFA 1'400/1'100 2'950/2150 3'700/2'700 5'600/4'000
    Cotonou - Parakou (daily)
    Night express (Tu & Th)
    08:30 11:19/26 13:01/09 14:15/21 17:25
    19:15  = = => 06:25
    Parakou - Cotonou (daily)
    Night express (We & Fr)
    17:58 14:52/59 13:03/06 11:46/52 08:42
    06:47  <= = = 19:10
    - One must take delays into account up to 4 hours !
    - The night express stops officially nowhere and leads Couchettes (against supplement faire).
    - All data without guarantee !

  • Bus :
    Since recently also very comfortable coaches operate between the larger cities, like Cotonou-Parakou or Cotonou-Natitingou. Reservation compulsory 12 h in advance. For further information ask the Zemidjans.
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  • Fuel supply

  • The fuel supply is not fully ensured in the entire country. In smaller villages there may be occasionally bottlenecks. Therefore it is recommended always to carry sufficient reserves.
  • Religions

  • The largest community in the south are probably the Catholics, while in the north the Muslims are in the majority. Animism's is present in parallel to all religions. In each village you find at least three to five different places of worship.
    The numbers the members are disputed, there are no exact statistics, each religious community claims more members for itself, than they possess in reality.
    Here an incomplete list (in alphabetical order) of the most churches and sects to be found in Benin  Adventiste du 7ème Jour, Assamblée de Dieu, Christianisme Célèste, Catholique Church, Protestant Church, Evangeliste, Les Apôtres du 7ème Jour, Les Séraphins, Muslims, Jehovas Witnesses.
  • Holidays, Opening hours

  • In Benin there are very many official holidays. At these in the public offices and large enterprises (post office, companies, sales offices etc.) it will not be working. Supermarkets are open Sundays up to 13:00. Small shop's hours are individual and they are nearly always open. On building sites one sees the people working all days and at all times. Generally applies still the 6-day week
    Holidays in Benin
      1st January, New Year
    10th January, Fête of Voudoun

      1st May, Labour day
      1st August, National day
                - Benin      (1960)
                - Switzerland  (1291)
    15th August,
          Mariae Ascension Day (Assumption)
      1st November, all-holy
    25th December, Christmas
    31th December, Sylvester
    Aid el kbir, Big Holiday
          Tabaski, env. 24.11. *
    Easter, 08.04
          Easter Friday, 06.04
          Easter Monday, 08.04
    Mouloud, env. 05.02. *
          Birth of the prophet Mohammed
    Ascension, 17.05
    Whitsunday, 27.05
          Whit Monday, 28.05
    Ramadan, begin of ramadan, ca. 20.07. *
    Aid es srer, (small celebration)
          End of Ramadan, ca. 19.08. *
    * The Islamic holidays depend as well known on the moon conditions and are briefly defined before beginning by a local Imam.

    The store opening times are very individual. The large business and the administration are open usually from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 15:30 to 18:00. Banks similarly. Fax & telephone service of the Main Post Office in the centre from 07:00 to 22:00 o'clock.
    The small shops at the road are always open from 08:00 to approximately 20:00 or 22:00.
  • Restaurants and Night Clubs in Cotonou (selection)
    • Au Jardin Helvetia, very good kitchen, Swiss specialities. Route des Pêcheurs (km 11).
    • Au Large, Route des Pêcheurs (km 4).
    • Berlin, with its terrace on the roof Titanic, in the Xanadou Centre, in the west of the "Ancien Pont"
    • Café Cauris, Route des Pêcheurs (km 6).
    • Costa Rica, Bvd. Saint Michel, in the Artisanat (Handcraft articles are sold there).
    • Hai King, Chinese Restaurant, close to the water tower, Cadjehoun.
    • Livingstone, here one meets many Yovo's, the German development aid workers and
      Americans. Haie Vive, Cadjehoun.
    • Mama Bénin, local kitchen, Ground floor rustically, First floor somewhat more expensively.
      Smaller "Von", behind the cinema Le Bénin, parallel (north) to the Bvd. Saint Michel, several further restaurants (with local kitchen) beside it.
    • Pili Pili, very good eating place, in pleasant atmosphere.
      "Von" parallel (south) to the Bvd. Saint Michel.
    • Sorrento, Bvd. Saint Michel, should be very good, most expensive restaurant in Cotonou.
    • Taranga, Lebanese kitchen and very good Pizzas. Haie Vive, Cadjehoun, somewhat further on than the Livingstone.
  • Night Clubs & Bars
    • 2001 (Deuxmilleun), in Jonquet (Quartier rouge)
    • Bar Moustache, in the building Xanadou, at the Berlin
    • La Verdure, in the centre (close to Marché Ganhi)
    • New York, New York at Bvd. Saint Michel, close to Sorrento, nearby the cinema "Le Bénin"
    • Playboy, in Jonquet (Quartier rouge)
    • Soweto, in Jonquet (Quartier rouge)
    	Mailboxpicture We try to keep this page updated, but there are always some changes. Did you find some errors (also translation errors or misspellings) or did you miss some information on our Benin-Information page ?
    Please don't hesitate and send a mail to Info @ by mentioning in the subject : "Error/Missing information on the page Benin Information" :
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