If you are determined to go on a tour in West Africa and don’t want to cross Benin off that list, then you should get some proper information. Benin is a small country in West Africa that borders Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Togo to the west, and Nigeria to the East.
Split into two regions, Benin offers a northern part which consists of arid landscapes and various tribes, while the southern part of the country contains the capital, Porto-Novo, an impressive coastline to the Atlantic, and most of the attractive sights.
Among its tourist attractions, you can find a variety of ruins consisting of palaces or temples which belonged to the former glorious kingdom of Dahomey. Another curious fact that is part of this country’s culture is that Benin represents the starting point of Voodoo. Even to this day, Vodun (as they call it there) remains the official religion of Benin.
If you are passionate about nature, you should know that Benin also offers quite a few natural parks. This means that if you’re curious about West African wildlife, you should give it a try because, luckily, Benin is one of the safest countries in the region for tourists.
Highest Risks You Are Exposing Yourself To When Visiting Benin
Overall Risk is Benin: HIGH
While the last paragraph might encourage you to travel carelessly, you should be more serious when thinking about traveling to Benin. As it is previously mentioned, the capital of Benin is Porto Novo. However, the real center of power is Cotonou as it is the largest city in the country and it represents the administrative capital of Benin.
This being said, you should be really careful because the larger the city you visit, the larger will be the risk. We are talking about robberies, pickpocketing, or even car-jacking. Other risks which must be on your mind involve contaminated food and water sources or diseases such as malaria. Is Benin safe to visit? You be the judge
Pickpocketing risk: HIGH
Let’s start finding out how safe is Benin for tourists by taking first into consideration how high is the risk for people getting pickpocketed. This form of thievery happens where most tourists can be found. So, hotels, ports, railroads, restaurants, or beaches are ideal places for thriving thieves. We are not just saying that, we got our sources.
Apparently, the streets of Benin display a recurrence of pickpocketing cases and that’s why you should tread with extreme caution whenever you leave your hotel room.
- How to avoid pickpocketing in Benin?
The first piece of advice from this Benin safety guide would be to never walk alone, especially on the streets of Cotonou. You must remain vigilant at all times regardless of the time of day. Stay as far away as possible from isolated places and keep your wits even when going to the beach.
When you go around the streets of Benin keep your possessions close to you and don’t flash around any valuables. As a matter of fact, you would be much inspired to leave them where you spend the night.
- What to do if you’ve been pickpocketed in Benin?
As soon as something bad happens, you should alert the Gendarmerie (the local police in Benin). You mustn’t try to solve matters with your own hands as it may cost you more than just a few bucks.
You must remember that the people who resort to such doings are desperate people and they won’t back off as easily as you might think. That’s why you should leave any messy business in the hands of the authorities.
Scams risk: HIGH
Next on our Benin safety travel tips list is staying clear of scammers. Unfortunately, it appears that scams happen on a regular basis in Benin. Be extremely careful when you have to use the ATM because there are all sorts of ATM-related frauds that might happen.
Also, as you can see here, there are various types of scammers on the ‘market’. Ranging from romance or friendship to business opportunities to work opportunities, there are many genres in Benin's scamming industry.
- How to avoid being scammed in Benin?
Regarding the ATM scams, you must deal with your cards as swiftly as possible. Don’t flash them around and don’t spend a great deal of time deciding on what amount is best. Better yet, try to make money from the inside of the bank as it is clearly safer than doing it on the street.
Moving further, any requests for funds, job offers, business opportunities, or romantic getaways should always be taken with a grain of salt. You wouldn’t trust anyone back at home so why start now in Benin?
- What to do if you got scammed in Benin?
Again, the answer should be pretty self-explanatory. Go to the legal authorities and report what you have been through. Never try and deal with things on your own, you are not Liam Neeson and Benin can prove to be quite brutal if you think too highly of yourself.
Kidnapping risk: MEDIUM
Apparently, the infiltration of Boko Haram (a subject which will be developed a little bit later) increased the number of kidnappings in Benin. So, the risk isn’t something to be ignored. As you can clearly see on this map the matter is pretty serious and must be always ingrained inside your mind if you decide to travel to Benin.
The kidnappings performed by Boko Haram represent an ‘import’ from Benin’s neighbor, Nigeria. You should look at this matter as a constant threat that isn’t meant to discourage you from traveling; instead, it should increase your level of vigilance.
- How to avoid being kidnapped in Benin?
You should stay clear from any demonstrations or large crowds in general. A high level of cautiousness must be kept at all times, as soon as you leave your accommodation. Under no circumstance, should you go out at night in places that are completely unknown to you?
Usually, when you travel on the streets of Benin, you should be with a guide who you can completely trust. This way you won’t venture on shady streets and you will be kept safe.
- What to do if you or someone close to you has been kidnapped in Benin?
Try to remain as calm as possible and reach your embassy and the authorities. Other than that there isn’t much which you can do.
If you manage to stick to these Benin safety travel tips, you will have a greater chance of staying safe during your time in this country.
