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Safety and security
Safety and security
The security situation is generally stable. However, you should be vigilant at all times and avoid demonstrations, large crowds and public areas where unrest may occur.
Be particularly vigilant in regions bordering Nigeria (specifically, the northern portion of the Benin-Nigeria border—because of potential incursions by Nigerian militants.
Petty crimes such as purse snatching and pickpocketing occur, but are not as common as in other West African countries. Muggings and robberies are a significant problem in Cotonou,where incidents usually occur near the port, near railways and along the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Armed robbery, especially at night, has increased in Cotonou and is common in the area bordering Nigeria. Carjackings are on the rise throughout the country. Avoid driving and walking after nightfall. Do not show signs of affluence and ensure that your personal belongings and travel documents are secure, particularly in the Dantokpa market.
Benin’s involvement in a regional military offensive against Boko Haram makes it a potential target for terrorist attacks. Be extremely vigilant in crowded places, near government buildings and in places of worship.
Demonstrations occur from time to time and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.
Canadians have been the victims of Internet scams originating in Benin. Scammers will offer enticing business or financial opportunities. Be wary of unsolicited emails. Ensure that any business opportunity is legitimate before travelling to Benin.
Other scams involve online friendships or romances. There are many variations, all with the intent of scamming money from people abroad; some Canadians have lost thousands of dollars and, in some cases, have been arrested as a result of such situation.
Credit card fraud is also a considerable problem. Limit your use of credit cards whenever possible. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.
Road conditions range from fair to poor. Be careful of broken-down vehicles and potholes, as these often force traffic to switch lanes without warning. There are paved roads in Cotonou and along the coast, and one leading north to Niger. Other roads are made of hard-packed sand and may become impassable during the rainy seasons. Local driving habits, inadequate lighting, motorcycle traffic and overloaded trucks pose additional hazards. Avoid overland travel after dark, particularly on the coastal highway, in the regions bordering Togo and Nigeria, and on the road linking Cotonou and Parakou. In case of an accident resulting in an injury to a resident, take the individual directly to the hospital. If witnesses react strongly, go immediately to the nearest police station.
Fuel shortages are frequent in rural areas of northern Benin.
Public transportation in Cotonou, including moped taxis, is not reliable.
Buses can be used for travel within Benin.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General safety recommendations
Tourist facilities are available in Cotonou, which is the main port and largest city in Benin, but are limited elsewhere.
Ocean currents are very strong along the coast. Many people drown each year. Exercise caution and avoid visiting beaches alone.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Beninese authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Benin.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Canadians must also be in possession of a visa prior to their arrival in Benin.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Posted: January 26, 2018
Risk of a Large Outbreak of Meningococcal Disease in Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that countries in Africa's meningitis belt (see country list below) and neighbouring countries are at a high risk for a large outbreak of meningoccocal disease (commonly called meningitis).
There is a high risk of a large outbreak in the area because the strain of meningitis that is currently circulating is a new hyper-invasive strain of serogroup C and there is a shortage of meningitis C-containing vaccine.
If you plan to travel to any country in Africa's meningitis belt or a neighbouring country, it is recommended that you get vaccinated against meningococcal disease with a conjugate serogroup C-containing vaccine.
For more information, see the WHO Situation update on meningitis C epidemic risk.
Countries in Africa's meningitis belt include: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and United Republic of Tanzania.
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
This country is in the African Meningitis Belt, an area where there are many cases of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. Travellers who may be at high risk should consider getting vaccinated. High-risk travellers include those living or working with the local population (e.g., health care workers) or those travelling to crowded areas or taking part in large gatherings.
There is a risk of polio in this country.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date. Polio is part of the routine vaccine schedule for children in Canada.
- One booster dose of the polio vaccine is recommended as an adult.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is recommended.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in West Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in West Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
For protection of cholera
All travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Travellers at higher risk include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring.
Schistosomiasis can be spread to humans through freshwater sources contaminated by blood flukes (tiny worms). The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in freshwater sources (lakes, rivers, ponds). There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in West Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile virus, yellow fever and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. The mosquito that spreads the virus is found here.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites and other diseases spread by insects.
- There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in West Africa, like avian influenza, ebola, and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
High risk activities include anything which puts you in contact with blood or body fluids, such as unprotected sex and exposure to unsterilized needles for medications or other substances (for example, steroids and drugs), tattooing, body-piercing or acupuncture.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Medical facilities are adequate in Cotonou, but supplies of medicine are limited throughout the country.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Laws and illegal activities
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. If you are travelling with prescription medicine, carry proof of your prescription.
Sexual relations with minors under 21 years of age are illegal and severely punished by law.
Although homosexuality is not illegal, it is not socially accepted. Homosexual behaviour could lead to arrest under laws such as indecent exposure.
Do not take pictures of military zones, airports or government offices. You should ask permission before taking any picture.
An International Driving Permit is required.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Benin.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Benin, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
Exercise common sense and discretion in dress and behaviour. You should respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.
The currency is the African Financial Community franc, or CFA franc (XOF).
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
In the south, the rainy seasons occur from April to mid-July and mid-September to October. In the north, the rainy season extends from June to September. Unpaved roads can become impassable during a rainy season. The harmattan, a burning, dusty and sand-filled wind, blows in from the desert from December to March. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 117
- medical assistance:+229 21 30 17 69 / +229 21 30 06 56
- firefighters: 118
Canada has no diplomatic or consular presence in Benin. The Embassy of Canada in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, is responsible for Canadian interests in Benin.
Cotonou - Consulate of Canada
Ouagadougou - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Embassy of Canada in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and follow the instructions. You may also wish to call the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613 996 8885.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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