Theft risk: HIGH
As you can see Benin has some crime issues which you must be aware of. The question ”Is Benin safe to visit?” isn’t that easy to answer especially if we take into account this next topic.
When we talk about theft in Benin, we should mention car-jacking, robberies, and muggings. Apparently, they have a tendency to occur on the Boulevard of France in the administrative capital, Cotonou. This boulevard represents that beach road that goes by the Marina and the Novotel Hotels.
Also, other places on which robberies happen are the beaches most frequented by foreigners. It seems that in 2016 there have been a great number of robberies performed at gunpoint.
The thieves are known to arm themselves with pistols, knives, or machetes, even assault rifles have been used in these robberies. These attacks are violent and tend to occur during the late-night hours.
- How to avoid getting robbed in Benin?
You should leave your valuable possessions in your hotel room or whatever accommodation you are using. Another tip from the Benin safety guide is to never walk with your original passport on you. Instead, you should carry photocopies as they do the work without having the risk of your passport getting lost constantly on your mind.
- What to do if you got robbed in Benin?
We hate to repeat ourselves, but we need to make sure that you understand. You must always go to the police when you encounter trouble. You mustn’t resist and do what the gunmen say as to not risk your life.
Rape risk: MEDIUM
This study was performed in 2011 and its objective was to investigate how often raping happens in Benin. There were 414 questionnaires filled out by women and the study led to some concerning results. There was a high reported incidence of non-consensual sex; however, the majority of these cases were not reported to the police because often the perpetrator was the victim’s boyfriend or husband.
While the study was performed on women from the University of Benin and there weren’t any tourists involved, its results should put you on guard for your proximate trip to Benin.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios in Benin?
You should always travel accompanied and never during the late-night hours. Refrain from showing much skin and avoid dark or lone alleys.
In the unfortunate event that something deplorable happens, contact the police immediately. This being said, as long as you take the necessary precautions it’s unlikely that something will happen to you.
Terrorism risk: MEDIUM
You won’t find any terrorist organizations based in Benin. However, it is known that terrorists enter Benin through its unprepared borders in order to raise funds, gather ship supplies, or plan future attacks.
Boko Haram is a disgusting organization that operates in Benin’s neighboring countries. Since Benin has entered an agreement to fight against Boko Haram, there are concerns about retaliation.
- How to avoid terrorists in Benin?
As with the other cases, you should keep to yourself and avoid unknown areas. Usually, attacks happen next to churches or government buildings so you maybe want to stay clear from them. Also, avoid large crowds as they might be targeted as well.
- What to do if you encounter terrorists in Benin?
Get to a safe place and call the police. End of story. Terrorists are no laughing matter and you mustn’t approach them.
Risks for women traveling alone: HIGH
Is Benin safe for solo women travelers? It is known that in many African countries women aren’t as respected as they should be, especially if we are talking about foreigners. Unfortunately, Benin is no exception. That being said, you must be on guard always if you are a woman that travels alone.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Going solo is a no-no in Benin. How safe is Benin for tourists? It varies, but as far as solo female travelers go, you shouldn’t be one. Women have to be accompanied when they walk through the streets of Benin, especially during the night.
- What to do if you encounter something unpleasant?
Try to get away and run as fast as you can. Call for help as you do that. Get to a safe place and regain your composure.
Risks for people traveling with children: MEDIUM
As long as you keep your eyes on your child, you should be ok. That being said, you should really ponder upon bringing a kid into a Western African country. The major risk for a child is represented by kidnaps. You will be best advised to always take care of your offspring and if the answer for ‘is Benin safe for solo women travelers?’ is probably no, then you could assume what the answer would be related to children.
Natural disasters risk: MEDIUM
Apparently, the biggest threat in Benin when we talk about natural disasters is represented by severe floods. They affect the entire West African subcontinent when heavy rainfall happens. You should listen to the news and decide the appropriate time for traveling.
Top 3 Most Dangerous Cities in Benin
The administrative capital of Benin, Cotonou is also the largest city in this country. It packs quite a few crime issues to require you to stay alert at all times. Street crimes such as robberies or carjackings happen on a regular basis so keep your eyes peeled.
- Porto Novo
The official capital of Benin, this town also shares a high rating of crime with Cotonou. There are reports of armed robberies happening and you should steer away from dark alleys or from going to the beach alone.
- Any town close to the borders
As we said in the topic related to terrorists, Boko Haram wreaks havoc all around West Africa. You wouldn’t like to run across them so you might like to stay in more comfortable places.
List of Vaccines You Need When Visiting Benin
Following this short paragraph will be a list of vaccines that you might need to return completely healthy from Benin. When we talk about African countries, of course, we need to mention the many cases of malaria, STDs, or food and water poisoning. That’s why you might need vaccines for:
- Hepatitis A and B
Benin is truly a beautiful place and it will be too bad if you will let carelessness restrain you from having a wonderful experience. Hopefully, we managed to put you on the right track, and remember, to contact your embassy to get properly informed before you decide to travel.